[Buddha-l] A lecture by Richard Gombrich

Jo jkirk at spro.net
Fri Nov 11 20:40:38 MST 2011

Hi Randall,

I found myself agreeing with him too, and also recalling why I left being a
Christian--because of what I saw as the hypocrisy of churches and their
congregations and all the mumbo jumbo. I was pleased to note that Gombrich
doesn't care all that much for ritual.  
I also began wondering yet again on the whys of the evangelicals and other
versions of Christianity that are so hooked on ceremony and various taboos,
and it dawned on me what he also said (no doubt said many times by many
others, but sometimes one needs a certain text and moment to really 'get'
something)--that all those Christians whom I disregarded were just looking
for a benevolent parent, father or mother, to comfort them--that we all
crave comfort in a harsh world. He's right, I think, that the same motive
affects people in the other universal religions. 
Once when I was in Bangkok photographing decorated trucks, and asked my Thai
friend what the inscriptions on the painted and carved board over the top of
the cabs said, he replied, They say 'O Mother'......and then ask for
blessings. The image on these headboards was always the Buddha, under the bo
tree.  In India poor people used to say of a benefactor--a patron, a swami--
he is my maa-baap--my mother and father.  

Your story of the Thai monk is touching and instructive.  
Gombrich seemed to me to be appealing to the Thai sangha as an organisation.
His criticism seemed to be addressed to the institutional, public roles they
often play, or don't avail of sufficiently to preach the dhamma, rather than
as criticism of monks or Thai Buddhism in general.

Again, I thought as I read this, that's what I always thought was so
disappointing about our church organisations and ministers. That was back in
the forties. Then, nobody dared to oppose WW2 or the later Korean war. Many
of the more latitudinarian churches and fellowships have changed since then,
of course. Some of them as well as a few Buddhists try to fight the death
penalty. Some here are demonstrating against an upcoming state execution.

Thanks for sharing your Thai experience.


On Behalf Of Randall Jones
Sent: Friday, November 11, 2011 6:56 PM

Thank you, Joanna, for this link to a very worthwhile read. I found myself
agreeing with most of the points made.

I was just revisiting the who-is-a-Buddhist discussion in my mind yesterday
and remembering years ago when I was wondering if I was a "real Buddhist." I
made an appointment with a Thai monk at the Thai Temple just outside New
York and we talked about this. I got the feeling that he thought the
question was little silly, but even so, he told me that usually a few things
happened - talking about the dharma with a Buddhist teacher/monk, taking
refuge, sitting together. 
(He also shared a few fascinating stories about some renowned western
teachers who had ordained in Thailand.) On the train ride back into the city
I realized that we had done those things he described as how one usually
became Buddhist. I was rather surprised and also amused at how natural,
organic, it had been and how little ritualistic. The monk that I talked with
also offered to sponsor my ordination in Bangkok where I was shortly
traveling, but I decided against that.

I share this because my experience was so different from what Gombrich
relates. Perhaps the Thai temple did not have a big outreach program, but
certainly they were open to non-Thais, tfluent in English, and more than
ready to talk and make one feel welcome - and even feel a real Buddhist.


At 06:49 PM 11/11/2011, Jo wrote:
>Recently the question, who (or what?) is a Buddhist was discussed here.
>Gombrich has some provocative and, IMHO, worthwhile ideas to offer on 
>the question.
>To access page 2, do not use the Next link-go back to the top of the 
>page and click on Page2, etc.
>buddha-l mailing list
>buddha-l at mailman.swcp.com

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