Wednesday, January 5, 2022

2022 and upcoming Chinese New Year!


Much has happened since 2017! Living a full life in robes these many years, we find that time turns fast! 2022 brings us a pause since the Covid19 pandemic started in 2019 December in the USA and elsewhere we have had to adjust to non-travel as best we can.

Some we lost, many persevered. 2022 is hopeful with new treatment being a Covid19 pill in the works. In spite of the breakout infections and normal flu season at the start of 2021 Winter we still are continuing to travel, unless there is a travel ban in place.

Some in the Sangha are spreading doom and gloom, misappropriating the idea of a "dharma-ending" age to our current pandemic. But it's wrong to hang on tightly to negative thinking, it's not wrong to have it but it's wrong to spread it as a dharma teaching. 

What kinds of doom and gloom?
Climate change:
Humanity can survive as our climate changes. What Sangha can do is support climate by reducing pollutants in their life, and encouraging re-forestation among other things to support healthy planet living.

Why are so many fearful? Because their laity are. Sangha are human and subject to the same emotions and life challenges as anyone else. 

Elderly population is large:
Also a very large segment of population in Sangha and householders are elderly, with the current groups being the most favored as reliable donors. Sangha who fail to attract younger longer-lasting donors will see crisis, and many have undergone shuttering their doors and moving on because this because of sheer lack of new younger laity.

High percentage of time focused on Finances:
Sangha need to focus on their training but is forced into focusing on finances instead. That's our reality. Lands are not donated by kings, the wealthy or family as much as they used to be (if that, irregularly in the past). Nonprofits are treated like businesses these days. Taxes are due. Religious organizations in the USA are treated like businesses not granted exemptions locally or nationally.

Recommendations: Focus on what is reality

So, to relieve this pressure Sangha should rethink their approach to donors, finances and fit into the world think regarding money, it's use and place in their lives. And forgoing money is not an option. Someone has to pay the bills, be responsible for finances and plan for future growth in the Sangha.

Western people in robes receive less or none:

Western born people who join the Sangha anywhere in the world have financial stress all of the time they are in robes in a host temple. They worked in their life for a salary. Then suddenly it changes while in robes - the money stops, the temples are supposed to provide all their needs, pity most do not. Donors are not easy to give donations to Western people because they see us as rich and our countries as rich. They have to be cajoled and nagged to do so by resident Sangha who are the same culture and race as their laity. This makes it hard to accept if you are Western (no matter race) if you live all your robed life aware of that disparity, even that taints the money given on your behalf because it is not a purely given act of dana.

Asian Sangha feels the pressure the most: Support them more, reduce stressors.

Consider the life our resident Sangha who are Asian, it must be such awful pressure to constantly cajole laity to donate and volunteer at the temple, they have to worry about money to pay the temple bills, mortgage and marketing, having enough rewards for laity, buying enough food for laity and services, setting up services, enough supplies for the public, finding enough items for gift shop to to sell in order to buy daily groceries; over and above their private needs. Kudos to them, for it is not easy to deal with the modern life requirements regarding money in religious life. They are often over kind to Western people who while train in robes are often awkward company because they are not understanding the subtitles of the temple culture, even some to give up their personal items, spaces, or favors so the Westerner stays or won't complain. 

A few men in robes receive it all while women work in the kitchen: Equity now.

In larger places Western men in robes are often lifted up by the entire resident Sangha to be untouchable, oddly a few wear robes different from their supportive resident Sangha, travels wherever, and are scholars; doesn't work in the kitchen like Western women have to or in laboring areas of the temple. These men are often given higher education while Western women are denied education, all expense paid by their community while Western women have to pay for theirs; many times these men fail in robes and later disrobe to the chagrin of their supportive Sangha while most of the Western women remain in robes, in poverty. 

What you can do in 2022?

Strive to become independent of this system that has thwarted the overseas Sangha since modernization changed all religious organizations with residents into businesses. The main emphasis on temples in the west founded by overseas Sangha or Buddhist laity is on gathering money, chanting, blessings or crafting. 

Western founded temples are no better, all shiny, expensive, up-scale in building, foods and design. This is the norm now. But it takes up a large amount of resident Sangha time to keep the money coming in, cajoling laity, creating new or trendy activities based on the new "money model" of temple management.

Sangha are not royalty: We work when the need is great. Laity support necessary.

There is no shame in fundraising but there is in the act of cajoling laity.  Raise money but do it honestly. Buddha needed financing, dana was the means to support Sangha both parts, Bhikshuni and Bhikshu. Buddha was the son of a King and received dana, even demanded support from other area Kings, only his immediate family who were cousins, uncles that joined his Sangha benefitted; there were outlying Sangha members who starved to death, suffered from illnesses, took jobs to survive while in robes or ran businesses. The sufferings of his outlying Sangha were well known to him and subjects of many sutras, stories, and subsequent Vinaya changes. Those are the facts. Look them up.

Resource disparity: too much self-sacrificing so become more independent

Fairness in the Sangha regarding sharing wealth, resources, and the 4 requisites has always been of concern to us. It's been a struggle since Buddha's time to have equality in distribution of the 4 requisites. I haven't had new robes offered in years. Some Sangha get offered 4 or more times per year.

So in 2022 become more independent. Don't be self-sacrificing so much that you become a servant to the temple, in place of your cultivation and financial stability. Bhikshu and Bhikshuni are not servants, we should never be in that position.

Bhikshu and Bhikshuni need to think of the future generations and what would be the good in institutionalizing a system based on money? Is that not the anti-thesis of Sangha cultivation? 

Recommendation: Avoid these and any other coercion:

Money is necessary, no need to feign antiquated attitudes regarding money. 
Some common phrases abound:
"Oh, I don't touch money!" Reality is there are needs to meet like make car payments, mortgages, rent, utilities, health insurance, etc. Online, credit card, debit card, cash are all forms of money, even barter (exchange money valued goods or services instead of money).

It is common to raise funds through coercion in religious settings even our temples, even relying on emotional threats or accusations of lack of faith to get the money!

"What! You don't have enough faith in the Buddha!" Implies if you did have faith, you would donate, listen to and meet the Sangha demands. It's devious manipulation of the laity. You should not do this, it makes people afraid, mistrust the Sangha, feel undue pressure to pay money to a temple, and just is immoral.

Mental strife is a key to manipulation by fundraising Sangha everywhere. 

Mental illness in the laity or the laity's family is key to emotional manipulation to get money from them. "If you love them enough..." "If your cultivation/faith was good enough ..." 

Faith, devotion, cultivation, dedication, all terms used to pull money out of laity and new donors.

Every religious group does this. It does not make it right. 

What is really going on is this: "Hey! If you want me to spend time with you, pay some money. If you want me to spend hours listening to you rave, pay some money. If you want to delay a solution, pay some money.  If you want to go off your meds or avoid being in hospital, pay some money."

KEY: The mentally ill who wants to avoid medications, hospitalization, or reality is an easy target for any religious group. It's so easy to lay it all on the Buddha or Bodhisattva instead of dealing with the matters at hand. Western medicine works well when it's done with education, support via therapy, and acceptance. So does Chinese medicine combined with therapy, Western medicine and acceptance.


Karma good or bad is used as manipulative means to exploit laity for participation in services, donate time and money to their temples.  This is termed 'faith' 'believe in' in God-based religions and is used as a tool for getting money too.


Admittedly, who would willingly work 8-12 hour day to help out a temple who is getting ready for a weeks long chanting service and keep coming daily to help out for 4 to 8 hours after the 12 hour daily service???? A very good person but they are far and few. 

So, in future places to build a temple go back to basics of what it really was, a Sangha residence. A humble place, just for Sangha to gather and rest. No more fancy ultra-expensive palace-like temples. Go back to humble homes.

Recommendation: Pandemic lessons, go back to simple living, avoid unhealthy places

2022 The pandemic was a disaster to Sangha who operate the chanting for money model, they had to flip to online streaming, distance donor solicitations, and shut their doors if they were big temples subject to shut-downs locally. 

Sangha, change what you can. If you can survive without chanting for money then do so. If not, get a job where you can move out and move on, stay in robes, keep the Vinaya, become more travelled, more education (without debt), and do not give up. 

It is easier for Western people to do this in Western countries because our culture supports us to work at paid jobs. Eastern people also have worked since Buddha's time in robes. And it's still happening, so take heart for those so isolated they need to work.  There is no shame in it. Even stalwart Sangha who upheld the "I'm not working, so I am good Sangha" view work a job or two for money. Stories are told everywhere, we have a small world you know.

Recommendation: ADAPT and when in doubt adapt! 

Adapt to the conditions of the time we are in, cultivate when you can, keep the Vinaya, stay in robes, keep your health up, stabilize your money and life, enjoy the peace of it.

Happy New Year, may you be successful in the new year!

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