Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

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Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Postby cooran » Mon Oct 21, 2013 1:56 am

Hello all,

This previous thread may have some relevance:

Go Forth, O Bhikkhus!

Go forth, o bhikkhus, for the good of the many, for the happiness of the many, out of compassion for the world, for the benefit, for the good, for the happiness of gods and men. Let not two go by one way. Preach the doctrine that is beautiful in its beginning, beautiful in its middle, and beautiful in its ending. Declare the holy life in its purity, completely both in the spirit and the letter." ~ Mahavagga, Vinaya Pitaka.
viewtopic.php?f=36&t=10678

with metta
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Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Postby chownah » Mon Oct 21, 2013 4:21 am

I may be misunderstanding but are some people here saying that monks should be activists?
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Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Oct 21, 2013 5:16 am

Greetings Chownah,

Not me... to steal something I wrote elsewhere...

When people in this topic speak in favour of monks making the realisation of the Buddha Dhamma their #1 priority, it is not through lack of concern, or lack of empathy for those who are suffering. It is not to diminish the role that humanitarian agencies play, nor the roles of volunteers who work hard and well to make the world a better place. It is an acknowledgement and recognition that the Sangha of the Buddha has an important role - in the context of dukkha and nirodha, and when you conceive it, you see it is more important than the role played by the chairman or CIO of any aid organisation in the world. That role is to master the Buddha's teachings, to embody the teachings, and to transmit the teachings to mankind.... so that whatever political / humanitarian / social / economic situation may (and will) be ebbing and flowing at any point in time, mankind (or those who lend their ears to listen) will have the tools to cope with whatever the world throws at it.


AN 10.69 wrote:“Then the Blessed One, emerging from his seclusion in the late afternoon, went to the meeting hall and, on arrival, sat down on a seat made ready. As he was sitting there, he addressed the monks: “For what topic of conversation are you gathered together here? In the midst of what topic of conversation have you been interrupted?”

“Just now, lord, after the meal, on returning from our alms round, we gathered at the meeting hall and got engaged in many kinds of bestial topics of conversation: conversation about kings, robbers, & ministers of state; armies, alarms, & battles; food & drink; clothing, furniture, garlands, & scents; relatives; vehicles; villages, towns, cities, the countryside; women & heroes; the gossip of the street & the well; tales of the dead; tales of diversity, the creation of the world & of the sea; talk of whether things exist or not.”

“It isn’t right, monks, that sons of good families, on having gone forth out of faith from home to the homeless life, should get engaged in such topics of conversation, i.e., conversation about kings, robbers, & ministers of state… talk of whether things exist or not.

“There are these ten topics of [proper] conversation. Which ten? Talk on modesty, contentment, seclusion, non-entanglement, arousing persistence, virtue, concentration, discernment, release, and the knowledge & vision of release. These are the ten topics of conversation. If you were to engage repeatedly in these ten topics of conversation, you would outshine even the sun & moon, so mighty, so powerful — to say nothing of the wanderers of other sects.”

Metta,
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Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Postby Kim OHara » Mon Oct 21, 2013 7:13 am

chownah wrote:I may be misunderstanding but are some people here saying that monks should be activists?
chownah

Not me, although I would hope that monks showed at least as much compassion towards neighbours in distress as sincere lay followers do.

:namaste:
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Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Postby Ben » Mon Oct 21, 2013 7:47 am

Kim OHara wrote:
chownah wrote:I may be misunderstanding but are some people here saying that monks should be activists?
chownah

Not me, although I would hope that monks showed at least as much compassion towards neighbours in distress as sincere lay followers do.

:namaste:
Kim


Some do, Kim.
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Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Postby Kim OHara » Mon Oct 21, 2013 11:59 am

Ben wrote:
Kim OHara wrote:
chownah wrote:I may be misunderstanding but are some people here saying that monks should be activists?
chownah

Not me, although I would hope that monks showed at least as much compassion towards neighbours in distress as sincere lay followers do.

:namaste:
Kim


Some do, Kim.

I know, Ben, and I hope that they are in the great majority. I was merely trying to say that I wasn't "saying that monks should be activists" but neither would I consider that the opposite extreme - retreat, isolation, complete disengagement from the world - could be good practice.

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Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Postby SDC » Tue Oct 22, 2013 12:10 am

BuddhaSoup wrote:The cave dwelling monk might reach Nibbana a bit faster than the engaged practitioner, but I feel the Metta Sutta is a call to do more than live the not-self focused contemplative life. Buddhist Global Relief volunteers might delay their eventual release, but what a good cause by which to spend this life.


With all do respect, BuddhaSoup, I sense a level of disdain for nibbana in your post. I'm curious about this as it is the part of the reason I started this thread.

How can the idea of selfishness have any place when discussing those that are actually moving towards awakening?

Is it possible that it is one's current level of self-centered thinking that makes it difficult to imagine pursuing nibbana? Since the self is still a major aspect of any imaginings of future experience?
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Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Postby Anagarika » Tue Oct 22, 2013 12:49 am

SDC wrote:
BuddhaSoup wrote:The cave dwelling monk might reach Nibbana a bit faster than the engaged practitioner, but I feel the Metta Sutta is a call to do more than live the not-self focused contemplative life. Buddhist Global Relief volunteers might delay their eventual release, but what a good cause by which to spend this life.


With all do respect, BuddhaSoup, I sense a level of disdain for nibbana in your post. I'm curious about this as it is the part of the reason I started this thread.

How can the idea of selfishness have any place when discussing those that are actually moving towards awakening?

Is it possible that it is one's current level of self-centered thinking that makes it difficult to imagine pursuing nibbana? Since the self is still a major aspect of any imaginings of future experience?


And with all due respect, I have no disdain at all for the path toward release and awakening. I'm really just echoing Bhikkhu Bodhi's call for a more engaged Theravada. I admire his contemplative life, his history in Asia as a renunciate monk, and his work as an exemplary translator and scholar of Pali. I have his books translating the Suttas. I suppose if he can find the time to form Buddhist Global Relief, start a movement toward global food redistribution programs and anti-poverty programs around the world, I can get off my butt now and then and do something beyond meditation and study that benefits those in need in my community.

Some practitioners are 'self'-focused, and I don't mean that in a pejorative sense. I just feel there are many ways to express the Buddhadhamma, and Bhikkhu Bodhi has set a terrific example of engaged practice.
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Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Postby chownah » Tue Oct 22, 2013 2:45 am

BuddhaSoup,
Seems to me that to be a renunciate monk would rule out or at least minimilize social engagement. Isn't renunciation the giving up of engagement in worldly matters?
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Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Postby Anagarika » Tue Oct 22, 2013 2:54 am

chownah wrote:BuddhaSoup,
Seems to me that to be a renunciate monk would rule out or at least minimilize social engagement. Isn't renunciation the giving up of engagement in worldly matters?
chownah


I mentioned him in the context of his life in Sri Lanka. But, please see this Bhikkhu Bodhi article which I feel illuminates the issue of renunciation v. compassion:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ay_08.html

"In our attempt to follow the Dhamma, one or the other of these twin cardinal virtues will have to be given prominence, depending on our temperament and circumstances. However, for monk and householder alike, success in developing the path requires that both receive due attention and that deficiencies in either gradually be remedied. Over time we will find that the two, though tending in different directions, eventually are mutually reinforcing. Compassion impels us toward greater renunciation, as we see how our own greed and attachment make us a danger to others. And renunciation impels us toward greater compassion, since the relinquishing of craving enables us to exchange the narrow perspectives of the ego for the wider perspectives of a mind of boundless sympathy. Held together in this mutually strengthening tension, renunciation and compassion contribute to the wholesome balance of the Buddhist path and to the completeness of its final fruit."

I am glad for the questions above, which caused me to research a bit into this issue. The article above hits the nail on the head.
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Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Postby Kim OHara » Tue Oct 22, 2013 3:13 am

BuddhaSoup wrote:
chownah wrote:BuddhaSoup,
Seems to me that to be a renunciate monk would rule out or at least minimilize social engagement. Isn't renunciation the giving up of engagement in worldly matters?
chownah


I mentioned him in the context of his life in Sri Lanka. But, please see this Bhikkhu Bodhi article which I feel illuminates the issue of renunciation v. compassion:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ay_08.html

"In our attempt to follow the Dhamma, one or the other of these twin cardinal virtues will have to be given prominence, depending on our temperament and circumstances. However, for monk and householder alike, success in developing the path requires that both receive due attention and that deficiencies in either gradually be remedied. Over time we will find that the two, though tending in different directions, eventually are mutually reinforcing. Compassion impels us toward greater renunciation, as we see how our own greed and attachment make us a danger to others. And renunciation impels us toward greater compassion, since the relinquishing of craving enables us to exchange the narrow perspectives of the ego for the wider perspectives of a mind of boundless sympathy. Held together in this mutually strengthening tension, renunciation and compassion contribute to the wholesome balance of the Buddhist path and to the completeness of its final fruit."

I am glad for the questions above, which caused me to research a bit into this issue. The article above hits the nail on the head.

:goodpost:

Chownah,
You asked, "isn't renunciation the giving up of engagement in worldly matters"
Can I suggest a slightly different wording that I think may be more accurate?
"Renunciation is the giving up of attachment to worldly matters."

:thinking:
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Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Postby chownah » Tue Oct 22, 2013 8:11 am

Kim OHara,
I think you are wrong and I am right.......not surprisingly I guess. I wonder if there are any sutta references which could help me see what the Buddha said about this.
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Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Postby cooran » Tue Oct 22, 2013 8:33 am

Hello all,

Nekkhamma - Renunciation
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/index-su ... #nekkhamma

Perhaps there is an answer here.

With metta,
Chris
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Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Postby SDC » Tue Oct 22, 2013 11:27 am

BuddhaSoup wrote:And with all due respect, I have no disdain at all for the path toward release and awakening. I'm really just echoing Bhikkhu Bodhi's call for a more engaged Theravada. I admire his contemplative life, his history in Asia as a renunciate monk, and his work as an exemplary translator and scholar of Pali. I have his books translating the Suttas. I suppose if he can find the time to form Buddhist Global Relief, start a movement toward global food redistribution programs and anti-poverty programs around the world, I can get off my butt now and then and do something beyond meditation and study that benefits those in need in my community.

Some practitioners are 'self'-focused, and I don't mean that in a pejorative sense. I just feel there are many ways to express the Buddhadhamma, and Bhikkhu Bodhi has set a terrific example of engaged practice.


Yes, there are many ways to use the dhamma, and our goals determine will how we use it.
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Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Postby Kim OHara » Tue Oct 22, 2013 11:30 am

cooran wrote:Hello all,

Nekkhamma - Renunciation
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/index-su ... #nekkhamma

Perhaps there is an answer here.

With metta,
Chris

Thanks, Chris.
I haven't got time to read them all now so I went straight to the one with the most relevant title - Relationship [of renunciation] to compassion: "The Balanced Way" (Bodhi).
Given what we know about his own life-choices and what you people now know about my views, you won't be surprised to learn that I liked it very much and agreed all the way.
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Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Postby chownah » Tue Oct 22, 2013 1:53 pm

Kim OHara wrote:
BuddhaSoup wrote:
chownah wrote:BuddhaSoup,
Seems to me that to be a renunciate monk would rule out or at least minimilize social engagement. Isn't renunciation the giving up of engagement in worldly matters?
chownah


I mentioned him in the context of his life in Sri Lanka. But, please see this Bhikkhu Bodhi article which I feel illuminates the issue of renunciation v. compassion:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ay_08.html

"In our attempt to follow the Dhamma, one or the other of these twin cardinal virtues will have to be given prominence, depending on our temperament and circumstances. However, for monk and householder alike, success in developing the path requires that both receive due attention and that deficiencies in either gradually be remedied. Over time we will find that the two, though tending in different directions, eventually are mutually reinforcing. Compassion impels us toward greater renunciation, as we see how our own greed and attachment make us a danger to others. And renunciation impels us toward greater compassion, since the relinquishing of craving enables us to exchange the narrow perspectives of the ego for the wider perspectives of a mind of boundless sympathy. Held together in this mutually strengthening tension, renunciation and compassion contribute to the wholesome balance of the Buddhist path and to the completeness of its final fruit."

I am glad for the questions above, which caused me to research a bit into this issue. The article above hits the nail on the head.

:goodpost:

Chownah,
You asked, "isn't renunciation the giving up of engagement in worldly matters"
Can I suggest a slightly different wording that I think may be more accurate?
"Renunciation is the giving up of attachment to worldly matters."

:thinking:
Kim

Seems like BB's article is not directed specifically at monks and if you look back you will see that my post was about monks. Also, from the article:
"Thence the governing motive behind the act of renunciation is the longing for spiritual freedom, coupled with the recognition that self-purification is an inward task most easily accomplished when we distance ourselves from the outer circumstances that nourish our unwholesome tendencies."
It seems to me that if we distance ourselves as indicated we are doing more than just giving up attachments....seems like it means actually avoiding.

Another approach to this is to consider what renunciation means for monks in matters easier to understand. For instance a monk is expected to refrain from sex and is not expected to simply give up the attachment to sex. I think the same can be seen in many of the rules for monks.....they deal with avoiding things, not giving up attachment only. Let's face it, many monks are still attached to things even after many years. My guess is that monks who engage in social engagement are probably attached to that as well.

What do you think of retrofuturist's reference above?
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Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Postby dagon » Tue Oct 22, 2013 7:52 pm

I think that part of the problem here is that we may be talking past each other. In part this is a result of the terms "reasonable involvement' and "worldly matters" not being defined and in part due to a bit of a thread drift. The tread was not restricted to monks – I have the sense that the OP was talking about Buddhist in general and members of this forum in particular. However as a lot of the Dhamma was directed towards monks it is natural that references to cannon are more likely to refer to monks.

My view is that engaging in worldly matters can be a good thing for spiritual development but that all of us need to restrict those involvements based on general Buddhist principles, whatever precepts we have taken and on our individual personality/situation.

If I was to look at this topic with events in Thailand foremost in my mind I think that I would be taking the same position as Chownah. The chosen engagements of certain infamous Buddhist “monks” where they have gone against the teachings and their undertakings as monks clearly illustrate what we should not be involved with. The growing relationship between a certain :alien: group of monks and certain political groups are clear examples of where the engagement problematic at best. Engagement with, or support of political organizations needs to be carefully considered due to the nature of politics and political parties. Generally political parties will have agendas where some of the policies will be consistence with a “Buddhist view” and some will clearly be against everything that the Buddha taught. Politics is about trading off what you can/do support with other things that are unsupportable (for Buddhist) to gain a support base.

Does this provide an argument that we should disengage with worldly issues – my view is that is that does not. IMHO the teachings are one of compassion balanced by equanimity. Just as meditation provides a mechanism to develop deeper and more profound understating of things; involvement with certain worldly issues provides us with a mechanism to nurture compassion within us.

I think that the right approach is to remember the advice from The Buddha to his son – reflect appropriately before, during and after decisions. The purpose of the reflections being the development of more skillful outcomes.

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Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Postby SDC » Wed Oct 23, 2013 3:07 am

dagon wrote:I think that part of the problem here is that we may be talking past each other. In part this is a result of the terms "reasonable involvement' and "worldly matters" not being defined and in part due to a bit of a thread drift. The tread was not restricted to monks – I have the sense that the OP was talking about Buddhist in general and members of this forum in particular. However as a lot of the Dhamma was directed towards monks it is natural that references to cannon are more likely to refer to monks.


Just to recap.

Original question:

SDC wrote:What is a reasonable level of involvement in social/environmental/political/etc. issues while trying to practice the teachings of the Buddha?


Modified question:

SDC wrote:What is a reasonable level of involvement in social/environmental/political/etc. issues while trying to practice towards nibbana?

Clearly engagement inspired by the teachings is a very real thing and can be very productive, but will a life dedicated to this type of external engagement minimize progress that may have been there had the focus had been more within?


Obviously this discussion could include any and all worldly matters, i.e. anything in the external world, but since this was somewhat of a spinoff of the global warming thread I wanted to limit the discussion to engagements of that nature. And yes, the question is directed at lay and monastic practitioners.

Please let me know if you want me to be more specific.
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Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Postby Kim OHara » Wed Oct 23, 2013 5:53 am

I agree with Dagon that there has been some miscommunication. I even hinted in my first post to the thread that the problem might arise.
All along, I have been talking about "Buddhists" and with particular reference to folk here, in line with the OP, and I didn't really notice that Chownah had begun focusing entirely on monks.
Perhaps we can re-read the last page or so with that in mind, and then resume the discussion?

:coffee:
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Re: Reasonable involvement in "World Issues"

Postby Jason » Sun Nov 03, 2013 4:58 pm

If we live a worldly life, then I think we have some responsibility to engage in worldly issues. While the Buddha clearly discouraged the monastic community from engaging in worldly activities such as politics, I think it's a mistake for lay-followers not to be. For one, politics affects almost every aspect of our lives, and being engaged in our communities and being a part of the political discussion, not to mention being active in broader social and political movements, is what makes our society and political systems function more effectively, and how progress, however slow it may sometimes be, is made.

To leave these kinds of activities and decisions solely in the hands of others, some of whom are slaves to their defilements, isn't wise, in my opinion. And if we choose to live in the world, then I think we share some responsibility for shaping it; and it makes sense to have people motivated by things like non-greed, non-aversion, and non-delusion add their voices to the mix, not to mention helping do what they can to fix things like inequality and injustice as long as it's done with a spirit of compassion and harmlessness. The greatest danger of the practice of renunciation, in my opinion, is the tendency of practitioners to ignore the world around them while seeking their own happiness. All too often, Buddhists fall back on teachings like all conditioned things are inconstant, unsatisfactory, and not-self (AN 3.134) while neglecting teachings such as 'I am the owner of my actions, heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, and have my actions as my arbitrator. Whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I fall heir' (AN 5.57).

Moreover, just from a practical standpoint, not addressing many of the material conditions giving rise to and supporting society's suffering ultimately serves to help maintain their continued existence (when this is, that is), which can negatively affect our practice, as well as that of others. If the society one lives in isn't conducive to practicing Buddhism, for example, then it does matter what kind of society one lives, so we should naturally try to make it as conducive for ourselves and others as possible. As the Buddha said in Khp 5, "To reside in a suitable locality, to have done meritorious actions in the past and to set oneself in the right course — this is the greatest blessing." To help illustrate what I mean here, I'll give two example.

A general example is that a society that's not only consumerist, but also politically and economically geared more towards the idea that greed and self-interest is the highest good, will potentially be less supportive culturally of monastic communities that live entirely in an economy of gifts (e.g., in comparing Eastern cultures, in which alms-giving and gift exchanges characteristic of 'human economies' regulated by custom and reputation and based more on co-operation have historically been more prevalent, to Western culture, where market-based economies based more on competition have been the norm, I noticed that Eastern monastics often receive more lay support as opposed to Western monastics, who often have to produce goods like beer, chocolate, coffee, wine, etc. to sell in order to support themselves).

A more specific example is the ecological impacts of logging in Thailand. The Buddha praised the wilderness and the benefits of practicing in the forest. The Thai Forest tradition grew out of a movement among monastics to return to this way of practice. In the past few decades, however, much of Thailand's forests have disappeared, making this more difficult. Being involved in conservation efforts and trying to find better farming techniques and/or other ways of raising revenue is one way of trying to help preserve remaining forests in order to help keep this tradition alive.

It'd be great if everyone were free from greed, hatred, and delusion, and everyone treated everyone else with kindness, compassion, and generosity—if the world was free from all forms of exploitation, privation, and gross inequalities. But the world isn't a perfect place, and we're not all saints; and one of the ways we can help alleviate some of the world's suffering is by trying to materially change it for the better. And from this point of view, it's not about making Buddhism political, but about applying the ideals of Buddhism in all that we do, which for me includes being socially and politically active.
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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