Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Nuns step humbly through modernity

(Jakarta Post) Buddhist monastics living in Jakarta balance centuries-old religious rules with the realities of living in a consumer-driven, cosmopolitan society to maintain their spiritual piety.

“A long time ago, people had to stand at arm’s length from the monks, but we can’t expect our congregation to do that anymore,” said Bhiksuni (Buddhist nun) Ven. Virya Guna, a female monastic from the Avalokitesvara Vipassana Graha Buddhist Temple in Sunter, North Jakarta. Ven. Virya shares advice, short sermons, and hymns from YouTube via her Facebook profile.

“There’s no rule that bans technology, but it must be utilized for religious purposes,” she said. “My mobile phone, for example, is for congregation members to contact me when they need services for house blessings or funerals.”

While some aspects of Buddhism have been adapted to the realities of modern society, others traditions have been upheld because of their philosophical significance. Ven. Virya has a shaved head as Buddhist philosophy encourages cutting all ties to vanity and ego.

“I only have three sets of clothes that were given to me by congregation members,” Ven. Virya told The Jakarta Post. She wore a loose, brown, long sleeved tunic and loose, gray leggings tapered at the ankles.

The Mahayana Buddhist nun also divides donations from her congregation between the temple’s needs and the various charities the temple or vihara contributes to. Mahayana is one of the two main schools in Buddhism besides Theravada. Mahayana is popular in Northern Asia and the Far East, while the more traditional Theravada has a strong foothold in Southern Asia.... “My aim in this life is to sow good karma to reap later, with the hope of becoming a bodhisattva or small buddha, in the next life,” said Ven. Virya. More>>

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