Only In The West, Only In Asia

Share this:

Only In The West, Only In Asia
Most Westerners do not like the ancient commentaries or the Abhidhamma. Westerners are very far away from Asian culture in both time and space (miles), and because of this, they have difficulty understanding the cultural and ancient time differences.

A small story shows this example well. It might be useful for the next toilet paper shortage. This is picture and story of a bidet (which are used instead of toilet paper).

A monastic friend showed me his new sprayer he was going to install. My eyes lit up and I said, “Can I take a picture of that?”

“Sure. Why?” he said.

“(Giggle). People in the West think of the kitchen sink when they see one of these.” He made a “yuck” face and then the both of us laughed.

Sometimes, based on culture, time, and place, one can gain different but real interpretations that are counter intuitive to basic common sense. Using a sprayer like that in the kitchen sink is seen equally as using a clean toilet brush to wash the dishes. Nevertheless, as the toilet brush gets used and old looking, you just cannot help but be grossed out from it. It just does not make sense and this is how an Asian person looks at the Western usage of a sprayer. It is beyond imagination for them. So if the commentaries explained that the spray guns are used for washing dishes, they would immediately reject such statements, like my monastic friend did with his “yuck” face.

Contrary, many Westerners criticize the Buddhist Commentaries and Abhidhamma which are the footnote explanations for the Suttas. While some points may seem counter-intuitive, they were based on a time and culture over 2000 years ago. It is hard to judge impartially, especially for a Westerner who grew up and lives very far away in time and space.

That was the modern device too. The Suttas mention “Water Pots For Toilets” and Western people think, “Oh this is for flushing the toilet,” even though there were no flush toilets in the forest monasteries. They were used for the same purpose as mentioned above with a water bowl and smaller bucket used inside which is still used in Asia today. We have monk rules about how the water bowl should be stored upside down so it won’t collect water and rust or get moldy (if plastic). So it is easy to make mistakes, especially for Westerners. That is why the Westerners and Modern Asians are quick to incorrectly judge the commentaries.

Enlightenment and nonself are counter-intuitive too. They go against our natural tendencies. That is why many Westerners like the content mentioned in Ajahn Mun’s Biography. The Thai Forest Traditions, which worship this book as a “bible” to monkhood seem to be the only thing in town for Buddhism in the West. This book helps one believe that an Arahant or even previous Buddhas exists after death with a “citta” that can never be destroyed, which is clearly wrong view according to proper Theravada Buddhism and more inline with Mahayana and Vedanta. Those official “scholarly” writings on the subject in English are often from Thai influenced monks. Westerners in general just don’t understand that the “self” is really a “nonself” because it is made of materiality, feeling, perception, volitional formations, and consciousness which are continually arising and perishing moment by moment at incredibly fast speeds. There is no self and when the fuel runs out for those who are fully enlightened, nothing arises again. Nothing.

Leave a Reply