What Disappoints Me About Modern Buddhism – By Richard Hunn

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Adrian Chan-Wyles (left – Richard Hunn (right) – 2002

What Disappoints Me About Modern Buddhism 

By Richard Hunn  

(Extracted from Richard Hunn (Upasaka Wen Shu) a Letter to Adrian Chan-Wyles (Shi Da Dao) Dated 28.4.1991) 

Author’s Foreword: I never agreed with everything Richard Hunn said – and neither did he…  What I benefitted from, was the ‘Way’ (道 – Dao) that he used to say it. As the years rolled by, and certainly by the time of his untimely death in 2006 (although he did not think it ‘untimely’ in anyway), many of his opinions had matured and developed as a consequence of experience, travel and deep consideration. This is natural and to be expected. His letters to me (over a 17-year period), although packed full of wisdom and knowledge, must be interpreted as a work in progress, and snapshots of the development of human understanding, even though every sentence ‘turned my words’, so to speak.   Much has changed since 1991, and I suspect Richard would be shocked at recent developments in world politics. However, the point here is not to give a political lecture by myself, but rather to emphasis ‘wisdom’ as well as ‘compassion’, and encourage those influenced by Buddhism to ‘question everything’ and develop a truly ‘profound’, dialectical understanding of history as it unfolds. ACW (25.4.2019) 

‘My biggest disappointment with Buddhism (in the modern world) is its sheepish (or worse, ostrich-like) attitude when it comes to standing up for human-civil rights (with a few notable exceptions). The World Fellowship of Buddhists prides itself on the fact that it remains apolitical. Put into existential terms, that really means unquestioning acceptance of the status quo – regardless. The Buddhists tend to dismiss politics as part of ‘samsara’ or the world-dream. They are right of course, except that we all have to live in it until privileged to shuffle off this mortal coil – even if not ‘abiding’ in it spiritually. I have articles by a Thai Bhikkhu who actually defends fascist one party-states, arguing that they are fine if they support the Dharma, with the inclination to see the human rights/prodemocratic movements in S.E. Asia (Burma, for instance) as disruptive elements stirring up the klesas. Question – what do you do if you wake up one morning and find that new laws have been passed, banning religious freedoms? Answer: Wish you had been less stupid!’ 

Author’s Afterword: Richard Hunn never agreed with anything I said – I was young and looking for a Ch’an Master to ‘turn my words’ – but overtime we became very good friends, respecting one another’s manifestation. From 1989-1992 I lived a monastic existence in the UK (involved in deep and sustained meditation whilst living in isolation – with Richard instructing me by letter). I was known to Richard as ‘Upasaka Heng Yu’, and to members of the British Chinese community as ‘Shi Da Dao’ (釋大道) with my formal ordination linked to the temple in our ancestral village in the New Territories – Hong Kong. Oddly, I never told Richard about this at the time, but in the early 2000s – during one of his visits from Japan to my family home in South London – he expressed a great interest – reading all the Chinese language Certification, etc. In the above letter Richard also comments: ‘Even the so-called “free world” distorts things in the media. – (Orwell’s ‘eye in the corner’). The most obvious examples: the minor’s strike – and the poll-tax demos – the video sequences were reversed. Whilst heaping praise upon the Song Dynasty Master known as Ta Hui (大慧宗杲-Da Hui Zong Gao) – 1089-1163 – for openly criticizing the Chinese Authorities of the day, Richard Hunn says that ‘in modern conditions, nobody can afford to be completely apolitical (up mountains is another matter).’  Of course, elsewhere, Richard Hunn had openly criticized elements of Tibetan Buddhism operating in the US (particularly Ozel Tenzin who deliberately spread HIV-AIDS to his trusting disciples), and the ‘Friends of the Western Buddhist Order’ (FWBO) in the UK, the founder of which – Dennis Lingwood – was accused of abusing young boys in India during the 1960s (when he was an ordained Buddhist monk) before being deported back to the UK where he continued to offend, etc. Richard Hunn migrated to Japan to live (1991-2006) where he experienced a whole new chapter in his understanding of Chinese Buddhism and the terrible behaviour of the Imperial Japanese Army in China (1931-1945). ACW (25.4.2019) 

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