Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Post by JKhedrup » Wed Feb 12, 2014 8:27 am

Maybe Indrajala could clarify.
He mentioned specifically he spoke to several monastics who had had a bad time in the organization - so his opinion is based on talking to people, which means it is informed.

As for the sorts of issues that he has mentioned, I think for the average layperson this won't present much of a problem. Especially if one is part of the tiny cohort of Westerners attending FGS classes in English. The administrative flavour of the organization and the style of monastic life will not really have any impact on such people. Personally, I find the liturgy and fa huei (Dharma Functions) of FGS very nice. I would say they have the most beautiful chanting of any temple I have heard.

However, for Westerners (and even non-Chinese Asians) interested in monastic life I do feel that Ven. Indrajala's information is useful to know. Unless one is remarkably adaptable and able to conform to traditional Taiwanese cultural norms (that even younger Taiwanese people find difficult these days), one is going to have a rough time with their FGS monastic experience.

The fact that there are only 2 Western Sangha of any significant or functioning standing in the entire FGS organization points to problems. As does the closing of the Men's Buddhist Training College for monks in South Africa, which was a flagship project for some time. If FGS is not interested in changing its standards to accommodate foreigners that is fine, but then it would be better to admit that "localization efforts" are at the most aimed at local people living near the temples, and certainly not part of the vision for the FGS Sangha.

The unwillingness to listen to the experiences of the many foreigners (Western, African and non-Chinese Asian) who "couldn't make it" through FGS is something that needs to be examined if they are really serious about localization. I along with other former foreign FGS monastic training drop-outs was sent a survey about my experiences awhile (2 years?) ago. There was never any follow-up. I can only assume that when the experiences were related to the FGS authorities by various people they were either unable or unwilling to listen.

Until there is some sort of meaningful dialogue on these issues I too cannot in good faith make a broad recommendation to foreign monastic aspirants about training through FGS.

I would have no qualms though about recommending the FGS educational opportunities and community activities to laypeople though.

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Zhen Li
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Post by Zhen Li » Wed Feb 12, 2014 1:32 pm

Ven. Khedrup,
I agree with all you say.

I essentially think that what needs to be made clear is that FGS actually has not localized, and actually isn't for an English-speaking Western life. When they attempted to get westerners, they might have made it seem like they are sufficiently accommodating, which was probably a mistake. If that's clear, I think that a lot of trouble would be avoided.
Sure, it does a number of good activities, though like I said I've met several ex-FGS monastics and they complained about mistreatment of some sort or another. I also spent some time with the organization. Their administrative decisions leave me wondering about the moral qualities of their top brass, too. Moreover, I have contacts which tell me things in private, both from Taiwan and elsewhere like India and Singapore. This is why I am morally obligated to warn people about getting involved in FGS. I wish I didn't have to.

I also don't issue these warnings lightly. This isn't just some random bloke on an internet forum complaining. You have to realize I'm burning some bridges and shooting myself in the foot. FGS is involved in the academic world and run conferences, like on translation of Buddhist Chinese texts, which relate to what I do. My public criticism and earlier blog entry (it got a lot of hits) basically means I won't have anything to do with FGS or their sponsored activities ever again, which closes some doors in the future presumably.
Well I can't really assess what you're talking about since it's vague.

But I'm not sure your criticism of FGS really disqualifies you from stuff, I can't really see that happening, just about every westerner still at FGS has criticised it before.

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