Monday, January 10, 2011

Monasticism in Upstate New York

Living the monastic life in upstate New York
(Daily Star) It was only in the last century that Eastern Orthodox and even Roman Catholic [and traditionally Buddhist] parents considered it a great blessing to have at least one child become a monastic and dedicate him or herself to spirituality. However, in today's society most people would not consider joining a monastic order have their children become a monastic. Most people do not understand monasticism, finding it foreign and weird. When I was Roman Catholic and in my teens, I considered monasticism. I started to take the idea really seriously after I read Fyodor Dostoyevsky's book The Brothers Karamazov and was introduced to the character of the Elder Father Zosima.

Chinese soldiers in Tibet given monk's robes with orders to act as rioters

There is a massive Buddhist abbey near Carmel, New York. It combines the best elements of Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism. It is a nunnery, monastery, teaching place for scholars (like Bhikkhu Bodhi), a meditation retreat center, a visitor's center, world-class library, as well as a place that serves the cultural needs of Chinese/Taiwanese Buddhists on the East Coast. BAUS also houses perhaps the largest Buddha statue in the Western hemisphere. Moreover, its volunteers do the extremely important work of distributing books (including rare classic titles) from all Buddhist schools. This service is free. And the books are free. That is, they are paid for by magnanimous donors interested in Dharma dana, making a gift of the Dharma that the Buddha emphasized "excels all other kinds of gifts."

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