Best country to live in to practice Mahayana Buddhism?

General forum on the teachings of all schools of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism. Topics specific to one school are best posted in the appropriate sub-forum.
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tonysharp
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Re: Best country to live in to practice Mahayana Buddhism?

Post by tonysharp » Mon May 20, 2019 8:45 pm

Queequeg wrote:
Mon May 20, 2019 3:18 pm
The three poisons are celebrated and the rent is so damn high one has little or no leisure time to practice.
Ouch, sounds like Chicago. Perhaps New York is better for temporary visits.
“I, Shinran, do not have a single disciple of my own. The reason is that if I could induce others to call the nenbutsu through my own influence, then they might well be called my disciples. But it is utterly absurd to call them my disciples when they repeat the nenbutsu through the influence of Amida Buddha.”
Tannisho VI

jmlee369
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Re: Best country to live in to practice Mahayana Buddhism?

Post by jmlee369 » Tue May 21, 2019 2:10 am

KiwiNFLFan wrote:
Mon May 20, 2019 4:13 pm
The reason I asked was because I'm currently in South Korea and was looking for a new job. One of the main reasons I came to Korea was to learn more about Buddhism and practice it better (Buddhist population here is about 20% compared to the 1.5% of NZ). However, I have been unable to find a Buddhist community here. Therefore, I was wondering which Asian countries would be best to practice Buddhism and then look for a job there. However, due to a couple of factors, I decided to stay in Korea and have just accepted a new job in a different city.

I'm looking into Won Buddhism, as they have a regular Sunday service, unlike (it seems) the regular Korean Buddhist temples (Seon and Cheontae).
If you've been unable to find a temple with a regular Sunday service, you're doing something wrong, because practically every temple in the country has a Sunday morning service. At any of the major temples, you can walk in to the mid-morning meal offering ceremony any day and join in the service (this is a beautiful example of a typical meal offering ceremony offered at a major temple). A regular Sunday service will likely consist of a few modern hymns (part of a trend to modernise in the post-war era, imitating Christianity), an abbreviated meal offering ceremony, a dharma talk, and announcements. Of course, the major temples are all located in the mountains, but that's just the reality of Korean Buddhism. If you're looking for something catered to foreigners, Hwagyesa will probably be the best bet (associated with Master Seung Sahn, but under Jogye Order), and they have a regular Sunday service in English after the morning Korean service. There is a Kwan Um temple too, Mu Sang Sa. Song Gwang Sa was also actively catered to foreign monastics at one point, during Master Kusan's time, but I don't know if that is still the case.

If you're looking for something closer or more intimate, there are urban outreach centres too, but you have to be a bit careful because temples will sometime give out license to operate a centre under their name to unscrupulous businesses. Once you've been to a temple a few times, you may choose to formally become a member, pay dues, and get your Jogye Order membership card, which will grant you free access at temples that charge entrance fees.

For a fascinating insider's look into Korean Buddhist life from a foreign monastic's perspective, check out this talk.

Just so you know, Won Buddhism is considered a different religion, not a form of Buddhism.
KiwiNFLFan wrote:
Mon May 20, 2019 1:20 pm
Singapore sounds a pretty good place for a Westerner to practice Buddhism. I've been there and most of the people I met spoke at least some English.

In New Zealand, Auckland seems the best place to practice Mahayana Buddhism. To my knowledge there are 2 Chinese temples (Fo Guang Shan and a Pure Land temple), a Korean Jogye temple, at least one Vietnamese temple (possibly 2), at least 2 Tibetan centers/temples and a Won Buddhist center. There is also a Cambodian temple, a Thai Dhammakaya temple, a Burmese temple and a Sri Lankan temple in the Theravada tradition. Christchurch has a Fo Guang Shan temple as well. I'm from Dunedin, which has a Thai Dhammakaya temple and a Tibetan center/temple with resident lamas, but no standard Mahayana temple (though there is an SGI center and a Zen group).

It seems like non-Vajrayana Mahayana temples aren't really found outside the big centres of Auckland and Christchurch, and that it's either Theravada or Tibetan temples that are available. Why do you think there's a lack of mainstream Mahayana temples in much of NZ?
In the wider Auckland area there are around five Chinese Mahayana temples/centres, two Korean temples (one with formal Jogye affiliation, not that it means much), at least two Vietnamese temples, nine Tibetan centres, two Zen groups, SGI, and many Theravadan monasteries/groups. I'd argue that Tibetan centres are mainstream Mahayana, because most of the teaching is sutra-based, lam-rim type teachings.

The reason why Therevada and Tibetan groups are more popular? Language accessibility. Practically all the Tibetan groups teach in English, either directly by the teachers or through translators, because they are not aimed at the Tibetan diaspora (there were only 40 Tibetans in the whole country last I heard). You see this with the Ajahn Chah lineage temples as well, they have a huge amount of support from the Thai community, but also high rates of Pakeha participation (and last I heard, the monastics were Westerners too). In contrast, all the Chinese temples are built for Taiwanese/Chinese immigrants (as well as others from the Sinospere), same goes for the Korean and Vietnamese temples.

Regarding the Dunedin Tibetan centre, it was founded by Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey who was a major Gelug lama. It is almost inconceivable that he based himself in Dunedin of all places, yet he did so when instructed to go to NZ by HHDL. If you look at their programme, the teachings are all basic Mahayana, no tantra involved.

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Re: Best country to live in to practice Mahayana Buddhism?

Post by KiwiNFLFan » Tue May 21, 2019 4:57 am

jmlee369 wrote:
Tue May 21, 2019 2:10 am
KiwiNFLFan wrote:
Mon May 20, 2019 4:13 pm
The reason I asked was because I'm currently in South Korea and was looking for a new job. One of the main reasons I came to Korea was to learn more about Buddhism and practice it better (Buddhist population here is about 20% compared to the 1.5% of NZ). However, I have been unable to find a Buddhist community here. Therefore, I was wondering which Asian countries would be best to practice Buddhism and then look for a job there. However, due to a couple of factors, I decided to stay in Korea and have just accepted a new job in a different city.

I'm looking into Won Buddhism, as they have a regular Sunday service, unlike (it seems) the regular Korean Buddhist temples (Seon and Cheontae).
If you've been unable to find a temple with a regular Sunday service, you're doing something wrong, because practically every temple in the country has a Sunday morning service. At any of the major temples, you can walk in to the mid-morning meal offering ceremony any day and join in the service (this is a beautiful example of a typical meal offering ceremony offered at a major temple). A regular Sunday service will likely consist of a few modern hymns (part of a trend to modernise in the post-war era, imitating Christianity), an abbreviated meal offering ceremony, a dharma talk, and announcements. Of course, the major temples are all located in the mountains, but that's just the reality of Korean Buddhism. If you're looking for something catered to foreigners, Hwagyesa will probably be the best bet (associated with Master Seung Sahn, but under Jogye Order), and they have a regular Sunday service in English after the morning Korean service. There is a Kwan Um temple too, Mu Sang Sa. Song Gwang Sa was also actively catered to foreign monastics at one point, during Master Kusan's time, but I don't know if that is still the case.
I didn't know this. I did happen to visit Daegaksa in Seoul on a Sunday morning and there was a service going on, but I didn't know it was a regular thing. I'm guessing if I show up at a temple I can ask one of the monks and nuns what time the Sunday service is (I do speak some Korean but I'm not fluent).

If you're looking for something closer or more intimate, there are urban outreach centres too, but you have to be a bit careful because temples will sometime give out license to operate a centre under their name to unscrupulous businesses. Once you've been to a temple a few times, you may choose to formally become a member, pay dues, and get your Jogye Order membership card, which will grant you free access at temples that charge entrance fees.

For a fascinating insider's look into Korean Buddhist life from a foreign monastic's perspective, check out this talk.
Just so you know, Won Buddhism is considered a different religion, not a form of Buddhism.
I have heard this, but it appears that this is only in Korea. Koreans consider Catholicism and Protestantism to be separate religions too, whereas most Westerners (who are not fundamentalist Protestants) would disagree.

I think the reason it is not considered Buddhism is because Sot'aesan did not receive Dharma transmission from a Seon (Zen) Master but attained enlightenment on his own, the way Shakyamuni Buddha did. But Dharma transmission is only particular to Zen. Other Mahayana schools may have lineages extending to their founders, such as Nichiren Shoshu and its priesthood tracing itself back to Nichiren through Nikko or Jodo Shinshu considering even Shinran and Honen to be part of a lineage that goes back to Nagarjuna. But the concept of a Dharma transmission outside the Scriptures is only found in Chan/Zen/Seon/Thien, as far as I know. So a case can be made that Won Buddhism is not a Seon school, but Buddhism is not limited to Seon. Also, a New Zealand Won Buddhist man that I have corresponded with told me that Won Buddhism is very much considered Buddhism there. I have been reading the Won Buddhist scriptures, and they are very much Buddhist, filled with references to Shakyamuni Buddha.
KiwiNFLFan wrote:
Mon May 20, 2019 1:20 pm
Singapore sounds a pretty good place for a Westerner to practice Buddhism. I've been there and most of the people I met spoke at least some English.

In New Zealand, Auckland seems the best place to practice Mahayana Buddhism. To my knowledge there are 2 Chinese temples (Fo Guang Shan and a Pure Land temple), a Korean Jogye temple, at least one Vietnamese temple (possibly 2), at least 2 Tibetan centers/temples and a Won Buddhist center. There is also a Cambodian temple, a Thai Dhammakaya temple, a Burmese temple and a Sri Lankan temple in the Theravada tradition. Christchurch has a Fo Guang Shan temple as well. I'm from Dunedin, which has a Thai Dhammakaya temple and a Tibetan center/temple with resident lamas, but no standard Mahayana temple (though there is an SGI center and a Zen group).

It seems like non-Vajrayana Mahayana temples aren't really found outside the big centres of Auckland and Christchurch, and that it's either Theravada or Tibetan temples that are available. Why do you think there's a lack of mainstream Mahayana temples in much of NZ?
In the wider Auckland area there are around five Chinese Mahayana temples/centres, two Korean temples (one with formal Jogye affiliation, not that it means much), at least two Vietnamese temples, nine Tibetan centres, two Zen groups, SGI, and many Theravadan monasteries/groups. I'd argue that Tibetan centres are mainstream Mahayana, because most of the teaching is sutra-based, lam-rim type teachings.
The reason why Therevada and Tibetan groups are more popular? Language accessibility. Practically all the Tibetan groups teach in English, either directly by the teachers or through translators, because they are not aimed at the Tibetan diaspora (there were only 40 Tibetans in the whole country last I heard). You see this with the Ajahn Chah lineage temples as well, they have a huge amount of support from the Thai community, but also high rates of Pakeha participation (and last I heard, the monastics were Westerners too). In contrast, all the Chinese temples are built for Taiwanese/Chinese immigrants (as well as others from the Sinospere), same goes for the Korean and Vietnamese temples.
That makes sense. I met a nun at the Christchurch Fo Guang Shan and she didn't speak English. I used to attend the Thai Dhammakaya temple in Dunedin, and that was very much aimed at the Thai community, though some of the monks and laypeople did speak English. I wouldn't be surprised that the Chinese and Vietnamese temples are aimed at immigrants.

Regarding the Dunedin Tibetan centre, it was founded by Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey who was a major Gelug lama. It is almost inconceivable that he based himself in Dunedin of all places, yet he did so when instructed to go to NZ by HHDL. If you look at their programme, the teachings are all basic Mahayana, no tantra involved.
[/quote]

I have been to the Dunedin Tibetan centre a few times. They do have regular Guru Puja/Tsog and a monthy Tara Puja, but never saw any huge amount of tantric practices in their schedule. Do the Tibetan centres in the rest of NZ do more tantric practices?

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SonamTashi
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Re: Best country to live in to practice Mahayana Buddhism?

Post by SonamTashi » Tue May 21, 2019 9:03 am

Personally, I would avoid Won Buddhism. The view that it isn't Buddhism really isn't confined to Korea itself--it seems to be pretty commonly accepted by Buddhists in the West who are aware of it. Many say it is a cult--I'm not saying it is for sure, I'm just saying it is best to be safe. IMO, there is no need to take the risk (and possibly waste time in this precious human birth) of participating in a group that by many accounts is full of red flags. Your friend who is a Won Buddhist has a good impression of it--of course he does. If he didn't he wouldn't be a Won Buddhist. If you're still interested in Won Buddhism I would suggest approaching it with strong skepticism.

I also think it is important to address a misconception here about transmission: it isn't limited to Zen/Seon. Although, not all groups use the specific word transmission, lineage is extremely important in all forms of Buddhism. Even Pure Land, which places less emphasis on the importance of the teacher-student relationship than most, still emphasizes lineage, and all Chinese/Japanese descended schools discuss the importance of the patriarchs of the lineage.

The most important point here is that not just anyone can start a new school. The reason Nichiren, Honen and Shinran were able to start their own schools is because they were already ordained monks--in other words they already had transmission/lineage. If you don't have transmission/lineage, you can't just start your own school of Buddhism--this kind of thing is the textbook definition of the decline of the dharma.

Now this isn't all to say that lineage is all-important, the only thing to consider, or that groups with authentic lineage can't be dangerous, because clearly they can be. But if a group doesn't have lineage/transmission, then I guess you could say they've already failed the first test.

You also compared Won Buddhism's founder to Sakyamuni, but I think it is important to emphasize that Buddha's like Sakyamuni only appear when the dharma has disappeared. The next one is supposed to be Maitreya, and that's a long ways off to say the least, so I think it is safe to say Won Buddhism's founder isn't Maitreya. This is all just to say, even if you find that Won Buddhism's teachings contain truth, it is most likely going to be far safer, and far more worth your time to find a group with a clearly established lineage going back to either Sakyamuni Buddha or a Dharmakaya or Sambhogakaya Buddha.
:bow: :buddha1: :bow: :anjali: :meditate:

KiwiNFLFan
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Re: Best country to live in to practice Mahayana Buddhism?

Post by KiwiNFLFan » Tue May 21, 2019 3:51 pm

SonamTashi wrote:
Tue May 21, 2019 9:03 am
Personally, I would avoid Won Buddhism. The view that it isn't Buddhism really isn't confined to Korea itself--it seems to be pretty commonly accepted by Buddhists in the West who are aware of it. Many say it is a cult--I'm not saying it is for sure, I'm just saying it is best to be safe. IMO, there is no need to take the risk (and possibly waste time in this precious human birth) of participating in a group that by many accounts is full of red flags. Your friend who is a Won Buddhist has a good impression of it--of course he does. If he didn't he wouldn't be a Won Buddhist. If you're still interested in Won Buddhism I would suggest approaching it with strong skepticism.
Are there Western Buddhists that do not consider Won Buddhism to be Buddhist? I've read some of their scriptures and they seem thoroughly Buddhist, but presented in a different way.
I also think it is important to address a misconception here about transmission: it isn't limited to Zen/Seon. Although, not all groups use the specific word transmission, lineage is extremely important in all forms of Buddhism. Even Pure Land, which places less emphasis on the importance of the teacher-student relationship than most, still emphasizes lineage, and all Chinese/Japanese descended schools discuss the importance of the patriarchs of the lineage.

The most important point here is that not just anyone can start a new school. The reason Nichiren, Honen and Shinran were able to start their own schools is because they were already ordained monks--in other words they already had transmission/lineage. If you don't have transmission/lineage, you can't just start your own school of Buddhism--this kind of thing is the textbook definition of the decline of the dharma.

Now this isn't all to say that lineage is all-important, the only thing to consider, or that groups with authentic lineage can't be dangerous, because clearly they can be. But if a group doesn't have lineage/transmission, then I guess you could say they've already failed the first test.
Is it the lack of lineage that is the problem with Won Buddhism, or that Sot'aesan didn't receive Dharma transmission from a Seon master?

Also, what is the role of lineage in Theravada Buddhism?
You also compared Won Buddhism's founder to Sakyamuni, but I think it is important to emphasize that Buddha's like Sakyamuni only appear when the dharma has disappeared. The next one is supposed to be Maitreya, and that's a long ways off to say the least, so I think it is safe to say Won Buddhism's founder isn't Maitreya. This is all just to say, even if you find that Won Buddhism's teachings contain truth, it is most likely going to be far safer, and far more worth your time to find a group with a clearly established lineage going back to either Sakyamuni Buddha or a Dharmakaya or Sambhogakaya Buddha.
I thought that in Mahayana there are many Buddhas and that it is Theravada that believes in one Buddha per age. I also don't think that Won Buddhists call Sot'aesan a Buddha but simply claim he attained enlightenment like any of us can. There is no limit to the number of arhats.

The reason I am interested is because I know Won Buddhist temples have a regular service on Sunday. Until today, I didn't know that some regular Korean Buddhist temples also had such services. My inability to find a Korean Buddhist community was one of the factors that led me to look at other Buddhist countries.

KiwiNFLFan
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Re: Best country to live in to practice Mahayana Buddhism?

Post by KiwiNFLFan » Tue May 21, 2019 4:16 pm

By the way, SonamTashi, do you post on Reddit at ThuptenSonamTashi? If so, I remember your post criticising Dharmavidya of the Amida Shu group for practicing Vajrayana practices without the proper lineage.

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SonamTashi
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Re: Best country to live in to practice Mahayana Buddhism?

Post by SonamTashi » Thu May 23, 2019 10:30 am

KiwiNFLFan wrote:
Tue May 21, 2019 4:16 pm
By the way, SonamTashi, do you post on Reddit at ThuptenSonamTashi? If so, I remember your post criticising Dharmavidya of the Amida Shu group for practicing Vajrayana practices without the proper lineage.
Yep, that's me.

Yes, the problem with Won Buddhism is primarily the lack of lineage and authorization to teach. The lineage wouldn't necessarily have to be Seon, although in Korea that's the dominant school. As far as I know, the role of lineage is pretty similar in all Buddhist schools including Theravada, in that if you want to teach, then first you have to receive teachings and then be authorized to teach.

Supposedly the founder of Won Buddhism had no exposure to Buddhism, re-appropriated the ideas and concepts of the dharma, redefined them, and started his own school. That might not be true, I don't know enough about Won to say for sure. But it is something to watch out for, because you could go a long time reading Won literature and absorbing the teachings just to one day realize there is something off about the way they understand certain terms and teachings.

About Buddhas: there are many, many Buddhas, but there won't be another Buddha of Sakyamuni's type (a Supreme Nirmanakaya, the kind that introduces the dharma to the world and sets the dharma wheel in motion) in this world system, the saha world, until Maitreya Buddha. There are other Supreme Nirmanakaya's in other world systems/pure lands, like Amitabha in Sukhavati. There are also 3 other kinds of Nirmanakaya:

1.Nirmanakaya through birth, such as our teacher taking birth in the heaven of Tushita as the son of the gods, Dampa Tok Karpo.
2.Supreme nirmanakaya (Skt. uttamanirmāṇakāya; Tib. མཆོག་གི་སྤྲུལ་སྐུ་, Wyl. mchog gi sprul sku), such as Shakyamuni Buddha who displayed the twelve deeds here in Jambudvipa.
3.Diverse nirmanakaya (Skt. janmanirmāṇakāya; Tib. སྐྱེ་བ་སྤྲུལ་སྐུ, Wyl. skye ba sprul sku) that manifest in order to tame various beings from Indra to a young girl.
4.Craft nirmanakaya (Skt. śilpinnirmāṇakāya; Tib. བཟོ་བོ་སྤྲུལ་སྐུ་, Wyl. bzo bo sprul sku) such as the manifestation of the lute player in order to tame the gandharva Rabga, and as good food, bridges, pleasure gardens, and islands, as well as sculpted forms, paintings, woven images and cast metal statues.

https://www.rigpawiki.org/index.php?title=Nirmanakaya

Lineage usually traces back to a Supreme Nirmanakaya, a Sambhogakaya or a Dharmakaya.
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Re: Best country to live in to practice Mahayana Buddhism?

Post by jmlee369 » Thu May 23, 2019 12:13 pm

KiwiNFLFan wrote:
Tue May 21, 2019 4:57 am
I have heard this, but it appears that this is only in Korea. Koreans consider Catholicism and Protestantism to be separate religions too, whereas most Westerners (who are not fundamentalist Protestants) would disagree.

I think the reason it is not considered Buddhism is because Sot'aesan did not receive Dharma transmission from a Seon (Zen) Master but attained enlightenment on his own, the way Shakyamuni Buddha did. But Dharma transmission is only particular to Zen. Other Mahayana schools may have lineages extending to their founders, such as Nichiren Shoshu and its priesthood tracing itself back to Nichiren through Nikko or Jodo Shinshu considering even Shinran and Honen to be part of a lineage that goes back to Nagarjuna. But the concept of a Dharma transmission outside the Scriptures is only found in Chan/Zen/Seon/Thien, as far as I know. So a case can be made that Won Buddhism is not a Seon school, but Buddhism is not limited to Seon. Also, a New Zealand Won Buddhist man that I have corresponded with told me that Won Buddhism is very much considered Buddhism there. I have been reading the Won Buddhist scriptures, and they are very much Buddhist, filled with references to Shakyamuni Buddha.
It is not a matter of lacking Seon dharma transmission. Won Buddhism is a new religious movement that is based on Buddhism, but it does not identify itself, nor do other Buddhists recognise it, as a Buddhist tradition. It is similar to the relationship between Christianity and the Church of Latter Day Saints.

Seotaesan claimed he had an awakening through his own methods without a teacher (he initially set out to find a mountain spirit or immortals), but after reading the Diamond Sutra post-awakening, considered himself to have had a similar experience to Shakyamuni Buddha. Thus, there is the notion that Shakyamuni is the grandfather, and Seotaesan is the father of the Won Buddhist family. However, this is an unprecedented claim, as there is no Korean Buddhist teacher in history that I am aware of who claimed to be Shakyamuni Buddha's equal. You should know there are a number of people in early modern Korean history who claimed to have such enlightenment experiences, often borrowing from well established Buddhist concepts to describe their experience.

Furthermore, transmission lineages are not unique to Seon. For one, all monastics abiding by the Vinaya have the ordination lineage they rely on. Then in Korean tradition, there is the transmission for Vinaya masters, and also sutra lecturing masters, in addition to the Seon master transmission. There is also the system of eunsa (은사) and sangjwa (상좌) and the notion of monastic clan (문중). Won Buddhism doesn't have the sangha, so they do not have the basic unit of transmission within Korean Buddhism. The authority to transmit the three refuges and five precepts, for example, come from monastics beings ordained under the Vinaya. Without the three refuges, you cannot become a Buddhist.

The question of the unique Won Buddhist scriptures is also an issue. They do not take the Buddhist canon as a whole to be part of their tradition. Rather, they single out the Diamond Sutra, and rely primarily on their own scriptures. The big question of course is whether the teachings of Won Buddhism fulfil the four dharma seals or not. Their view of enlightenment sounds a lot like the merging of the atman with Brahma. But one must also consider whether they accept the Three Jewels or not.
KiwiNFLFan wrote:
Tue May 21, 2019 4:57 am
I have been to the Dunedin Tibetan centre a few times. They do have regular Guru Puja/Tsog and a monthy Tara Puja, but never saw any huge amount of tantric practices in their schedule. Do the Tibetan centres in the rest of NZ do more tantric practices?
Not really, the tantric practices are mostly taught and practiced when there are visiting vajra masters. Students can do individual or group retreats after receiving initiation and instructions of their own initiative. Most resident lamas humbly consider themselves unqualified to act as full vajra masters. The Kagyu centres do kriya tantra sadhanas on a regular basis. Otherwise the Gelug centres, like the Dhargyey Centre, mostly do a few pujas, but rarely any sadhana practices.

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Re: Best country to live in to practice Mahayana Buddhism?

Post by jmlee369 » Thu May 23, 2019 12:16 pm

It's also worth noting that only a minority of Jogye monks and nuns (and even fewer lay people) are seon practitioners. Most of the practice in the running of your average temple is liturgical devotions and rituals. The talk that I linked to will make this clear.

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Re: Best country to live in to practice Mahayana Buddhism?

Post by KiwiNFLFan » Thu May 23, 2019 3:27 pm

jmlee369 wrote:
Thu May 23, 2019 12:13 pm
KiwiNFLFan wrote:
Tue May 21, 2019 4:57 am
I have heard this, but it appears that this is only in Korea. Koreans consider Catholicism and Protestantism to be separate religions too, whereas most Westerners (who are not fundamentalist Protestants) would disagree.

I think the reason it is not considered Buddhism is because Sot'aesan did not receive Dharma transmission from a Seon (Zen) Master but attained enlightenment on his own, the way Shakyamuni Buddha did. But Dharma transmission is only particular to Zen. Other Mahayana schools may have lineages extending to their founders, such as Nichiren Shoshu and its priesthood tracing itself back to Nichiren through Nikko or Jodo Shinshu considering even Shinran and Honen to be part of a lineage that goes back to Nagarjuna. But the concept of a Dharma transmission outside the Scriptures is only found in Chan/Zen/Seon/Thien, as far as I know. So a case can be made that Won Buddhism is not a Seon school, but Buddhism is not limited to Seon. Also, a New Zealand Won Buddhist man that I have corresponded with told me that Won Buddhism is very much considered Buddhism there. I have been reading the Won Buddhist scriptures, and they are very much Buddhist, filled with references to Shakyamuni Buddha.


It is not a matter of lacking Seon dharma transmission. Won Buddhism is a new religious movement that is based on Buddhism, but it does not identify itself, nor do other Buddhists recognise it, as a Buddhist tradition. It is similar to the relationship between Christianity and the Church of Latter Day Saints.

Seotaesan claimed he had an awakening through his own methods without a teacher (he initially set out to find a mountain spirit or immortals), but after reading the Diamond Sutra post-awakening, considered himself to have had a similar experience to Shakyamuni Buddha. Thus, there is the notion that Shakyamuni is the grandfather, and Seotaesan is the father of the Won Buddhist family. However, this is an unprecedented claim, as there is no Korean Buddhist teacher in history that I am aware of who claimed to be Shakyamuni Buddha's equal. You should know there are a
number of people in early modern Korean history who claimed to have such enlightenment experiences, often borrowing from well established Buddhist concepts to describe their experience.
Yeah, I've read accounts of Seotaesan's enlightenment, and there was a mountain spirit involved. Through hearing his story, I just thought it showed that people can still attain the same enlightenment that Shakyamuni Buddha attained. Did Seotaesan claim to be Shakyamuni's equal (or did other Won Buddhist teachers after his death claim it?)
Furthermore, transmission lineages are not unique to Seon. For one, all monastics abiding by the Vinaya have the ordination lineage they rely on. Then in Korean tradition, there is the transmission for Vinaya masters, and also sutra lecturing masters, in addition to the Seon master transmission. There is also the system of eunsa (은사) and sangjwa (상좌) and the notion of monastic clan (문중). Won Buddhism doesn't have the sangha, so they do not have the basic unit of transmission within Korean Buddhism. The authority to transmit the three refuges and five precepts, for example, come from monastics beings ordained under the Vinaya. Without the three refuges, you cannot become a Buddhist.
I didn't know that Korean Buddhism had different transmissions like you mentioned. I've heard that Won Buddhism doesn't exactly have monks and nuns like standard Korean Buddhism. Their clergy are called 교무 (kyomu), which I hear means 'one dedicated to the teachings', and apparently they can be married like Japanese priests.

I have no idea if Won Buddhists take refuge in the Three Jewels. However, Won Buddhism does not have the list of Five Precepts that standard Buddhism does - they have thirty precepts, divided into three grades. Initial members take the first 10. The first three are the same as the first three of the Five Precepts, and the rest are:
4. Do not consume intoxicants without due cause. 5. Do not gamble or play idle games. 6. Do not use harsh speech. 7. Do not fight without due cause. 8. Do not embezzle public funds.9. Do not lend money between close friends without due cause. 10. Do not smoke tobacco without due cause.

The other 20 can be found in chapter 11 of the Principal Book of Won Buddhism.
The question of the unique Won Buddhist scriptures is also an issue. They do not take the Buddhist canon as a whole to be part of their tradition. Rather, they single out the Diamond Sutra, and rely primarily on their own scriptures. The big question of course is whether the teachings of Won Buddhism fulfil the four dharma seals or not. Their view of enlightenment sounds a lot like the merging of the atman with Brahma. But one must also consider whether they accept the Three Jewels or not.
I remember speaking to a Won Buddhist not long after I arrived in Korea. He told me that while they do believe in rebirth, they don't believe in heaven, hell or the other realms, but that you simply come back as a human (what about animals?!). I also remember him saying that attaining enlightenment like Seotaesan doesn't free you from rebirth and you just keep coming back over and over again. However, in the Scripture of the Founding Master I came across a reference to hell, heaven etc. Not sure what to make of this.

I was thinking of getting involved with them, mainly because they have a regular service, but I'm not so sure now. You said that regular Korean Buddhist temples have a Sunday service? Does it have a special name, or is it just referred to as 일요일 불공 (iryoil bulgong)? Would asking a monk or nun "스님, 일요일 불공은 몇시있습니까?" get the service time?

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Re: Best country to live in to practice Mahayana Buddhism?

Post by jmlee369 » Fri May 24, 2019 12:45 am

KiwiNFLFan wrote:
Thu May 23, 2019 3:27 pm
I was thinking of getting involved with them, mainly because they have a regular service, but I'm not so sure now. You said that regular Korean Buddhist temples have a Sunday service? Does it have a special name, or is it just referred to as 일요일 불공 (iryoil bulgong)? Would asking a monk or nun "스님, 일요일 불공은 몇시있습니까?" get the service time?
It's usually called 일요법회. Most temples will also hold a service on the lunar 1st and 15th days. Then there are the standard Buddhist holidays as well. If you find a temple you like, ask for a calendar and it should list the major Buddhist holidays and lunar dates. You could also ask the lay staff at the temple as well.

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Re: Best country to live in to practice Mahayana Buddhism?

Post by dude » Fri May 24, 2019 6:03 am

I suggest that you practice to the best of your ability where you are and you will naturally find a teacher or one will find you.

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Re: Best country to live in to practice Mahayana Buddhism?

Post by Yavana » Fri May 24, 2019 6:57 am

dude wrote:
Fri May 24, 2019 6:03 am
I suggest that you practice to the best of your ability where you are and you will naturally find a teacher or one will find you.
I'd second that. For example, people are dying to get into Sukhavati but you have to be born there if you want to live there.

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Re: Best country to live in to practice Mahayana Buddhism?

Post by AkashicBrother » Mon May 27, 2019 3:13 pm

Miroku wrote:
Mon May 20, 2019 9:20 am
I'd follow Nemo's advice. If you want to go to a country in asia to practice buddhism, such things as lifestyle and how expensive things are can be really crucial in your endevour. Japan has one good point and that is that in the countryside they are giving away houses if I am correct. But I doubt that you will get one if you are a foreigner, they do not really like that, plus things can be pretty expensive there. China is off at the moment. It is on its way to another humanitarian catastrophy and kills its own citizens. Not really a place you would like to be in.

Mongolia could be fun. If I am correct buddhism makes a huge a comeback there. Especially tibetan gelug school. Let's also not forget about north of India where tibetan refugees are. There are some of the best masters out there and also decent oganisations. Not sure how expensive it is there tho.

And finally last but not least... your own country. To practice dharma you can just stay where you are and try to find a way.

china has lots of problems. but i dont think it will end up in some massive catastrophe. there are no large scale things going in china, tough there are eventual injustices. what china has of negative does not compare to countries such as saudi arabia or afghanistan. but china in my view looks kinda isolated from the west (dont know if macao or hong kong are isolated, but the statistics shpow macao is more religious than hong kong or most mainland china) . even in india or nepal you have to wait 11-12 years to get naturalisation , although there is the permanent residency possibility. the most buddhist provinces in mainland china are tibet, fujian and zhenjiang.

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Re: Best country to live in to practice Mahayana Buddhism?

Post by Miroku » Mon May 27, 2019 9:19 pm

AkashicBrother wrote:
Mon May 27, 2019 3:13 pm
china has lots of problems. but i dont think it will end up in some massive catastrophe. there are no large scale things going in china, tough there are eventual injustices. what china has of negative does not compare to countries such as saudi arabia or afghanistan. but china in my view looks kinda isolated from the west (dont know if macao or hong kong are isolated, but the statistics shpow macao is more religious than hong kong or most mainland china) . even in india or nepal you have to wait 11-12 years to get naturalisation , although there is the permanent residency possibility. the most buddhist provinces in mainland china are tibet, fujian and zhenjiang.
Oh there is something huge going on. China is worsening situation for Tibetans and lets not mention their ethnical muslim population. They are sending men into work camps and force marrying women. China is doing a lot of large scale atrocities.
“Observing samaya involves to remain inseparable from the union of wisdom and compassion at all times, to sustain mindfulness, and to put into practice the guru’s instructions”. Garchen Rinpoche

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Re: Best country to live in to practice Mahayana Buddhism?

Post by Nemo » Mon May 27, 2019 11:35 pm

For a Westerner I think the best solution if you can afford it is 2 countries. Get a quiet place in the country like a cabin and spend winters in a more Buddhist locale. Then you can have the best of both worlds. In many instances Dharma is best practiced far away from the din of humanity. Even a tiny home on a relatives property would suffice.

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Re: Best country to live in to practice Mahayana Buddhism?

Post by Miroku » Tue May 28, 2019 9:49 am

Nemo wrote:
Mon May 27, 2019 11:35 pm
For a Westerner I think the best solution if you can afford it is 2 countries. Get a quiet place in the country like a cabin and spend winters in a more Buddhist locale. Then you can have the best of both worlds. In many instances Dharma is best practiced far away from the din of humanity. Even a tiny home on a relatives property would suffice.
I mostly agree. Especially with the tiny home solution. Really reducing ones costs, etc. And therefore work less or save more money for teachings and longer retreats is a way to go. I don't think we have to go to a "buddhist" country. Once we have teachings and a teacher we are our own "buddhist country". It would be best to park up the tiny home near ones sangha center or at least some stupa so one can go for a walk and gain merit, or have retreats near ones place. But really I don't think there is much need to leave country. One of my friends lives 8 months in a room in a flat and meditates and works for 4 months so he has money to live on during the retreat.
“Observing samaya involves to remain inseparable from the union of wisdom and compassion at all times, to sustain mindfulness, and to put into practice the guru’s instructions”. Garchen Rinpoche

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Re: Best country to live in to practice Mahayana Buddhism?

Post by Sentient Light » Wed May 29, 2019 6:11 pm

Miroku wrote:
Tue May 28, 2019 9:49 am
Nemo wrote:
Mon May 27, 2019 11:35 pm
For a Westerner I think the best solution if you can afford it is 2 countries. Get a quiet place in the country like a cabin and spend winters in a more Buddhist locale. Then you can have the best of both worlds. In many instances Dharma is best practiced far away from the din of humanity. Even a tiny home on a relatives property would suffice.
I mostly agree. Especially with the tiny home solution. Really reducing ones costs, etc. And therefore work less or save more money for teachings and longer retreats is a way to go. I don't think we have to go to a "buddhist" country. Once we have teachings and a teacher we are our own "buddhist country". It would be best to park up the tiny home near ones sangha center or at least some stupa so one can go for a walk and gain merit, or have retreats near ones place. But really I don't think there is much need to leave country. One of my friends lives 8 months in a room in a flat and meditates and works for 4 months so he has money to live on during the retreat.
Indeed. At this point, there are Buddhist monasteries dotting both coasts of the United States. If you can afford to fly out to Asia for a retreat, you can definitely fly out to Florida or Pennsylvania or California. I imagine the situation in Europe and Australia are fairly similar these days.
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Re: Best country to live in to practice Mahayana Buddhism?

Post by WesleyP » Thu May 30, 2019 2:03 pm

I actually went to Abilene, TX to find support for residential ICT living. (Right now I am in Granbury.) -Which is Texas in the USA- . . .

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Re: Best country to live in to practice Mahayana Buddhism?

Post by AkashicBrother » Thu May 30, 2019 7:28 pm

Miroku wrote:
Mon May 27, 2019 9:19 pm
AkashicBrother wrote:
Mon May 27, 2019 3:13 pm
china has lots of problems. but i dont think it will end up in some massive catastrophe. there are no large scale things going in china, tough there are eventual injustices. what china has of negative does not compare to countries such as saudi arabia or afghanistan. but china in my view looks kinda isolated from the west (dont know if macao or hong kong are isolated, but the statistics shpow macao is more religious than hong kong or most mainland china) . even in india or nepal you have to wait 11-12 years to get naturalisation , although there is the permanent residency possibility. the most buddhist provinces in mainland china are tibet, fujian and zhenjiang.
Oh there is something huge going on. China is worsening situation for Tibetans and lets not mention their ethnical muslim population. They are sending men into work camps and force marrying women. China is doing a lot of large scale atrocities.
i agree that china has some problems. but i thought china did not persecute tibetans as it did before ? never heard of women being forced to marry though, isnt this ilegal and oficialy forbidden ?

concerning the work camps. lits off-topic , but lets get real. jihadism in xinjiang is a fact (dozens die each year there) and lets just say orthodox islam is objectively terrible (read their texts before judging me, specially the hadith and the tafsir) . the morality of these prisions depends if they are sending random muslims (in which case its a crime against their human rights) or if they are just sending the fundamentalist extremists , which is part od counter-terroism . persecuting muslims as individuals is wrong because most are just decent people, but the ideology needs to be criticized and if possible, replaced by something else (other religion/world view) .

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