My Buddhism – A guide to differences amongst Chinese, Thai, Tibetan and Zhen Practices
Tuesday 2nd February, 2021 : 9.45am to 11.30am on Zoom
This was EMF’s first attempt to use Zoom’s potential for incorporating international speakers and participants in a meeting.
The first thing we had to take into account was that there is a considerable time difference between Hong Kong and the UK, so it had to be in a morning; the second, which we had not anticipated, was that monks at the Thai temple in Wimbledon have their lunch at 11am and we wanted Piyobhaso, the leader of the Community, to tell us about his experiences as a young monk brought up in Thailand, so we had to be ready for him to speak at 10am prompt.
What an excellent start it was. Thanks to some speedy collaboration between Piyobhaso and our ‘technical expert’, Kawther, we were treated to some excellent visual aids, showing how boys could become monks from age twelve, and including one picture of Piyobhaso himself in a group of young monks. We learnt how Thai men could spend periods, at various points in their lives, living as monks as part of ‘growing up’ or enjoying a period of ‘retreat’. As monks, they would earn their food by asking for alms and sharing the results. They followed the eight-fold path, had periods of meditation, were celebate and built up ‘good karma’, which would benefit them in future lives and the pursuit of Nirvana.
Changing the advertised order, Geoff then asked Wayne Lee to tell us about his life as the pupil of a Tibetan Lama. As he spoke, we were treated to excellent photographs of spectacular landscapes, amazing pieces of stone imprinted by the hands of Lamas, life in a Tibetan family, the shrinking body of a dead Lama, small outdoor closed booths in which people would spend periods of meditation and, most surprising of all, an amazing structure, with Wayne climbing up to reach a very small cave, which a deceased Lama had occupied. Wayne was told that there was no ‘ladder’ before the Lama’s death, because the Lama could ‘fly’ up and down.
Martin Goodson was previously a monk, now a lay follower from the Shobo-an Zen Centre (Rinzai Zen sect of Japanese Zen Buddhism). He came to London in the mid 80s and joined the Buddhist Society. He had been on a Zen retreat and had read books on Zen Buddhism with a Western slant as written by D.T.Suzuki, for example. He was encouraged to convert to Zen Buddhism. He described his personal experience and although he didn’t have supporting pictures he spoke very well. He outlined how Zen in the West has focused on meditation and mindfulness, whilst Zen in Japan focused on monastics guiding lay followers in their practice.
He talked about Buddha nature being the spiritual power in Buddhism. Through the ‘Eightfold path’, meditation and wisdom practice the Zen Buddhist is geared toward recognising the spiritual power in all beings/things. They will therefore understand compassion towards all beings and all things. He understood Zen Buddhism to be non theistic.
The final speaker, Chung Lo, is currently working as teacher and researcher at Hong Kong University and has worked with John and myself in putting together this webinar. He gave us some insights into current publications that he is preparing on the basis that nothing is ‘real’ or permanent but is constantly changing form. To the surprise of his Catholic family, he decided to become a monk and has lived a life mixing academic work with monastic life and service in various parts of the world. He chaired the panel answering questions grouped together from chat lists and put by John Molloy. Amongst the responses that emerged were:
Thai people are very concerned to improve their Karma by showing detachment from earthly possessions. They therefore endow elaborate Watts, often with gilded roof, which will contain their ashes after death.
The Chinese State now fully tolerates and even welcomes Buddhism, with Tibet clearly a part of China.
There are some exceptions to the rules about celebate active monks.
Time ran out and Margaret closed the meeting, thanking all who had contributed and commenting on the high level of commitment shown by Buddhists to unselfish behaviour.
Thirty-five people attended the meeting.
To watch a recording of this zoom event please click here