The plan for my return, which I haven't entirely given up on yet, was to try to establish some kind of existence in Bellingham, in the state of Washington, where I lived before my ordination more than twenty years ago. I knew there was a meditation society professing Theravada Buddhism in town, and I naturally assumed that they would welcome a trained senior monk, and probably offer me enough support to live; after all, the necessary requirements amounted essentially to little more than a roof, a bowl of food more or less every day, and access to a bathroom. How difficult could that be? Besides, America seems to be in need of Dharma, and there must be many spiritual seekers here who are not satisfied with the cultural status quo.
At the very beginning, however, there were complications. A senior member of the meditation society, who for many years had been a kind of spokesperson for the group, didn't answer my emails introducing myself. Shortly after my arrival I was courteously invited to a teachers' meeting, and immediately afterward this same person came straight over to me from across the room with a very intense look in his eyes and suggested that I ought to live at a monastery. This of course would necessitate my leaving town, as there are no Theravada Buddhist monasteries in Bellingham. A few days later I received an email from the same person with no hello, no goodbye at the end, nothing in fact but a list of monastic organizations I perhaps should consider going away to. (This is not to imply that he or anyone else in the group is a bad person, or any such thing: he has been friendly with me, or at least very polite, on numerous occasions also.) I was met with politeness from many, enthusiastic friendliness from a few, and was pretty much ignored by the rest. I eventually realized that although Theravada is scripturally very monk-oriented, overwhelmingly so in fact, most members of the insight meditation society in Bellingham seemed to have little use for a monk in town, and to see little or no reason why they should support one. This was difficult for me to understand at first. ...
ciprian wrote:I think western world still has to learn the value of giving.
David N. Snyder wrote:I am generalizing here because there are some exceptions, but what I have noticed is that the Ajahn Chah based monasteries / Ajahn Brahm monasteries and the bhikkhuni monasteries seem to be doing a good job at propagation and developing a sense of community among Western-convert Buddhists and the Asian descent Buddhists. At other temples the community tends to be dominated by one ethnic group, for example; Sri Lankan, Burmese, Thai, etc.
Western-convert Buddhists do not have a history of having a [Buddhist] community and are not very familiar with the norms of providing lunch dana, etc. but perhaps through the Ajahn Chah monasteries and the development of a better community atmosphere, this might change. Even in the temples where there is a nice mix of different ethnicities, it seems the Asian-descent Buddhists are still primarily the only ones providing lunch-dana to the monks. The Western convert Buddhists will attend Dhamma talks, meditation, retreats and put money in the donation box, but still have not gotten used to the other forms of community which are important such as the lunch for the monastics or simply welcoming a new monk.
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