Reforming Chinese Buddhism

Reforming Chinese Buddhism

Postby Zla'od » 30 Jan 2012, 14:44

For those who believe that Chinese Buddhism is really Buddhism, and that some parts but not others are worthwhile, how should it be reformed?

Or should we just call in the Red Guards and send them all to the camps? :discodance:
“If a bodhisattva resides as a householder and there appears a woman who is clearly unbound to anyone, habituated to sexual indulgence, attracted to the bodhisattva and seeking sexual activities, the bodhisattva having seen this thinks, 'Do not make her mind upset, producing much misfortune. If she pursues her desire, she will obtain freedom. As expedient means [upaya] I will take her in and have her plant the roots for virtue, also having her abandon unwholesome karma. I will engage in impure activities [abrahma-carya] with a compassionate mind.' Even practising such defiled activities like this, there is nothing that is violated [precepts], and much merit will be produced." -- from the Yogācārabhūmi Śāstra

For even more saucy Buddhist scripture, see http://sdhammika.blogspot.tw/2010/08/st ... m-all.html
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Re: Reforming Chinese Buddhism

Postby LhasaLhamo » 31 Jan 2012, 01:53

I'm concerned about the molestation of boy novices in the monasteries. This isn't a problem exclusive to Ch'an, I think it needs to be addressed throughout the Buddhist world wherever children are accepted into the monastic system. Children shouldn't be housed with celibate adults. I understand that one function of this system is to provide a safety valve for poor families who find themselves with too many children, plus some prestige may be involved in having a child monastic. But other solutions can be found to the poverty issue, and really, the main concern should be the safety and well-being of the children.

If there are issues of misconduct on the part of masters, I'm not aware of them. Do you have a list of issues you feel need to be addressed? That might be a good way to start out.
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Re: Reforming Chinese Buddhism

Postby Zla'od » 31 Jan 2012, 06:43

My objections are more basic, and have to do with the overall structure and norms of the religion. It's not so much an issue of misconduct, but conduct.

In Taiwan there are basically two kinds of Buddhists: folk Buddhists (who are more or less identical with folk Daoists) like my in-laws, who may have an image of Guanyin on their altar, but have nothing to do with monks or nuns; and what we might call "Buddhist Buddhists" who take refuge in the Three Jewels. The basic idea behind the "Buddhist Buddhists" is that folk Buddhism is deficient in some way, and that its practitioners literally need professional help. Enter "Big Buddhism" in its various forms, all of which serve to distort normal social and family relations in favor of a counterfeit community held together by money and fantasy. Not one of their teachings or practices is of any social use.

Someone will remind me of Tzu Chi and its "charity," but this basically amounts to a form of public relations, and is designed primarily to get people to join the group (where they will learn to view "Master" Zhengyan as an emination of Guanyin, or however it goes). Tzu Chi as an organization is basically predatory--it seeks to displace secular hospitals, schools, and charity projects in favor of institutions controlled by itself. (Recall that the hospitals started as a form of competition with Christianity.) Other forms of "Big Buddhism" have different projects, but the predatory impulse is similar. Basically they are all taking advantage of the weakness of the folk religion in the wake of urbanization and population mobility. A few entrepreneurial sangha have stepped in the fill the gap, and divert resources to themselves. Note that several of the biggest groups were able to coalesce because their leaders supported, and were to some extent supported by, the Guomindang. They benefitted from (and perhaps, participated in) the suppression of their competitors.

As for the much-vaunted Buddhist "wisdom," around here Buddhism (like Daoism) seems to consist mainly of superstition. We find chanting, rituals, talismans, and other forms of magical thinking. There is vegetarianism (but stripped of its health or environmental benefits), animal release (over the protests of ecologists), and of course funerals and services for ghosts. Lip service is paid to basic morality, but I can't see that it has any honest effect on anybody--more likely, Buddhists affirm morality not because they think anybody will change, but in order to look good. Really, I cannot think of one worthwhile element of Chinese Buddhism. If the entire subculture were razed to the ground, the world would be a better place.
“If a bodhisattva resides as a householder and there appears a woman who is clearly unbound to anyone, habituated to sexual indulgence, attracted to the bodhisattva and seeking sexual activities, the bodhisattva having seen this thinks, 'Do not make her mind upset, producing much misfortune. If she pursues her desire, she will obtain freedom. As expedient means [upaya] I will take her in and have her plant the roots for virtue, also having her abandon unwholesome karma. I will engage in impure activities [abrahma-carya] with a compassionate mind.' Even practising such defiled activities like this, there is nothing that is violated [precepts], and much merit will be produced." -- from the Yogācārabhūmi Śāstra

For even more saucy Buddhist scripture, see http://sdhammika.blogspot.tw/2010/08/st ... m-all.html
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Re: Reforming Chinese Buddhism

Postby LhasaLhamo » 31 Jan 2012, 08:51

This is like saying that TB is folk Buddhism plus Hindu tantra, so it should all be thrown out, but I didn't hear you saying that on the "Is TB Real Buddhism" thread.

It sounds like money has become involved with religion to too great an extent in Taiwan. No wonder the Dalai Lama, Karpama, and others come around so often. They can smell the money.

My issues are more about whether women can go to temple and receive teachings safely, or do they have to be on their guard with the masters, like some women in the West with TB teachers. And the safety of nuns and boy novices.
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Re: Reforming Chinese Buddhism

Postby Confuzius » 10 Feb 2012, 01:27

LhasaLhamo wrote:
My issues are more about whether women can go to temple and receive teachings safely,


Dunno about safety, but like 80% of Buddhist monastics in Taiwan are women. Fo Guang Shan is even higher. Their main headquarters outside of Kaohsiung has a weird rule passed by Hsing Yun-the abbot must ALWAYS be a male (only of this particular place...other FGS places can have women abotesses) the reason? SOOOOOOOOOOOOO many female monastics! So having a male leader makes it more balanced.

LhasaLhamo wrote: or do they have to be on their guard with the masters, like some women in the West with TB teachers.


Women should always be on guard around men, just sayin. it has nothing to do with tibet or even buddhism....men are dogs.
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Re: Reforming Chinese Buddhism

Postby Zla'od » 10 Feb 2012, 07:03

Well let me put it this way (Lhasa Lhamo): In what way does institutionalized Chinese Buddhism benefit society? Unlike Tibet, Chinese culture and religion thrives without "Big Buddhism." I realize that some people gain personal comfort from it, and that there a few charities like Tzu Chi, but the price they pay for this is very high. (Compare Chinese funerals with Christian ones, for example, or Chinese charities with Christian ones.) Unlike many religions, Chinese Buddhism would not be a particularly good tradition to raise children in--in fact it seems positively dangerous--and paints marriage as a second-class sort of lifestyle. None of which is balanced at all. I blame the narrow, sectarian nature of Chinese Buddhism, since it has been forced into certain societal niches.
“If a bodhisattva resides as a householder and there appears a woman who is clearly unbound to anyone, habituated to sexual indulgence, attracted to the bodhisattva and seeking sexual activities, the bodhisattva having seen this thinks, 'Do not make her mind upset, producing much misfortune. If she pursues her desire, she will obtain freedom. As expedient means [upaya] I will take her in and have her plant the roots for virtue, also having her abandon unwholesome karma. I will engage in impure activities [abrahma-carya] with a compassionate mind.' Even practising such defiled activities like this, there is nothing that is violated [precepts], and much merit will be produced." -- from the Yogācārabhūmi Śāstra

For even more saucy Buddhist scripture, see http://sdhammika.blogspot.tw/2010/08/st ... m-all.html
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Re: Reforming Chinese Buddhism

Postby Confuzius » 10 Feb 2012, 09:41

Zla'od wrote: Unlike many religions, Chinese Buddhism would not be a particularly good tradition to raise children in--in fact it seems positively dangerous--and paints marriage as a second-class sort of lifestyle.


Agree with you on this point.
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Re: Reforming Chinese Buddhism

Postby LhasaLhamo » 10 Feb 2012, 11:40

Confuzius wrote:Dunno about safety, but like 80% of Buddhist monastics in Taiwan are women. Fo Guang Shan is even higher. Their main headquarters outside of Kaohsiung has a weird rule passed by Hsing Yun-the abbot must ALWAYS be a male (only of this particular place...other FGS places can have women abotesses) the reason? SOOOOOOOOOOOOO many female monastics! So having a male leader makes it more balanced.
Interesting that when the vast majority of monastics are male, no one appoints a woman abbot for balance.
When I was in Taiwan (decades ago) I only saw male monastics. Things must've changed.

Confuzius wrote: Women should always be on guard around men, just sayin. it has nothing to do with tibet or even buddhism....men are dogs.
Thanks. I appreciate the advice and candor. Keepin' it real, Conuzius!

Just curious--does having a male abbot overseeing female monastics raise a red flag for anyone? Any potential for problems, there?
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Re: Reforming Chinese Buddhism

Postby Mucha Man » 10 Feb 2012, 12:11

Zla'od wrote:...In what way does institutionalized Chinese Buddhism benefit society?


According to most academic studies I have read, and my own observations, Buddhist groups in Taiwan de-emphasize ritual and superstition. They have created super well organized, efficient and rational structures which are sorely needed in this society. The groups have played an important roll in modernizing Taiwan and also helping to create a civil environment. Zhengyan, for example, has taught that traditional moral beliefs must be reinterpreted for the mdoern world. Whereas once you centered your help and concern on your family only, now we need to extend that to our neighbors and society at large. This was and is revolutionary.

Surely you know that all the major Buddhist groups in Taiwan come from the reformist renjian fojiao tradition. In other words, being active in the world and doing good deeds is integral to the modern form of Buddhism in Taiwan.

You make some risible claims that Buddhist groups in Taiwan are predatory, lacking in charity, and do no good. You also claim they have grown through state sponsored help in squashing competition. Yet, Tzu Chi, in particular, but other groups as well, grew enormously AFTER the lifting of martial law in 1986. In other words, when people were free to form and join civil and religious groups, they did so in great numbers. Were Taiwan's Buddhist groups predatory or simply responsive to societal changes?

The latter likely. Again, as writers have noted, the Buddhist groups tended to appeal to the middle class. This was in part because of their rational structures and de-emphasis on superstition. But this de-emphasis was no ruse as Buddhism began to reform in the 60s long before there was a middle class to appreciate it. Had the Taiwan economic miracle not happened, these groups would still be peripheral.
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Re: Reforming Chinese Buddhism

Postby Zla'od » 10 Feb 2012, 14:03

"Humanistic Buddhism" (or what I call "Big Buddhism") mainly serves to benefit the few entrepreneurial monks (and one nun) known for promoting it. What it Tzu Chi about? Not just raising money for charity. Rather, the charity serves as public relations for something else--the cult of Zhengyan, whom followers hold to be the manifestation of Guanyin. And this cult is quite capable of bullying its enemies. Its leaders are intent on building an empire of hospitals, universities, and other bodies which they control.

Other "Big Buddhist" groups are basically similar to large, politically powerful churches. Most of them are allied with the Guomindang, and have their own pyramid-building projects to promote. There is no hint of progressive social attitudes, let alone democracy. I fail to see why anyone would call them "reformist"--they are pursuing their self-interest, pure and simple.

When I call them "predatory," I mean in relation to the folk religion. The folk religion would probably be better for its adherents, being cheaper and non-hierarchical, but social mobility has weakened it. So when people gravitate to other religious identities, they may be doing so willingly, but the move is probably not in their long-term interests.
“If a bodhisattva resides as a householder and there appears a woman who is clearly unbound to anyone, habituated to sexual indulgence, attracted to the bodhisattva and seeking sexual activities, the bodhisattva having seen this thinks, 'Do not make her mind upset, producing much misfortune. If she pursues her desire, she will obtain freedom. As expedient means [upaya] I will take her in and have her plant the roots for virtue, also having her abandon unwholesome karma. I will engage in impure activities [abrahma-carya] with a compassionate mind.' Even practising such defiled activities like this, there is nothing that is violated [precepts], and much merit will be produced." -- from the Yogācārabhūmi Śāstra

For even more saucy Buddhist scripture, see http://sdhammika.blogspot.tw/2010/08/st ... m-all.html
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