Controversial Theravada traditions?

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Controversial Theravada traditions?

Postby davcuts » Tue Jan 27, 2009 9:34 pm

I don't mean to break any rules of the TOS, so if I am moderators please close this thread. I am considering attending Theravada centers in my area. Are there any Theravada traditions that might be considered controversial, or even cults? I made this mistake with Tibetan Buddhism, and I don't want to get caught up with any tradition that might cause more harm than good.

Take care,
David
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Re: Controversial Theravada traditions?

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Jan 27, 2009 9:41 pm

Hi David,

There is Dhammakaya
viewtopic.php?f=14&t=339

Of course some would argue that certain Theravada teachers don't teach the "right" way, and that some of the lay teachers are not "Buddhist" enough, but that's not a "cult" thing, it's something you'd have to decide for yourself.

Metta
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Re: Controversial Theravada traditions?

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Jan 27, 2009 9:54 pm

Greetings Davcuts,

Generally I think it's difficult for anyone interested in establishing a cult to do it under the guise of Theravada Buddhism, because Theravada takes the Pali Canon as the primary source of authority. Buddhavacana (Buddha word) comes to the Theravada tradition via the Pali Canon, not via a Guru.

I could elaborate more but it's probably going to be off-topic.

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Re: Controversial Theravada traditions?

Postby David N. Snyder » Tue Jan 27, 2009 9:54 pm

Fortunately, we don't have much of a problem there in Theravada as perhaps some of the other traditions do. One reason might be that we have no pope, no vatican, so no one to 'rebel' against and form a splinter group.

Another reason might be that most cult leaders are not too keen on celibacy, a required precept for bhikkhus and bhikkhinis.
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Re: Controversial Theravada traditions?

Postby Element » Tue Jan 27, 2009 10:29 pm

davcuts wrote:Are there any Theravada traditions that might be considered controversial, or even cults?


I heard for the first time last week of a tradition called Mahavihara from Sri Lanka, sometimes called 'Classical Theravadin', other times called 'Abidhamma & Commentaries'. I consider it controversial. :)
Last edited by retrofuturist on Tue Jan 27, 2009 10:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Mahavihara is not a cult.
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Re: Controversial Theravada traditions?

Postby Cittasanto » Tue Jan 27, 2009 10:31 pm

I don't think there are any really besides the one mentioned, but that is a matter of opinion?
There is one group which I find suspect, but have no interest in disclosing the name publicly as I have no direct experiance of them outside of Internet forums and don't know if the place is like that there instead of internet group.

there will always be people who abuse the priviledge and it is just a case of being mindful of what the signs are.
have a look on Buddhist channel and do a search there as I know they have some info about a 2 or 3.
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Re: Controversial Theravada traditions?

Postby Avery » Thu Mar 05, 2009 6:27 pm

Manapa wrote:I don't think there are any really besides the one mentioned, but that is a matter of opinion?

I wanted to bump this thread to mention Santi Asoke in Thailand, whose followers are "lay monks" and adopt celibacy, vegetarianism, asceticism, and liberation dharma.

It sounds nice on the surface but it sort of creates a new class of Buddhist, between laity and monk, and I'm not sure if everyone would agree with that.
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Re: Controversial Theravada traditions?

Postby Dhammanando » Fri Mar 06, 2009 12:48 am

Hi Avery,

Avery wrote:It sounds nice on the surface but it sort of creates a new class of Buddhist, between laity and monk, and I'm not sure if everyone would agree with that.


I wouldn't call it new (except for the vegetarianism). In the Mahavacchagotta Sutta (MN. 73) the Buddha's householder followers are divided into (1) "male and female lay followers, clothed in white, enjoying sensual pleasures" and (2) "male and female lay followers, clothed in white, leading lives of celibacy."

I think the most one could say is that it's unusual for monks to promote the brahmacariya among householders to the extent that the Santi Asoke monks do.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
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Re: Controversial Theravada traditions?

Postby mudra » Sat Mar 07, 2009 1:10 am

Bhante,
As non-celibate and celibate upasakas and upasikas are certainly not exclusive to Theravada, is the "clothed-in-white" a sub category?
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Re: Controversial Theravada traditions?

Postby Dhammanando » Sat Mar 07, 2009 1:38 am

Hi Mudra,

mudra wrote:As non-celibate and celibate upasakas and upasikas are certainly not exclusive to Theravada, is the "clothed-in-white" a sub category?


No. "Clothed in white" (odātavasana) is an idiom that means being dressed in householders' clothes.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,
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Re: Controversial Theravada traditions?

Postby green » Sat Mar 07, 2009 1:43 am

davcuts wrote:I don't mean to break any rules of the TOS, so if I am moderators please close this thread. I am considering attending Theravada centers in my area. Are there any Theravada traditions that might be considered controversial, or even cults? I made this mistake with Tibetan Buddhism, and I don't want to get caught up with any tradition that might cause more harm than good.

Take care,
David


First of all, please get your own copy of "In the Buddha's Words" by Bhikku Bodhi or get a copy of the Tipitika - they are available in some well stocked libraries.

Use your own mind first and use it to study the dhamma yourself, then you can be an educated person who won't be fooled by foolish interpretations of suttas by anyone else.

Discuss it with others to get wrong ideas out-- use these forums. Slowly your understanding of the dhamma will grow. Don't fall for the "you need a guru thing."

You need to study and do your homework and become an "A" student in Buddhism...then listen to teachings...you will be able to discern real teachers from false ones and decide which school, if any, is good for you.

Good luck, and trust me, an investment of time and money in learning the Dhamma is worth more than anything else in the world. :anjali:
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Re: Controversial Theravada traditions?

Postby clw_uk » Sat Mar 07, 2009 2:30 am

excellent advice from green there

you can also get the pali canon suttas at amazon.com if you want to buy them and of course there is this site which has a great wealth of information http://www.accesstoinsight.org

Here are some websites that may help you find a local Theravada centre or monastery

http://www.forestsangha.org/
http://www.buddhanet.info/wbd/country.php?country_id=50





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Re: Controversial Theravada traditions?

Postby SeerObserver » Thu Mar 12, 2009 6:25 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Generally I think it's difficult for anyone interested in establishing a cult to do it under the guise of Theravada Buddhism, because Theravada takes the Pali Canon as the primary source of authority. Buddhavacana (Buddha word) comes to the Theravada tradition via the Pali Canon, not via a Guru.

Well even within Theravada there are different branches that have some differing interpretations of the Tripitaka and what have you.

TheDhamma wrote:Fortunately, we don't have much of a problem there in Theravada as perhaps some of the other traditions do. One reason might be that we have no pope, no vatican, so no one to 'rebel' against and form a splinter group.

Another reason might be that most cult leaders are not too keen on celibacy, a required precept for bhikkhus and bhikkhinis.

Well there's no figure that oversees all of Theravada, but within Thai and Cambodian Buddhism there is the Supreme Patriarch, or Somdech Phra Sangharaja.

With these two things in mind...
    ~ How is there not talk of heresy or labeling of groups as heretics for their different interpretations (and therefor practices?) ? Or is there?
    ~ How is it that this does not cause the same types of schisms that may be found elsewhere? Or does it?
It seems that the former does occur. I have seen at least two groups named here in this thread that it seems some people label as heretics. There could even be a third in this very thread, but Manapa declined to mention a name. Large congregations (Buddhist and Christian) and their praises/criticisms are a topic I'm interested in.

From what I know of the controversy surrounding the two groups mentioned, some seems to be politically driven. Both have or have had attendees that are of high-profile. That being the case, a particular temple becomes "guilty by association" and these groups may face backlash from their attendees' opponents. Criticizing a temple would seem to be a good way to discredit an opponent, especially one in the political realm. In addition, while neither is recently founded, they both have experienced recent growth in reach and size, arguably exponential relative to previous growth and expansion.

It appears universal across faiths that large congregations are on the receiving end of much criticism, the easiest of which is vast finances. Naturally, that's the easiest thing to point out in that many people feel that a religious institutions should not have much assets, etc.
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Re: Controversial Theravada traditions?

Postby gavesako » Thu Mar 12, 2009 8:39 pm

Some good points here from SeerObserver. Of course there are political issues involved here, and it is not really so much the "unorthodox" teachings (not in line with Pali Canon) of groups like Dhammakaya or Santi Asok which give them the label "sect", but rather the way they are organized and their attempt to gain independence from the official ecclesiastical structures of the Thai Sangha (which are pretty similar to Catholic church, broadly speaking). There is a good book about New Buddhist Movements in Thailand which can be downloaded here:
http://buddhisttorrents.blogspot.com/20 ... -rory.html
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: Controversial Theravada traditions?

Postby jcsuperstar » Thu Mar 12, 2009 9:43 pm

santi asok is no longer theravada if i remember correctly, they dont wear the same robes, and have no theras to ordain theravada monks.

but theravada as a whole is more concered with orthopraxy than orthodoxy. as long as the monks keep the vinaya it is hard to expell them. say what you want about dhammakaya, but their monks seem to keep the vinaya well, now temple orgaziners may ask for large donations andtheir meditation style may be different from other temples but whats that got to do with them being orthadox theravada monks?

i was talking to one of my thai monk friends about dhammakaya and he had nothing but good things to say about them, he saw the critisisms and understood them, but he said that dhammakaya was probably the future of thai buddhism, when a young thai person sees the old temples he doesnt feel drawn to them, but when he sees the modern clean well run dhammakaya temples he can relate to them, he can feel at home there. he thinks the other temples definately have stuff to learn from dhammakaya, as they seem to know how to draw a crowd and manage a temple well. they seem to easily be able to muster large numbers and also get people interested in meditation. so the question i think this monk is urging us to ask is not what is wrong with dhammakaya but what can we learn from dhammakaya, as theyre obviously doing something right.
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Re: Controversial Theravada traditions?

Postby Dhammanando » Fri Mar 13, 2009 12:47 am

Hi Bhante,

gavesako wrote:There is a good book about New Buddhist Movements in Thailand which can be downloaded here:
http://buddhisttorrents.blogspot.com/20 ... -rory.html


Thanks for the notice about this site, which I wasn't previously aware of.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu


P.S.,

:offtopic:

I'm delighted to see the site offers Alan Cole's book Text as Father: Paternal Seductions in Early Mahayana Buddhist Literature for free download:

http://buddhisttorrents.blogspot.com/2009/03/text-as-father-paternal-seductions-in.html

    This beautifully written work sheds new light on the origins and nature of Mahayana Buddhism with close readings of four well-known texts--the Lotus Sutra, Diamond Sutra, Tathagatagarbha Sutra, and Vimalakirtinirdesa. Treating these sutras as literary works rather than as straightforward philosophic or doctrinal treatises, Alan Cole argues that these writings were carefully sculpted to undermine traditional monastic Buddhism and to gain legitimacy and authority for Mahayana Buddhism as it was veering away from Buddhism's older oral and institutional forms.
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
    — William Penn Some Fruits of Solitude,
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Re: Controversial Theravada traditions?

Postby nathan » Fri Mar 13, 2009 1:39 am

If I may ask, is there any consensus of thought on these various movements among the western forest bhikkhus? Are some or all of these groups suspect for any given reasons or are there differences that are approved of as well? I'm not clear on this. The torrent site looks interesting. I am downloading some client software now but it will take awhile to see how well this will work under the conditions here. It looks like a large temptation to sit and read for another ten years so I will have to be more selective reading. :juggling: Thanks for the links and the book recommends Venerable Sirs. :anjali:
But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}
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Re: Controversial Theravada traditions?

Postby SeerObserver » Fri Mar 13, 2009 3:05 am

gavesako wrote:Some good points here from SeerObserver. Of course there are political issues involved here, and it is not really so much the "unorthodox" teachings (not in line with Pali Canon) of groups like Dhammakaya or Santi Asok which give them the label "sect", but rather the way they are organized and their attempt to gain independence from the official ecclesiastical structures of the Thai Sangha (which are pretty similar to Catholic church, broadly speaking). There is a good book about New Buddhist Movements in Thailand which can be downloaded here:
http://buddhisttorrents.blogspot.com/20 ... -rory.html

Namasakarn.

Thanks for the resource...I'm taking a look at it. What you said about the independence from the ecclesiastical council is what I would generally figure the "sect" label to come from as well. But I'm only aware of this with Santi Asoke from their invalid preceptor and other shows of intent to break away. There doesn't seem to be anything along these lines with Dhammakaya. Dhammakaya formally belongs to the Maha Nikaya order with its Bhikkhus ordained by preceptors who meet the criteria for the title. There doesn't seem to be any other dissenting practices either, does there? The abbot even has the High Royal Order given title of Phra Raj.

But there have been a lot of statements (moreso towards Dhammakaya) to the tune that the sect and unorthodox designation comes from the first definition provided by Ven. Gavesako, that there are practices not in line with Pali Canon. What exactly are these?
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Re: Controversial Theravada traditions?

Postby jcsuperstar » Fri Mar 13, 2009 4:19 am

i think it's just the money issue...

that and a "wierd" type of meditation..

dhammakaya are like the thai version of the american "mega-church" other christians dont deny that those churches are christian, but they might like like the way they do "business"

also about santi asok. i've talked to thai monks about this too. many at first thought SA had some good ideas, but then kinda took it too far, and here's where we are now, any meaniful change this movement could of had within the thai sangha is pretty much out now. it is also interesting that they seem to no longer be distancing themselves from buddhadasa (who they at first where inspired by then distanced themselves from), you'll see a lot of writings by Buddhadasa on SA pages (at least some english ones i've come across in the recent past)
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Re: Controversial Theravada traditions?

Postby SeerObserver » Fri Mar 13, 2009 7:04 am

jcsuperstar wrote:i think it's just the money issue...

that and a "wierd" type of meditation..

dhammakaya are like the thai version of the american "mega-church" other christians dont deny that those churches are christian, but they might like like the way they do "business"

also about santi asok. i've talked to thai monks about this too. many at first thought SA had some good ideas, but then kinda took it too far, and here's where we are now, any meaniful change this movement could of had within the thai sangha is pretty much out now. it is also interesting that they seem to no longer be distancing themselves from buddhadasa (who they at first where inspired by then distanced themselves from), you'll see a lot of writings by Buddhadasa on SA pages (at least some english ones i've come across in the recent past)

What a funny thing to say...a "weird" type of meditation. It may seem so to some, but it's actually not that "out there". Focusing on a nimitta and moving energy/focus to different points in sequence is not unique to Dhammakaya meditation. Chakra meditation comes to mind. Will also sees parallels.

Will wrote:I recall over at E-sangha, a Dhammakaya monk spent quite a bit of time & effort peddling their special mediation technique. That method was the result of the founder's vision, I believe. At any rate it, it was tantric in the sense that one moves energies from point to point within the body in a certain sequence. He did not get much sympathy or support, so faded away.

There's an understatement. There was some support, or at the very least mildly open receptiveness to hearing what he had to say. But the majority of what he received was as you stated. I believe the person you are referring to was not a monk, but rather a lay practitioner. But by now if his merits have taken him into ordination, then I rejoice. Sadhu!

As for Santi Asoke, what meaningful change could they have had within the Thai Sangha? One of their cores (ordination) is invalid due to the preceptor. The leader also seems to have explicitly sought to deviate from the ecclesiastical council. Their original mission statement is well founded though.

    "A religious institution should help the society in solving its problems, otherwise the existence of the religious institution becomes meaningless, which has happened to the mainstream Buddhist institutions in Thailand. When the principles of any religion start to decline, then a religious leader will emerge trying to find new ways to restore the glory of religion and to revive its role in helping society." Two Paths to Revivalism in Thai Buddhism
And then things seemed to go awry.
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