How do Buddhist Monasteries and Doctrine Create a Utopian Society?
The monastic order of the Buddhist faith is central to the advancement of the Buddha’s teachings to people all around the world. One of the largest and most eminent of these monasteries is the Kopan Monastery in Nepal, the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama, or the Buddha. There are numerous examples of the impact the Kopan monastery has had on followers of the Buddhist tradition, which has the goal of reaching Enlightenment through the practice of the Dharma, or the Way. One such example is that of Tenzin Ludup, a Taiwanese-American who attended a program at the Kopan monastery and who had an immersive, one month experience within the monastic community.
The benefit of using a primary source like Tenzin’s blog post is that it offers an insider perspective of the Buddhist monastic community. The reader can extract first-hand information from his writings that may not be available in background or argumentative sources. For example, while anyone can study and understand the Buddhist teachings, it takes primary sources to see the impact of those teachings on the lives of individuals. Tenzin’s story is a perfect example of this phenomenon. Although born into a practicing Buddhist household, he neither fully understood nor embraced the Buddhist teachings until his experience at the Kopan monastery. He says, “We are just so immersed in our own lives in the West with its Western point of view that emphasizes materialistic happiness and lifestyles. Looking back now, my life was totally void of any spirituality.”
The active practice of Buddhist teachings such as minimalism in regards to possession is the most important way monasteries disseminate their doctrines. At retreats such as the one Tenzin attended, participants live as if they were Buddhist monks, if only for a limited amount of time. According to Tenzin, monastic life at Kopan involves early morning and afternoon meditations, study of the Lamrim stages to Enlightenment, vegetarian meals of donated food, and work for the upkeep of the monastery. Tenzin found that “The two sessions of teachings everyday reinforced many of my beliefs and helped me further understand the meaning behind the topics covered in the Lamrim.” These practices help both novices and masters to better understand the Buddhist teachings by infusing every aspect of their lives with Buddhist principles.
All of these practices are outlined by the Dharma, which is the universal doctrine that helps individuals reach Enlightenment, which is the goal of Buddhism. The state of true Enlightenment is called Nirvana, which is sometimes is explained as the knowledge of the nature of reality without the influences of false projections. Nirvana can be equated with the Platonic theory of final level of knowledge, that of understanding of the true Forms. The Buddhist monasteries of Nepal have put into practice a code of actions that aids monks and visitors alike along the path towards Enlightenment, and in doing so, help to create a utopian community.
Ludup, Tenzin. “My November Course.” Fmpt.org. September 2012. Accessed November 9, 2015. http://fpmt.org/mandala/archives/mandala-for-2012/july/my-november-course/.