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8/8/08 January 14, 2008

Posted by Philip Ryan in Burma.

Who’s to blame for the bomb blasts in Burma? And here’s an unfortunate numerological connection between China and Burma.

Thai soldiers in the south of the country were hit in a deadly ambush that killed eight of their number. Thailand’s prime minister Surayud Chulanont downplayed the importance of the attack, saying it was nothing out of the ordinary. (Civil War? What civil war?)

More than 2,800 people have been killed in Thailand’s Muslim-majority southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, and some parts of neighboring Songkhla, since a long-simmering Islamic separatist insurgency flared in January 2004.

The government has made little progress in curbing the violence, despite the presence of nearly 40,000 police and soldiers. Drive-by shootings and bombings occur almost daily, as rebels continue efforts to scare Buddhist residents away from the area.

More than 90 percent of Thailand’s 65 million people are Buddhist, and many of the country’s Muslims have long complained they are treated as second-class citizens.

The famous and historical White Horse temple in Luoyang, China, is getting an Indian hall modeled on the great stupa at Sanchi. It’s a testament to the love and friendship between India and China.

Ani Rinchen Khandro writes about Buddhism in the New Statesman.

Japanese monks have been working hard to spread Buddhism around. A while back they held a fashion show and visited nightclubs. Now they’re on to pubs. Kampai!



1. Gerald Ford - January 14, 2008

Hi Phillip,

I think it’s great to see Japanese priests outreaching to people. A lot of Japanese view Buddhism now as a largely funeral business (except for major temples which still have a reasonably good following), so the younger generation just doesn’t know anything about it.

The priests mentioned here are actually Jodo Shinshu ministers. The fashion show cited took place at the Jodo Shinshu temple of Tsukiji Hongwanji, which is one of the few temples that still has a pretty vibrant community.

Anyways, JS ministers are lay ministers, so they are not monks nor priests in the sense of taking the Bodhisattva Precepts. But ideally they do try to work as community leaders and mentors, in much the same you’d see ministers here in the US.

Jodo Shinshu has traditionally focuses on the notion that Amida Buddha’s compassion is directed at those who are deluded and unable to comprehend more difficult Buddhist teachings. Or as Shinran once said:

The Primal Vow was established out of deep compassion for us who cannot become freed from the bondage of birth-and-death through any religious practice, due to the abundance of blind passion. Since its basic intention is to effect the enlightenment of such an evil one, the evil person who is led to true entrusting by Other Power is the person who attains birth in the Pure Land. Thus, even the good person attains birth, how much more so the evil person!

So it only makes sense that ministers reach out to people in bars and such, hoping to help them find a better way.

Thanks! 🙂

2. Philip Ryan - January 14, 2008

Thanks for the great info as always, Gerald!

3. Marcus - January 14, 2008

Hi Gerald,

But what I don’t understand is that these are Buddhist ministers who have given up the basic Buddhist precepts for lay people.

The five precepts are for householders and laypeople like you and me and yet in this article we read of priests somoking and drinking and owning bars and accepting this as part and parcel of a Buddhist lifestyle.

I’m reminded of the words of Bhikkhu Bodhi:

“If the current trend continues and more and more Buddhists succumb to the lure of intoxicating drinks, we can be sure that the Teaching will perish in all but name.

At this very moment of history when its message has become most urgent, the sacred Dhamma of the Buddha will be irreparably lost, drowned out by the clinking of glasses and our rounds of merry toasts.”


Perhaps you could tell us how JDSS ministers explain their attitude to the fifth precept?

All the best,


4. Gerald Ford - January 15, 2008

This gets into a long discussion beyond the scope of this (very nice) blog, but the JDSS perspective is the need to reach out to people first, without letting the Precepts be a bar that cuts some people off.

As you know, JDSS relies entirely on Other Power of Amida, rather than self-oriented (i.e. self-power) practices. It’s not that those practices are bad, in fact Shinran praised those who could follow through, rather Shinran wanted to reach out those who couldn’t even follow the precepts and offer them an alternate way. Shinran’s words were that because he was a foolish and deluded person, hell was his only home, so he could only rely on the compassion of Amida.

With that said, the precepts normally espoused in Japan are actually the 10 Bodhisattva Precepts (see the Brahma Net Sutra for a list). Consumption of alcohol is not always explicitly proscribed, and most priests in Japan may drink at least for social reasons. However, it is implicitly part of the 6 Perfections, namely correct moral behavior. If you’re alcohol consumption is leading to immoral or shameful behavior, it’s a problem.

In any case, Shinran also taught that one who takes refuge in Amida’s compassion will in time become inspired to “tenderness and forbearance”. See section XVI of the Tannisho. 🙂 This was part of a recent post I had made, in fact, so it’s fresh in my mind.

You and I actually agree on this discussion quite a bit, but the starting point is where things differ.

Bhikku’s right in his quote by the way, but then that’s just Dharma Decline expressed in other terms, and JDSS takes Dharma Decline seriously. That’s why they rely on Other Power instead. 🙂

5. Marcus - January 15, 2008

Thank you,

Thank you Gerald for a clear and very kind response.

Wishing you peace and happiness,


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