[Buddha-l] demise in asia

Piya Tan dharmafarer at gmail.com
Tue Sep 2 20:31:24 MDT 2008

Buddhists in Singapore and Malaysia are generally tacitly paranoid
or feel deprived like abused children or Cinderellas, especially in the
face of racial political in Malaysia, and in the face of the constant
presence of evangelism in Malaysia and Singapore.

I have Myanmarese students in my Sutta classes who regularly admit
they feel very stressed and depressed as soon as they arrive in
Singapore. Not only is the society here very different from traditionally
Buddhist Myanmar (forget about the asura-bound generals and their
minions). Evangelism is illegal there. Actually open evangelism is
technically illegal here, too, but we still see them doing it.

Back home, these young Myanmarese are not troubled by the
evangelists, but here they are constantly harrassed. Or at least
some of their friends are harrassed. The British once colonized
Burma, now you see banners in Myanmarese welcoming them in
St Andrews in the city centre.

The local Buddhists are trying to counter this evangelical flood with
a reverse Stockholm syndrome. They copy the evangelists. You
got hymns, we have Buddhist hymns (Onward Buddhist soldiers!);
you go business gospel groups, we have Buddhist businesses, too;
you make teaching religion fun, we do that to Buddhism too.

I think this is like someone coming to burn our houses with firebrands,
and we get bigger firebrands, and say hey look we have firebrands,
too, and we can burn our houses on our own! So now both sides
are homeless. Holy Cassandra, who are we listening to? who is our

The evangelists have bigger churches, better organized assemblies,
etc, because they have studied their Bibles well. Many of them are
professionals. So they marry the two into a colonial cocktail to
attract converts and hold them. They instruct their flock to stay in
the pen, insulated from others until they are blind enough to blind

Local Buddhists (western scholars call us "ethnic Buddhists"), or
many of us, don't know much about the Suttas, so we put them
aside, or simply knock them down. It's like we have beautiful
idyllic beaches, and crystal clear seas with glorious corals. We do
not appreciate them until the beaches and waters are crowded with
strange tourists who molest our children and deflower our maidens,
and mess up the beaches.

Lesson: if you do not know the Suttas, have no experience of
stillness through meditation or mindfulness, you have only an
empty core, waiting to be filled in by borrowed culture. Oh yes,
you will need a long resume of titles, qualifications, on business
cards, like what many monks carry now.

If you use only Buddhist hymns, you will get hymn Buddhists;
if you use only management, you will get management Buddhists;
if you you use businesses only, you will get money Buddhists;
which are not really bad in themselves, but we need to move on.

But what have you to move on with, except your music, your
management, your businesses.

We still have a "village" or "native" mentality here that anyone
with a "Dr" to his name knows a lot about Buddhism; or better
if he is white, he knows everything about Buddhisms. There's
your opening, lads, forget that sun-tan. The natives are still
welcoming Captain Cook and Columbus. This is the tail end
of it all, I hope.

(Happy note: A sweet Colombian student has paired up with a
handsome German Catholic boy in my Sutta class, and they
are both in Europe now. Be well and prosper!)

At present, if you come to Singapore and wish to look for a
"Singapore" Buddhist temple. you only have these flavours:
Thai, Sinhala, Myanmar, Tibetan, Japanese, or Chinese joint.
Sorry, no Singapore Buddhist temple or joint.

On the other hand, why are Ajahn Chah's western forest monks
becoming such a great global attraction now (for example)?
People know that they know their stuff, and they also behave in a
manner that evokes stillness in us.

I foresee the vital need for more committed lay (non-monastic)
Buddhist workers who know more Suttas and Dharma than the
monastics (not as a challenge, but on account of commitment),
meditate more than the monastics (if they ever do it); have less
money than the monastics, but more happiness; less sensual
pleasures than the monastics, but more satisfaction, contentment
and joy.

For three to five days a week, I see happy, laughing faces in
my Sutta classes, where most of whom on their own accord,
would naturally sit meditating before class starts.

If you are really a Buddhist, who is your refuge? Or, we could
put it another way, I'm not yet a really a Buddhist yet until I
awaken to true reality. Meantime, what am I doing to get there?

In recent years, I get a lot of non-Buddhists (esp evangelists
and Muslims) coming for counselling and meditation therapy.
They know I am Buddhist, and they know these methods will
help them. And I tell them, you don't have to be a Buddhist to
practise Buddhism. They quietly ask me for Buddhist literature,
and I give it to them.

Despite what I say, I'm confident they will find their way if they
are true seekers. That is my faith in the Three Jewels.

I think we ethnic Buddhists will be left far behind, so long as we
keep trailing the evangelists, and forget to count our own cows.

"If the world is a storm, I will not fall into it, but remain in
the still eye at peace with myself."

Jayarava, part of my reply to your email is above here.

With concerned metta,


On Wed, Sep 3, 2008 at 9:15 AM, jkirk <jkirk at spro.net> wrote:
> From your website article as linked below:
> "Comments: If Ms Ng felt that Buddhism is fine other than the
> idea of making offerings for blessings being a transaction, then
> she had given up Buddhism for the wrong reason - because true
> Buddhists know that offerings are made to remind themselves of
> various aspects of the Buddha's teachings. Any blessings that
> result comes from devotion and generosity in making offerings,
> not out of expectations of blessings."
> Well, most of the world's Buddhists, and people of other
> religions that incorporate this model,  are not "true"
> religionists, following your concept of "true Buddhists". Ms Ng
> seems to be well aware that the attitude of transactional
> relations between devotee and deity is indeed a prevailing
> notion.
> It's an almost universal human attitude of approach to a deity
> (and for most people in the world, Buddha is conceptualized as a
> deity, even if he isn't).The model is thus: I donate to you, I
> spend money on offerings to you, building temples, etc, and so
> you will I hope answer my requests or preserve me from enemies,
> sickness, etc. If the personal element of the transaction in
> Buddhism is absent, then expectations of earning tons of
> (abstract merit), compensate just as well.)
> In these situations (also found in any version of the Christian
> religion that prays to saints), the relationship between devotee
> and deity is one of patronage, echoing the familiar prevailing
> power structures within the society in question. These societal
> power structures are what is called patronage systems. There are
> patrons--rich or powerful abbots, businessmen, zamindars, police
> chiefs, etc-- and clients--those who need the help or support of
> patrons.
> This is the "way" of the world, if not the way of the Buddha.
> Best wishes, Joanna
> ==========================================================
> -----Original Message-----
> From: buddha-l-bounces at mailman.swcp.com
> [mailto:buddha-l-bounces at mailman.swcp.com] On Behalf Of [DPD Web]
> Shen Shi'an
> More on the recent state of Buddhism in Singapore:
> http://www.moonpointer.com/index.php?itemid=2478
> (A partial analysis of a news feature in Singapore's largest
> newspaper)
> _______________________________________________
> buddha-l mailing list
> buddha-l at mailman.swcp.com
> http://mailman.swcp.com/mailman/listinfo/buddha-l

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