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  • Jun Pan
    started a topic When monastics disappoint

    When monastics disappoint

    Dear Bhikkhu Brahmali,

    In one of your comments on Bhante Sujato's blog, you stressed the importance of the monastic Sangha. In particular, you pointed out that "the monastic Sangha is indispensable for Buddhism to thrive, and that Buddhism will not survive long without a properly practicing Sangha." To this, I totally agree. As someone who lives in the U.S. but having to travel all the way to Perth for Buddhist training once a year, I am acutely aware of the importance of a properly practicing monastic.

    So my question is: what should we do when monastics disappoint us?

    Since the Perth ordination, I, along with the rest of the world that cares about Buddhism, had to observe the unfolding of a sequence of events, some comical, some shocking, and mostly depressing. I find myself asking this question again and again: How can this be the product of years of full-time practice on the Buddha's path to enlightenment? Some of the behavior seems ignoble even by conventional, non-Buddhist standard, and yet, we see them in monastics, both collectively as a group and individually as a person.

    The most recent example is about this monk who was trained in Bodhinyana for 8 years. For various reasons, he then turned his back on his teacher who mentored him for 8 years, his monastery that housed him for 8 years, and his Buddhist society that fed and supported him for 8 years. Where is the basic human decency? On top of it, it troubles me to know that this is a good monk, well-trained by an excellent teacher. I just cannot make sense out of this. How could this be the product of 8 years of diligent training? What went wrong? Or is there anything wrong here? What are we to learn from this example to guide our own practice?

    Monastics are extremely important for our practice. As such, it is highly consequential for our practice when their behaviors disappoint. In my personal practice, I feel extremely grateful to contemporary teachers like Ayya Khema and Ajahn Brahm. I honestly don't know where I would be without them, especially when having to hear about the various disappointing events involving some individual monastics or certain monastic groups. Do you think we should just ignore the negatives and focus on the positives? Shall we just forgive, forget and then move on? Shall we tell the disappointing monastics: see you in Nibbana

    I am sorry that this query went a bit long, and it took me several hours of writing and re-writing to get to this point. If it is not appropriate to post it on a public forum, I will be grateful if you could respond to my questions privately.

    with deep gratitude,

    Jun Pan

  • Abhishek Venkatesh
    replied
    Dear Venerable Ajahn Brahmali,

    I would like to share my own set of experiences with the topic connected with "When monastics disappoint"

    I've been in the situation where I have associated with a group of monks which does not follow the Buddha's teachings fully or follow the complete Vinaya(openly not following even the 10 precepts) and whose aim is not Nibbana, although they are putting effort in spreading Buddhism. Actually it is my own lack of judgement and the desire to associate with a Buddhist community which is geographical closer to my location which caused this problem even though the signs were pretty clear on why I should not involve myself too much with them.

    This has resulted in a lot of wrong views in my practice and has I think is the cause of a lot of personal problems that i've had for a few years since I started associating with them(although I don't have to proper proof to justify such a statement, other than a sequence of events and the state of my mind when I started associating with them and afterwards disassociating with them). I guess it was my own kamma which got me involved in the first place and resulted in me making even more bad kamma afterwards, i.e. encouraging others also to follow this set of monks.

    So from my personal life I would say that the danger of associating with monks who are not practicing well is really great and has made me realize to some extent what Ajahn Brahm meant by the statement "The world needs more arahants".

    Please comment if you feel the need to do so.

    With Metta

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  • Sunil Dandeniya
    replied
    Food for thought.

    Indeed, whether this kind of posts are some kind of beacons cutting through the fog - disillusion ... that is what I am wondering.

    From time to time, we see certain pointers which make us question our whole world of suppositions, assumptions.

    One would be wise certainly , if one gains some vantage point this way.........

    Leave a comment:


  • Jun Pan
    replied
    Dear Ajahn Brahmali,

    I don't know how to thank you enough for this reply. Borrowing from Ajahn Brahm's expression, your reply comes from a cool head and a warm heart.

    You are right, I have been taken over by negative emotions for the past week or so. This morning, when I read your reply, "Unfortunately, you've just got to get used to it. Disappointments are to be expected," I was able to laugh out loud at myself. What was I thinking? What was I expecting? Did I not hear this message on Dukha again and again from all the Dhamma talks on my iPod? I am a leaking bucket! And who does the negative emotion hurt the most? Ourselves! Dear Ajahn, thank you so much for your wise and timely reminder. It definitely has the effect of cooling down my very overheated head.

    Also, my heart is very much warmed by the sincerity of your reply and your caring concerns about how the situation might affect the faith of our lay Buddhists. Speaking just for myself, the first and now the second wave of the aftershock of the Perth ordination have been very educational. I am more convinced than ever of the urgency of the practice as well as the importance of the right practice. I am very grateful to Ajahn Brahm, you, and the Buddhist Society for everything you've done. I feel very inspired now. My spirit is lifted. I can now go take a walk and then go to my closet to meditate.

    with deep gratitude

    Jun

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  • Ajahn Brahmali
    replied
    Dear Jun,

    I don’t think there are any easy explanations for what is going on. I know you have been following things on Bhante Sujato’s blog, and no doubt that has given you some sense of the complexities of the situation. Below is my somewhat feeble attempt at answering your questions.

    So my question is: what should we do when monastics disappoint us?
    Unfortunately, you've just got to get used to it. Disappointments are to be expected; monastics are human beings. The key issue, perhaps, is not to let one’s confidence in Buddhism depend on any individual.

    Since the Perth ordination, I, along with the rest of the world that cares about Buddhism, had to observe the unfolding of a sequence of events, some comical, some shocking, and mostly depressing. I find myself asking this question again and again: How can this be the product of years of full-time practice on the Buddha's path to enlightenment? Some of the behavior seems ignoble even by conventional, non-Buddhist standard, and yet, we see them in monastics, both collectively as a group and individually as a person.
    I think it is important not to judge the entire Wat Pah Pong (WPP) Sangha, neither the Thai nor the Western, on the basis of what has happened. The situation is complex, as is usually the case when it comes to human interaction. One thing to bear in mind is that the Thai Sangha is very hierarchical, and much of the Western WPP Sangha has adopted this approach. In practice this means that a few senior monks tend to dominate Sangha business, and the majority of monks will often feel too intimidated to speak up. For the same reason, the concerns of lay people are often ignored. If you combine this with ignorance of the broader Buddhist world, you may get some unfortunate results.

    The most recent example is about this monk who was trained in Bodhinyana for 8 years. For various reasons, he then turned his back on his teacher who mentored him for 8 years, his monastery that housed him for 8 years, and his Buddhist society that fed and supported him for 8 years. Where is the basic human decency? On top of it, it troubles me to know that this is a good monk, well-trained by an excellent teacher. I just cannot make sense out of this. How could this be the product of 8 years of diligent training? What went wrong? Or is there anything wrong here? What are we to learn from this example to guide our own practice?
    I think the answer is that he places his faith first and foremost in certain Thai monks whose teachings may seem to be at odds with those of Ajahn Brahm. I suppose he felt he had to choose one or the other. When he was subsequently pressured to make an absolute choice, he went the way he did.

    Monastics are extremely important for our practice. As such, it is highly consequential for our practice when their behaviors disappoint. In my personal practice, I feel extremely grateful to contemporary teachers like Ayya Khema and Ajahn Brahm. I honestly don't know where I would be without them, especially when having to hear about the various disappointing events involving some individual monastics or certain monastic groups. Do you think we should just ignore the negatives and focus on the positives? Shall we just forgive, forget and then move on?
    It is all part of getting a realistic perspective on the Sangha. The reality is that the number of truly exceptional people, whether monastic or lay, is always going to be tiny. This is true even within a tradition as celebrated as the Thai Forest Tradition. So be careful not to take individuals as your refuge. Rather, simply remember that as long as we have the Dhamma, there will always be a small number of people who realize the teachings; we just don’t know exactly who they are. Keep your eyes and ears open, keeping asking questions, and you will be able to steer the right course.

    Please also remember that conditioning and delusion are very powerful forces. It is possible to be a good monastic and meditator, yet be profoundly deluded about certain issues. Anyone who is deluded hurts themselves, or their own cause, more than anyone else. If you remember this, you may be able to feel a sense of compassion instead of getting upset. To avoid conceit, it is also useful to remember that most of us – probably all of us – are deluded in some respect or other. Again, the right response is compassion towards ourselves and others. My point is that although it is important to take a stand on what is right, it is equally important not to get carried away and forget basic Buddhist principles. Let us be careful not to be swamped with negative emotions. If we're not, we lose the Dhamma in a much more profound sense. (By the way, this is in no way meant as a judgement of you.)

    If it is not appropriate to post it on a public forum, I will be grateful if you could respond to my questions privately.
    If you have the guts to bring these things up in public, you deserve a public response.

    With metta.

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