more about my experiences at Pune
- Dear Nina and Yong Peng,
Thanks a lot for your kind compliments on my lecture at the University of Pune. I am now sharing more of my experiences.
Actually I gave another public lecture, sort of a dhamma talk, at a Buddhist temple on the invitation of a Buddhist organization. Even though Sanjay, one of the organizers thereof, called my lecture a "grand success", I don't think it was really a success.
First of all, the audience was the general Buddhist public, not all of whom know English well, so I had to do with an interpreter, a lady teacher from the English department. She did her best to translate my lecture into Marathi. The problem is: neither of us is a native English speaker. Her listening skill may not be perfect, but, then, neither is my pronunciation. So I suspect there must have been some misinterpretations in the Marathi version. If so, I was as guilty as she was.
The next problem is the topic. At the time I was invited, I offered to speak on the political philosophy of the Buddha and the organizers agreed. So throughout my lecture, I argued that the Buddha was not a democrat as popularly conceived. The audience seemed really interested and they asked many interesting questions after the lecture. So I thought at the time it was ok.
However, the organizers donated to me two books at the end of the ceremony, and one of them is "The Philosophy of Dr. B. R. Ambhedakar", a compilation of scholarly articles. When I opened the book randomly, the article title looking up at me is "Conversion, Recognition and Pluralism: Dr. Ambhedakar's Democratic Buddhism".
Well, I know at least that many modern Indian Buddhists, including the audience at my lecture, are followers of Dr. Ambhedakar, and that this great man is almost the second Buddha for them. But I knew very little about his philosophy before reading that book. For these people, Buddhism seems not merely a religion studied and practiced by individuals as we understand it; rather it is the foundation of a great social movement designed to uplift the downtrodden people to a respectable status.
Now I am not talking about who is right or wrong. I am talking about only my failure to study the background and mentality of the audience that would listen to me. A dhamma talk should be inspiring if nothing else. My lecture may have been thought-provoking but certainly not inspiring.
My second lecture has confirmed what I have always suspected: I am the kind of the person who should speak only in university lecture halls, write in obscure journals and publish obscure books. Speaking to the general public is a very important activity for Buddhism, I know that, but it seems not the kind of job I can really do well.
thank you. Neither was the Buddha a republican. ;-)
Actually, I am fairly interested in the kind of topics you discussed, not what I would hear in general public talks. Which is why I am interested in private research and study.
The unique points as I understand are:
1. the Sangha is (or is supposed to be) a democratic-style assembly.
2. there are political entities during Buddha's times which were republics, but built upon a deeply-rooted caste system, i.e. having a ruling caste.
--- In Pali@yahoogroups.com, ashinpan wrote:
So throughout my lecture, I argued that the Buddha was not a democrat as popularly conceived.
- Dear Yong Peng
> The unique points as I understand are:As for (1), I think Sangha cannot be called a democratic institution. Because:
> 1. the Sangha is (or is supposed to be) a democratic-style assembly.
> 2. there are political entities during Buddha's times which were republics, but built upon a deeply-rooted caste system, i.e. having a ruling caste.
1. At Sangha functions (so-called sanghakammas), the objection of a single monk can overrule the majority vote. (In other words, each monk carries a veto.) So any given function can succeed only if each and everyone present in the assembly gives their agreement.
2. On the other hand, as long as one thinks he is right, he needn't follow the majority; a dhammavaadii (who upholds the dhamma) is a dhammavaadii, whether he is in the minority or in the majority.
3. If a group of monks cannot reach agreement over a controversy, they must live separately.
Of course such regulations cannot be adopted in a lay society.
- Bhante and Gunnar,
thank you for your sharing. Yes, it requires the understanding of the Vinaya rules relating to monks' assembly to determine if the Sangha is democratic to today's standards. Vinaya is an area I am not familiar with.