"The Broken Buddha" by Ven.Dhammika and other scandals

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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby Sobeh » Sun Mar 28, 2010 4:35 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:How many of these motives and strategies for reducing monasticism might be applicable in Theravadin countries in the next, say, twenty years?


A local version of the Protestant Reformation would need to happen first... and I think the drama surrounding bhikkhuni ordination might fit the bill over time. Dissolution by a king seems to run afoul of a conflation of church and state, however, instead of separation, which is not something I can get behind.
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Mar 28, 2010 4:56 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:How many of these motives and strategies for reducing monasticism might be applicable in Theravadin countries in the next, say, twenty years?


http://www.sdhammika.blogspot.com/ (March 27, 2010 posting) "Putting a price on the Dhamma" is somewhat related here and it is written by Ven. Dhammika.

I agree with Ven. Dhammika that the Dhamma should not be for profit or for a fee. And this is one of the reasons I hope the Buddhist monastic tradition continues. There may be some corruption and bad monks, but how much more so if we start getting into married ministers with exorbitant salaries, Mercedes cars, Rolex watches and a tv show.
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Mar 28, 2010 5:22 am

Hi David,
David N. Snyder wrote:I agree with Ven. Dhammika that the Dhamma should not be for profit or for a fee. And this is one of the reasons I hope the Buddhist monastic tradition continues. ...

I agree, and I find parts of this discussion about how "someone should fix it" rather strange.

Clearly there are all sorts of problems with the Sangha (as there were in the Buddha's time, which you can see by looking at the stories in the Vinaya), but it's from that Sangha (and specifically the Thai Sangha in my case) that I've actually had the good fortune to learn about the Dhamma.

In my opinion the most useful thing for us to do as individuals is put our money (or service) where our mouths are and make sure that the good parts of the Sangha have our support.

Metta
Mike
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby Kim OHara » Sun Mar 28, 2010 6:48 am

mikenz66 wrote:...
Clearly there are all sorts of problems with the Sangha (as there were in the Buddha's time, which you can see by looking at the stories in the Vinaya), but it's from that Sangha (and specifically the Thai Sangha in my case) that I've actually had the good fortune to learn about the Dhamma.

In my opinion the most useful thing for us to do as individuals is put our money (or service) where our mouths are and make sure that the good parts of the Sangha have our support.

Metta
Mike

Agreed.
Unless we happen to be in a position where we can contribute to broader improvements, we can only do our best in our immediate environment - here and now is all we've got.
:namaste:
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Jun 05, 2011 4:11 pm

I have moved this topic over to the Ordination sub-forum since there have been many questions and comments raised about ordination.

This book, Broken Buddha, although critical of much of what goes on in some Sanghas, could help provide some valuable information for some aspiring monks so that there are no unreasonable expectations.
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby Jhana4 » Sun Jun 05, 2011 4:58 pm

Perry wrote:Hi everyone,

I've been interested in getting hold of the book The Broken Buddha by Venerable Shravasti Dhammika for a while now and finally found a copy on eBay the other day which was delivered to my house this morning.

I've heard it's a very controversial book that is quite destructive in regards to some of Buddhism's traditions, but I've also heard that it has built a large amount of support. Bhante Dhammika himself seems to express some regret for publishing it in the preface.

I'm yet to start reading it so I'm not aware of the exact content, but I have a lot of respect for Bhante Dhammika, his book Good Question Good Answer was what introduced me to Buddhism in the first place. I am also a follower of his blog, and he has treated me with great generosity and kindness in our correspondences together.

Has anyone here read it? What are your thoughts?

Thankyou.



I'm glad I came back to the first post in this thread. After I read the last post ( David Snyder's), I dropped the title into Amazon and came up with a book by a steroid abuser who got cured through Zen Buddhist meditation. Also interesting enough to get, but not the same thing.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby Jhana4 » Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:12 pm

In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby Jhana4 » Sun Jun 05, 2011 6:45 pm

I hate reading PDFs, but I have to say I am about a half dozen pages into this book and I am finding it to be engrossing.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby BlackBird » Mon Jun 06, 2011 1:43 am

Jhana4 wrote:I hate reading PDFs, but I have to say I am about a half dozen pages into this book and I am finding it to be engrossing.


Scandal always is. Just remember there are still a lot of good monks out there.
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Jun 06, 2011 3:48 am

Greetings,

BlackBird wrote:Just remember there are still a lot of good monks out there.

Yes, I think this work was put forward as a "counterpoint" to reports that gloss over the problems, rather than being a broad, balanced and accurate account, in and of itself.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby Jhana4 » Mon Jun 06, 2011 11:42 am

BlackBird wrote:
Jhana4 wrote:I hate reading PDFs, but I have to say I am about a half dozen pages into this book and I am finding it to be engrossing.


Scandal always is. Just remember there are still a lot of good monks out there.


A scandal is an uncommon incident that happens contrary to an expected norm. According to the author, the foolish, useless, and harsh orthodoxies ( some with no support in the suttas and some even contrary to the suttas ) he lists are long and widely established.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby Jhana4 » Mon Jun 06, 2011 4:43 pm

I am about 1/3 done with the book.

So far, I think it is one of the most valuable books I read on Buddhism. I has forced me to reevaluate my perspective on a number of people, books and practices. It has been very though provoking. I never would have come across this book on my own. This is one of the reasons why I read this board.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby Jhana4 » Mon Jun 06, 2011 4:47 pm

I was fascinated to read that monastics began having heated disagreements, often leading to violence, about minutia ( one shoulder covered with the robes versus both ) and disputes about interpretation of the suttas, only a few centuries after the Buddha's death. Also that such deep divisions over small, small rules still exist today.

I used to think that the endless petty disputes I read on talk.religion.buddhism, various mailing lists and web boards was a major FAIL as far as people claiming to practice Buddhism went. Going by Venerable Dhammika's book the kind of nonsense and bad behavior on I see on Buddhist forums is actually a time honored tradition.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby morning mist » Mon Jun 06, 2011 5:19 pm

Hi poto,

poto wrote: Personally, even as a lay person I have been disillusioned and put off by some of the cultural traditions, rituals and ceremonies that I've encountered over the years. I've long felt that Buddhism in the West would greatly benefit if it were freed from Asian cultural traditions and customs that are irrelevant to the actual Dhamma.


If you look into the various rituals of Buddhism in each countries. They are different from one another. When people from one location adopt Buddhism, they also carry with them some practices from the culture that they grew up in. It is difficult to separate it out because it has became a part of them through conditioning while growing up.

When we look at the Buddha's teaching, non-attachment to rites and ritual is one of the requirement for Stream Entry. Very few rituals can be found in the suttas. A lot of the rituals are add on from the people from each culture.

In the West I notice that people don't practice a lot of rites and rituals. There is not a lot of rituals to add to the practice of the Buddha's teaching , so it is very compatible with the Buddha's teaching. People can have more time to focus on morality, meditation, and dhamma study. I don't see a need to adopt rites and rituals that originated from other cultures.

Since these are part of people's conditioning, it is very difficult to undo their conditioning. There will be much resistance. Rather than waiting for people to change, it would be faster if the Western lay practitioners refer to the Tipitaka to set up a sangha without a lot of rites and rituals that has no basis in the source and invite and invite monastics who keep the Vinaya, experienced in meditation and dhamma to practice and set examples for others.

In the sutta, there is mention of gathering with the sangha about once a week to listen to dhamma talk, offer dana, meditate, etc.. There is mention of lighting candles to commemorate the Buddha and as a gesture of showing respect ( Maha-parinibbana Sutta) . It also creates a peaceful atmosphere for group meditation. That's all I remember at the moment.

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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby BlackBird » Tue Jun 07, 2011 1:44 am

Jhana4 wrote:
BlackBird wrote:
Jhana4 wrote:I hate reading PDFs, but I have to say I am about a half dozen pages into this book and I am finding it to be engrossing.


Scandal always is. Just remember there are still a lot of good monks out there.


A scandal is an uncommon incident that happens contrary to an expected norm.


I don't enjoy semantics, but in the interest of clarity that is not what scandal means. A simple google search reveals that Scandal simply means an publicized incident that brings about disgrace or offends the moral sensibilities of persons or society. That's exactly what The Broken Buddha is all about. Yes, these things exist. Yes, moral corruption is widespread in the sangha at large. But just like in the world at large, there are still a lot of good people in robes. As Retro has said, T.B.B is not a fair a balanced account and was never intended to be.
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby manas » Thu Jun 16, 2011 4:11 am

When I first read the 'Broken Buddha' it shook up my (rather weak) faith at that time. In retrospect, i'm grateful that I read it, because it resulted in me going deeper into the Pali Tipitaka itself for guidance (which ven. Dhammika recommends, by the way), and in a roundabout way, actually strengthened my faith. Yes, the Drum sounds a little out of tune. So we have to reconstruct the Drum, to the best of our ability, using the available materials. Enough of those (the Pali Tipitaka) seem to have survived the ravages of Time.
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby Jhana4 » Thu Jun 16, 2011 6:04 pm

THE BROKEN BUDDHA
Critical Reflections on Theravada and a Plea for a New Buddhism
by the Venerable S. Dhammika

I finally finished this book. I found two versions on the internet, one 60 pages and one 80 pages. The title above links to a PDF of the longer version.

In a nutshell, the book is by a western born monk and is about criticisms of Theravada Buddhism as he saw it practiced in Asia ( Sri Lanka, Thailand and Burma primarily). Venerable S Dhammika is still a monk. His book includes two articles by Sri Lankans with similar criticisms, as well as many notes to other authors who had similar observations. The book also includes Venerable Dhammika's suggestions for a reformed Buddhism, some of which, he claims are being implemented by Mahayana influenced groups such as the "Western Buddhist Order" and "Friends of the Western Buddhist Order". Interestingly, Venerable Dhammika had praise for the IMS, Spirit Rock, a western group of Ajan Cha followers and S.N. Goenka's meditation centers.

Anyone thinking of ordaining would do themselves a favor by reading this book and reading it in its entirety. Doing so will prepare them for a strong culture shock and alert them to problems they will need to navigate around to get what they want out of being ordained.

A good overview of the message of the book can be had by reading 2 short articles in the appendix by other authors with similar criticisms.

This book deserves a thorough review, but I will only mention some top points of what the author had to say. I can't emphasize enough that actually reading the entire book is very thought provoking.

According to the Venerable S. Dhammika the Asian Theravada laity is only concerned with making merit. That is, ensuring a good rebirth for themselves by making donations to the monks. They grow up being taught that the maximum amount of merit is to be had by giving to monks, so few make donations or do volunteer work for others. The rest of the time, outside of holidays the laity is unconcerned about Buddhism. They do not read the suttas. They do not meditate. They are discouraged from doing so by the monks. They believe both things are not for ordinary people, but only for monks.

Many monks are also unfamiliar with the suttas and do not meditate. In fact if a monk chooses to meditate they will not get any encouragement and even some discouragement as it makes other monks look bad. Many monks go into the Sangha as children, out of poverty and leave after they get a college education paid for by dana from the laity. The ones who stay experience a life time of being waited on hand and foot by the community. The monks become spoiled and narcissitic, caring only about their whims to use dana money to put up buildings and statues that people don't need and often when there is a lot of poverty in the surrounding area. The monks often get big egos demanding huge amounts of respect and demanding to be catered to. Often the Buddhist community in Asia will sacrifice on essentials to their own families to give dana to monks who already have an excess of what they need or could want. This happens because of the aforementioned belief in merit making. For monks the most important thing is following the vinaya, and most could care less about the dhamma, even if they knew about it.

Venerable S Dhammika does not fault the monks or laity for these problems. He mentioned that exceptional people have tried to turn things around, even if only for themselves, but both groups will reinforce the status quo out of fear of upsetting the other group. Venerable S Dhammika responds to the listing of names of exceptional people by stating that is exactly the point. There are so few people trying to be true to dhamma instead of the status quo that people *can* remember their names.

As a brief aside I was shocked to learn that there is a caste system in Sri Lanka and this extends to Buddhism. While westerners can join most orders, if you are Sri Lankan there are some orders you can't join if you are not a member of that caste. I also learned that Sri Lankan monks owned slaves. Slavery was abolished there in the late 19th century as it was in the U.S., but people born into slavery had to remain slaves. Some people continued to be slaves in Sri Lanka and in monasteries until the early 1900s.

One of the most interesting and I think the most important points Venerable S. Dhammika had to make was that he thinks Asian Theravada is in danger of dying out. The dhamma isn't taught to most Asians, they don't get any spirituality or inspiration out of it. What they get is a religion to keep during the holidays and to make merit in as they begin to worry about future lives. The relationship between the people and the monks appears to be one way, with all of the giving coming from the people. In the meantime Christianity is gaining in Asia quickly, much faster than Theravada is spreading in the west. Christian missionaries are doing charitable works for the people ( something the Buddhists monks don't do ) in addition to offering them the spirituality they aren't getting from the monks.

That really hit home with me. I left the religion of my family as a teenager to become an atheist. The "clergy" I interfaced with cared only about tradition for tradition's sake, with no concern for meaning, let alone meaning relevant to contemporary life. They offered no spirituality, no inspiration and only made demands. Having had that experience, I agree with the author that Theravada could be threatened by that situation.

In any event. I think the book is worth reading and in its entirety. What I wrote isn't my opinion, I was explaining the opinions of the author.

On the downsides of the book, it was published about 10 years ago so I have no idea if some of its points are out of date or not. The author does not back up his points with statistics ( I don't think it would be possible ), only anecdotal accounts. His views could only be his own as the result of an uncommonly bad experience. The reader, unless s/he lived in Asia for a long time would have no way of knowing how accurate his points are. That and there was some obvious writing errors which he didn't proof read out.

All in all a very powerful, education and thought provoking book.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby Sanghamitta » Thu Jun 16, 2011 6:18 pm

Ah how unlike the more sophisticated laity in the west who spend their time on Buddhist forums.....
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby beeblebrox » Thu Jun 16, 2011 6:38 pm

Good review, Jhana. I just want to point out one thing... the comparison between a Christian missionary and a Buddhist monk isn't really fair. I think that a Christian monk would be closer... and AFAIK they also don't really cater to the public, or even less so when compared to the average Buddhist monk (I could be wrong).

I think the real problem here is that the layperson part of the Sangha is also neglected... it's not just the monks. (Also, where do the monks come from?) One of the failings of Theravada (in my opinion), is viewing their own Sangha as just monks. I think only the Noble Sangha is valid, and worthy of respect... (still my opinion).

:anjali:
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Re: "The Broken Buddha" by Ven. S. Dhammika

Postby daverupa » Thu Jun 16, 2011 6:46 pm

beeblebrox wrote:Good review, Jhana. I just want to point out one thing... the comparison between a Christian missionary and a Buddhist monk isn't really fair. I think that a Christian monk would be closer... and AFAIK they also don't really cater to the public, or even less so when compared to the average Buddhist monk (I could be wrong).


Mostly correct. The best comparison is between a Buddhist monastic and a Catholic friar.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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