[Buddha-l] demise in asia

jkirk jkirk at spro.net
Wed Sep 3 17:14:16 MDT 2008

Dear Piya--
Well your reply was to what I wrote, not to what Jayarava
wrote--at least you left in your message (below) what I, not
Jayarava, wrote. 

So I'm confused as to whom you meant to reply---but in any case,
happy that your sutta classes are going gangbusters :)  I can
really sympathise with what SG Buddhists are going through today.
It resembles what thoughtful non-Christian people are going
through here in the US, what with the onslaught of Republican
evangelical righteousness at every media turn. What with
political candidates having to routinely state their religious
preferences and church membership, how devoted to Jesus they are
etc. Yuk again.
The commercialization of piety has gone bonkers here, thanks to
the pressure from evangelicals who are perceived by politicians
(and their promo hacks) as independents or "swing voters."

May I respectfully suggest that one of the problems with
maintaining and growing Buddhism in today's globalistic
environment might be the traditional accent on what brings
merit-- donating to temples and monasteries and leaving public
education up to them. 
Since the FWBO isn't a monastic order along the lines of the
tradition, strikes me that they have a chance (if they can raise
the necessary money) to make a big imprint on the missionary goal
of the Buddha dharma that traditional Theravadan monastic
institutions cannot seem to accomplish. 
(The Tibetans seem to be having a lot of success in the USA
today. They are good at raising money and spreading their
message, too.)

So Jayarava, what is the FWBO doing to spread the Buddha dharma
these days in the west? 

Best wishes,

-----Original Message-----
From: buddha-l-bounces at mailman.swcp.com
[mailto:buddha-l-bounces at mailman.swcp.com] On Behalf Of Piya Tan
Sent: Tuesday, September 02, 2008 8:31 PM
To: Buddhist discussion forum
Subject: Re: [Buddha-l] demise in asia

Buddhists in Singapore and Malaysia are generally tacitly
paranoid or feel deprived like abused children or Cinderellas,
especially in the face of racial political in Malaysia, and in
the face of the constant presence of evangelism in Malaysia and

I have Myanmarese students in my Sutta classes who regularly
admit they feel very stressed and depressed as soon as they
arrive in Singapore. Not only is the society here very different
from traditionally Buddhist Myanmar (forget about the asura-bound
generals and their minions). Evangelism is illegal there.
Actually open evangelism is technically illegal here, too, but we
still see them doing it.

Back home, these young Myanmarese are not troubled by the
evangelists, but here they are constantly harrassed. Or at least
some of their friends are harrassed. The British once colonized
Burma, now you see banners in Myanmarese welcoming them in St
Andrews in the city centre.

The local Buddhists are trying to counter this evangelical flood
with a reverse Stockholm syndrome. They copy the evangelists. You
got hymns, we have Buddhist hymns (Onward Buddhist soldiers!);
you go business gospel groups, we have Buddhist businesses, too;
you make teaching religion fun, we do that to Buddhism too.

I think this is like someone coming to burn our houses with
firebrands, and we get bigger firebrands, and say hey look we
have firebrands, too, and we can burn our houses on our own! So
now both sides are homeless. Holy Cassandra, who are we listening
to? who is our standard?

The evangelists have bigger churches, better organized
assemblies, etc, because they have studied their Bibles well.
Many of them are professionals. So they marry the two into a
colonial cocktail to attract converts and hold them. They
instruct their flock to stay in the pen, insulated from others
until they are blind enough to blind us.

Local Buddhists (western scholars call us "ethnic Buddhists"), or
many of us, don't know much about the Suttas, so we put them
aside, or simply knock them down. It's like we have beautiful
idyllic beaches, and crystal clear seas with glorious corals. We
do not appreciate them until the beaches and waters are crowded
with strange tourists who molest our children and deflower our
maidens, and mess up the beaches.

Lesson: if you do not know the Suttas, have no experience of
stillness through meditation or mindfulness, you have only an
empty core, waiting to be filled in by borrowed culture. Oh yes,
you will need a long resume of titles, qualifications, on
business cards, like what many monks carry now.

If you use only Buddhist hymns, you will get hymn Buddhists; if
you use only management, you will get management Buddhists; if
you you use businesses only, you will get money Buddhists; which
are not really bad in themselves, but we need to move on.

But what have you to move on with, except your music, your
management, your businesses.

We still have a "village" or "native" mentality here that anyone
with a "Dr" to his name knows a lot about Buddhism; or better if
he is white, he knows everything about Buddhisms. There's your
opening, lads, forget that sun-tan. The natives are still
welcoming Captain Cook and Columbus. This is the tail end of it
all, I hope.

(Happy note: A sweet Colombian student has paired up with a
handsome German Catholic boy in my Sutta class, and they are both
in Europe now. Be well and prosper!)

At present, if you come to Singapore and wish to look for a
"Singapore" Buddhist temple. you only have these flavours:
Thai, Sinhala, Myanmar, Tibetan, Japanese, or Chinese joint.
Sorry, no Singapore Buddhist temple or joint.

On the other hand, why are Ajahn Chah's western forest monks
becoming such a great global attraction now (for example)?
People know that they know their stuff, and they also behave in a
manner that evokes stillness in us.

I foresee the vital need for more committed lay (non-monastic)
Buddhist workers who know more Suttas and Dharma than the
monastics (not as a challenge, but on account of commitment),
meditate more than the monastics (if they ever do it); have less
money than the monastics, but more happiness; less sensual
pleasures than the monastics, but more satisfaction, contentment
and joy.

For three to five days a week, I see happy, laughing faces in my
Sutta classes, where most of whom on their own accord, would
naturally sit meditating before class starts.

If you are really a Buddhist, who is your refuge? Or, we could
put it another way, I'm not yet a really a Buddhist yet until I
awaken to true reality. Meantime, what am I doing to get there?

In recent years, I get a lot of non-Buddhists (esp evangelists
and Muslims) coming for counselling and meditation therapy.
They know I am Buddhist, and they know these methods will help
them. And I tell them, you don't have to be a Buddhist to
practise Buddhism. They quietly ask me for Buddhist literature,
and I give it to them.

Despite what I say, I'm confident they will find their way if
they are true seekers. That is my faith in the Three Jewels.

I think we ethnic Buddhists will be left far behind, so long as
we keep trailing the evangelists, and forget to count our own

"If the world is a storm, I will not fall into it, but remain in
the still eye at peace with myself."

Jayarava, part of my reply to your email is above here.

With concerned metta,


On Wed, Sep 3, 2008 at 9:15 AM, jkirk <jkirk at spro.net> wrote:
> From your website article as linked below:
> "Comments: If Ms Ng felt that Buddhism is fine other than the
idea of 
> making offerings for blessings being a transaction, then she
had given 
> up Buddhism for the wrong reason - because true Buddhists know
> offerings are made to remind themselves of various aspects of
> Buddha's teachings. Any blessings that result comes from
devotion and 
> generosity in making offerings, not out of expectations of
> Well, most of the world's Buddhists, and people of other
> that incorporate this model,  are not "true"
> religionists, following your concept of "true Buddhists". Ms Ng
> to be well aware that the attitude of transactional relations
> devotee and deity is indeed a prevailing notion.

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