authority and corruption

Dear all, I hope this message finds you in good health and peace of mind.

I was reading through the notes and the Japanese Buddhism book and one question came to my mind;
- how much you think the relationship of the clergy and authority (shogun, emperor, etc) might have changed or corrupted the teachings and the way it was transmitted throughout Asia?
It has been recorded how much it affected other traditions when it comes to privilege and benefits....
any thoughts?

Earl Hardie Karges's picture

Changes to Japanese Buddhism?

Changes? That would seem probable, though maybe difficult to define and explain. Corruption? That implies a value judgment, that any changes would have been bad ones, so maybe subjective. Privileges and benefits seem to be the main sphere of influence, though, as it seems that the official monks were there mostly to reinforce the authority in power at the time, and the societal status quo.

Because of that, of course, there were many people at the fringes of society left out, and many unofficial monks rose to serve them, thus creating dynamic new systems in the process. So was the Zen that was transmitted to the West not so long ago a 'corruption' of the Ch'an Buddhism that Japan received many centuries before? Good question. And was that a 'corruption' of the 'dhyana' that came from India before that? Again, good question, and no definitive answer comes to mind. But I think it's important to note that not all changes are necessarily bad ones.

Sergio Leon Candia's picture

Hello Earl! thanks for the

Hello Earl! thanks for the answer.
thank for highlighting a few things that i agree with. of course all changes are not necessarily bad ones. and totally agree with that saying corruption we are value judging.
I did not try to say that was my view 100%, but the questions arose in my mind. usually power corrupts behaviors and that might have also happened here.
I do believe that over time the transmission of the teachings might have been corrupted. its like the telephone game (where you whisper something to some ones ear and that person to the following and so forth, and usually at the end of the circle the message was totally changed).
I think its a good debate worth having, do you agree? about how much influence (positive, negative and neutral) does the relationship of the clergy with power spheres have.

looking forward to hear more from you!

best wishes

Earl Hardie Karges's picture

Changes to Japanese Buddhism?

There have been so many changes, that for me it would be hard to say which are 'corrupt' and which are the product of healthy debate. There were at least 18 'nikayas' before Mahayana even began, and then countless more after that.

But for me the corruption really begins when Buddhism goes to the West and tries to win converts there. Then all of a sudden all you hear about is LOVE, something the Buddha himself rarely mentioned, and of course--forgiveness.

And that's not just Westerners like Jack Kornfield, but Thich Nhat Hanh, too, and by the bucketload. That's the reason I've studied and practiced Buddhism in Asia, so far, whether I ever go back to live in the West or not. I want the real thing first, then if I want to mix it with Christianity, at least I'll know that is the case.

And that is likely what will happen, in general, as the influences go both ways, not only Buddhist 'metta' long equated with Christian 'lovingkindness', but Christians now with Buddhist 'mindfulness', and calling it their own. It's a mess. I love it.

To sum up: yes, power certainly corrupts, but for me that seems probably less than the human instinct for novelty, which creates changes regardless (I'll probably change my opinions 2-3 times before this semester ends, too, haha).

Nice chatting, Hardie (that's the name I go by)