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Morphing Monasteries

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Morphing Monasteries

Postby clyde on Mon Dec 24, 2012 7:08 pm

I’m posting this video report on Thai monasteries not to disparage another form of Buddhism, but to remind us that Buddhism in all its forms is not immune to the Three Marks of Existence: impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and non-self.

“Enlightenment means to see what harm you are involved in and to renounce it.” David Brazier, The New Buddhism

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Re: Morphing Monasteries

Postby So-on Mann on Mon Dec 24, 2012 10:19 pm

Animism in Thailand predates Buddhism, and so does fortune-telling. It's a vestige of ancient folk magic in their culture, and has just glommed on to Buddhism.

The prevalence of scandals about monks in the news is saddening- why would any newscaster do a story about the good monks, like the one who expresses sadness about only doing funerals and cleaning the temple? It's just not "juicy." But you get a few monks embroiled in scandals, and you bet the cameras will start rolling. This just serves to deepen the gap between the populace and the ordained.
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Re: Morphing Monasteries

Postby Possum on Tue Dec 25, 2012 2:19 pm

I second that. If there's a demonstration with thousands of protesters and six of them get into a fight with the police, who gets to be on the TV news?
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Re: Morphing Monasteries

Postby unsui on Tue Dec 25, 2012 4:08 pm

Why is this called "Morphing Monasteries"?
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Re: Morphing Monasteries

Postby clyde on Tue Dec 25, 2012 9:38 pm

Hmmm. I didn’t post this to talk about the media. And really, I don’t think the (responsible) media behaves much differently than you or I; i.e., I know from my own experience and from those who I talk with, we remember and tell about our mishaps more often than our accomplishments.

And the good monk who expressed sadness said this “I feel sad that people don’t really see our importance. They see us as, how should I put it, meaningless.” So his sadness is about the secularization of the population, not about any scandals.

In any case, I thought the report was less about scandals and more about the changing nature of Buddhism in Thailand and the people’s relationship to it. And by extension, how Buddhism is changing here and there, and everywhere – as is the nature of existent things; hence, “morphing monasteries”.
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Re: Morphing Monasteries

Postby Avisitor on Tue Dec 25, 2012 10:11 pm

Just goes to show that people can watch the exact same thing and get different things out of it ... haha
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Re: Morphing Monasteries

Postby So-on Mann on Wed Dec 26, 2012 1:05 am

And the good monk who expressed sadness said this “I feel sad that people don’t really see our importance. They see us as, how should I put it, meaningless.” So his sadness is about the secularization of the population, not about any scandals.


Oh yes, my comment was meant as an aside mainly.

Secularization happens all over the world, you can see it here in the US as well. 41% of Americans polled SAY they attend church services regularly, but actual figures are more around 20%, so studies say. (that's when they ask "what did you do last week?" instead of "did you go to church?"). In many parts of the country, people attend on holidays, for weddings and funerals and that's about it. They go see a pastor only when something is troubling them.
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Re: Morphing Monasteries

Postby Gregory Wonderwheel on Wed Dec 26, 2012 7:42 am

clyde wrote:Hmmm. I didn’t post this to talk about the media. And really, I don’t think the (responsible) media behaves much differently than you or I; i.e., I know from my own experience and from those who I talk with, we remember and tell about our mishaps more often than our accomplishments.

And the good monk who expressed sadness said this “I feel sad that people don’t really see our importance. They see us as, how should I put it, meaningless.” So his sadness is about the secularization of the population, not about any scandals.

What’s so “good” about that monk? He seems as lacking in insight as the rest of them. He seems to condone the dilution of Buddha Dharma as a way of enticing people back into the temple. He is sad that, as he says, “Monks cannot command obedience or faith among the people.” But to me that is a good thing, because monks should not be commanding anything. Perhaps the very notion that monks could command obedience and faith is the poison that has brought on this situation in Thailand in the way that Catholicism had to be confronted by people when it sought to command obedience and faith?

This monk doesn’t seem to see that the problem is not that the people don’t really see the importance of the monks, but that the monks are not offering anything important to the people. As I see it, this describes the problem of the monks being so separate form the people in the sense that they do not show the laity how to practice Buddha Dharma for themselves, but only demand obedience and faith from laypeople. This monk’s idea that to connect with the people Buddhism should become “superficial” is going in the entirely wrong direction that leads exactly to the conduct of the amulet selling monks and monks selling tattoos to ward off or expiate bad karma.

clyde wrote:In any case, I thought the report was less about scandals and more about the changing nature of Buddhism in Thailand and the people’s relationship to it. And by extension, how Buddhism is changing here and there, and everywhere – as is the nature of existent things; hence, “morphing monasteries”.


All dharmas are within the realm of, and subject to, existence and nonexistence, and therefore they have the three marks of existence. However, that is not all there is to Buddha Dharma, and in fact the three marks of existence is only an initial teaching to attempt to help people become free from attachment to externals as the primary enslavement to existence and nonexistence. There is something more than mere dharmas in the realm of existence and nonexistence that have their three marks of existence, and to help people become aware of this something more that is the markless is the purpose of the Mahayana.

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Re: Morphing Monasteries

Postby clyde on Wed Dec 26, 2012 9:25 am

Again, hmmm.

Regarding my use of the term “good monk”, I was following So-on’s usage and meant nothing other than to identify the monk Phra Athikanrat (seen at the end of the report) that she was paraphrasing – who is different from the monk Phra Paisan (seen in the beginning of the report) that you quote.

Regarding Paisan’s statement that “Monks cannot command obedience or faith among the people,” I understood his “command” as I understand that the Buddha commanded obedience and faith by his presence; perhaps a better word is “inspire” as in “Monks cannot inspire obedience or faith among the people.” This seems to me to point to a dysfunction in the relationship between the monks and the people; one that both sides should investigate.

And it’s my understanding of the report that Paisan, who is described as a “respected monk”, is not promoting a Buddhism of superstition, but a Buddhism which connects with people, “is simple, digestible,” and I thought he noted a danger of “sometimes become superficial”.

Here is the written report: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/19/world ... ted=1&_r=0
But Phra Paisan is markedly more pessimistic about what is sometimes called “fast-food Buddhism.” He is encouraged by the embrace of meditation among many affluent Thais and the healthy sales of Buddhist books, but he sees basic incompatibilities between modern life and Buddhism.

His life is a portrait of traditional Buddhist asceticism. He lives in a remote part of central Thailand in a stilt house on a lake, connected to the shore by a rickety wooden bridge. He has no furniture, sleeps on the floor and is surrounded by books. He requested that a reporter meet him for an interview at 6 a.m., before he led his fellow monks in prayer, when mist on the lake was still evaporating.


Gregory Wonderwheel wrote:All dharmas are within the realm of, and subject to, existence and nonexistence, and therefore they have the three marks of existence. However, that is not all there is to Buddha Dharma, and in fact the three marks of existence is only an initial teaching to attempt to help people become free from attachment to externals as the primary enslavement to existence and nonexistence. There is something more than mere dharmas in the realm of existence and nonexistence that have their three marks of existence, and to help people become aware of this something more that is the markless is the purpose of the Mahayana.

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Re: Morphing Monasteries

Postby So-on Mann on Wed Dec 26, 2012 9:27 am

Let's keep in mind the language barrier, and the different usages of the term "obedience."
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Re: Morphing Monasteries

Postby Anders on Wed Dec 26, 2012 12:08 pm

So-on Mann wrote:Animism in Thailand predates Buddhism, and so does fortune-telling. It's a vestige of ancient folk magic in their culture, and has just glommed on to Buddhism.

The prevalence of scandals about monks in the news is saddening- why would any newscaster do a story about the good monks, like the one who expresses sadness about only doing funerals and cleaning the temple? It's just not "juicy." But you get a few monks embroiled in scandals, and you bet the cameras will start rolling. This just serves to deepen the gap between the populace and the ordained.


Actually, there are magazines devoted to good Buddhist monks in Thailand (though just as often, stories of monks with supernatural abilities, etc.). The late Luangta Maha Boowa used to have his picture on ATMs around the country for what he did for the country and he was as strict as it comes regarding Vinaya. Never touched money, ate once a day and only ever slept on hardwood floor. And distinctively, taught laypeople more or less on par with monastics.

The most wellknown monks in Thailand are still the ones who stand out for the good they do.
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Re: Morphing Monasteries

Postby Samsaric Spiral on Wed Dec 26, 2012 7:49 pm

Buddhism in Vietnam has also been heavily commercialized and destroyed too. My girlfriend's monastery, where her parents go to, are always asking for money and tricking gullible people for donations in order to accrue "good merit and successful rebirth".
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