A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Discussion of ordination, the Vinaya and monastic life. How and where to ordain? Bhikkhuni ordination etc.
User avatar
SDC
Posts: 3633
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:08 pm

A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby SDC » Wed Aug 25, 2010 10:02 pm

I would have preferred to have the title be "A Discussion of Therevadan Buddhist Monasticism in the West", but I couldn't fit it.

I decided to start this thread after reading the paper posted here:

I felt that what I wanted to bring up from that paper belonged in this forum, so here we are. You don't have to read the paper in order to be in this discussion, obviously, but it was definitely a good read. In fact, only a few things of which I am about to ask relate to the paper. Mods, although I do feel this topic fits in well here, it could work in the "Therevada in the Modern World" forum. Please move it if you feel it would be better suited there.

I would like to bring up a few questions about ordination and monasticism in general that I've been having for as long as I have been studying and practicing Buddhism (3 years). Specifically I would like to discuss how men and women from Europe, North/South America, Australia go about choosing where they ordain as a Therevadan monk or nun. Within this, I would like to discuss the current state of the overall Buddhist monastic tradition in western countries as it applies to the native people of those countries and what the options are for ordination in their own country.

This thread is for all of us. I do have opinions of what I am about to ask and I do have a few answers to these questions. I will gladly state them as this thread goes on, though I am by no means a scholar on the subject. In fact I know relatively little about most of this. Mainly, I just think that this is something that we can all benefit from, and correct me if I am wrong, I do not think we have a thread in which all these questions are addressed together.

Firstly...why does it seem, I say "seem" because it is the impression I've gotten from many directions, why does it seem that for serious ordination one must go to Southeast Asia (Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, etc.)? Why not in their own country? What are the difficulties of ordination in these western countries? Limited number of Therevadan monasteries? Lack of space? Lack of monasteries that accept westerners? Or is there such a limited amount of westerners looking to ordain and therefore there are few options in these western countries? Is it just that the western monastic tradition is still in its infancy?

Secondly...and this question has spawned from the paper in the other thread - what are the opinions of monasteries in western countries, with mostly western monks, that have abbots of western origin that maintain cultural traditions from the Southeast Asian countries in which they were trained? Do the junior monastics upset by these cultural influences have a good reason to be critical? Should they try to change the way the abbots run the monasteries to make them less culturally influenced? Or should they move along to a situation that better suits what they are looking for considering they knew they were entering a monastery in which is rooted in the Thai forest tradition?

Thirdly...what can be said of the overall western monastic tradition within western countries? Is there one to speak of? It seems very limited. Does it lack anything as compared to the eastern tradition? If so, why? Would the lack of awareness and participation by the majority of laypeople in these countries pose a problem? Although we are primarily concerned with Therevada, perhaps some information on the status of other Buddhist traditions can help this aspect of the discussion.

Fourthly...what does everyone think about the establishment of a less culturally influenced monastic tradition in these western countries. Is there one? Should there be one? In my very humble opinion, Buddhism has been affected by the different cultures in the various countries in which it is practiced. And therefore the monastic community in the different countries do have some differences. How does/will western culture positively or negatively affect the western monastic tradition/community as it develops? It begs the question - should culture be separated from monasticism as much as possible?

Lastly and a tad hypothetically speaking…would you rather ordain in your own country if you could? Would it be more comfortable? Would it be easier? What are some of the things you would like to see in a monastery in your own country? What can be done to develop a larger monastic tradition in the west? Where do we go from here?

I hope I have stated all these questions in a polite and uncomplicated manner. Feel free to expand beyond what I have asked as long as it pertains somewhat to the overall point of this thread.

So what say you, good people of dhammawheel? :smile:

User avatar
BlackBird
Posts: 1925
Joined: Fri Apr 17, 2009 12:07 pm
Location: New Zealand

Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby BlackBird » Wed Aug 25, 2010 10:27 pm

"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." -

User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 14947
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Aug 26, 2010 12:00 am


User avatar
Goedert
Posts: 312
Joined: Tue May 18, 2010 9:24 pm
Location: SC, Brazil

Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby Goedert » Thu Aug 26, 2010 2:28 am

Western people live a different cultural life.

In the west we have a culture based on democratic values, humanist values and CAPITALIST value all the way first!

Aristoteles in ancient times, already made a critic to the worst form of governament.

He believed that the political regiments existent in his time, could be compared with the wind regularity. There is a constance in their casting: always to the north or always to the south. However, there is irregularity of every type. In the same way it occurs with the political forms. We can imagine that some of them are permanents, as monarchism, aristocracy, politeia (constitucional governament), indeed existing the natural "corruptions", provoked by the erronious winds, that conduce us to other political organizations, worse then the ideals. In these worse forms of governament, Aristóteles pointed the tirany (the most wicked), the oligarchy and the DEMOCRACY (pointed by him as "the worst of the good forms, but the best in the bad variety", because the major accordance win, not the meritous one.

The human society, especially in the west, is too diverseficated, so is the behaviour of people. This tend to people be free as long they respect the law stablished in the present. In the western society lot of the ancient costumes are getting lost, such as respect to the old, respect to the wise, respect to relegion, this tend people go toward sientific materialism.

This kind of behaviour goes to the western monosteries also, maybe there is people going to a type of spiritual materialism or something like that in change of sientific materialism. Because of democracy, western don't like too much power to someone and they try to go to the texts as first guidance.

In the East you can ordain in any place, after full ordination one can live as wanderer/beggar/forester and go to any place. In my case, I'm waiting to accomplish higher wordly education in Bachaelor of Laws and finish doctorate, instruct my self very well on the principles and bases of the teaching such as Noble 8 path, brahma-viharas, 4 bases of concentration, paramis, et coetera and then go for ordination. This is to avoid any lack of instruction and guidance, we never know what gonna happen, so propper preparation is good. After full ordination and spending some time with the preceptor and teacher, I want to go to the forest, cave duelling, living as beggar. Don't want to spend much time in a monostary. Military service in Brazil teach how to live in this conditions, there is no problem living without furnishments and equipaments as long as get food from begging. (this paragrah is my personal view).

User avatar
Goofaholix
Posts: 2928
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 3:49 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby Goofaholix » Thu Aug 26, 2010 3:00 am

14 years ago when I decided I wanted to ordain there was a very good Ajahn Chah monastery 15 minutes drive down the road from me. I could have gone there but the idea of spending a year as an anagarika bleaching my whites didn't appeal. Seriously though it wouldn't have felt like "going forth", going out on a limb, too close to everything I was familiar with and all the temptations I was used to. I also felt I'd be spending a lot of time on chores and building programs when really what I wanted was intensive meditation.

So I went to Thailand, and I've been to Thailand, Myanmar, and Malaysia many times since. I did eventually ordain but only for 3 months as a cultural pre-requisite to being married.

If I were to ordain proper (ie long term) some time in future I'd still probably choose asia even though I think the western approach to monastic practice is closer to original Buddhism, not swallowed up by culture, superstition, and tradition, not full of insincere monks.

The reason would be as before, in addition now I'm just as comfortable in the asian environment as I am here.

User avatar
SDC
Posts: 3633
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:08 pm

Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby SDC » Thu Aug 26, 2010 8:41 pm


User avatar
Goofaholix
Posts: 2928
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 3:49 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby Goofaholix » Thu Aug 26, 2010 9:06 pm

Having read through the article I notice the author, being a Thai, does seem to to informed by the assumption that most Thais have that Thai culture is in harmony with Buddhism.

I notice whenever I tell Thais I am interested in Buddhism they automatically assume I'm interested in Thai culture, when in reality I don't see much overlap between the two and in some aspects they are totally opposite.

Having said that the main point of the article is about the hierarchical nature of Thai culture, this I don't really have an issue with. If you look at Mahayana Buddhism there is a much stronger emphasis of submission to a teacher, Myanmar is much the same as Thailand in this respect, maybe Sri Lanka is an exception I'm not sure. Maybe this all comes from the Hindu notion of a guru rather than the pali canon notion of a kalyanamitta but still it works.

So personally I don't see an issue with the hierarchical nature of Thai monasticism, but I can imagine those planning to have it as a life vocation might, it makes life simpler so that one can more easily settle ones mind to the task.

householder
Posts: 133
Joined: Wed Aug 11, 2010 9:00 pm

Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby householder » Sun Apr 24, 2011 7:44 am

Reviving this thread somewhat,

These were some very well-informed posts and discussions which I enjoyed reading.

What about the idea of ordaining and training at a Western monastery (bearing in mind Goofaholix's statement that Western monasticism is closer to the original teachings) so that one is able to focus the mind, speech and body on this until they reach 5+ vassa, THEN moving to Thailand or somewhere?

That way, one's monastic training involves focus on the 'pure' teachings without having to separate out those from the other aspects of the practice that are local to a particular country, as well as not having to grapple with getting used to the lifestyle, traditions and customs of a foreign land?

rowyourboat
Posts: 1952
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 5:29 pm
Location: London, UK

Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby rowyourboat » Fri May 06, 2011 10:11 pm

I think living under a good preceptor is good for challenging our egos. It seems to be a good training in it self. Individualism is often nothing more than ego in sheep's clothing.

With metta
With Metta

Karuna
Mudita
& Upekkha

User avatar
Ytrog
Posts: 693
Joined: Thu Sep 16, 2010 4:50 pm
Location: The Netherlands, near Arnhem
Contact:

Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby Ytrog » Thu May 19, 2011 3:33 pm

I would certainly consider the UK if you want to ordain. They have a few monasteries in the Ajahn Chah lineage.

User avatar
SDC
Posts: 3633
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:08 pm

Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby SDC » Wed Mar 07, 2012 12:06 am

Figured I would bump this up and see if anyone had anything to add.

Some additional questions expanding on some of the things I asked originally...

Would a monastic community be able to wander for alms in America? Do you think there is any aspect of the American public ready to embrace this? Does this currently go on anywhere in the US? I recall hearing something about it. Would the typical middle-class, American family be willing to support them?

User avatar
Goofaholix
Posts: 2928
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 3:49 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby Goofaholix » Wed Mar 07, 2012 1:09 am


User avatar
SDC
Posts: 3633
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:08 pm

Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby SDC » Wed Mar 07, 2012 1:32 am


Virgo
Posts: 1315
Joined: Sun Feb 14, 2010 10:52 pm

Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby Virgo » Wed Mar 07, 2012 3:04 am



User avatar
tiltbillings
Posts: 23012
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Mar 07, 2012 3:14 am


Virgo
Posts: 1315
Joined: Sun Feb 14, 2010 10:52 pm

Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby Virgo » Wed Mar 07, 2012 3:22 am



User avatar
thaijeppe
Posts: 31
Joined: Tue Dec 20, 2011 3:13 am
Location: Thailand

Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby thaijeppe » Wed Mar 07, 2012 4:12 am

Hello all.

Another interesting question in this discussion would be: How can Buddhist Monasticism develop in western countries?

There is a lot of interest for Buddhism in the west and there are some monasteries shattered around, but they are still few compared to how many
people in the west who are interested in Buddhisme.

Is it possible to transplant a South East Asian model to the west or would it be better to build a new Monastic tradition more aligned to western
traditions, of course without doing anything that goes against the Teaching.

And from a western perspective, you can also ask the question: Do we need Monasticism to practice Buddhisme?

It would be interesting to hear your views about the above mentioned.

I personally don't know so much about it, because I live in Thailand, and we have enough monasteries here, but I still think it is an interesting
question, due to the spread of Buddhism.
:anjali: Jeppe
If you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you
let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace. If you let go completely,
you will know complete peace and freedom.
Ajahn Chah

Virgo
Posts: 1315
Joined: Sun Feb 14, 2010 10:52 pm

Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby Virgo » Wed Mar 07, 2012 4:42 am



User avatar
daverupa
Posts: 5980
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:58 pm

Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby daverupa » Wed Mar 07, 2012 11:06 am

The only time I entertain the possibility that this is a degenerate age is when it turns out to cost money to go forth into homelessness.

:meditate:

User avatar
Cal
Posts: 58
Joined: Fri Jun 04, 2010 7:33 pm
Location: South Coast, England, UK

Re: A Discussion of Western Buddhist Monasticism

Postby Cal » Wed Mar 07, 2012 11:28 am





Return to “Ordination and Monastic Life”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests

Google Saffron, Theravada Search Engine

cron