|"You know, it seems that they are not so much
into Buddhism but much more the expansion of their
organisation!" I had just received and read Subhuti's
article "Conference on the Ordination Process"
and tried to explain to a friend what it seemed to
contain. He did not really understand: "So what? I
mean, that's also what Microsoft and any other company is
all about, isn't it?" I started another attempt:
"Probably yes. But as far as I know Microsoft does
not tell its employees to become gay in order to no
longer waste time on women!"
A sheer untenable comment. And one I would have liked to do without. The first - and to me most logical - idea was to reprint here Subhuti's article in full length so that the reader could decide for himself. So I went and asked the FWBO for the permission to do so. This permission was not granted. Again, it is noteworthy that it is the FWBO who likes to cry for context in this matter as soon as the article is quoted and at the same time it is they who deny access to exactly that context. It's strange - and one begins to wonder about the "why?"
However, let's have a short look at the main parts of that article. Within the "Files" it is claimed that...
"Having alienated followers from their families, women and heterosexual relationships, Order members are encouraged to engage in homosexual relationships since, within the FWBO, such relationships are considered to be part of the path to enlightenment."
This is already a strong accusation. Yet, to me it seems that the article still holds even more. It seems that the proposal to members of the WBO to have homosexual relationships with mitras is only one more rather odd piece in the context of the expansion of the FWBO.
First, let's have a look at the idea that in his article Subhuti suggests homosexual relationships between order members and mitras. As the "Response" says:
"The Files makes much of Subhuti's statement in Shabda that:
'Sexual interest on the part of a male Order member for a male mitra [novice] can create a connection which may allow kalyana mitrata [spiritual friendship] to develop.'
As the Files acknowledges, this quote (p.23) comes from an internal discussion paper presented in 1986 which did not, in fact, advocate the combination of sex and kalyana mitrata, but expressed the idea in the interests of considering it. However the Files fails to mention that the conclusion of this discussion was that this practice is not a good idea and is best avoided. While in some cases it seemed that sex could help friendship, in other cases it clearly led to confusion - and even harm"
Ok, last in, first out. As far as I can see, the last sentence in Subhuti's paper concerning the issue of sex between an order member and a mitra as a means to strengthen their relationship is this:
"No doubt the issue of sex could also be discussed."
But that's it - and I fail to see how this could be called "the conclusion of this discussion" or even that this implies that "this practice is not a good idea and is best avoided."
On the contrary. In his paper, Subhuti hits the nail squarely on the head with this statement:
"The Order consists essentially in the quality of communication known as kalyana mitrata."
Then he goes on to make clear that:
"Perhaps the strongest factor which might bind an Order member to a mitra is sex. It does seem that many of the most successful Kalyana Mitras have an erotic interest in their mitras. It might be fruitful to look further at this point."
And not only does Subhuti go on looking at that point alone, he also exposes his views concerning the hetero-sexual partnership. Directly following the above quote we come to read this:
"It has been observed that many Order members who do not have enough time to spend with mitras do find time to spend with girlfriends - spending several nights a week away from their communities and even going away on holidays with them. Clearly here the sexual interest is enough to motivate an Order member to spend time with another person. The likelihood is however that there is not much kalyana mitrata present in such relationships. No doubt in some cases there may be but it is observably rare."
His conclusion of the situation is as follows - and brings us slowly to another interesting point...
"This means that a great deal of the Order's combined emotional energy goes into male-female relationships which are probably not particularly spiritually productive. If one is sexually satisfied and is getting affection and personal attention from one's girlfriend one will be less likely to seek strong emotional connections with men Mitras. Besides, what time one does have will be taken up with her! "
Under different circumstances one would just ask "so what?" Not so Subhuti. His whole point in the article - at least as I have the impression - seems to concern not Buddhism or the situation of mitras asking for ordination but the expansion of the order. As he writes rather at the beginning of his paper:
"Many Mitras all over the movement complain of neglect. Some working in co-ops or living in communities hardly ever have a personal talk with an Order member. This is an extremely serious problem and one which is holding back the expansion of the Order more than any other factor. It has often been said that if each Order member was to work intensively with one Mitra the Order would double in size at least every two years. At the moment the rate of growth is actually slowing down: there are more or less the same number of mitras being ordained each year despite the fact that the Order is getting bigger."
(Just by the way, Subhuti calls this development a "failure"...)
Furthermore he thinks that "an indispensable element in Ordination should be a motivation to be of service to the world in making the movement grow."
Well, if making the movement grow is indeed a "service to the world" , it is something that fortunately is not up to me to decide. However, Subhuti seems to be convinced that this is the case; otherwise, it is not very easy to explain sentences like the following:
"I would like to think that most Order members should be capable of starting a centre - on their own if need be - within a year or two of their ordination. I consider that in this respect the requirements for ordination should be upgraded."
May all of this be as it is - after all it is quite nice of Subhuti to warn his fellow order members with the last paragraph of his paper:
"The mitra convenors should keep a list of overseas mitras in Britain and should be constantly reviewing their situations. Since they have often come a long way at considerable expense we have a very great responsibility towards them and should not simply use them as cannon fodder. Above all, we should make sure that they are getting to know some Order members in depth. If these conditions cannot be fulfilled then they should not be invited over."
Yet, one wonders why he has to mention this at all...
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