Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby pilgrim » Thu Jan 27, 2011 8:10 am

Richard's keynote address for the International Conference on Dissemination of Theravada Buddhism in the 21st Century held in Salaya, Bangkok, Sep/Oct 2010.

"Ven Sugandho has asked why the dissemination of Theravāda Buddhism is no longer as successful as it used to be. After all, Theravāda Buddhism is the guardian of the oldest and purest tradition of the Buddha’s message; and I believe that most of us here today consider the moral value and intellectual brilliance of that message among the very finest in the whole of human history. So if we have such a good product, why can’t we sell it?

I propose to offer answers to that question, in as much detail as I have time for. And at least you will have to agree, I think, that if there is nothing wrong with the message, there presumably may be something wrong with the messengers." :clap:

http://www.ocbs.org/index.php?option=co ... Itemid=121
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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge

Postby ajahndoe » Fri Jan 28, 2011 7:50 am

Quite a long read, but thank you for sharing. There are truths worthy of note, especially in failure to denounce cruelty and torture, as well as failure to recognize the ignorance at work in holding to tradition and preventing ordination for women!
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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge

Postby Ben » Fri Jan 28, 2011 8:07 am

Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge

Both. Someone whose views I take very seriously.

Thanks for the link, Pilgrim. I'll be sure to download and read the article a little later.
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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge

Postby rowyourboat » Fri Jan 28, 2011 8:14 am

Thanks for the link- it is really excellent. I think Prof Gombrich is quite good at commenting on the social aspects of Buddhism.

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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge

Postby appicchato » Fri Jan 28, 2011 8:44 am

...failure to denounce cruelty and torture, as well as failure to recognize the ignorance at work in holding to tradition and preventing ordination for women!


Having been there that day I was a little surprised he was saying what he did, where he did (Mahamakut Buddhist University)...his address was given in English to a gathering largely made up of about three hundred, mostly Thai, monks with no command of the language...I was wondering at the time what they would think if they understood what he was saying...
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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge

Postby cooran » Fri Jan 28, 2011 10:04 am

Hello all,

A link the previous thread on Richard Gombrich:
viewtopic.php?f=14&t=5599

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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge

Postby rowyourboat » Fri Jan 28, 2011 2:43 pm

appicchato wrote:
...failure to denounce cruelty and torture, as well as failure to recognize the ignorance at work in holding to tradition and preventing ordination for women!


Having been there that day I was a little surprised he was saying what he did, where he did (Mahamakut Buddhist University)...his address was given in English to a gathering largely made up of about three hundred, mostly Thai, monks with no command of the language...I was wondering at the time what they would think if they understood what he was saying...


Clearly it was not his purpose to 'comfort' but challenge. I think he talks of the endless 'applauds' monks get and asks quite rightly 'what have you done to earn it?' Are you furthering your own practice? Are you helping with the practice of others? What is your role (other than getting fed and watered)?
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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge

Postby Dmytro » Sat Jan 29, 2011 7:09 am

Hi,

pilgrim wrote:"So if we have such a good product, why can’t we sell it?"


This question explains very well the peculiarities of the Western Buddhism.
It has to be 'sell-able', and therefore has to conform to the Western mores.

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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge

Postby rowyourboat » Sat Jan 29, 2011 7:51 am

Dmytro wrote:Hi,

pilgrim wrote:"So if we have such a good product, why can’t we sell it?"


This question explains very well the peculiarities of the Western Buddhism.
It has to be 'sell-able', and therefore has to conform to the Western mores.

Dmytro


I'm not sure- there is also functionality and truth- also very western attitudes!

Also, many westerners have the very impressed (much more than the asians that I know) about the fact that the dhamma has been given away free- without charge...quite unthinkable!

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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge

Postby tobes » Sat Jan 29, 2011 12:21 pm

I find Gombrich very impressive. A really excellent scholar.

It seems to me that the problem he is pointing to is related to the fact that there is a close relationship between the Theravada and the establishment in countries such as Sri Lanka and Thailand....and this precludes genuinely robust social-political engagement and gives rise to unwholesome attitudes towards what is not part of the establishment. Bhikkhu Bodhi has made a similar assertion about Sri Lanka; I think he said that in one of the lineages, unless you are born into the establishment, you cannot receive full ordination. Hence people wishing for full ordination had to go to Burma, and now there is a Burmese lineage.

It's a bit of a mystery to me how these attitudes could solidify so strongly.....


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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge

Postby pilgrim » Sat Jan 29, 2011 1:00 pm

I believe that Theravada which holds to tradition and orthodoxy very closely finds difficulty in engaging modern cultures with its differing expectations and norms. Modern culture is not going to change for Theravadins, so it is us who have to adapt.
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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge

Postby Kim OHara » Sun Jan 30, 2011 12:46 am

Hi, everyone,
This is sounding more and more like the 'American Buddhist Tradition?' thread http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=6709. I mentioned this one over there and no-one seemed to notice; now trying the other way round.
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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Feb 05, 2011 4:28 am

Haven't had time to listen yet but one of Ajahn Brahm's recent talks contains some comments about the address:

http://www.dhammaloka.org.au/component/ ... onomy.html
Buddhism and Autonomy

Ajahn Brahm challenges ideas about autonomy and freedom, and about knowledge and faith, in Buddhism and in other religions.

Ajahn refers to Richard Gombrich's keynote address 'Comfort or Challenge?' for the International Conference on Dissemination of Theravada Buddhism in the 21st Century, held in Salaya, Bangkok, Sep/Oct 2010. Click here for the text of the address.

Professor Richard Gombrich is chairman of The Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies.

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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge

Postby tobes » Sat Feb 05, 2011 6:10 am

mikenz66 wrote:Haven't had time to listen yet but one of Ajahn Brahm's recent talks contains some comments about the address:

http://www.dhammaloka.org.au/component/ ... onomy.html
Buddhism and Autonomy

Ajahn Brahm challenges ideas about autonomy and freedom, and about knowledge and faith, in Buddhism and in other religions.

Ajahn refers to Richard Gombrich's keynote address 'Comfort or Challenge?' for the International Conference on Dissemination of Theravada Buddhism in the 21st Century, held in Salaya, Bangkok, Sep/Oct 2010. Click here for the text of the address.

Professor Richard Gombrich is chairman of The Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies.

:anjali:
Mike


Thanks for posting Mike. A very timely topic for me at present. Appreciated.

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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Feb 05, 2011 8:38 am

The discussion of Gombrich is at about 50 minutes. Ajahn Brahm expresses agreement with Gombrich's concerns (even though Gombrich is from Oxford, not Cambridge :tongue:).

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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge

Postby tobes » Sat Feb 05, 2011 12:39 pm

mikenz66 wrote:The discussion of Gombrich is at about 50 minutes. Ajahn Brahm expresses agreement with Gombrich's concerns (even though Gombrich is from Oxford, not Cambridge :tongue:).

:anjali:
Mike


Yes, thanks I've now listened to it. For other people who may be interested, the talk was generally about.....well, this may sound strange, but it's true.....the democratic anarchy that defines (or should define) Buddhist modes of organisation. And this extends to one's own mind as well. I must say, very, very interesting from the standpoint of political philosophy.

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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge

Postby Dmytro » Mon Feb 07, 2011 10:06 am

tobes wrote:For other people who may be interested, the talk was generally about.....well, this may sound strange, but it's true.....the democratic anarchy that defines (or should define) Buddhist modes of organisation.


Well, both of them have scientific background, which gets deeply embedded into the Western Buddhism, and as Paul Feyerabend wrote:

"Science is an essentially anarchistic enterprise"

http://www.marxists.org/reference/subje ... yerabe.htm

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A talk by R. Gombrich

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Nov 12, 2011 1:06 am

http://www.ocbs.org/lectures-a-articles ... ?showall=1

Also, do pay attention to the website where this talk is found. All sorts of interesting stuff to be found there.
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Re: A talk by R. Gombrich

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Nov 12, 2011 1:14 am

Greetings,

Gombrich wrote:To start with, let me revert to comfort and challenge. As the Ven Sugandho has written in the conference document, Theravādin missionaries obviously prefer comforting to challenging. Rather than teaching Buddhism to the indigenous people of their host countries, they mainly run cultural centres for the Buddhist immigrants from their countries of origin, centres which indeed operate largely in Sinhalese, Burmese, Thai, etc., not in the language of the country where the missions operate. To run such a centre is not in itself an unworthy thing to do: in the modern world most countries regard providing cultural attachés and consular services as part of their diplomatic mission. But if this is the main and central activity of the mission, it points to an extremely serious underlying weakness in the Theravāda Buddhism we find in the world today: its parochial nationalism. It is outrageous that the vast majority of Theravāda Buddhists, whether monastics or laity, consider only Buddhists of their own nationality to be true Buddhists; and whatever they may say in public, that is indeed what most of them think.

Sad but true.

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Re: A talk by R. Gombrich

Postby Ben » Sat Nov 12, 2011 2:01 am

Thanks Tilt!
Anything by Gombrich, in my book, is gold.
I look forward to reading it shortly.
kind regards,

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