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Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth

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Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth
Answer
3/17/13 4:05 PM
I thought that this article on (some aspects of) the history of tibetan buddhism and feudalism was quite interesting. Although, at this point in my life, not at all surprising. Here is the link:

Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth

Funnily enough, a few years ago I thought that no wars had been waged in the name of buddhism. How naive of me emoticon

RE: Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth
Answer
3/17/13 4:05 PM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
A few highlights from this superb article:


(...)

The Tibetan serfs were something more than superstitious victims, blind to their own oppression. As we have seen, some ran away; others openly resisted, sometimes suffering dire consequences. In feudal Tibet, torture and mutilation--including eye gouging, the pulling out of tongues, hamstringing, and amputation--were favored punishments inflicted upon thieves, and runaway or resistant serfs. Journeying through Tibet in the 1960s, Stuart and Roma Gelder interviewed a former serf, Tsereh Wang Tuei, who had stolen two sheep belonging to a monastery. For this he had both his eyes gouged out and his hand mutilated beyond use. He explains that he no longer is a Buddhist: “When a holy lama told them to blind me I thought there was no good in religion.” Since it was against Buddhist teachings to take human life, some offenders were severely lashed and then “left to God” in the freezing night to die. “The parallels between Tibet and medieval Europe are striking,” concludes Tom Grunfeld in his book on Tibet.

(...)

As the Shangri-La myth would have it, in old Tibet the people lived in contented and tranquil symbiosis with their monastic and secular lords. Rich lamas and poor monks, wealthy landlords and impoverished serfs were all bonded together, mutually sustained by the comforting balm of a deeply spiritual and pacific culture.

One is reminded of the idealized image of feudal Europe presented by latter-day conservative Catholics such as G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc. For them, medieval Christendom was a world of contented peasants living in the secure embrace of their Church, under the more or less benign protection of their lords.55 Again we are invited to accept a particular culture in its idealized form divorced from its murky material history. This means accepting it as presented by its favored class, by those who profited most from it. The Shangri-La image of Tibet bears no more resemblance to historic actuality than does the pastoral image of medieval Europe.

Seen in all its grim realities, old Tibet confirms the view I expressed in an earlier book, namely that culture is anything but neutral. Culture can operate as a legitimating cover for a host of grave injustices, benefiting a privileged portion of society at great cost to the rest. In theocratic feudal Tibet, ruling interests manipulated the traditional culture to fortify their own wealth and power. The theocracy equated rebellious thought and action with satanic influence. It propagated the general presumption of landlord superiority and peasant unworthiness. The rich were represented as deserving their good life, and the lowly poor as deserving their mean existence, all codified in teachings about the karmic residue of virtue and vice accumulated from past lives, presented as part of God’s will.

Were the more affluent lamas just hypocrites who preached one thing and secretly believed another? More likely they were genuinely attached to those beliefs that brought such good results for them. That their theology so perfectly supported their material privileges only strengthened the sincerity with which it was embraced.

(...)

Not all Tibetan exiles are enamoured of the old Shangri-La theocracy. Kim Lewis, who studied healing methods with a Buddhist monk in Berkeley, California, had occasion to talk at length with more than a dozen Tibetan women who lived in the monk’s building. When she asked how they felt about returning to their homeland, the sentiment was unanimously negative. At first, Lewis assumed that their reluctance had to do with the Chinese occupation, but they quickly informed her otherwise. They said they were extremely grateful “not to have to marry 4 or 5 men, be pregnant almost all the time,” or deal with sexually transmitted diseases contacted from a straying husband. The younger women “were delighted to be getting an education, wanted absolutely nothing to do with any religion, and wondered why Americans were so naïve [about Tibet].”

The women interviewed by Lewis recounted stories of their grandmothers’ ordeals with monks who used them as “wisdom consorts.” By sleeping with the monks, the grandmothers were told, they gained “the means to enlightenment” -- after all, the Buddha himself had to be with a woman to reach enlightenment.

The women also mentioned the “rampant” sex that the supposedly spiritual and abstemious monks practiced with each other in the Gelugpa sect. The women who were mothers spoke bitterly about the monastery’s confiscation of their young boys in Tibet. They claimed that when a boy cried for his mother, he would be told “Why do you cry for her, she gave you up--she's just a woman.”

The monks who were granted political asylum in California applied for public assistance. Lewis, herself a devotee for a time, assisted with the paperwork. She observes that they continue to receive government checks amounting to $550 to $700 per month along with Medicare. In addition, the monks reside rent free in nicely furnished apartments. “They pay no utilities, have free access to the Internet on computers provided for them, along with fax machines, free cell and home phones and cable TV.”

They also receive a monthly payment from their order, along with contributions and dues from their American followers. Some devotees eagerly carry out chores for the monks, including grocery shopping and cleaning their apartments and toilets. These same holy men, Lewis remarks, “have no problem criticizing Americans for their ‘obsession with material things.’”

(...)

RE: Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth
Answer
3/17/13 9:14 PM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
the age old story

somebody practices hard and realizes something useful

that gets codified into meditation techniques and a movement for positive change and reform

and then that gets codified into some belief structure

and that becomes some dogmatic religion

which is used for political and economic control

and to exploit vulnerable populations

and justify immoral acts, usually murder, rape and theft

and were the original innovator there to see it they would likely vomit

give reality 100 years: there will probably be Glorious Pragmatic Dharma Drone Strikes in the name of Liberation

RE: Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth
Answer
3/17/13 9:28 PM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
I think the reality is that any society, regardless of religion, is gonna have its fair share of ills including sexism, classicism, racism, and corruption. The article you've shared simply points out that grim reality. I hadn't been aware that it was so bad in Tibet, but it doesn't surprise me. I mean, even reading about the India that Buddha lived in was far from the spiritual paradise that a lot of Westerners think of.

I don't think it necessarily reflects badly on Buddhism as a whole, but it does say something about Buddhist practitioners and the fact that no religion or faith is exempt from these sorts of very human failings. Perhaps it's similar to Christianity having been used in ways that the original Jesus Christ would never have intended, to justify acts that no religion should ever justify. Sadly, I don't see this problem going away anytime soon, but maybe we can become more aware of it through time and education.

Thanks for sharing.

RE: Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth
Answer
3/18/13 10:54 AM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
I'll be sure to close the window while I meditate so I'm not distracted by the sound of the serfs getting whipped.

RE: Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth
Answer
3/22/13 8:08 AM as a reply to Fitter Stoke.
The rich have always subjugated the poor, unfortunately. The top down pyramid is how essentially every society has been organized in history, including ours' right now. People unfortunately, all of us including me, are wildly greedy and think we deserve anything we can take/obtain.

Theocratic, democratic, communist, whatever else you wanna call it. In practice, the few hoard most of the land/resources. That being said, I'd take our version of this over other cultures'. But ultimately, it isn't that different.

RE: Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth
Answer
3/22/13 11:54 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
the age old story

somebody practices hard and realizes something useful

that gets codified into meditation techniques and a movement for positive change and reform

and then that gets codified into some belief structure

and that becomes some dogmatic religion

which is used for political and economic control

and to exploit vulnerable populations

and justify immoral acts, usually murder, rape and theft

and were the original innovator there to see it they would likely vomit

give reality 100 years: there will probably be Glorious Pragmatic Dharma Drone Strikes in the name of Liberation

Right on, Daniel. Two thumbs up!

I would only add, next to spiritual liberty, seek also political liberty.

RE: Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth
Answer
3/23/13 4:57 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
the age old story

somebody practices hard and realizes something useful

that gets codified into meditation techniques and a movement for positive change and reform

and then that gets codified into some belief structure

and that becomes some dogmatic religion

which is used for political and economic control

and to exploit vulnerable populations

and justify immoral acts, usually murder, rape and theft

and were the original innovator there to see it they would likely vomit

give reality 100 years: there will probably be Glorious Pragmatic Dharma Drone Strikes in the name of Liberation



The age old attempt at defending the indefensible, that is Buddha's state, Zoroaster, Yeshua the nazarene, mohammed, Goudapada, Krishnamurti and all through the present day.

RE: Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth
Answer
3/27/13 10:41 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
the age old story

somebody practices hard and realizes something useful

that gets codified into meditation techniques and a movement for positive change and reform

and then that gets codified into some belief structure

and that becomes some dogmatic religion

which is used for political and economic control

and to exploit vulnerable populations

and justify immoral acts, usually murder, rape and theft

and were the original innovator there to see it they would likely vomit

give reality 100 years: there will probably be Glorious Pragmatic Dharma Drone Strikes in the name of Liberation


Daniel, I am surprised that you are still unresolved over this, it shows you surely have not destroyed all the illusions. If a realised man vomited, it would be because of sudden understanding that all his gross worldly efforts were only a rearranging of the mass of filth that is the human dimension. If your story was mundane and about nuclear fission then it could pass, but the path to enlightenment is awkward and subtle and getting upset when directions are naturally misunderstood is just plain wrong.
Your 'vulnerable populations' are beings that have ended up in the human realm as a result of their own doings, and the cosmic machine is not broken, it is your sentimental lens that is distorted.

Your movement for positive change and reform (because you are obviously working your story to work with dho) is naturally limited, nothing can change that. Starting from the top: "somebody practices hard and realizes something useful". The sentence is structured to go, somebody is on square one and through effort advances to square two. But what is the something useful? You often say yourself that nothing externally in your life has changed due to your achievement, and you still have a worldly occupation. So what is the useful? A bicycle is useful, but permanently destroying patterns or 'karma' is an odd use of the term 'useful'. I agree that it has to be done, but that the word useful depends on a context that can never apply.

"that gets codified into meditation techniques and a movement for positive change and reform". All of the big men themselves never codified techniques. Buddha never gave very practical instructions on how to enter jhana and others like Patanjali just said, once you've achieved samadhi (hindu version of jhanas) just keep doing it through thick and thin and that's all you need, the curtains of illusion will keep falling away. What is the movement for positive change and reform? Even if a few people have destroyed some low level illusion, for a movement of thousands, it would all become very gross very quickly. What is there to reform? We dont eat food anymore and absorb energy like plants? By trying to game the human realm, the laws of existence will come against you and it is not something to fight, afterall, Buddha saw that his sangha was eventually a mess.

"and then that gets codified into some belief structure" Well of course! Human realm remember! Not much to say about the rest because its the fruit of the beginning

"and that becomes some dogmatic religion

which is used for political and economic control

and to exploit vulnerable populations

and justify immoral acts, usually murder, rape and theft

and were the original innovator there to see it they would likely vomit

give reality 100 years: there will probably be Glorious Pragmatic Dharma Drone Strikes in the name of Liberation"

Dont be so high and mighty, what you call pragmatic is no more 'useful' than all the old schools. Of course in the culture of bits and bytes and hyper-materialism the attraction of an enlightenment through breaking down things to pieces in a secular way is attractive. But instead of chanting one goes to talk about the oscillations as if they were in isolation, in a petri dish. What on earth is the bearing of sixteen vibrations a second without consideration for the rest?

And in general, one must stop using the term advanced yogi in such a blaze manner. When one can alter the physical world as they see fit using the mind then perhaps they can be called that. Oh and while im here, Daniel, in another thread you mentioned how you really got your concentration going by practicing 18 hours a day of jhana. Every bathroom break alone must break that time up considerably. Does your jhana reach maximum hardness within one minute or something?

RE: Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth
Answer
3/29/13 11:30 PM as a reply to Joshua, the solitary.
You speak of many things.

What do you yourself know of them, specifically and verifiably, for yourself?

RE: Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth
Answer
3/30/13 8:31 AM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5Ka3bEN1rs

RE: Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth
Answer
4/7/13 8:45 AM as a reply to Bruno Loff.

RE: Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth
Answer
11/17/17 5:13 PM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
Bruno Loff:
I thought that this article on (some aspects of) the history of tibetan buddhism and feudalism was quite interesting. Although, at this point in my life, not at all surprising. Here is the link:

Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth


I'm reading a new book, Enthralled: The Guru Cult of Tibetan Buddhism, by Christine A. Chandler, that brings the story up to date. It is an exposé of her twenty-nine years inside Tibetan Buddhism.

RE: Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth
Answer
11/19/17 8:45 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:

give reality 100 years: there will probably be Glorious Pragmatic Dharma Drone Strikes in the name of Liberation
And now they'll even have your quote to justify it! emoticon