Monastics & their family

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plwk
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Monastics & their family

Postby plwk » Sat Dec 15, 2012 9:55 am


JKhedrup
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Re: Monastics & their family

Postby JKhedrup » Sat Dec 15, 2012 4:53 pm

Thanks for sharing the video and story.
Chinese Buddhism has many great aspects to it- vegetarianism, humanistic social engagement, a rich textual tradition and practice traditions that are still vibrant despite the advent of communism in the mainland.

However, I find the take of Chinese monastic life (at least as I have encountered it in the modern context) to be a little bit extreme. They really seem in many cases to advocate the complete abandonment of family- nearly to the point of not thinking about the family. Master Shen Yen mentioned that for the parents sometimes it is worse than having a child die because at least if they died there can be a funeral plaque. What a terrible shame, where does this mentality stem from? Is it really that it takes the chronic illness of a parent for their monk or nun child to return to them to help?

I have not seen in in many non-Western practitioners outside Chinese Buddhism. Tibetan monks and nuns generally maintain tight connections to their families, except for maybe the period of solitary retreat. Even when they must go into exile to study, they call whenever possible, and when the border is open the parents, despite great financial hardship in many cases, come to visit. I remember the stories of Milarepa's sister traveling over mountain ranges to visit him. HH Dalai Lama kept close contact with his mother after the initial period of intensive monastic training, as did Lama Zopa Rinpoche and others.

Even in the austere Thai Forest tradition, two of its greatest masters- Ajahn Maha Boowa and Ajahn Chah- had their mothers live nearby their monasteries for long periods of monastic life.

I think perhaps the term qiu jia "leaving home"- is taken a little bit too literally for my taste. Remember, even Lord Buddha returned home to visit, his son ordained as a novice monk, and he went to a heavenly realm to teach his mother...

Perhaps if things were not so cut and dry more Chinese parents would be willing to allow their children to ordain.

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Re: Monastics & their family

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Re: Monastics & their family

Postby Indrajala » Sat Dec 15, 2012 5:35 pm

tad etat sarvajñānaṃ karuṇāmūlaṃ bodhicittahetukam upāyaparyavasānam iti |

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Re: Monastics & their family

Postby JKhedrup » Sat Dec 15, 2012 5:50 pm

They are interesting insights Huseng.

I have heard it many times so I know what Master Sheng Yen says is true that some parents see having a child ordain is more difficult to endure than their death.

This attitude has always puzzled me. I remember a family of 4 children that used to attend a Chinese temple I was involved with. They were very devout, and the mother forced the children to participate in many of the temple activities and rituals. However when one daughter in a family of 3 girls and 1 son voiced the desire to maybe become a nun, the mother completely flipped and forced the entire family to stop attending the temple.

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Re: Monastics & their family

Postby Indrajala » Sat Dec 15, 2012 5:52 pm

tad etat sarvajñānaṃ karuṇāmūlaṃ bodhicittahetukam upāyaparyavasānam iti |

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Re: Monastics & their family

Postby icylake » Sat Dec 15, 2012 11:40 pm


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Re: Monastics & their family

Postby Huifeng » Sun Dec 16, 2012 2:00 am

Well, I know plenty of Taiwanese monastics who keep good connections with their secular families, on a number of levels. FGS has a kind of family day every year. Parents of monastics (eg. Ven X) are known to other monastics as "X mama" and "X papa", effectively meaning that rather than losing their children, they are actually kind of gaining many more children. Moreover, parents of FGS monastics are also looked after in their old age by the monastery, we have homes for this, for example, and other arrangements. That's FGS, but I know of similar situations for a number of non-FGS monastics, too.

Also, while some parents do not want their children to renounce, there are many parents - particularly ones who are devout Buddhists themselves - who are very happy for this to happen. Even to the point of actively encouraging their children to study at the seminary, participate in short term monastic retreats, or more. The ways in which parents act, should be clearly distinguished from the ways in which monastics act.

So, from my experience, I really cannot say that there is any kind of extreme attitude towards renunciation and secular families, and one may want to get a broader picture before coming to conclusions.

~~ Huifeng


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Re: Monastics & their family

Postby JKhedrup » Sun Dec 16, 2012 7:09 am


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Re: Monastics & their family

Postby Devotionary » Sun Dec 16, 2012 9:59 am


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Re: Monastics & their family

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Re: Monastics & their family

Postby JKhedrup » Sun Dec 16, 2012 1:05 pm

Yes I think that according to secular laws the choice to ordain is an individual right, but according to the Buddhist vinaya the consent of one's parents is required in they are still living.
It is just very puzzling to me that it seems many Taiwanese parents would not want their children to ordain, especially considering, as mentioned above, that Taiwanese Buddhist organizations tend to take care of their monastics for life. It would seem to be a stable future in a community that values the monk/nun, rather than a corporation where everyone is seen as "disposable".
I am really thinking the problem lies with the idea of people leaving home in a family centred culture built upon Confucian morals. As you mentioned, in a culture shaped by such values some parents might see ordination as unfilial.
I would really like to read more about the history of the monastic Sangha in the Chinese tradition but am hindered by not knowing the language.

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Re: Monastics & their family

Postby Indrajala » Sun Dec 16, 2012 1:58 pm

tad etat sarvajñānaṃ karuṇāmūlaṃ bodhicittahetukam upāyaparyavasānam iti |

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Re: Monastics & their family

Postby Devotionary » Sun Dec 16, 2012 6:19 pm


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Re: Monastics & their family

Postby Huifeng » Mon Dec 17, 2012 1:35 am

Though it is correct that this is a modern phenomena, and I wouldn't want to suggest otherwise. It is just this idea that ordination is social death that humanistic buddhism wishes to overcome and rectify. But the thread was never intended as a discussion of the history of Chinese Buddhism, but the present situation, no?

Another issue, also mentioned, quite apart from any Confucian issues, is that Taiwan has one of the lowest birth rates in the world. If one is an only child, then the effect of renunciation on the parents is relatively greater. One of my teachers stated that because he has three older brothers, his renunciation wasn't such a problem. So, this may also be kept in mind if comparisons with Thailand, Vietnam, Tibet, etc. are to be made.

Final point for now: It's not because FGS has wealth that it can do things to help people, it is because FGS is willing to help people that it has wealth. To argue otherwise is to suggest that the organization started off with wealth, which is totally back to front! It did not - it started with a monk with nothing more than the robes on his back and a big heart. (Same can be said of Chung Tai, DDM, etc. - the founders of which all started off in pretty much the same circumstances, but just each went their own way.)

The point being, that it is possible to make changes, and this start from our attitudes, which are more important than externals.

~~ Huifeng


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Re: Monastics & their family

Postby Indrajala » Mon Dec 17, 2012 5:44 am

tad etat sarvajñānaṃ karuṇāmūlaṃ bodhicittahetukam upāyaparyavasānam iti |

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Re: Monastics & their family

Postby Huifeng » Mon Dec 17, 2012 6:51 am



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Re: Monastics & their family

Postby Indrajala » Mon Dec 17, 2012 6:57 am

tad etat sarvajñānaṃ karuṇāmūlaṃ bodhicittahetukam upāyaparyavasānam iti |

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Re: Monastics & their family

Postby Huifeng » Mon Dec 17, 2012 7:44 am

Jeff, I'm not trying to deflect hard questions. For a start, you have provided no evidence for your claims, but simple insinuation. But, if you really want some details, here goes:

The elderly support at FGS was built very early on at FGS (in the 1960s IIRC). It's just down the road from the old Pumen High School, across from the Children's Home. The buildings are very old, like the monks' quarters. So, it's not like FGS has huge finances at that time. The design is simple - to get maximum usage for the elderly for the dollar. Similar principle elsewhere. The family day is also a very old tradition, going back to the start of the Buddhist College at FGS, in the 1960s.

While the rise of Taiwanese business people in China is now at a high, the economic booms really only kicked in during the 1980s. But, even at that time, the Taiwanese were not allowed to work like that in China. The rise in Taiwanese business people in China really only comes in the late 1990s onwards. By your argument, you'd have to show that such buildings and events only occurred after FGS had money, and that the money comes from these sources. Obviously, the dates of these things show otherwise.

But even then, you have yet to prove whether any donations to FGS come from sources in China that are "slave labor". Can you provide some examples, please, in evidence of your claim? (Note, see MN citation below.)

FGS does not rely on a small number of corporate donors, as you suggest. Instead, Shifu has always had the policy of a large number of smaller donors. Evidence: The donor lists in the FGS Tathagata Auditorium; the donor lists at the gate to FGU; the donor lists on the surrounding walkways of the Buddha Memorial Center. Please check those out. The latter have tens of thousands of names, IIRC. Shifu knows very well the problems of only have a small number of donors, and right from the start in Ilan, he didn't want to do that. The whole gist of humanistic buddhism is on a very popular, ie. the common person, level. Working people.

Another example of this latter point, the situation around Da Shu, where FGS is located. FGS did a promotion of Da Shu fruit, as it's a major orchard area of Taiwan. FGS spent much more than it ever got out of it, Shifu's argument simply being that we owe a lot to the people of Da Shu over the years. These people are farmers and fruit growers, about as working class as it gets in Taiwan. I myself have also seen how much of our support comes from average, hard working Buddhist families, who are happy to make small donations because they know the value of the monastery and its contributions to their lives.

Moreover, on a more Buddhist line of thought, there is the notion that "purity of giving" comes in many forms. If I may cite the MN 142 (= Bodhi, pg. 1105):


"There are, Ananda, four kinds of purification of offering. What four? ... There is the offering that is purified by the receiver, not by the giver. ... And how is the offering purified by the receiver, not by the giver. Here the giver is immoral, of evil character, and the receiver is virtuous, of good character. Thus the offering is purified by the receiver, not by the giver. ... The receiver's virtue purifies the offering. ..."


Obviously, the Buddha didn't seem to see this as an ethical dilemma. In fact, it almost seems that he is saying that if one were a pure person, receiving such impure offerings would be a good thing, benefiting the giver, too. On the other hand, preventing or discouraging people from making offerings to the three treasures, however, is itself problematic.

I, too, don't want to just look on the surface. But, I feel that your own claims are just much insinuation, without any real evidence, nor deeper examination of Buddhist understanding of giving. But, I guess once again, you just didn't want to miss your opportunity to cast FGS in a poor light, even to take things off topic. Must be difficult to see even the Sangha, so.

~~ Huifeng
Last edited by Indrajala on Mon Dec 17, 2012 8:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Removed remark about private individual.


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Re: Monastics & their family

Postby Huifeng » Mon Dec 17, 2012 8:31 am

Okay, I get it. It's okay to insinuate that monastics of FGS (like me) are living off the profits of "slave labor", but if I turn around and ask the same question of the person who so claims, that's not okay, and I'll get my post edited by the Mods. Got it!

~~ Huifeng



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