Modern Theravada, not Western Theravada

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Modern Theravada, not Western Theravada

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Jun 01, 2009 12:37 am

In another thread there is a discussion about the translation of a Pali passage in a signature line. This led me to take another look at the great link in tilt's signature line:

http://web.archive.org/web/200502151352 ... ysp962.htm

It appears to be a very old web page, but still great!

I love the section on, "ETHNOSANGHA OVERSIGHT" which is defined as:

ETHNOSANGHA OVERSIGHT: The exclusion of ethnic Buddhist groups (nonwhites in this case) when referring to Western Buddhism.

There are so many groups and teachers that sometimes refer to modern-day Buddhism as "Western Buddhism" or "Western Zen" or perhaps "Western Theravada."

I am sure no harm was meant or intended, but it does seem to suggest an "ethnosangha oversight." That is why I think the term, "Modern Theravada" is much better. It does not refer to any cultural or ethnic group and in fact many Asians also espouse the same views of what might be called Modern Theravada.
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Re: Modern Theravada, not Western Theravada

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Jun 01, 2009 12:46 am

Greetings David,

Yes, I think Modern Theravada is a much better term than Western Theravada, although I'm comfortable with the concept of a Western Buddhism as a form of Buddhism that may evolve over time as one that forms against the backdrop of (predominantly Abrahamic) Western society.

However, the things that appeal to Westerners about Buddhism (e.g. the clear demonstration of cause and effect, the invitation to come and see, the lack of blind faith) are precisely the things that are appealing to the younger generations in Asia. No one anywhere is immune to scientific revolution, and the masses will no longer be prepared to follow a religious tradition simply because their parents and grandparents did.

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Re: Modern Theravada, not Western Theravada

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Jun 01, 2009 1:01 am

retrofuturist wrote:However, the things that appeal to Westerners about Buddhism (e.g. the clear demonstration of cause and effect, the invitation to come and see, the lack of blind faith) are precisely the things that are appealing to the younger generations in Asia. No one anywhere is immune to scientific revolution, and the masses will no longer be prepared to follow a religious tradition simply because their parents and grandparents did.

Hi retro,

Yes, I know what you mean. Once I was at a poya, full moon celebration at a traditional Sri Lankan vihara and a young Sri Lankan man asked me if I liked all of the ritual and ceremony or just the meditation. I did not want to offend him, so mentioned that it is all good to which he responded, "I don't like all of the ceremonies and rituals, I would prefer if we just meditated."

I like the community support of course, but since I don't know Singhalese language, the ceremonies were a little tedious to follow for me so I thought he may have been just testing me for my reaction, but was surprised (at that time) to see he also has the same appeal to the things many of us do. I was shocked to hear that response from him, since he did not come to the regular meditation programs, but maybe it was just from lack of knowledge about the meetings and that so many of us "convert Buddhists" like the bhavana practice.

On another occasion, a Sri Lankan woman came to the meditation meeting and saw all of the non-Asian faces and said, "I never knew that Buddhism was this popular among the Americans" (American-born).
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Re: Modern Theravada, not Western Theravada

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Jun 01, 2009 4:00 am

I just found an article in a newspaper (online) that discusses some of the issues here, with Buddhism in modern times:

http://www.courier-journal.com/article/ ... 10388/1008

There is also a link to a video at that site.
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Re: Modern Theravada, not Western Theravada

Postby sherubtse » Mon Jun 01, 2009 2:43 pm

TheDhamma wrote:Hi retro,

Yes, I know what you mean. Once I was at a poya, full moon celebration at a traditional Sri Lankan vihara and a young Sri Lankan man asked me if I liked all of the ritual and ceremony or just the meditation. I did not want to offend him, so mentioned that it is all good to which he responded, "I don't like all of the ceremonies and rituals, I would prefer if we just meditated."


Perhaps I'm the odd man out here, but I quite like the ceremonial aspect of Theravada. It is a wonderful experience to be reminded, for example, of the qualities of the Buddha, Dhamma & Sangha. Just meditation? Gosh no! I look at Buddhism as a whole religious package, wherein all the parts fit together in order to lead one to Nibbana.

With metta,
Sherubtse
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Re: Modern Theravada, not Western Theravada

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Jun 01, 2009 3:57 pm

Western Theravada for me at least implies the monastic and lay interaction in the west, and how it is or has developed so far.
Modern Theravada for me implies the developments in ideas which may not balance 100% with the more traditional ideas before full contact with the west happened.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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Re: Modern Theravada, not Western Theravada

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Jun 01, 2009 9:13 pm

sherubtse wrote:Perhaps I'm the odd man out here, but I quite like the ceremonial aspect of Theravada. It is a wonderful experience to be reminded, for example, of the qualities of the Buddha, Dhamma & Sangha. Just meditation? Gosh no! I look at Buddhism as a whole religious package, wherein all the parts fit together in order to lead one to Nibbana.

Hi Sherubtse,

I agree, it is a whole package; but I guess I have a preference of certain practices over others. I think Buddhism allows for different temperaments to focus on different aspects, though. For me, it is:

1. bhavana, sila, dana
2. sutta study,
3. kalyana mitta ( includes Dhamma Wheel ! )
4. ceremonies

In the above order, but understand that for others, the "ranking" if any, may be different.
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Re: Modern Theravada, not Western Theravada

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Jun 01, 2009 9:20 pm

TheDhamma wrote: 1. bhavana, sila, dana
2. sutta study,
3. kalyana mitta ( includes Dhamma Wheel ! )
4. ceremonies


My sentiments also, I am not big on cerimonies, although do partake on the apropriate times, although I am not big on showing respect to someone who thinks lay people have their uses and openly says it.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
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Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Modern Theravada, not Western Theravada

Postby jcsuperstar » Mon Jun 01, 2009 10:53 pm

i came to theravada from zen under a monk that was meditation 1st, study 2nd and ceremony only if you have to
then i came to thai theravada
at first i was into the thai stuff but after awhile it has started to seem like all thai buddhism is is ceremony, meditation here and there (if at all)and not really any study at all. the only major exceptions to this rule seem to be western monks. i spent years planning and getting things in order to ordain but last year that all changed, and now as a lay person who will probably always be a lay person, i'm struggling. i know i dont want my role as a buddhist to simply be a food delivery boy but in traditional thai buddhism that seems to be all thats offered to me.
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Modern Theravada, not Western Theravada

Postby Hoo » Mon Jun 01, 2009 11:27 pm

jcsuperstar wrote:i came to theravada from zen under a monk that was meditation 1st, study 2nd and ceremony only if you have to
then i came to thai theravada
at first i was into the thai stuff but after awhile it has started to seem like all thai buddhism is is ceremony, meditation here and there (if at all)and not really any study at all. the only major exceptions to this rule seem to be western monks. i spent years planning and getting things in order to ordain but last year that all changed, and now as a lay person who will probably always be a lay person, i'm struggling. i know i dont want my role as a buddhist to simply be a food delivery boy but in traditional thai buddhism that seems to be all thats offered to me.


JC, did you find that true of the Forrest Tradition, too? I've just begun to read some of Ajahn Chah (Being Dharma) and am curious what you might have discovered.

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Re: Modern Theravada, not Western Theravada

Postby jcsuperstar » Tue Jun 02, 2009 3:06 am

most famous western monks come from lp chah. as far as i can tell and as far as i'm concerned he, and they, are all pretty stand up guys and great monks.
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Modern Theravada, not Western Theravada

Postby appicchato » Tue Jun 02, 2009 5:57 am

jcsuperstar wrote:i came to theravada from zen under a monk that was meditation 1st, study 2nd and ceremony only if you have to
then i came to thai theravada
at first i was into the thai stuff but after awhile it has started to seem like all thai buddhism is is ceremony, meditation here and there (if at all)and not really any study at all. the only major exceptions to this rule seem to be western monks. i spent years planning and getting things in order to ordain but last year that all changed, and now as a lay person who will probably always be a lay person, i'm struggling. i know i dont want my role as a buddhist to simply be a food delivery boy but in traditional thai buddhism that seems to be all thats offered to me.


I empathize with you jc...it (Thai Theravada) appears much the same to me...I hope your struggles lessen...press on... :smile:
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Re: Modern Theravada, not Western Theravada

Postby Ordinaryperson » Wed Jun 03, 2009 2:44 am

jcsuperstar wrote:most famous western monks come from lp chah. as far as i can tell and as far as i'm concerned he, and they, are all pretty stand up guys and great monks.


There are also many monks in Thailand that may not be well known to the Western world but as good if not better the problem is finding them and establishing the first contact as they do only speak Thai.
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Re: Modern Theravada, not Western Theravada

Postby gavesako » Wed Jun 24, 2009 7:30 am

Here is a relavant blog entry from a Western monk who finally gave up trying to fit into a Wat Thai due to the ethnic and power issues involved:

Apology of Yuttadhammes

Jun 23rd, 2009 by yuttadhammo

I am not staying at a Wat Thai this rains retreat. ANY Wat Thai. And I’m not going to apologize for that. I’d like to take a little time to explain why I’ve come to this decision, as most people are unable to understand why I would come to such a strange decision. Strange to them, of course, for it seems perfectly reasonable to me, having been ordained as a Thai monk and lived with Thai monks for the past 7 years.

First, the misunderstanding stems mainly from a misunderstanding of what a monk should be. I admit, I am not a perfect model of what a monk should be, but I think I keep at least a modest level of monastic discipline, including a healthy respect and adherence to the rules of the monastic life and a healthy distancing of oneself from societies of all sorts.

Secondly, I think we generally don’t take enough time to appreciate what is meant by “Wat Thai” or “Wat Khmer” or “Wat Laos”, etc. I think if we did, we would realize it is really a funny thing, considering the Buddha was of Nepalese decent. No, what these places really are is a place for displaced immigrants to return, even briefly, to the society from which they were displaced. (...)

http://yuttadhammo.sirimangalo.org/post ... tadhammes/
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Re: Modern Theravada, not Western Theravada

Postby Ben » Wed Jun 24, 2009 7:47 am

Thank you Bhante.

The terms 'Western Theravada', and 'Western Buddhism' are just curious novelties to me. My focus is very much bhavana (meditation), sila, dana and pariyatti. The tradition in which I have continued to practice within is very light on the ceremony and has very little of the cultural acretions normally associated with Buddhism.
Metta

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Re: Modern Theravada, not Western Theravada

Postby appicchato » Wed Jun 24, 2009 11:53 am

Sometimes I feel like an apple in a bowl of oranges...but after thirty some years in Thailand I think that's always going to be the case (for a Caucasian in Asia)...in a wat or otherwise...and also find it a little strange to contemplate being a monk in the West (where the level of practice (I've read) seems comparable to, or (in instances) surpassing that of the East (if indeed they can be compared))...for me personally I find the level of support, and deference (among other things) here to be of real benefit, as well as incentive (in the attempt to maintain a high level of monastic discipline) on the path to liberation...just musing here folks... :popcorn:
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Re: Modern Theravada, not Western Theravada

Postby Ben » Wed Jun 24, 2009 12:07 pm

Hi Bhante
appicchato wrote:Sometimes I feel like an apple in a bowl of oranges...

I know that feeling.
appicchato wrote:...find it a little strange to contemplate being a monk in the West (where the level of practice (I've read) seems comparable to, or (in instances) surpassing that of the East (if indeed they can be compared))...for me personally I find the level of support, and deference (among other things) here to be of real benefit, as well as incentive (in the attempt to maintain a high level of monastic discipline) on the path to liberation...

Thank you Bhante for being such a wonderful support here (at DW) for us all. The path of liberation is at times, to quote Bob Dylan, a long and lonesome road.
Metta

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Re: Modern Theravada, not Western Theravada

Postby David N. Snyder » Wed Jun 24, 2009 6:50 pm

gavesako wrote:Here is a relavant blog entry from a Western monk who finally gave up trying to fit into a Wat Thai due to the ethnic and power issues involved:

Apology of Yuttadhammes

http://yuttadhammo.sirimangalo.org/post ... tadhammes/


So is this monk still in Thailand? I could not tell from his blog. If he is still in Thailand, how is he going to escape Thai culture? If he opens a new monastery (link to it did not work at his blog) in Thailand, who will be his supporters?

I wish him well and hope he finds a suitable place for his practice. (btw, in case anyone misinterprets the tone, those are not rhetorical questions, I really am interested in the answers.)
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Re: Modern Theravada, not Western Theravada

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Jun 24, 2009 8:36 pm

TheDhamma wrote:So is this monk still in Thailand? I could not tell from his blog. If he is still in Thailand, how is he going to escape Thai culture?

I gathered he was talking Thai Wats in the USA...

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Re: Modern Theravada, not Western Theravada

Postby David N. Snyder » Wed Jun 24, 2009 9:17 pm

mikenz66 wrote:I gathered he was talking Thai Wats in the USA...


Ah, okay, then that would explain it better. At the blog there was no e-mail address, just skype, which I don't have yet. So I posted a comment at the blog asking where he and the monastery are located.
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