Author Topic: Democracy and Spirituality - in concert or in conflict  (Read 5419 times)

WisdomBeing

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Democracy and Spirituality - in concert or in conflict
« on: August 12, 2013, 08:06:30 AM »
Since the Dalai Lama stepped down as the temporal head of Tibet, there has been no noticeable increase in democratic rule by the Central Tibetan Administration, currently led by Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay. The Bhutanese situation is an interesting study as the article below states that as democracy in Bhutan was introduced 5 years ago, the monasteries' authority has correspondingly declined.

Will democracy in Tibetan society result in the decline of spirituality in an age where materialism is the new God?

We call upon democracy in the same breath as we call upon the lifting of the ban on Dorje Shugden. I just wonder if democracy will be Tibet's undoing in the end.


Monasteries decline as TV and smartphones grip Bhutan
http://www.artdaily.org/index.asp?int_sec=11&int_new=64313#.UghpDWQpZF8



In this photo taken on June 3, 2013, a Buddhist monk reads a passage of the national 'dzongkha' script as he commits it to memory at the Dechen Phodrang Monastery in Thimphu. Bhutan -- nestled in the Himalayas and flanked by both India and China -- is renowned for its rich Buddhist culture, and villages are still steeped in its traditions. Protecting the Buddhist culture is a key pillar of Bhutan's unique "Gross National Happiness" development model, which aims to balance spiritual and mental well-being with economic growth. While just over 7,000 monks are registered with the central monastic body, on the ground about 9,000 to 11,000 exist at any one time, according to Karma Penjor, secretary at the Commission for the Monastic Affairs of Bhutan. AFP PHOTO/Roberto SCHMIDT.
By: Rachel O'Brien

THIMPHU (AFP).- Kencho Tshering, a red-robed Buddhist monk, takes a call from the King of Bhutan's office, then duly dashes off to start a ceremony praying for a break in the monsoon rains.

But while he may be on speed dial for royal requests, the clout of his fellow monks is on the wane in the remote kingdom as it absorbs the impact of technology and democracy as well as an abuse scandal.

"Bhutan is changing. The monastic body is going down and down," Tshering told AFP at Dechen Phodrang, the monks' school where he is principal, which is perched with majestic views over the capital Thimphu. "Even for senior monks, there's no respect in the city," he sighed.

Bhutan -- nestled in the Himalayas and flanked by both India and China -- is renowned for its rich Buddhist culture, and villages are still steeped in its traditions. Fluttering prayer flags are a common sight, as are giant flying phalluses painted on walls to ward off evil -- a symbol of a national saint, the "Divine Madman", who is believed to have subjugated demonesses with his penis in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Protecting the Buddhist culture is a key pillar of Bhutan's unique "Gross National Happiness" development model, which aims to balance spiritual and mental well-being with economic growth. Yet Tshering, who spent three years, three months and three days in silent meditation, believes Buddhist devotion has waned since Bhutan allowed television in 1999 -- the world's last country to do so.

"People are less god-fearing, less superstitious... The number of rituals they do has gone down," agreed Karma Phuntsho, author of "The History of Bhutan" and a former monk. Phuntsho said the Bhutanese worldview has changed dramatically since secular education was widely introduced in the 1960s, weakening the dominance of monastic schools that for centuries were a powerful force.

Bhutan was unified in the 17th century by a Tibetan Buddhist teacher, and the old 'dzong' fortresses, part-monastery and part-government offices, are a reminder of the previous intertwining of religion and politics. The decline in monastics' clout was clear with the onset of democracy five years ago. Bhutan's monks, nuns and a large community of lay priests are now barred from the process to ensure religion and politics are kept apart.

"They don't have a say at all, they don't have a franchise to vote. So political authority has really waned," said Phuntsho. In terms of spiritual influence, some say monastic materialism is partly to blame for a decline. Although usually associated with a spartan existence, Bhutan's strand of Buddhism allows monks to own a range of possessions -- "there are even monks with big cars," said Damber K. Nirola, a psychiatrist in Thimphu. But the monasteries still play a vital social role, providing homes to thousands of children whose parents may have died or feel unable to support them.

At Dechen Phodrang, young monks can be found busy learning the national 'dzongkha' script, making colourful cakes to offer the deities, or blowing the sound of the long 'dungchen' Buddhist trumpet over the valley. With a government allowance per boy of less than a dollar a day, Tshering says it is a struggle to look after their 260 students, aged as young as six, who sleep in rows on classroom floors.

While just over 7,000 monks are registered with the central monastic body, on the ground about 9,000 to 11,000 exist at any one time, according to Karma Penjor, secretary at the Commission for the Monastic Affairs of Bhutan. "They can't say no when people come with their children," he told AFP, saying the monasteries look after and educate "Bhutan's poorest of the poor". They are also not without controversy.

A recent report by The Raven, a Bhutanese magazine, told the story of two young boys who said they escaped their monastery after being sexually abused by two of the older monks, who are supposed to be celibate. The National Commission for Women and Children confirmed to AFP that the case had been dealt with internally by the monastic body, and one of the accused had been disrobed.

Between young monks, non-penetrative "thigh sex" is also "common", according to a UNICEF-supported report in 2012 on vulnerable Bhutanese adolescents. Psychiatrist Nirola, a former district medical officer, said he found sexually transmitted diseases were quite regular among monks and possibly from heterosexual liaisons outside the monasteries. He also came across youngsters suffering stress from the highly disciplined lifestyle, which was often not one of their own choice.

"They want to go to town, play on smartphones. That creates a lot of problems in their mind."

In May, the monastic commission opened a child protection office for the welfare of young monks and to raise awareness about their rights, but Penjor said better backing was crucial to its success.

"It's one thing to keep having awareness workshops, but if support for infrastructure is not there, after a while rights keep falling off, it's not very effective."

Some monks have embraced Bhutan's modernisation in a bid to get more support. The Phajoding monastery, which is a three-hour uphill hike from the nearest road, is using social media to spread its news and raise funds, with regular updates on Twitter and Facebook.

Phuntsho thinks it will take more than PR to get Bhutan's monastic body on the rise again, and a key to that is modernising its education system. "It's a big challenge for the monastics. I can see a very urgent need for them to reform and develop, but it's very unfair to expect that of them when they don't have the resources."

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yontenjamyang

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Re: Democracy and Spirituality - in concert or in conflict
« Reply #1 on: August 12, 2013, 10:48:53 AM »
Democracy by definition means freedom of choice. Political democracy is the freedom to chose a government. However, there is rarely the perfect choice to chose from because the parties or candidates that stands for election has to be nominated in the first place. For that to happened there needs to be a system of political partisanship. Hence, there is actually very little to chose from. Ironic, isn't it. Sometimes it is the choice between the devil and the deep blue sea. That is samsara.

Personal democracy on the other hand is a personal freedom to do what one likes within the law of the land. Spiritually is unfortunately within this freedom. When a government or country like Bhutan became democratic, it  has to allow more freedom to its citizen and along with it "modern development" which more likely is opposite of what spirituality represents. Example are smart phones, internet and the like. By itself, this modernity can be helpful for spirituality like how this website is helping to spread Buddhism in general, but there more distraction that comes along with this modern inventions. Hence, that is why we call this the Kaliyurga or degenerate age.

In concert or in conflict? It depends or how it is handled and it is also a personal path. It offers different distractions but at the same time more opportunities for spirituality. With or without democracy, these problems existed. Only now it is in different forms.

Rinchen

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Re: Democracy and Spirituality - in concert or in conflict
« Reply #2 on: August 16, 2013, 10:36:48 PM »
It is just sad that the young monks are not able to choose what they would want to do. I believe that many of them are being brought to the monastery when they were much younger. Their parents may have given them to the temples when they were very young and do not know anything, hence they did not have the choice to choose if they wanted to be a monk or not. They may have chosen to remain as a monk due to the peer pressure that they may get or the pressure they may have gotten from their family.

bonfire

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Re: Democracy and Spirituality - in concert or in conflict
« Reply #3 on: August 29, 2013, 11:17:45 AM »
Democracy is an ideological ideal, it is not the perfect solution.
It works well in some place and not so well in other places.
NON-democracy is not such an ideal, it does not claim that, and it is not perfect neither.
Both may be used well or be abused.
Indeed, democracy can be abused, Hitler came to power through democratic elections.
And we see today that a leader in the Middle East came to power through democracy and was ousted through a coup-d'etat back-up by the Western democratic political power... Go figure!

My point?
There is no perfect political system.
The only guarantee to the validity of any political system is the perfection of the motivation that the people in power have, this being coupled with their skillful means.
A democracy can have terrible results and a non-democracy can have very positive results, and vice-versa.
It all depends upon the motivation of the leaders as well as the circumstances, not so much on the system.

Spirituality and democracy have no relevance.
Freedom to practice spirituality can be found in political systems that are not democratic (from Western standards), such as in China where one is free to practice the religion of its choice.
Yet, there may be religious prosecutions in democratic systems such as in the late 30's in Germany.

Does spirituality reduces when democracy arises?
I don't think so, I actually think the opposite.
As we should not misunderstand the lessening of the political power of religious institutions with the lessening of spirituality, that is not the same!

Positive Change

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Re: Democracy and Spirituality - in concert or in conflict
« Reply #4 on: August 29, 2013, 03:47:21 PM »

Democracy is an ideological ideal, it is not the perfect solution.
It works well in some place and not so well in other places.
NON-democracy is not such an ideal, it does not claim that, and it is not perfect neither.
Both may be used well or be abused.
Indeed, democracy can be abused, Hitler came to power through democratic elections.
And we see today that a leader in the Middle East came to power through democracy and was ousted through a coup-d'etat back-up by the Western democratic political power... Go figure!
 
My point?
There is no perfect political system.
The only guarantee to the validity of any political system is the perfection of the motivation that the people in power have, this being coupled with their skillful means.
A democracy can have terrible results and a non-democracy can have very positive results, and vice-versa.
It all depends upon the motivation of the leaders as well as the circumstances, not so much on the system.
 
Spirituality and democracy have no relevance.
Freedom to practice spirituality can be found in political systems that are not democratic (from Western standards), such as in China where one is free to practice the religion of its choice.
Yet, there may be religious prosecutions in democratic systems such as in the late 30's in Germany.
 
Does spirituality reduces when democracy arises?
I don't think so, I actually think the opposite.
As we should not misunderstand the lessening of the political power of religious institutions with the lessening of spirituality, that is not the same!
 

hope rainbow

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Re: Democracy and Spirituality - in concert or in conflict
« Reply #5 on: September 01, 2013, 06:44:12 PM »
Democracy is an ideological ideal, it is not the perfect solution.
It works well in some place and not so well in other places.
NON-democracy is not such an ideal, it does not claim that, and it is not perfect neither.
Both may be used well or be abused.
Indeed, democracy can be abused, Hitler came to power through democratic elections.
And we see today that a leader in the Middle East came to power through democracy and was ousted through a coup-d'etat back-up by the Western democratic political power... Go figure!

My point?
There is no perfect political system.
The only guarantee to the validity of any political system is the perfection of the motivation that the people in power have, this being coupled with their skillful means.
A democracy can have terrible results and a non-democracy can have very positive results, and vice-versa.
It all depends upon the motivation of the leaders as well as the circumstances, not so much on the system.

Spirituality and democracy have no relevance.
Freedom to practice spirituality can be found in political systems that are not democratic (from Western standards), such as in China where one is free to practice the religion of its choice.
Yet, there may be religious prosecutions in democratic systems such as in the late 30's in Germany.

Does spirituality reduces when democracy arises?
I don't think so, I actually think the opposite.
As we should not misunderstand the lessening of the political power of religious institutions with the lessening of spirituality, that is not the same!

Democracy may not be the best system, but it is the less evil as it shows more strength in the long term and a lesser opportunity for mishaps and abuses.
"The power corrupts and the absolute power corrupts absolutely" said Lord Acton.
And the only way to avoid absolute power is some kind of democracy ensuring the partition of the political (and military), judiciary and legislative authorities, thus a partition of the powers driving a society.

The coalition of these powers into one person, or a dysfunctional party may bring trouble.

There is a fourth authority: the spiritual authority.
For a person or a party to hold authority over these four powers can be a catastrophe.
Holding the authority over the spiritual could simply be establishing a ban over any spiritual practice whatsoever (such as in North Korea for example).

In any case, when the spiritual authority losses grip over the other three authorities, there is a decline of "forced" spirituality, not of spirituality.
Yet, the democracy in motion then would open up a more fertile ground (of freedom) for spiritual practices to grow eventually.


Dondrup Shugden

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Re: Democracy and Spirituality - in concert or in conflict
« Reply #6 on: February 10, 2015, 07:18:05 AM »
As the world progresses the thinking, habits and practices in all ways will change.  Buddhism during Shakymuni's time and now has also changed.  But the principal essence of Buddha's teaching never changes.

It is through education and great masters who will change the methods of teaching that we will continue to benefit from the Dharma.

Is democracy and spirituality in concert or in conflict?  As democracy is about choices specifically in choosing your government, it is also a choice for your spiritual path.

I believe the two systems are not in conflict but in concert to the freedom of choice and Buddhism is all about your choice to become enlightened.  The importance is to always support the maturing of great masters to teach and preserve the Dharma.