Reforming Tibetan Buddhism

Reforming Tibetan Buddhism

Postby ādikarmika » 30 Jan 2012, 07:46

LhasaLhamo wrote:The discussion seems to be down to just you and me, so maybe it is time to move on. : )

All right then. Assuming that Tibetan Buddhism is a form of Buddhism (albeit one that inherited from Indian Buddhism certain practices that had been adopted and adapted from Hinduism), and assuming that like any religious tradition it has its fair share of opportunists, hypocrites and frauds, the activities of whom have generated a fair amount of negative publicity in this country (just yesterday I was handed an anti-"Lamaism" flyer), is there anything that can be done to reform the system? (Assuming, of course, that a reformed Tibetan Buddhism would have something worthwhile to offer.)

How widespread are cases of sexual abuse? (I'm not talking about what took place in pre-1950 Tibet; I'm talking about now.)
How widely are such cases tolerated? (which is not the same thing)
Is the situation in this country any worse than in other countries?
Is the "Tibetan Buddhism is not Buddhism" campaign unique to Taiwan?


My first suggestion would be that it abandon the tulku system (i.e., the system of recognising certain young boys as reincarnations of deceased teachers.)
Of course, the system only works if people give credance to the whole selection process, which AFAIK, is based on dreams and the ability of the child to select certain objects that had been owned by the deceased teacher. Hardly a transparent, scientific, or reliable system.

Are Taiwanese people particularly susceptible to misplacing their trust in teachers with titles like "tulku" and "rinpoche"?
Given the general lack of critical thinking that I notice among my students and their willingness to copy what everybody else, I'd say yes.
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Re: Reforming Tibetan Buddhism

Postby Tantrismuskritik » 30 Jan 2012, 09:29

For reference 1: the voice of refoming TB

http://www.nfb.ca/film/tulku_trailer

Tulku is a documentary film about young people caught between the modern culture they were born into and the ancient Tibetan Buddhist culture from which they were reborn. They are Western tulkus ‐ all of them recognized when they were children as reincarnations of great Tibetan Buddhist masters. Filmmaker Gesar Mukpo is one of them. In this film, he sets out to meet others like him ‐ young people struggling between modern and ancient, East and West.
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Re: Reforming Tibetan Buddhism

Postby Tantrismuskritik » 30 Jan 2012, 09:34

For reference 2: the voice of refoming TB

Confessions of Kalu Rinpoche



English text: http://downthecrookedpath-meditation-gu ... he_04.html

Confessions of Kalu Rinpoche

"When I was 9 my father passed away and I had a very difficult life you know. People thinks that Kalu Rinpoche always lived in a very comfortable life. That's what all people been thinking of because the previous Kalu Rinpoche was popular. For me, my father past away, I was transported to different Monastery and when I was like 12 and 13, I've been sexually abused by other monks. So for me I don't believe in monks so much you know, so you know and when I was 15 I did 3 years retreat from the guidance of my Root Guru you know and then like and I did 3 years retreat and no body cares about me so much you know. Nobody knows where I am, how I am you know and after 3 years retreat, all the people are interested because you know they kind of think that I have this great qualification and something which I can remember about my past life and it's nothing like that. And then some people just said I kick out from I, when I came out from my Monastery. no I mean when I came out from the 3 year retreat I mean. When I came out from 3 years retreat and many people were making roomer's and saying that I kicked out my mother, my family and you know, I kicked out my own teacher. Actually, it's nothing like that. My own Tutor, he tried to kill me, that's the truth. and I was at that time, I was really traditional. Very good traditional Buddhist practitioner. They tried to kill me because you know, I am not doing what they want me to do. You know it's that time I was really really good you know. A traditional person you know and then he tried to kill me with the knife and everything, and it was a shocking moment for me. And after that he left because when he realized about his own mistake how can he still live with me. So he left.

I never kicked out anybody. I had a family misunderstanding for 2 years and a half, and recently like 6 months ago, I had a family reconnection and everything is good and after that you know well when I was 18 I had all these big problems you know, then one manager tried to kill me and everything. It's all about money, power, controlling because if you can control the president, you can get what you want. That's the way it is and you know and then I became a drug addict because of all this misunderstanding and you know I went crazy. I became an alcoholic, I became a drug addict. I did lots of crazy things but not the bad things and then after that I asked my root Guru you know what is going on with my life I don't know because I see all these Buddhist people who are not Buddhist. They look like a Buddhist and they sound like a Buddhist and they act like a Buddhist and I am so confused. He said, "Rinpoche you have the capacity to change the structure in your own lineage in your Buddhist organization". So that's why I'm trying to do, trying to build a school and to build my own structure for the poor people because for me the Buddhism and all this religious organization, spiritual organization it's all about how to protect the society, how to protect the environment, how to protect our self. How to be afar from the weakness, how to understand the true meaning of point. And so you know I will do whatever is best for society so that's why I plan to build a school and my life it's not easy.

There's lots of people who doesn't like me and there's lots of people who likes me. Whether you like it or not of who I am it doesn't change in the person who I am. So I will do everything I can I'm my responsibility's but the structure needs to be changed and the Buddhas teachings has to get involved in our personal life. It doesn't mean that you have to get away from your family. Stop thinking about sentient being if you can't help your own family. So first to be responsible is really important. You know I don't want Buddhism to get involved in business politics. No, I want Buddhism to bring a beautiful image to society and to understand society. That my point of view and wish me the best for my project, for my school which I can do the best for the society. And I'm just a normal human being even you live with me like 1,000 years I will still tell you, I'm just a human being. I always will be and no one is perfect, everyone is perfect. Anyways all of you people take care, and I'm happy with my life. I'm not going to change the way I am and I'm not going to change who I am. I'm happy I am and at the end I can be myself now. So I wish for all of you, don't fall into confusion, don't fall into confusion about this O.K. If you want to be a Buddhist all you need is the one person who has a spiritual understanding life experience as I've told you many times. I'm so sorry for the cars running here there because I'm outside. Take care. I love you very much and I'm happy don't worry.''
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Re: Reforming Tibetan Buddhism

Postby Tantrismuskritik » 30 Jan 2012, 09:41

For reference 3: the voice of reforming TB

http://www.paldenshangpa.net/2011/09/a-vision-for-the-future/

My monasteries: A new vision and approach

BY KALU • SEPTEMBER 2, 2011

My dear friends, I want to share with all of you the vision I have for my monasteries.

From outside everything looks very beautiful. But looking behind the glossy cover of the magazine, the reality is quite different. I really feel that a lot needs to be changed:

Young children are mainly brought to the monastery to become monks because of their families’ financial difficulty. This is not the choice of the children.

Then they receive a religious education but not a regular education. This means that when the children grow up, if they decide to leave the monastery they have no way to live a good life. I have close friends who left the monastery when they became 19 or 20 yrs old, and now they are washing dishes in a restaurant or driving taxi. Since they have no training or education for living in the world, they will have a very difficult time to have a full and happy life. This breaks my heart.

Also I see the young monks learning about Dharma without having any direct experience of life; nor without the expericnce of Dharma in life. For example, I learned, as many young monks learn, that samsara lies outside the walls of the monastery; that those who are in relationship, those who are married, those who work and are fully engaged in life are in samsara while those of us in the monastery are not in samsara. We are educated with this kind of pride, this kind of prejudice. Some of these monks then go into retreat and come out as Lamas. They are invited to the west to live and teach in a Buddhist center. And when they arrive, they discover that “Samsara is Beautiful”. They then want to experience everything that life has to offer, and too often get involved in dharma business, and abusing and taking advantage of innocent people. Too often they use the Dharma to cover up and justify their personal behavior.

Another person might grow up outside the monastery, receive a regular education, and experience the joys and difficulties of life. And then having really understood that samsara is our own state of mind and our own attachment, decide to enter the monastery and follow a spiritual path. This to me is a much better approach.

So my idea is to create a school for children whose families have financial difficulty. The children will receive both normal and religious training. Then when the children reach 19 or 20 years of age, they can freely decide if they want to leave and have a personal life with work and family which they can do in a good way, with full appreciation of Dharma in their lives; if they want to join the school and education system, they will be welcome; and if they want to enter the monastery and follow a spiritual path they will do so fully and completely as their own decision.

For me the point of Dharma is to give us freedom and possibilities. Currently the system does not do that. I hope that this new approach will do so in my monasteries and Dharma communities.

This is my vision. And I am determined to make it happen.
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Re: Reforming Tibetan Buddhism

Postby LhasaLhamo » 30 Jan 2012, 12:36

adikarmika wrote:
LhasaLhamo wrote:The discussion seems to be down to just you and me, so maybe it is time to move on. : )

How widespread are cases of sexual abuse? (I'm not talking about what took place in pre-1950 Tibet; I'm talking about now.)
How widely are such cases tolerated? (which is not the same thing)
Is the situation in this country any worse than in other countries?
Is the "Tibetan Buddhism is not Buddhism" campaign unique to Taiwan?
Are Taiwanese people particularly susceptible to misplacing their trust in teachers with titles like "tulku" and "rinpoche"?

You're talking about reforming TB as a whole, right, not just in Taiwan? (Just clarifying.)
I'm answering the easier questions first.
The "TB is not Buddhism" campaign in unique to Taiwan, unfortunately. It would be great if there were a similar movement in Europe and North America.

I don't know about Taiwanese being "more susceptible" to "Living Buddhas" as they're called in Taiwan, and lacking critical thinking skills. People all over the world come to Buddhism through faith and a drive to dedicate themselves to spiritual development. They open their hearts wide, and to an extent I think, suspend critical thinking, again--due to faith that spiritual guides are trustworthy. It's only after bitter experience they learn otherwise, and engage their critical thinking. Many followers in the West, for example, never engage their critical thinking because nothing inappropriate happens that would force them to do so.

Take you, for example. Exhibit A: Adikarmika. You still believe that Gelug monks are celibate. ( LOL!! :roflmao: ) So in this respect, you're no different than the Taiwanese you speak of.

As far as how widespread the problem is, it's everywhere in developed countries. Canberra, Australia experienced a big scandal when their lama (married) had simultaneous affairs with several women. They put up a website about it, but were forced by threats of a lawsuit (from a Sakya lama in the US, I suspect) to take it down. I think they had no reason to worry, since the lama had confessed, and the case had newspaper coverage, but in any case, the website's gone now. It's not unusual for women to receive all manner of threats ("Vajra Hell", black magic, death) to prevent them from going public or from telling anyone at all, even in private, so it's very difficult to document cases.

Furthermore, the legal system in most countries generally doesn't recognize coercion into sex as a crime. In the US, there is some movement to expand the definition of rape, but still, how do you prove the sex was not consensual, no matter what the circumstances? And speaking of coercion and rape doesn't include plain old misconduct--celibate monks harassing women in the sangha for sex, abusing their position of power and trust.

"How widely are such cases tolerated?" By whom? By lamas, Rinpoches, monks? My conservative guess is--by the vast majority. Even the Dalai Lama is friends with Sogyal, Sakya Trizin, and other offenders. He's not sending a strong message re: his purported belief that sexual misconduct and abuse are wrong.

Tolerated by sanghas? Most, possibly all, women who experience abuse are shunned by the sangha and are told that to criticize is "Wrong Speech". Because the other sangha members have placed all their faith in the lama, see? They've suspended their critical thinking skills, so they accuse victims of lies and slander.

So far, there have been no comprehensive studies, no statistics. Most women who experience abuse only want to put it behind them, and don't want to talk about it. (I should mention it's not only women who experience abuse, men do too, from both female and male teachers: look at Trungpa and his "regent", Osel Tenzin). People are traumatized. We hear about women who return from dharma study in India showing signs of trauma and refusing to discuss what happened, or for ex. a Christian website mentioned a young woman who spoke to the blog owner who was visiting her town, about some horrific experience she'd had with her lama in Seattle, and she wants nothing more to do with Buddhism (tsk, tsk--root downfall for the lama, turning someone away from the Dharma), and this kind of thing. On rare occasion, someone will speak out, or post about their experience on the internet, usually anonymously. So it's easy to accuse such people of lies.

That is where the matter stands.

RE: Y. Kalu Rinpoche's reform efforts: http://www.paldenshangpa.net/2011/04/br ... in-france/
http://www.paldenshangpa.net/2011/04/li ... nes-again/
He arrived in France during his tour only to find one of "his" centers abandoned due to students fleeing abusive lamas, and others run by corrupt lamas. He threw everyone out, and has appointed new teachers. Let's hope he keeps an eye on them. At least he doesn't accuse victims of lying. He knows from direct experience what goes on behind closed doors, so he's taken immediate action upon hearing of chronic abuses in his centers.
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Re: Reforming Tibetan Buddhism

Postby LhasaLhamo » 30 Jan 2012, 12:42

duplicate post
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Re: Reforming Tibetan Buddhism

Postby Zla'od » 30 Jan 2012, 14:07

Talk of "reforming" Tibetan Buddhism presupposes some idea as to what Tibetan Buddhism ought ideally to become. It would never occur to us to hope for a "reformed" Scientology, for example--most people recognize Scientology to be entirely bereft of worthwhile elements. So, what aspects of Tibetan Buddhism are we aiming to save?

For example, is the institution of lamas integral to Tibetan Buddhism, or is it one of the aspects to be reformed away? Is the goal to have no lamas at all, to limit worship of lamas to mythologized figures like Guru Rinpoche or Je Tsongkhapa, or to reduce the power and authority of lamas, in part by eliminating the recognition of tulkus?

Another defining element of Tibetan Buddhism would be tantric practice, but how much of this is useful or necessary? Couldn't the religion get by with only Kriyatantra deities like Chenrezig and Manjushri? The need for what the New Schools call Highest Yoga Tantra arises from certain esoteric considerations having to do with clear light and the subtle body, which might well turn out to be one of those excrescences. The result might be something more along the lines of Japanese Shingon.

What about Indian metaphysical flourishes such as reincarnation and the six realms--or for that matter, the very idea of enlightenment? Or more narrowly, the belief in various forms of divination and magic, among them those aimed at identifying tulkus? Such doctrines are politically foundational, to structures that we might be better off without. I would personally like to see the elimination of the notion that tantric "vows" must be passed down from others with the same vow.

On the other hand, as tempting as it is to imagine a Tibetan Buddhism that is more like Reform Judaism or Unitarian Universalism, than like a collection of fundamentalist sects, there is reason to doubt the result would be viable. Shantarakshita (the Englishman, not the Indian sage) attempted to forge a rationalist reconception of Buddhism. The failure of his FWBO to attain popularity is not, I think, strictly attributable to the scandals surrounding it, but has more to do with the desire of spiritual seekers for magic, ritual, and ethnic Tibetan teachers.
"Sounding refers to the insertion of foreign bodies into the urethra,” said Dr. Stephen H. King, M.D., a board-certified urologist. [...] "Sounders have been known to insert a wide variety of objects, including but not limited to catheters, tubes, beads, pencils, batteries, drill bits, and even the head of a decapitated snake. Yes, the latter has been reported.”
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Re: Reforming Tibetan Buddhism

Postby ādikarmika » 30 Jan 2012, 14:12

LhasaLhamo wrote:The "TB is not Buddhism" campaign in unique to Taiwan, unfortunately. It would be great if there were a similar movement in Europe and North America.

No it wouldn't. It's just sectarianism, pure and simple.
I'm sure there are better ways to expose frauds, regardless of which tradition of Buddhism they belong to.


LhasaLhamo wrote:Take you, for example. Exhibit A: Adikarmika. You still believe that Gelug monks are celibate. :roflmao:

The ones I know, yes.
I have no evidence whatsoever to suggest that any of the Gelugpa monks I know are not really monks due to having broken their vow of celibacy.
On the other hand, I know several ( 5 or 6 perhaps) former Gelugpa monks who stopped wearing robes they day they lost their virginity. That was the culture that they had grown up in. They knew the consequences of having sex in terms of their monastic careers and they made the conscious decision to become laymen. By disrobing, they did what was fully expected of them once they'd had sex for the first time.
Perhaps I should add that of course I have come across quite a few dodgy Gelugpa monks in my time, it's just that I never really bothered to have much to do with them - maybe they're the ones who are pretending to be monks while not maintaining their vows of celibacy. I dunno.


LhasaLhamo wrote:So in this respect, you're no different than the Taiwanese you speak of.

I thought it was clear that I was talking about misplacing one's trust in a teacher due to his having the title "tulku". Nothing to do with the teacher's ordination status.
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Re: Reforming Tibetan Buddhism

Postby Zla'od » 30 Jan 2012, 14:22

Incidentally, I see no reason to exempt Chinese Buddhism from our reformist pressures! On one hand we find creepy, predatory organizations led by charismatic sangha; on the other, a smattering of superstitious and compulsive practices. I really cannot find very much good to say about Chinese Buddhism (or Daoism either), other than its entertainment value (pretty temples, occasionally interesting philosophy, spectacle, etc.).

Edit: FIXED!!! (See new thread, "Reforming Chinese Buddhism").
"Sounding refers to the insertion of foreign bodies into the urethra,” said Dr. Stephen H. King, M.D., a board-certified urologist. [...] "Sounders have been known to insert a wide variety of objects, including but not limited to catheters, tubes, beads, pencils, batteries, drill bits, and even the head of a decapitated snake. Yes, the latter has been reported.”
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Re: Reforming Tibetan Buddhism

Postby ādikarmika » 30 Jan 2012, 20:01

zla'od wrote:Talk of "reforming" Tibetan Buddhism presupposes some idea as to what Tibetan Buddhism ought ideally to become ... So, what aspects of Tibetan Buddhism are we aiming to save?

Good question. I was mainly thinking of the monks' and nuns' vinaya. In particular, not tolerating cases where a monk (or nun, for that matter) breaks his/her celibacy vow yet still dresses in robes. At the same time, TB should provide a welcoming place should the monk or nun choose to revert to lay life.
Part of the problem I think lies in the fact that we in the West (and Taiwan, too) demand that these monks leave the "safety" of the monastery to come and live in Dharma centres and teach us. But how suitable is that? Our whole environment is sexually stimulating (well, speaking personally, anyway). It's asking a lot to expect a monk to come and live in such an environment and remain celibate. Many of them don't want to do it, but their teachers request them to go, as its often a way of finding sponsors for their fellow monks.

Traditionally, monks just learn stuff that they then pass on to other monks - monks who, it should be added, have already memorised vast amounts of text. So teaching lay people often turns out to be quite different.
So I guess I'm in favour of lay-teachers for the laity and monastic teachers for the monkhood.
Having lay-teachers who used to be monks would probably be a good thing.


zla'od wrote: is the institution of lamas integral to Tibetan Buddhism...

Perhaps we should get rid of the word "lama" (it's so often misused, anyway).
Use its Sanskrit equivalent instead (i.e., "guru"). That way, it wouldn't be bandied about so freely.
Or just use the English word, "teacher".


zla'od wrote:Another defining element of Tibetan Buddhism would be tantric practice, but how much of this is useful or necessary?

Another good question. I've never quite understood why it's necesary to have so many different tantric deities.
How much is useful? Probably none of it, as far as most people are concerned.
As I understand, it's supposed to be only for people who already have a thorough grounding in the exoteric path.
I'm not suggesting tantra should be abandoned, but it should be much more restricted than it is now.
And if a practitioner wants to practice with a physical partner, they should be open about it.

Here, I'll start the ball rolling ... When I was about 20 y.o., my then girlfriend and I decided to try yab-yum practice. We didn't have any initiations (but we had read plenty books by Alan Watts). Needless to say, we didn't get enlightened.


zla'od wrote:The failure of his FWBO to attain popularity is not, I think, strictly attributable to the scandals surrounding it, but has more to do with the desire of spiritual seekers for magic, ritual, and ethnic Tibetan teachers.

You've hit the nail on the head.
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