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Some people are just wankers and have not a whiff of spirituality about them. Some people are genuinely struggling though with the wankerly aspects of their personality and it is helpful to be removed from temptation (or an audience).

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On 1/19/2020 at 9:57 PM, Walker said:

 

Never even heard of this movie, but sounds... Interesting to say the least! 

 

It's a pretty cool movie, a 1991 "art comedy-drama" as Wiki put it, directed by Jim Jarmusch and depicting one night in five cities -- Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Rome and Helsinki -- through five separate vignettes with five respective cab drivers working that night.  It can be found on Netflix I think, and the episode I was referring to, the one taking place in Rome, someone posted on Youtube, although it's even better in the overall context.  If you have 26 minutes to spare, enjoy. :)  

 

 

 

Edited by Taomeow
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On 2020/1/22 at 8:41 PM, SirPalomides said:

Re: watermelon fucking, on a general note, I think it must be concluded that internet access is one of the worst things a monastery can have. Not that crazy things didn’t happen before- humans are humans. I remember an episode in the novel Seven Taoist Masters where the disciples are made to sleep next to wooden boards. They dream about beautiful women and in the morning the boards are covered in... uh, jing. Further afield I was a bit shocked when I first read this quote in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers: 

 


and this from an age where Christian monasticism was supposed to be at its most pristine. 
 

So stuff happens, but man does the internet not help. In my years in the Orthodox Church I saw more than a few cases of monastics from respectable places who got internet connections and *poof* goes that old aura of sanctity and wisdom. Maybe some guy on Mount Athos launching into a tirade about how the EU is trying to turn everyone into slaves of the one world government with biometric passports; or a monk in Romania singing fascist songs with a chorus of nuns on his birthday; or a Russian elder going on some anti-Semitic conspiracy rant. And of course all kinds of sexual abuse and predatory behavior.
 

Keep the monks away from the internet, folks. 

 

Thank you for sharing this. I think your observations are important. While it can be easy to say something like, "well, if these monks are susceptible to temptation, then they're not real monks, so monasticism is inherently hypocritical and maybe even itself a violation of natural principles," your comments reminded me that the whole point of any real monastic environment comes from honestly acknowledging how human it is to be susceptible to temptation. The walls (both literal and figurative) of any cloister exist precisely because the monks--if they are honest--are clear about how they will not make the progress they wish to make unless they separate themselves from aspects of the human world that they are not, at least at a certain stage of their path, capable of standing aloof of. It doesn't take a leap of imagination to see how allowing internet connections in monasteries is a bit like filling them with liquor cabinets and allowing overnight visitors in monks' and nuns' bedrooms. Sure, drinking a beer (or ten) and having a cuddle (or an orgy) are "natural" behaviors. Hell, maybe even some orgy-having, watermelon-fucking, cognac-swilling cultivators can reach their spiritual goals without giving up the booze and sex. But: monasticism has always existed for those who admit to themselves that they need at least a long, long break from access to those external things that will derail them focus on their inner lives. That's why it is important for all people connected to a tradition that has a monastic path to respect the monastic lifestyles. Nuns/monks, non-monastic clergy, and laypeople all have a part to play in this. 

 

It is sad when laypeople who call themselves "believers" or even "practitioners" not only don't respect the monastic way, but even throw themselves full force into becoming sources of chaos in monastic environments. Case in point: the person who narrated the watermelon story to me in person carried on a sexual relationship with a monk in White Cloud Monastery for years. She even took me to meet the dude once; in addition to this mistress he also secretly had a wife and child and as such was always busy trying to find ways to make money while living as a "monk" so that he could send it to his wife, who would show up at the temple and threaten to out him if the cash flow dried up. One day I went to visit my friend for tea (I swear, just tea... and maybe a few cookies... fuck it, I'm not a monk, I can have cookies!) and she complained bitterly to me about a much older monk in the White Cloud Monastery who saw her poking around one of the places where monks have bedrooms, looking for her beau. Her man wasn't in, and the old monk saw her, walked over and said, "I know who you're looking for, he's not home," apparently, she felt, with a look of judgement and contempt on his face. All she wanted to do was complain about this judgmental bastard, and when I pointed out maybe he finds it upsetting that she's there several times a week to get her fuck on right in the middle of his monastery, where he specifically moved in order to cultivate the Dao in relative peace, well, hmm, maybe she could turn the light of judgment on herself just a tiddily-tad. This flew right over her head, and in fact she complained about that incident to me several other times over the years, despite also lamenting the "even worse" antics of White Cloud Monastery, which are multifarious and are not limited to boning veggies on web cams. 

 

That internet-based temptation has been problematic for monks in the Eastern Orthodox church is sad, but it also makes me feel a little bit better about my own tradition, as it shows that this isn't simply a challenge that Daoist monasteries are, as a whole, failing to deal with effectively. I think one problem is that people remain too attached to the letter of monastic code written in ancient times, and not the spirit. I know many chain smoking Daoist monks. Why is this okay? "Wang Chongyang, et al, did not forbid smoking tobacco." Right, motherfucker, because they did not know about it! They also did not know about getting sucked into the WeChat hole and much other crap, but it doesn't take a fucking prophet who can talk to the ghosts of Christmas past to make a good guess about what Wang Chongyang mighta said about staring at a phone to play mah jiang or flirt with "the faithful" five hours a day. Point being: anybody who struggles to answer the proverbial WWJD question here just doesn't wanna deal with his/her addictions du jour. 

 

Anyway,

 

I finally finished doing my research into Zhang Mingxin and Four Dragons.

 

Holy fucking shit, that's a whole 'nother can of worms. Gonna need a whole new thread, and a few hours to write it all up. She wears blue but she's as red as Lenin and she's found a bevy of gullible American pawns only too eager to become "priests." Madness. Madness. 

Edited by Walker
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19 minutes ago, Walker said:

 but it also makes me feel a little bit better about my own tradition, as it shows that this isn't simply a challenge that Daoist monasteries are, as a whole, failing to deal with effectively.

 

It also makes me feel great about my tradition, which is not monastic.  I think all the things you talk about as deviations are the tip of a much more sinister iceberg.  For one thing, people used to become monks not in order to accomplish anything in particular but mostly because parents were unable to feed an extra mouth, so the boy would be sent off to be a monk, or to marry off an extra daughter -- that's your nun.  People society had to put aside for lack of a role to offer.   

 

I will never forget what I saw in Saint Francis Monastery in Lima, Peru, which has catacombs filled with countless wells, each containing this arrangement to the depth of 30 feet:

 

5e2a7f5734e82_1280px-Catacumbas_de_San_Francisco_Lima.thumb.jpg.020edd5b8616924790668ec08a0ebd16.jpg

      

It is also believed there existed secret passageways that connected to the Cathedral and the Tribunal of the Holy Inquisition.  To my question about whose bodies were thus arranged, the guide just shrugged.  To my next question -- what for -- he responded, "This served no purpose, the monks just did it for no reason."  The skulls and bones are thought to have belonged to some 25,000 people.  That's just one monastery, in a very remote place, and its having these catacombs was discovered only accidentally in the 20th century. 

 

I was very perceptive just then after ayahuasca sessions in the rain forest on the opposite side of the country, and I was absolutely destroyed by that place.  Couldn't put the visions out of my mind's eye for weeks... 

 

So, not much of a believer in monastic virtues...  and I don't care which denomination we're dealing with -- though not all are equally sinister -- but I tend to think promiscuity and lack of piety are the least of their problems.  

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Well, that's just one side of a coin, and at the other side is the fact that you, as a practitioner of Longmen Daoist arts, are a benefactor of a line the traces directly back to Wang Chongyang, Ma Danyang, and Qiu Chuji, who all chose a staunchly monastic path and recommended it for some (but not all) of the aspirants they taught.

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21 minutes ago, Walker said:

Well, that's just one side of a coin, and at the other side is the fact that you, as a practitioner of Longmen Daoist arts, are a benefactor of a line the traces directly back to Wang Chongyang, Ma Danyang, and Qiu Chuji, who all chose a staunchly monastic path and recommended it for some (but not all) of the aspirants they taught.

 

I've never heard of it.  Don't know about Ma Danyang, but Wang Chongyang and Qiu Chuji?

?  

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You are a student of Wang Liping, right?

 

Can you rephrase your question? I'm not entirely sure what those question marks indicate you're asking.

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1 hour ago, Walker said:

You are a student of Wang Liping, right?

 

Can you rephrase your question? I'm not entirely sure what those question marks indicate you're asking.

 

Yes.  

 

Rephrasing the question: it's rhetorical, meaning, I'm surprised to hear it, never heard of it, have never come across any mention of either one of the three "choosing a staunchy monastic path."  A staunchy path, yes, at least part of the time.  But monastic, never heard of anything like that.  The biographies I'm familiar with go as follows:

 

Wang was born into aristocratic wealth in 1113,¬†got a classical education and martial training, planned a¬†rebellion against the¬†Jurchen¬†Jin dynasty, but then, at the age of 48,¬†met three taoist immortals --¬†Zhongli Quan,¬†L√ľ Dongbin, and¬†Liu Haichan. They met in a tavern.¬† The immortals¬†taught him, he¬†adopted the taoist name "Chongyang" and, as part of his training, built a tomb for himself and practiced¬†taoist arts there for three years.¬† Then he built a hut on top of it and lived there for another four, practicing and sharing the¬†teachings with others.¬† He named his hut "Complete Perfection Hut," and later it became the name of the school -- Complete Perfection.¬† It was a hut, not a monastery.¬† In 1167, he burned the hut down and went traveling, eventually accepting a married couple, Sun Bu-er and Ma Yu, as his disciples.¬† Damn, it's late, I'll continue tomorrow.¬† Happy coming Chinese New Year!¬†¬†

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The root of monasticism is in hermits, whether they lived in caves, huts,, etc. So the Greek word monachos= solitary, whence we get "monk." The early Christian monks were solitary ascetics like St Anthony the Great who lived in caves or, sometimes, huts (e.g. St John the Hut-Dweller). As they acquired disciples they began to order a more common life which eventually developed into the sketes and coenobia that we now call monasteries. But monasticism at its core isn't defined by these institutions, so Wang Chongyang living by himself in a tomb or a hut is practicing a kind of monasticism. Sun Bu-er and Ma Yu were indeed a married couple, but they were not accepted as a married couple. Rather Ma Yu abandoned Sun Bu-er who later joined him but they were thenceforth celibate. The early Quanzhen masters were adamant that you had to abandon your family if you really wanted to cultivate. It was definitely a monastic movement.

Edited by SirPalomides
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1 hour ago, SirPalomides said:

. But monasticism at its core isn't defined by these institutions, so Wang Chongyang living by himself in a tomb or a hut is practicing a kind of monasticism.

 

 

We call it hermitage or asceticism, and monasticism is defined by institutions, complete with vows, institution-prescribed not voluntarily chosen.  It's about as "the same" or "similar" as practicing taekwondo as taught in the Korean Army (which I used to) and enlisting in the Korean Army.

 

1 hour ago, SirPalomides said:

Rather Ma Yu abandoned Sun Bu-er who later joined him but they were thenceforth celibate. The early Quanzhen masters were adamant that you had to abandon your family if you really wanted to cultivate. It was definitely a monastic movement.

   

It was Sun Bu-er who left Ma Yu -- at the age of 57, her family obligations fully completed, her children married off, her grandchildren cared for -- announcing to her husband that from this point on she will take care of her own spiritual needs.  He joined her in cultivation ten years later, when she was 67 and he, probably older.  At that age celibacy tends to come more naturally.   If you can even call it that after a lifetime of human normalcy predating its onset.  

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2 minutes ago, Taomeow said:

 

We call it hermitage or asceticism, and monasticism is defined by institutions, complete with vows, institution-prescribed not voluntarily chosen. 

 

Again, hermitage is just the most basic kind of monasticism. Any monasticism is normally entered voluntarily- if you don't like the rule of a particular monastery, you don't have to join. Situations where people are forced into monasteries for political or economic reasons should be considered a deformation of the practice and not a defining feature, even if it was alarmingly common in certain eras.

 

If you wanted to be  Wang Chongyang's  core disciple, you had to abandon family and become celibate. The Quanzhen masters did open the teachings up to laypeople but they very clearly regarded renunciation of family life as essential to real advancement. So you have stories of Quanzhen disciples doing things like walling themselves inside caves and ignoring the pleas of their wives or  children outside.

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1 minute ago, SirPalomides said:

 

Again, hermitage is just the most basic kind of monasticism. Any monasticism is normally entered voluntarily- if you don't like the rule of a particular monastery, you don't have to join. Situations where people are forced into monasteries for political or economic reasons should be considered a deformation of the practice and not a defining feature, even if it was alarmingly common in certain eras.

 

If you wanted to be  Wang Chongyang's  core disciple, you had to abandon family and become celibate. The Quanzhen masters did open the teachings up to laypeople but they very clearly regarded renunciation of family life as essential to real advancement. So you have stories of Quanzhen disciples doing things like walling themselves inside caves and ignoring the pleas of their wives or  children outside.

 

You didn't notice my Korean Army comment I guess.

 

Hermitage is not "the most basic kind of monasticism."  If we play with words we can perhaps score by noticing the similarity of one feature of hermitage to one feature of monasticism, but let's not mistake it for the whole enchilada.  Hermitage is the most basic kind of certain phases in the course of certain types of cultivation.  It does not entail the shame of "breaking the vows" Walker was talking about when the taoist "goes back into the world" -- because there's no institutional vows to break.  In the case of non-monastic lineages there's no lineage vows broken either if one chooses to end a particular phase of cultivation and enter a different one.  Cultivating in the world is legit.  It's just that, if going into the world means no cultivation is going to be happening, leaving the world -- temporarily or permanently -- may be the preferred option.  And if the world objects, one might wall himself or herself in a cave, because cultivation might be a priority.  But no shame is attached to not doing that either. 

 

One of teacher Wang Liping's seminars (maybe more than one, dunno) took place in a monastery where the monks observe the vow of silence.  The students, who were served meals together with the monks, were asked to observe it too while in the presence of the monks in the dining hall.  They did.  Situational observance of particular vows is not uncommon.  What is different is that they wouldn't be breaking any vows once out of the context of situational observance. 

 

Taoist cultivation is not carved in stone except for petrified institutionalized varieties.  Taoist priests are married or not -- situationally.  If they aren't married, they are likely to be celibate, unless they don't have to be.  Depends on the practice.  Vegetarianism is not practiced by most (and is a very non-taoist tradition to begin with).  Abstaining from alcohol is seldom a requirement, abstaining from smoking is never a requirement, to my knowledge, and even abstaining from drugs is a novelty -- taoist external alchemical tradition is the original "pharmaceutical industry."   One reason I always feel somewhat uneasy about cross-pollination of traditions is that the ones that are more about personal choice, personal responsibility, personal accountability to oneself and to one's higher self get more and more forced out and substituted with institutional choices, responsibilities, accountability to the power-wielding superiors.  It's never the more human way that influences the more institutionalized ones, it's always vice versa somehow.  As a result taoism turns into something one would be unable to tell from some respectable non-taoism, and its virtues that become institutionalized quickly partake of all the vices that invariably accompany restrictions imposed from without rather than self-imposed from within.

 

 

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Again, monk is from ‚ÄúMonachos,‚ÄĚ solitary. The first people to be called monks were guys like Paul of Thebes and Antony the Great. Likewise the word ‚Äúhermit‚ÄĚ comes from these same people, referring to the Egyptian desert they lived in.¬†They lived in huts and caves alone and had no monasteries or rules except whatever ascetic regimen they decided for themselves. Hermits are the first monks. Wang Chongyang alone in his hut is a solitary, a monachos, a monk.

 

For early Quanzhen cultivating in the world was a dead end. If they thought otherwise they wouldn‚Äôt insist so strongly on breaking up families.¬†They referred to people still in the world as ‚Äúwalking corpses‚ÄĚ and things like that. They were not playing around.
 

I’ll wait for Walker to chime back in before saying more.

Edited by SirPalomides

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I don't think the origin of words explains  phenomena they come to specifically signify in the course of growth of their derivational tree.  "Monk is from 'monachos'" explains a monastery about as much as " 'Medici' is from 'medicina'" makes the House of Medici a hospital.  Trust me, I'm a linguist.    

Edited by Taomeow

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6 hours ago, Taomeow said:

We call it hermitage or asceticism, and monasticism is defined by institutions, complete with vows, institution-prescribed not voluntarily chosen.  It's about as "the same" or "similar" as practicing taekwondo as taught in the Korean Army (which I used to) and enlisting in the Korean Army.

 

Right, and the vows of Quanzhen Daoism were codified and prescribed to disciples.

 

Whether Wang Chongyang was a hermit, a monk, or both while he was practicing alone in the Zhongnan Mountains is an interesting question, but it's not really the crux of this.

 

When he concluded his (mostly) solo practice and began seeking disciples for his Complete Reality movement, mostly in Shandong and Shaanxi, he was most certainly initiated the ones who ŚáļŚģ∂/chujia/"left home" into a monastic life.¬†

 

Ma Danyang, who was the leader of the Quanzhen movement after Wang's passing as well as Qiu's primary teacher (Qiu Chuji was very young when he joined Wang Chongyang and barely exchanged words with his master, who viewed him as far from ready for real spiritual cultivation) was heavily into asceticism and promoted the monastic life, going so far as to come into disagreement with one of the other seven main disciples who founded a major monastery, which seemed to Ma as too luxurious (the other disciple--I forget which one, and I'm too busy to look it up, answered that this kind of fancy monastery allowed them to help more laypeople). 

 

When Qiu Chuji, who was much younger than all of the other disciples, completed his long period of retreat he continued the monastic ways of his two teachers, Wang and Ma. In part because of the influence he gained as a result¬†of his visit to Genghis Khan, his sway over Daoism in the northern part of the Yuan dynasty was enormous (in the south, Zhengyi and a Zhengyi-derived movement called Á饜ēô were both powerful--Quanzhen monasteries could not be built in the southern reaches of the Yuan without Zhengyi approval). Thanks in part to Qiu's influence, the¬†monastic Quanzhen lifestyle became widespread.

 

Going all the way back to Wang Chongyang, the Quanzhen masters tended to be lovers of letters, and they left behind poems and essays that made explicitly clear their thoughts about monasticism. Because many of Wang's first generation disciples came into frequent contact with the Jin and Yuan courts in order to secure the right to promulgate their movement, there is plenty in the written record from governmental sources. Local gazetteers also contain a wealth of information about the early masters' biographies and religious activities. Taken as a whole, a clear picture is left behind of an institutionalized monastic movement. 

 

To this very day, in monastic Longmen Daoism, the requirement for monks and nuns is to eschew many things lay Longmen disciples are not prohibited from partaking in. Marriage and sex are prominent on the list. Those Longmen Daoists who wish to be married and/or have sex are either laypeople, or monks and nuns who violate their vows. 

 

Quote

 It was Sun Bu-er who left Ma Yu -- at the age of 57, her family obligations fully completed, her children married off, her grandchildren cared for -- announcing to her husband that from this point on she will take care of her own spiritual needs.  He joined her in cultivation ten years later, when she was 67 and he, probably older. 

 

That is one way of interpreting events, I am not sure where it comes from. My understanding is that it is often painted as a mutual decision made by Sun and Ma after Wang Chongyang impressed them with physical bilocation, a series of cryptic teaching poems, and the symbolic cutting of pears into pieces for several weeks, which eventually Ma and Sun understood as meaning "to leave [marriage]," as "pear" (śĘ®)¬†and leave (ťõĘ) are homonyms. There are also¬†androcentric-sounding versions of the story in which Ma makes the decision and a disappointed Sun asks him to reconsider.

 

Regardless of brought up the word "divorce" first, the two of them entered into a monastic life and, so far as we know, remained in it until they died. 

 

5 hours ago, Taomeow said:

Taoist cultivation is not carved in stone except for petrified institutionalized varieties.

 

The use of the word "petrified" here seems gratuitous. Living in a monastic setting might not suit you at all and might feel very petrified were you to be in it, but that is not how it feels to those who have an affinity for that path (which predates the Quanzhen movement by a long time--Daoist ŚáļŚģ∂ living with monastic strictures began to be codified centuries earlier in the Tang, I believe). I say this having lived with such people and being student and confidant of such people.

 

Wise Daoist teachers I have met recognize that some aspirants have affinity for a monastic path, some do not. For those who do not, there are teachers like your own, who are lay people who inherit Longmen teachings and transmit them to other lay people.

 

Quote

Taoist priests are married or not -- situationally.  If they aren't married, they are likely to be celibate, unless they don't have to be.  Depends on the practice.

 

This is a statement which only makes sense when talking about traditions like Zhengyi and Lingbao, which are called ÁĀęŚĪÖ/huoju, "living near the fire/hearth," which refers to being a married householder.

 

In the Quanzhen, there is no provision for huoju daozhang. 

 

Quote

  Vegetarianism is not practiced by most (and is a very non-taoist tradition to begin with).

 

That is not true. To the contrary, an argument could be made that Chinese Buddhism had vegetarianism forced upon it by the emperor who required all Buddhist monks and nuns in China to abstain from meat (I think this emperor was Liang Wudi) due to Daoist influences. To be certain, ancient Daoism did not require full-time vegetarianism, but strict abstention from meat for periods of time prior to major jiao rituals was common. So strict was this abstention that the entire community hosting the ritual could be prohibited from eating meat, as well as slaughtering animals, hunting, and fishing altogether during the lead up to the ritual and up through its conclusion. This is such a deep-rooted tradition that local McDonald's in Taiwan have been successfully prohibited from serving meat patties for this reason.

 

By contrast, ancient Indian Buddhists were not vegetarians. They were, to use a modern term, freegans. They ate what they were given. 

 

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  Abstaining from alcohol is seldom a requirement,

 

Abstaining from alcohol is certainly a requirement of monastic Quanzhen Daoists. This is well-documented. Laypeople may drink.

 

Quote

abstaining from smoking is never a requirement, to my knowledge, and even abstaining from drugs is a novelty -- taoist external alchemical tradition is the original "pharmaceutical industry."

 

External alchemy was not a part of the Quanzhen monastic regimen. If there were (and I suspect there were, because this was such a syncretic movement) Quanzhen monks or nuns who dabbled or specialized in external alchemy, this would not have been to get high.

 

Quote

 One reason I always feel somewhat uneasy about cross-pollination of traditions is that the ones that are more about personal choice, personal responsibility, personal accountability to oneself and to one's higher self get more and more forced out and substituted with institutional choices, responsibilities, accountability to the power-wielding superiors.

 

And yet on the first page of this very thread you talked about Daoists "embracing syncreticism." Like it or not, cross-pollination is more the rule than the exception, everywhere in the universe. This does not mean all cross-pollination is good, and that it cannot lead to the death of a species (I would argue that the cross-pollination of modern Quanzhen Daoism with modern PRC consumerist culture and CCP United Front Work Department nationalism, for instance, is strangling that spiritual path).

 

Regarding the second part of this comment, perhaps your eye is somewhat jaundiced regarding this issue. You certainly make your distaste for monasticism clear quite often. And to be certain, monastic life can be about subservience to power structures with all of the attendant large- and small-scale catastrophe that comes from that. 

 

But also, monasticism can be about personal choice, responsibility, and accountability coming to the fore of one's existence thanks to the way in which a monastic setting can allow one to cut away nearly everything except for those three things.

 

I personally know people who have been touched by both sides of that coin. As the world is a very complicated place, sometimes it is the same person who has seen both sides of the coin. 

 

Quote

  It's never the more human way that influences the more institutionalized ones, it's always vice versa somehow.  As a result taoism turns into something one would be unable to tell from some respectable non-taoism, and its virtues that become institutionalized quickly partake of all the vices that invariably accompany restrictions imposed from without rather than self-imposed from within.

 

I don't think you have enough "on the ground" experience to say "always" here. Even within a single small monastery with fewer than 10 monks or nuns within one finds a complex blend of patterns that defies easy definition. 

 

Finally, while there is merit in all of the negative assessments you could levy at monasticism, please try to remember that had the monastic Quanzhen Longmen not existed, there could never have been a Wang Liping in your life. If what he inherited truly traces back to Qiu Chuji, that means he inherited something that came from elders who felt very strongly that monasticism should be established, nurtured, defined, and maintained. I respect their thinking on these matters, not blindly, but for the very same reason that I defer to the teachers when they tell me what the teachings are. After all, if I know better than Wang, Ma, and Qiu did, why the hell am I wasting my time and my teachers' by coming to them for instruction?

Edited by Walker
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