Buddhist Festival in Surabaya

I’m just back from Surabaya, where I was honored to take part in an amazing Buddhist Festival. Oh, and they had this:

The Genesis Hall, where you get to experience the cycles of the cosmos first hand!

There was heaps of great stuff there, including a detailed history of Buddhism in Indonesia (I never realized that there has actually been a continuous presence of Buddhism there since the 2nd century); plenty of celebrity endorsements of Buddhism (!); lots of quotes from all kinds of Buddhist texts, including some that I’ve never heard of; and even a Thai forest tradition monk making tooth sticks and jackfruit-tree dye.

I had the chance to catch up with some old friends and make some new ones. But the real thing is not the displays and artwork, but the kindness of the people. I spoke on a panel on the Triyana (Three vehicles), and the emphasis on harmony was very much present. So many people from so many traditions, all co-operating and working together. It is very inspiring and wonderful to see.

As so often in Asian Buddhist communities, I heard many times the concern over aggressive Christian evangelizing and conversion of Buddhist youth. I must admit, I don’t really think it is such a problem. We shouldn’t worry about what other religions do, but about how we as Buddhists live. If we live in harmony, in kindness, and find creative and imaginative ways of communicating the Dhamma, things will work out. The Dhamma has its own persuasive power, we should just trust that. It is only when Buddhists fall apart into bickering and backbiting, tearing each other to pieces over nothing at all, that we have a problem. But that is our problem, not the Christians’.


10 thoughts on “Buddhist Festival in Surabaya

  1. Sensuality connects people…. What would Ajahn Boowa have said seeing such? Maybe: “If I would have enough *h** I would *h** as longs till it is full to the top.” But as such people with courage have already left, you might join to present tooth sticks and jackfruit-tree dye museum parade of the tradition clowns.

    …The Genesis Hall

  2. Gee, Sujato… If your view is that nibbana is the ceasing of all consciousness and awareness, why would anyone want to join such a “suicide club”? Or am I misunderstanding your view?

    • Jackson,

      It does appear to swing too far toward an annihilationist view. I don’t get the point, either. Bhante once wrote this:

      Frankly, I think the final goal of spiritual life should be a bit scary. It’s meant to be a revolution, a fundamental overthrow of all values. If not, what are we left with? The popular idea of heaven as a kind of family reunion – Christmas dinner forever? A universal eternal consciousness that is somehow not conscious of anything? Or, quite simply, peace?

      He appears to be overreacting to concerns about the Buddha’s teachings being reduced to a path toward eternalism. However, I wouldn’t say it amounts to a “suicide club.”

      Frankly, despite the arguments of Bhante Sujato and Bhikkhu Brahmali, I have found over the last six months or so contemplation of viññāṇa anidassana – as distinct from the six types of consciousness that arise with all the sense objects of our worldly experience through the sense gates – to be very helpful in attempting to understand something of the arahant’s meditative experience of Nibbana.

      Anyway, each being has to come to the Dhamma when ready and, when ready, will find that “the Dhamma has its own persuasive power.” Rather than worry about whether or not Nibbana is an appealing goal, I think Bhante’s correct when he says that “if we live in harmony, in kindness, and find creative and imaginative ways of communicating the Dhamma, things will work out.”

    • It’s not needed to search what has been written. If somebody sees Monks participating on such events, that it’s clear that they have not a little interest to practice, follow the Vinaya or even to try to putting suffering an end.

      There is also no doubt that all was seen, hear and told… but who cares. As long as corrupt are able to corrupt laypeople they will always gain the needed support to participate on their table and share the common food, incl. ticked as walking is much to hard if the belly so filled and the mood the wheel turner.

      If you practice according the Dhamma, you might find harmony within. If you seek for harmony outside is all you cause further suffering birth and death.

      Its really outstanding… and also endless shamelessness.

    • Johann,

      If monastics were the only people in the world, then I might find something of value in what you’ve written. But monastics are not the only people in the world, and the Buddha clearly did not establish the Vinaya in order to require monastics to have nothing to do with laypeople. Exactly the opposite!

      Your absolutist thinking and rigid view (which as usual is held unskillfully in that it is held far too strongly and without an open mind) would have monastics retreating to the forest while all other beings are left for endless cycles through woeful realms.

      I for one would like to thank the monastics who have not just walked off into the forest forever and have taught me and many others to direct our efforts so that we could move spiritually from where we are toward something better.

      The only other possibility is that you are arguing that monastics should only be encouraging all people to become monastics and otherwise have nothing to do with laypeople, as you seem to think that the life of a layperson cannot benefit at all in any other way.

  3. Valued Brc,

    I appreciate your motherly instinct and it is for sure well meant but wisdom is that what should be carried by the Sangha: once a leading community also in the body of the monastics. Tanha is terrible and there is no exception in the wheel of depending origination and the roots of suffering. Even such as “mudita” in regard of joy of the run-a-mill-person is not proper as “karuna” is what would be the proper approach for such events.
    Ensnared in attachments to the world the confused might find no other solution as to empty a glass of pure water into the oceans of defilement, thinking “for you, for you I give all what is left”. Wishes are nice, but hardly unreal wishes will just cause the last glass of pure water in the greedy desire to be part of a world of suffering.
    This “Sangha” is useless, just increases the terror in our would, if that is actually all that is left.

    There is no should, but “if… then” and “from this comes the arising of that”. Everybody is “free” to do as his karmic possibilities offer alternatives. Just check them out and a little faith in awakening and the Buddha would maybe proper is actions are done “In the name of…”

    We really don’t need to talk about living in the forest. Those boulevard stars would even die if they would need to live without electricity, a yearly check of their teeth and a little security in social and health issuance.

    Living on the gifts of devoted people… What a life, the most attached freak would love to join and walk the romantically way.

    You are totally right if you say, that the purpose of the Vinaya actually has direct impact and influence on the laity but today it seem really to be the opposite.

  4. Thank you for your great blog! My friends and I in Long Beach CA USA have started an Early Buddhism study group and will be using your outline for your Early Buddhism class. Do you have any advice on 1. How to have a study group/ informal sangha 2. Framework of meetings 3. Recommended books to read together? Tips in general? Please come to the West Coast of the USA at your earliest convenience. Thank you!

    • Hi Franz,

      Thanks for the invite! I’ll keep it in mind.

      As for tips how to set up a Sangha, I really wouldn’t know. I’ve never been involved with that sort of thing, so perhaps it would be best to look at some successful groups and emulate them.

      Generally, though, the best thing is to get started! Don’t worry too much about stuff, just do it and see what happens.

      If you want guidelines in how to run a group, rely on the greatest leader of all, the Buddha. He set up his Sangha as a consensus-based, egalitarian community, free of discrimination, with a positive policy of encouraging the outsiders and the disenfranchised. So, how can you emulate this? Who is it that is left out of the current spiritual/Buddhist scene?

      The major thing, possibly more important than any other principle of Vinaya, is what is called “sammukhavinaya”. This literally means “Vinaya in the presence of”. It is the most basic principle, on which every other Vinaya procedure depends.

      It means that whatever happens, especially if there is any problem, if there is gossip or conflict, the very first thing is to get the people concerned together, and ask what happened. Don’t get into relying on rumor, that will guarantee the downfall of a community. If you make this the standing principle of your group it would be a very good thing!

    • You can google everything and the most is under creative license, public domain and other “look in the forest for your self” licenses. You really don’t need any sangha… The Vinaya is under public domain as well, maybe you find even a common creative version, that you don’t need to worry about the difficult stuff and modify it a little so that it feeds to your moods and ideas.

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