Western Theravda organisations - propagation?

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Western Theravda organisations - propagation?

Postby pilgrim » Wed Feb 06, 2013 4:25 am

Which western Theravada organisation is most enthusiastic about Dhamma propagation?

I was just surfing the site of FPMT Mongolia ( http://www.fpmtmongolia.org/) and am quite impressed with the work they are doing. This led me to wondering if there are Western Theravada organisations which are similarly enthusiastic or focused on Dhamma propagation. I can't think of any really, and that begs the question why? There is certainly opportunities in Cambodia and other countries.
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Re: Western Theravda organisations - propagation?

Postby ciprian » Fri May 31, 2013 6:59 pm

I was wondering the same thing...
I live in Romania, a predominant christian country. Since almost 5 years ago I call myself a Buddhist and I try to follow Lord Buddha's teachings. Most of my neighbors don't share my spiritual preferences, so I am pretty much on my own. Recently, the interest in spirituality is growing and I am trying to find people who are willing to walk the same path as I do. There are people interested in meditation scattered across the country, but most of them are practicing Zen or Tibetan Buddhism (or other non-Buddhist forms of meditation). These traditions are more enthusiastic about spreading their teachings. I tried to start a meditation group in the town I live in. I had to use what is available here, so I invited some zen monks from the capital city. I feel that zen meditation is not very different from Theravadin meditation, but I don't resonate with their teachings. Especially that about finding the "True Self", I feel is leading one away from the truth taught by Lord Buddha.
I managed to save some money to invite an ex Theravadin monk from UK, but it is very difficult to find money to pay for the expenses among people who are yet to understand the value of giving. I think it would be much easier if I could find an international Buddhist mission, or organisation willing to establish a small center.. a small library and a meditation place. I already have a lot of books on Buddhism (about 125), all that is missing is a public place to offer them for reading (I don't earn enough to pay my bills, support my family and pay a rent for a Buddhist center), a room large enough for meditation and some qualified teachers from time to time. In 2010 I founded a Buddhist charitable organization thinking I might find enough people to join me so we could invite some monks to our Country, but we still have only 5 members. Those who afford it, go to see teachers abroad, and the rest (including myself) do what they can with books, internet or join better represented groups like Zen.
Books are not enough. People need living examples. I can't help myself not to think that if in a predominant Buddhist country some people would become interested in Christianity, in no-time some Christian mission would gladly go there and set up a church. Are there any Theravadin organisations willing to do the same for their religion?
It would be nice to have another great king like Ashoka today...
Best wishes to everyone :anjali:
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Re: Western Theravda organisations - propagation?

Postby Lazy_eye » Fri May 31, 2013 8:17 pm

Just to be fair to Theravada, I wanted to point out that Access to Insight has made the Pali Canon available to anyone with an internet connection, while the website DharmaSeed provides a regularly updated assortment of talks by pretty much every Western Theravadin teacher of note.

One constraint is that many of the resources (including the two above) are in English only; also, some countries, such as Cambodia, may lack easy access to the internet. Still, I'm impressed by what is available. We probably have much wider access to Dhamma materials than would have been the case for most monastics over the centuries.

Not to knock FPMT, but it could be an apples vs. oranges situation because some Vajrayana organizations may raise funds in a way which is different from the methods used by Theravada organizations, and as a result some of them have a fair amount of cash at their disposal. FPMT, if I remember correctly, is building a gigantic Buddha statue that will tower over a location in India -- definitely a project that requires some serious bankrolling.

Theravada groups usually rely on voluntary donations (dana).
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Re: Western Theravda organisations - propagation?

Postby pilgrim » Sun Jun 02, 2013 7:57 am

Monks are supposed to be easy to support. So taking Ciprian's situation as an example, is it not possible for an organisation to foot the rental bill for a small place in Romania and invite a couple of monks over to teach? This is not meant as a criticism, but I think Theravada Buddhists have lost much of the missionary zeal that is evident in the monks during Asoka's time.
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Re: Western Theravda organisations - propagation?

Postby ciprian » Sun Jun 02, 2013 4:30 pm

I know that traditionally devotees support the monks with their material needs, so they do not have to worry about it and focus on realizing Nibbana. That solely is the purpose of dana, but I think opening other's eyes to the Dhamma is also a cause worthy of support.
Best wishes!
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Re: Western Theravda organisations - propagation?

Postby gavesako » Sun Jun 02, 2013 6:55 pm

The difficulties of a Western monk coming to settle down in America is described in some detail here:

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. ...


http://thebahiyablog.blogspot.com/2013/ ... nt-in.html
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Re: Western Theravda organisations - propagation?

Postby pilgrim » Mon Jun 03, 2013 12:37 am

Bhante , thanks for the link to that blog. Yes, it certainly offers some insights into the difficulties that can arise. I think it is very difficult for a bhikkhu to integrate himself into an existing society unless specifically invited in. Many societies have their own culture, practices, agenda and norms and inviting in a person who assumes authority because of his robes, irregardless of his personal skills, is very challenging.

In my personal experience where a monk joins an existing society, it is preferable if the society advises what they expect from the incoming monk, what kind of role he would play and what authority his has over which areas. The monk then has the opportunity to consider his role and then accept or decline as he seems fit. This prevents the situation where a monk joins an established community and then assumes authority and leadership roles over areas and making unexpected and undesired changes. Frankly, I feel the Ven was a little naive to think that he could walk in and assume he would be fully supported in keeping all the vinaya rules and also assume the role of a teacher. This is not to cast aspersions on his skill but to point out that the dynamics of working communities does not easily accommodate this.

It is preferable if a monk joins a community upon its specific invitation to take up leadership or teaching roles, or one where there is already a senior monk who can then direct him to take over some of his responsibilities. Alternatively, he could stay at an established monastery first, then go on a teaching tour, allowing himself and others to know each other. Then if some communities feel they could develop a mutually beneficial and supportive relationship, invite him to take up specific roles in their society. So the suggestions of the Bellingham society is, in my view, not entirely unreasonable.

Generally, this is how such arrangements develop in my country where monks return from foreign countries without any plans where they would stay.
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Re: Western Theravda organisations - propagation?

Postby ciprian » Mon Jun 03, 2013 4:35 am

Thank you bhante for the story. It is sad to see experienced practitioners fighting over leading positions (I presume that person that assumed the teaching position had many years of practice). maybe al of us have that nasty seed in our mind, but if we do not overcome it, what is the fruit of our practice? Personally, I would feel blessed to have an experienced monk available where I live. :anjali:
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Re: Western Theravda organisations - propagation?

Postby pilgrim » Mon Jun 03, 2013 6:28 am

Youtube of the very new vihara in Portugal.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SuHsn6Siz8M
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Re: Western Theravda organisations - propagation?

Postby floating_abu » Mon Jun 03, 2013 11:53 am

Thanissaro Bhikkhu has done a lot of good work translating.
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Re: Western Theravda organisations - propagation?

Postby ciprian » Mon Jun 03, 2013 1:31 pm

Thank you pilgrim for the video.
I didn't travel too much, but it seams that in the western wold viharas only exist where there are asian communities. There are a lot of good western ajahns in the Thai Forest Tradition, but most of the support comes from the Thai diaspora. As I said in an earlier post, I think western world still has to learn the value of giving.
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Re: Western Theravda organisations - propagation?

Postby daverupa » Mon Jun 03, 2013 3:39 pm

ciprian wrote:I think western world still has to learn the value of giving.


It may be the value is known in the West, but where Westerners have confidence differs from where those with cultural ties to the Sangha have it, so they give differently.

I expect, given poverty and homelessness as well as its religious history, that monasteries are the model the West prefers over wandering mendicants. It means that a monastery should be the foundational placement, even if it's just a multi-room apartment or studio.

Fielding wanderers isn't culturally relevant.
    "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: Western Theravda organisations - propagation?

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Jun 03, 2013 6:21 pm

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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Re: Western Theravda organisations - propagation?

Postby Branko » Tue Jun 04, 2013 2:57 pm

Dear Ciprian, we in Serbia are trying the same thing as you do, to establish a meditation center / monastery of the Theravada tradition. But it takes time. So, at the moment our Society hosts only visiting monks and do not have a resident one.

Therefore I can offer you to participate in one of our summer meditation courses we organize in July and August, led by monks from Oxford Buddha Vihara. It is much closer to you to come to Serbia then to travel to UK :)

If interested, please have a look at this page and send me your mail address through contact form on the website
The Middle Way

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Re: Western Theravda organisations - propagation?

Postby floating_abu » Wed Jun 05, 2013 8:35 am

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.


Agree with David.
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