Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

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

Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby daverupa » Thu Nov 17, 2011 2:40 pm

chownah wrote:you are casting aspersions on the Sangha by supposition and inuendo.....there has been nothing presented which taken for what it is supports a charge of misogyny.....environement are misgynistic only if they reflect those attitudes as expressed by individuals...a cultural attitude can only be misogynistic if it is expressed by individuals in that context....your arguement is false....if you still wish to defend your charges then bring something here that is to the point of misogyny such as one act or statement by a living Sanga member which addresses women in and of themselves in even a negative light much less a misogynistic light.....
chownah


One act or statement? Easy.

In the modern era, there have been a number of women who have tried to ordain as bhikkhunis. The first attempt was made in 1928 by two sisters, Sara and Chongdi Bhasit, who received samaneri ordination along with six other women... In 1932, the women underwent bhikkhuni ordination, but it was considered invalid as they only received their vows from bhikkhus and not bhikkhunis.

They met with strong opposition from the sangha and state. In 1928, the Sangha Council of Elders responded by passing an order forbidding Thai monks from ordaining women, either as bhikkhuni, samaneri, or sikkhamana (a female novice in training to become a bhikkhuni), a rule which still is in force today.


Dhammananda Bhikkhuni’s ordination was a historic development, the first - and at the present time, only - instance of a properly ordained Theravadan bhikkhuni to emerge in Thailand. Yet it was naturally also highly controversial, and upon her return to Thailand after her ordination as a samaneri she was met by an onslaught of criticism.


source

Bhikkhuni ordination is permitted under the Thai constitution, but the Thai Sangha Council, a government-linked religious advisory group, does not accept Bhikkhunis' legal status or right to be ordained within the country. It cites a 1928 Sangha Act, which banned ordination of women following the last known attempt to recognise Bhikkhunis.

A new constitution in 1932 made that religious order void, says Mr. Nititawan.

But the Thai Sangha and some Bhikkhu - who remain largely unaware of the revitalized campaign - continue to cite the 1928 order, which recognises only Bhikkhu, along with Vietnamese and Chinese male monks.


source

According to Wat Pah Pong, the Western monks must adhere to the laws of the Thai Sangha and Thai state which oppose female ordination. Ajahn Brahm violated this ground rule. By concealing the ordination from the Wat Pah Pong elders both here and abroad, his action was tantamount to deceit, total disrespect, and a serious breach of trust and communal decision-making based on consultation and consensus.

When given the chance, he refused to declare the Perth ordination null and void and to downgrade the new four Bhikkhunis to mae chee or ten-precept nuns.


source

And so forth.

Richard Gombrich wrote:If there are women who want to restart a Sangha, why should they be stopped? Should we not thank and congratulate them? What does it matter that the continuity of the ordination ritual has been interrupted? What is that but a ritual? Must we all live in a world of obsessive neurotics? Let people who only care about ritual fuss away to their hearts’ content, and let those who care for the spirit, not the letter, and for living according to the Buddha’s teaching and principles, welcome the one development which, I believe, has the power to preserve Theravāda Buddhism for many future generations.
    "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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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby chownah » Fri Nov 18, 2011 2:23 am

daverupa,
Sincere thanks for presenting some interesting historical information about ordination of Bhikkhunis. What you have shown is that it seems that those people who control the policies of the Sangha have done their best to bar the ordination of Bhikkhunis. This is not misogyny....as far as I know the reasons which those barring the ordination of Bhikkhunis have given for wanting to bar the ordination of Bhikkhunis has been that it is not possible to do so from the standpoint of what the Buddha taught .......that the rules which were formulated by the Buddha and which have been passed down through the "lineage" of Bhikkhus and the "lineage" of Bhikkunis does not allow for ordination as the requirements can no longer be met.....this is a policy matter and is directed at rules....it is not directed at women that I can see....maybe you can produce something which seems to be directed at women and not rules.
chownah
P.S. I want to add that in my view it is important to not use the false argument of misogyny in attacking the Bhikkhuni ordination issue in that if misogyny is not the problem then certainly accusations of it will not solve the problem but probalby just end up in a witch hunt....my view is that there is alot of "lineage worship" going on which is something which In my view the Buddha did not intend as evidenced by his never having referred to a "lineage" of monks at all as far as I have been able to determine.........and also as evidenced by the Buddha's declaration that he is of the "lineage of Noble Ones".......
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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby daverupa » Fri Nov 18, 2011 3:03 am

chownah wrote:as far as I know the reasons which those barring the ordination of Bhikkhunis have given for wanting to bar the ordination of Bhikkhunis has been that it is not possible to do so from the standpoint of what the Buddha taught... this is a policy matter and is directed at rules....it is not directed at women that I can see


Bhikkhu Bodhi addressed this Legalism a while ago, and I agree that the most charitable interpretation is not one of misogyny, but of strict Vinaya respect. I quote his conclusion at length, which perhaps may get us back on track in terms of the OP:

Amidst the spectrum of opinions that might be voiced, the two main categories of interpretation are the conservative and the progressive. For conservatives, bhikkhunī status absolutely requires a dual-Sangha ordination with the participation of a Theravāda Bhikkhunī Sangha; hence, since no Theravāda Bhikkhunī Sangha exists, and for conservatives non-Theravādin bhikkhunīs cannot fill this role, the Theravāda bhikkhunī lineage is irreparably broken and can never be restored. For progressives, bhikkhunī ordination can be restored, either by permitting bhikkhunīs from an East Asian country to fulfill the role of the Bhikkhunī Sangha at a dual-Sangha ordination or by recognizing the right of bhikkhus to ordain bhikkhunīs until a Theravāda Bhikkhunī Sangha becomes functional.

In my opinion, in deciding between the conservative and the progressive approaches to the bhikkhunī issue, the question that should be foremost in our minds is this: “What would the Buddha want his elder bhikkhu-disciples to do in such a situation, now, in the twenty-first century?” If he were to see us pondering this problem today, would he want us to apply the regulations governing ordination in a way that excludes women from the fully ordained renunciant life, so that we present to the world a religion in which men alone can lead the life of full renunciation? Or would he instead want us to apply the regulations of the Vinaya in a way that is kind, generous, and accommodating, thereby offering the world a religion that truly embodies principles of justice and non-discrimination?


Perhaps misogyny is too strong of a word; I'm not inclined to think so, but we all know I'm often wrong. In any event, I think the Venerable has asked a significant question here, and I think Gombrich was definitely asking something similar.
    "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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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby beeblebrox » Fri Nov 18, 2011 6:45 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:What we do have in common though is our common Buddhist heritage - the Dhamma of the Buddha. That seems the most appropriate medium by which we could be "trying to find common ground". If that involves relinquishing some "comfort", we should not be surprised - the Dhamma does go against the grain, and always has.

On that point, I've found it good exercise to let go of the craving to know what exactly is going on in situations where people are not speaking English... There are positive and negative aspects of all situations...

:anjali:
Mike


It's a bit funny, because in my situation everyone speaks English at this temple that I go to... but I'm deaf. I think that some people on here will find that if you just show up (especially if you do it consistently, and with sincerity), you'll find that they'll be more than happy to help you, and become a part of your own practice.

Changes don't just happen overnight... no matter how much "anicca" you try to force yourself into seeing it... but they still do happen. Not to mention that the nibbana is the absence of greed, hatred, and delusion (which to me, basically means you're winding yourself up within this papanca that there's a huge separation that is existing between you and others, due to the (subtle) idea of a permanent self)... try to think about that, also.

:anjali:
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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby LastLegend » Fri Nov 18, 2011 7:44 pm

From my understanding, there exists no female monks in Cambodian Theravada tradition in Vietnam. Note that there is also Vietnamese Theravada tradition which is constituted of mostly ethnic Vietnamese while the Cambodian Theravada tradition is constituted of ethnic Cambodians. Vietnam has many people from different ethnic backgrounds such as Hmongs, Chinese, Cambodians, ethnic tribes, etc.

And Theravadin monks do follow strict Vinaya rules. Not directly looking at women or touching women is like one of those rules.
Last edited by LastLegend on Fri Nov 18, 2011 7:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby daverupa » Fri Nov 18, 2011 7:48 pm

LastLegend wrote:And Theravadin monks do follow strict Vinaya rules. Not directly looking at women or touching women is like one of those rules.


"Like" one of those rules? It is not one of those rules at all, the way you've written it here - it is a matter of intention, not ritual avoidance.
    "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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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby LastLegend » Fri Nov 18, 2011 7:55 pm

daverupa wrote:
LastLegend wrote:And Theravadin monks do follow strict Vinaya rules. Not directly looking at women or touching women is like one of those rules.


"Like" one of those rules? It is not one of those rules at all, the way you've written it here - it is a matter of intention, not ritual avoidance.


Yes...ritual avoidance is not intentional?
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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby daverupa » Fri Nov 18, 2011 8:54 pm

LastLegend wrote:Yes...ritual avoidance is not intentional?


:?

The rule states:

Should any bhikkhu, overcome by lust, with altered mind, engage in bodily contact with a woman, or in holding her hand, holding a lock of her hair, or caressing any of her limbs, it entails initial and subsequent meetings of the Community.


You stated:

LastLegend wrote:Not directly looking at women or touching women is like one of those rules.


You did not mention the altered mind bit, only the behavior, so I said you were neglecting to note intention and instead focusing on mere behavior - in other words, you forgot the ethics and focused on the ritual. The Buddha strongly criticized brahmins for this.

:focus:
    "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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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby LastLegend » Fri Nov 18, 2011 9:05 pm

ok point taken.

however, prevention or caution is also important as a certain consciousness arises when there is a certain contact with the object of that consciousness.
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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby appicchato » Sat Nov 19, 2011 1:58 am

...a certain consciousness arises when there is a certain contact with the object of that consciousness.


Maybe, maybe not...all the time actions, and thoughts, get lumped into a single category of, or universal to, human behavior, and that just isn't so...(in my experience)...
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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat Nov 19, 2011 6:21 am

Gomrich wrote: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.


A point that I don't believe has been made yet by Gombrich or another poster here yet, is that of logistics.

At many temples in the West, there is not enough support from 'indigenous' people of the host countries yet. Many temples would have probably closed down if they only relied on running meditation programs for spreading Dhamma and ignored the needs of their immigrant communities. I remember one monk telling me once that the donations were $xxx (well over $100) amount of funds from a traditional poya chanting day (attended by ethnic Buddhists only) and then on another day when he led a meditation class which included instruction and Dhamma talks (attended by convert Buddhists only), the collection-dana bowl from the group of 'indigenous' convert Buddhists was only $2. Setting aside the possible greed factor for now, there are real expenses in running a temple which includes utilities, repairs, etc. and $2 is not going to pay the bills.

The convert Buddhists need to seek instruction from the monks as has been mentioned earlier and they also need to assist in creating community. Often those attending programs are those between 25 to 45 years old with no kids. There needs to be more family oriented programs to kick-start the feeling of community and not just a place for some meditation fix and then back to their 'non-Buddhist' worlds when the contemplative programs are finished. My experience has been that the monks are very receptive to Western-born Buddhists attending their functions and to organize meditation programs at the 'ethnic' temples. Sometimes the programs do not last too long due to lack of participation, from both Buddhist born and convert Buddhists. When there is more of a sense of community, the convert Buddhists might participate on a much more regular basis, including the participation in regular dana to keep the temple going and not just payment for when they hear a 'good' Dhamma talk or program.

My point is not to place blame or to generalize any group (apologies if I have inadvertently done so), but just to say that there can be more effort made among all Buddhists, regardless of background to produce more community, which will also help spread the Dhamma to those interested.
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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby LastLegend » Sat Nov 19, 2011 6:43 am

Maybe, maybe not...all the time actions, and thoughts, get lumped into a single category of, or universal to, human behavior, and that just isn't so...(in my experience)...[


You are right. It may or may not arise. But I am talking about the mental habitual reactions that we have been used to for so long due to karma, and this can arise anytime when the conditions are right if we have not completely got rid of it.
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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby nathan » Sat Nov 19, 2011 8:38 am

"If an individual, whether monk, nun or layman of either sex, has decided to opt out of society and to lead a secluded life, we cannot demand that they make pronouncements on public affairs – pronouncements to which in any case few people would listen."

page 7, paragraph 2

-I find this proposal acceptable and otherwise decline to comment.
: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: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Nov 19, 2011 9:39 am

Truly excellent post, David, that goes to the heart of what it would require to have real Buddhist community in the West. I particularly liked your discussion of community.
David N. Snyder wrote:The convert Buddhists need to seek instruction from the monks as has been mentioned earlier and they also need to assist in creating community. Often those attending programs are those between 25 to 45 years old with no kids. There needs to be more family oriented programs to kick-start the feeling of community and not just a place for some meditation fix and then back to their 'non-Buddhist' worlds when the contemplative programs are finished. My experience has been that the monks are very receptive to Western-born Buddhists attending their functions and to organize meditation programs at the 'ethnic' temples. Sometimes the programs do not last too long due to lack of participation, from both Buddhist born and convert Buddhists. When there is more of a sense of community, the convert Buddhists might participate on a much more regular basis, including the participation in regular dana to keep the temple going and not just payment for when they hear a 'good' Dhamma talk or program.

I find this sense of community vital in maintaining my practice, and it was a key reason for me becoming Buddhist. A sense of community is not "cultural baggage", it is an uplifting feeling of shared purpose.

:anjali:
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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby isle21self » Sat Nov 19, 2011 1:43 pm

I don't think we can condemn Thai monks for not wanting to have much contact with women as mysoginistic or even close. There are other reasons concerning the Thai Sangha that we can bring up that reflect a mysoginistic nature especially concerning the refusal to allow any leeway for Bhikkunis. The simple act of this cloth however, is not something we can say has anything to do with this. It might, but perhaps it might not. The exact mindset for these monks who have been celibate for a long time isn't something we can know, but trying to avoid mental temptation of any kind might be a top priority for them. It may also be done out of habit and ritual, but the lessened contact may have the same effect even if the intention wasn't the same. Even if one had no intention of desires arising in the mind, but eventually they came about a problem would arise for that individual wouldn't it?

I think Tilt's point about not forgetting the cultural context and chownah's on imperialism does have some significant part to play in this. As much as we might wish to think that we have common desire in that we are all Buddhist we don't. The purpose of Buddha Dhamma as given by the Buddha is for the benefit of all beings so that they can escape the rounds of cyclic rebirth that is Samasara. If you think even half of the World's Buddhist want this then you are grossly mistaken. Many simply do not care for such things. There is proof of this as many of Ajahn Chah's pupils often state how many Thais believed Ajahn Chah to be an arahat, but many of these same people would not ask for a dhamma teaching on how to become an arahat. Buddhism in Asia mostly consists of rites and rituals that are very tied into the local culture. It may not be the Buddhism you think is the real deal, but it is a living religion of some sort that those people like being a part of. To tell these people their Buddhism is wrong and isn't the teaching of the Buddha would be something they find very insulting no different than prostelytizing to Christians.
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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby daverupa » Sat Nov 19, 2011 5:32 pm

isle21self wrote:Buddhism in Asia mostly consists of rites and rituals that are very tied into the local culture. It may not be the Buddhism you think is the real deal, but it is a living religion of some sort that those people like being a part of. To tell these people their Buddhism is wrong and isn't the teaching of the Buddha would be something they find very insulting no different than prostelytizing to Christians.


I guess the question would be whether these cultural components deserve to be replicated in the name of the Dhamma. The various Catholic Rites are an example of how Buddhism might proceed in this context...
    "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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Re: Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?

Postby Raksha » Thu Nov 08, 2012 3:59 am

(Another old thread recycled, but again I've only just read it.)
Professor Gombrich is very liberal and his points are all valid. Apart from his separation of ritual and ethical intention which is no more than a convenient academic categorisation.'...the point of ritual lies in doing, not in intending. Therefore ritual can have no moral or spiritual value.' Ritual without some intention is impossible, and indeed religious rituals could be argued to be simply a vehicle for intention. In this way they can be imbued with moral and spiritual value, in common with all actions.
Aside from this rather nonsensical theory Professor Gombrich has also made one or two more concrete errors. Firstly, in his interpretation of the role of the Sangha in worldly affairs. 'I put it to you that it is their duty to advise political leaders on the moral principles which must guide how they govern, and even how they make war, if that cannot be avoided. Why should Buddhist principles, under that name, be kept out of government and politics? Buddhism is not some kind of frivolous game or pastime: it is there to be applied to the whole of life.' This view is essentially that of post-Christian Europe with its long history of politicised religion. Conversely in Asia, monks should not be involved in politics, even in an advisory capacity. In this argument he is conflating the very different paths of laypeople and monks. The former may apply the Dhamma as best they can to their worldly lives, whereas the latter must renounce the world entirely.
Secondly, in his comments on menstruation and female impurity he appears to distort his own reasoning,'...the Buddha ignored menstruation as irrelevant to his teaching.' In the same paragraph he concludes, '...for Buddhism, female impurity does not exist – as it did not for the Buddha.' Regardless of the merits of his argument, it is clear that ignoring and denying are not the same thing.
Lastly, on the subject of the Bhikkhuni lineage he writes, 'What does it matter that the continuity of the ordination ritual has been interrupted?'. This is a continuation of his proposition that ritual and intention are somehow separate. In fact, the cumulative volition of a spiritual lineage does matter in the same way that a snowball which has been rolling down a mountainside for a long time has more substance than one newly-made.
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