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Buddhadharma : Spring 2018
BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 15 COMMENTARY Western monastics are an endangered species. At least seventy five percent of Western monastics in the Tibetan tradition dis robe, and the rates in other traditions appear to be similarly high. In many cases, Western monastics are neither trained and supported in the traditional way by their teachers, nor are they supported by Western Buddhists. They are not fully accepted by the traditional Buddhist institutions in Asia, and at the same time, they are not seen as part of the new lay Buddhism and secular movements taking hold in the West. At best, they can be put on a brochure to vaguely suggest the peace or discipline that popular culture associates with Buddhism. This is the land scape in which Western monastics find themselves. The Buddha chose to be a monk. He could have stayed in the palace and meditated. He could have remained a householder, but he chose to go forth to homeless life “for the benefit of the many.” This is a part of the dharma we cannot ignore. Renun ciation is highly praised in the suttas, as is a life of simplicity and morality. Why has the monastic path failed to take hold in the West ern world? Part of it can be explained by white supremacy, the unconscious belief that people of European descent know better than Asian Buddhists. Another part of it is simply the capital istic impatience of our age—in a society that measures success materially, monasticism just doesn’t make sense. On a deeper level, though, it stems from a lack of knowledge about the importance of the fourfold sangha and the centurieslong role monastics have played, both in stabilizing and preserving the dharma and in creating places of refuge for lay practitioners. The Fourfold Sangha Still Matters by Ayya Yeshe