[Buddha-l] demise in asia

Piya Tan dharmafarer at gmail.com
Wed Sep 3 20:43:50 MDT 2008

Dear Joanna, Jayarava, and anyone who cares to read something not
academically correct or profitable,

Jayarava replied to me on 2 Sep, and I was actually responding to
another countryman, Shian, whom I admire and respect. I'm also
very concerned with the "profiling" of events where I live: why things
are so, where we are heading, etc.

It's great that you are relating to what I have frankly written on.

As far as FWBO is concerned, I still have difficulty accepting it as a
group or whatever you call it. I think it is still centred on its own
success, and has not come to the level of common magnanimity,
although it is much more open than when Sangharakshita was
having fun with his movement(s).

(On the light side, I recall some non-Dharmacaris esp the less
physically attractive ones then had a joke among themselves:
"Start a new movement, eat prunes!")

It is easier and healthier to relate to the order members as individuals.
If the Dharma comes first, it does not really matter which movement
or monastery the Dharmacari comes from.

I think it is more meaningful today towards for a meeting of concerned
minds than of movements or organizations. I'm thinking specially of
Buddhist work in our times.

Yes, Jayarava, I have read your paper, and I generally agree with your
ideas about confession. However, on a spiritual level, that is, deep within
myself, I generally find no problem with words, properly defined and used
 with true good intentions.

For example, I regularly teach what are "hard-core" early Buddhist texts (I
try to avoid using "Theravada") in a beautiful monastery dedicated to the
Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha. I find no problem explaining to my class how the
facets of the two traditions can fit harmoniously if we look at the principles
behind the teachings, rituals, images, etc.

In fact, for the rest of the year, I will be leading an in-depth study on "How
Buddhism Became Chinese," for a better understanding of difficulties our
Chinese Buddhist ancestors faced, and how they responded to

I hope Subhuti is a blue lotus above the muddy past of WBO; or is the
present FWBO unified enough, and what is unifying them? Anyway,
there is an interesting prophecy in the Dakkhina Vibhanga Sutta (M 142)
about "yellow-necks" (those wearing yellow kesas?) who will be treated
as "sangha," and supported with donations.

The true movement is like a storm, it has a still centre. At the heart of
the storm's eye is the Buddha giving the Dharma. Let us visualize
ourselves sitting joyfully as his audience.

With metta,

Piya Tan

On Thu, Sep 4, 2008 at 7:14 AM, jkirk <jkirk at spro.net> wrote:
> 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,
> Joanna
> =======================
> -----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
> Singapore.
> 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
> cows.
> "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,
> Piya
> 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
> that
>> offerings are made to remind themselves of various aspects of
> the
>> Buddha's teachings. Any blessings that result comes from
> devotion and
>> generosity in making offerings, not out of expectations of
> blessings."
>> Well, most of the world's Buddhists, and people of other
> religions
>> that incorporate this model,  are not "true"
>> religionists, following your concept of "true Buddhists". Ms Ng
> seems
>> to be well aware that the attitude of transactional relations
> between
>> devotee and deity is indeed a prevailing notion.
> [etc]
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