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jamesve1
15 Mar 10, 15:44
Hello everyone, I'm happy to have found this forum and this is my first post (apologies for forum cross-posting).

I'm originally from the US but have lived in Thailand for quite a few years, and it seems that 'face' and 'shame' play a big role in Thai culture. I'm not sure if this is due to the Buddhist virtue of lajja (shame), or if it's due to some type of over-riding collectivist cultural value - or perhaps a combo of both (this could be seen as a 'chicken and the egg' thing; I'm currently studying for a degree in Anthropology so I apologize for all these "cultural" topics floating around in my head!).

Shame in the West is usually seen as a negative trait, although lajja/shame is a (positive) virtue in Buddhism.

From the Journal of Buddhist Ethics:
"Fear and shame are regarded as virtues in Buddhist ethical discourse when, for instance, one fears the karmic consequences of misdeeds or feels shame at having violated monastic vows." - http://www.buddhistethics.org/9/mrozik.html#n16

My question is, what role do you feel lajja/shame plays in Buddhism? And, do you believe shame plays a larger role in certain types of Buddhism? Do you feel this is an important trait included, or not included, in "Western Buddhism" (whatever "Western Buddhism" may be)?

Just from my own observations from visiting Theravada temples in Thailand, and then visiting a couple Buddhist organizations in the West, it seems that there is a strong level of "formalism" with visiting temples in Thailand, which I think is not just associated with temples, but an overall respect of "hierarchy" and "face" within Thai culture, something which I believe also preserves the tradition, at least to an extent .... I'm not sure exactly where Im going with this, but just something that's been floating around my head.

Thanks very much for your time and look forward to seeing your views.

jack
15 Mar 10, 16:57
Good question, I'd like to know the answer too.

I have an inkling that shame/fear has a lot to do with culture and Buddhism, how people react to what they have done.

In the Buddhist sense, I think it's probably shame and fear you need to feel within yourself when you have done something wrong, to help you remember your path.

But in cultures like Thailand/Sri Lanka, I'd imagine the shame/fear thing to be more uprooted in the values of society itself, possibly due to Buddhism, which might not necessarily be a good thing.

What I mean by this is, when society injects shame/fear into you, by becoming some sort of judge over your actions, it might not always be a good thing.

I can imagine the following scenarios if this happens in a society:

1.) some people would admit to being guilty for something wrong they've done and not do it again. All gravy, it's worked.

2.) some others might take another path, specially concerning the more subtle wrongs, and react more negatively, isolating themselves from mainstream society. Not so good, that's not what we want, is it?

3.) those who admit to being guilty and accept that guilt, might not be able to handle whatever it is they've done and face society and then end up reacting even worse than number 2, like suicide. Definitely not what we want.

That's my 2p, I'd love to hear more input on this though.

Esho
15 Mar 10, 18:42
What I mean by this is, when society injects shame/fear into you, by becoming some sort of judge over your actions, it might not always be a good thing.

This is more common in people that comes from the Judeo/Christian traditions, isn't it?



1.) some people would admit to being guilty for something wrong they've done and not do it again. All gravy, it's worked.

And this means there has come some sort of understanding about how things are.

Thanks jack,

http://www.buddhismwithoutboundaries.com/images/smilies/hands.gif

jack
15 Mar 10, 21:17
This is more common in people that comes from the Judeo/Christian traditions, isn't it?

I wouldn't know how to answer that, but I think you've misunderstood.

This is about shame/fear put on someone after something considered wrong has been done. A relationship that exists between society and a person, the shame/fear (coming from their cultural values) empowers society to shun said person leading to more harm than good in certain cases.

Anyway, these are my views, quite possibly taking things the wrong way (my own egotistic judgement on the issue), and I'm interested in this to understand more, to know where the boundaries between lajja/baya in culture and in Buddhism lie and whether they can be mixed.

Esho
15 Mar 10, 23:15
from post #4

Well yes, it is possible I have misunderstood the whole topic. I wrote about the judeo/christian tradition because I have heard a saying in this traditions about having fear about god; Jamesve1 #1 wrote:



From the Journal of Buddhist Ethics:
"Fear and shame are regarded as virtues in Buddhist ethical discourse when, for instance, one fears the karmic consequences of misdeeds

so I thought that there could be some resemblance between them.



This is about shame/fear put on someone after something considered wrong has been done. A relationship that exists between society and a person, the shame/fear (coming from their cultural values) empowers society to shun said person leading to more harm than good in certain cases

Yes... I understand, I think can take this point of view,

http://www.buddhismwithoutboundaries.com/images/smilies/wink.gif

Esho
15 Mar 10, 23:24
from post #1

Hi jamesve1,

In my tradition we do not talk too much about lajja but also my understanding of lajja as a virtue is nearer to the virtue of "modesty" that definitively it is not a virtue in Western culture as it is in most of the eastern ones.

Modesty has deep cultural meanings; it is what is told in cultural anthropology a kind of cultural archetype wich is related with a sense of wholeness of the self with nature. When this wholeness is borken and there is a kind of "separateness" with nature this kind of "modesty" is not taken as a virtue but as shortcomming. We can relate this archetype not just in eastern cultures but in some of the precolombine cultures of America like the Mayan culture in my country.

Hope I am not misunderstanding this topic again... if I am... help is needed...http://www.buddhismwithoutboundaries.com/images/smilies/tongue.gif

http://www.buddhismwithoutboundaries.com/images/smilies/hands.gif

Aloka
16 Mar 10, 10:28
I think in Tibetan Buddhism it might be called 'regret' rather than shame but I'm not sure - I recall a Tibetan teacher not understanding the English expression 'guilt' which is similar - and suggesting 'regret' instead.

As for fear - personally fear has never had any place in my Buddhist practice, I tend to associate it with superstition and control - but maybe it has a place in morality teachings.

Aloka
16 Mar 10, 10:56
However I was just looking a the late Kalu Rinpoche's list of 5 emotional afflictions and 20 subsiduary emotional afflictions, and in the subsiduary list the 8th affliction is 'shamelessness'.

"This is complete lack of propriety. Here, one's standards do not include the avoidance of evil actions. Shamelessness is classified as a combination of the three poisons and accompanies all root and branch emotional afflictions. "

('The Dharma')


** Shame in Theravada is apparently known as 'hiri' by the way and not 'lajja'.**

http://www.buddhismwithoutboundaries.com/images/smilies/hands.gif

Aloka
16 Mar 10, 12:04
For quotes relating to shame from the Buddha in the Pali Canon and from the late Bhikkhu Buddhadasa, see the same title in the Theravada forum.

jamesve1
16 Mar 10, 12:15
Very interesting, thanks so much all of you ... http://www.buddhismwithoutboundaries.com/images/smilies/hands.gif



In my tradition we do not talk too much about lajja but also my understanding of lajja as a virtue

Yes, I've actually never heard it discussed either. Although I think this is something implicitly expressed/emphasized, at least from what I've seen/experienced in Thailand. For example, "you must show respect so do this", when visiting temples (the same can be said when around elders, etc). I think that this prevents me, the person accompanying me, and the person receiving the "respect", from losing "face". I think this is the type of shame/regret I'm getting at, not exactly "guilt"..

I received compliments/was given positive reinforcement for (after awhile) figuring out how to act the "proper" way at temples without needing "help", etc - (although being a Westerner ["farang"], I never could get it perfectly right ...!)



the virtue of "modesty" that definitively it is not a virtue in Western culture as it is in most of the eastern ones.

Yes, it seems quite the opposite in Western culture.



Modesty has deep cultural meanings; it is what is told in cultural anthropology a kind of cultural archetype wich is related with a sense of wholeness of the self with nature. When this wholeness is borken and there is a kind of "separateness" with nature this kind of "modesty" is not taken as a virtue but as shortcomming. We can relate this archetype not just in eastern cultures but in some of the precolombine cultures of America like the Mayan culture in my country.

Exactly, a culture that has "already arrived", so to speak (an "enlightened culture"? - probably wouldnt go that far).



I recall a Tibetan teacher not understanding the English expression 'guilt' which is similar

I dont think it's our understanding/concept of "guilt" either ...



As for fear - personally fear has never had any place in my Buddhist practice

I wouldnt exactly say "fear" either, as in the ways/contexts that we normally associate "fear" with - I would say fear in causing one's self, the person associated with one, and the person one is supposed to show "respect" to, losing "face".



However I was just looking a the late Kalu Rinpoche's list of 5 emotional afflictions and 20 subsiduary emotional afflictions, and in the subsiduary list the 8th affliction is 'shamelessness'.

"This is complete lack of propriety. Here, one's standards do not include the avoidance of evil actions. Shamelessness is classified as a combination of the three poisons and accompanies all root and branch emotional afflictions. "

('The Dharma')

Very interesting, thanks http://www.buddhismwithoutboundaries.com/images/smilies/hands.gif I think what I'm getting at, is that in terms of "diaspora" and globalization/the "postmodern" world where "anything goes", and especially in Western context, "shame" is something important that .... is losing/lost its importance, perhaps?



** Shame in Theravada is apparently known as 'hiri' by the way and not 'lajja'.**

I found lajja listed in the online Pali-English Dict (http://www.viet.net/~anson/ebud/dict-pe/dictpe-23-l.htm):

lajjā : [f.] shame; bashfulness.

Several variations to the word are also provided:

lajjāpana : [nt.] putting to shame.

lajjāpita : [pp. of lajjāpeti] made ashamed.

lajjāpeti : [caus. of lajjati] makes ashamed.

lajjāpesi : [aor. of lajjāpeti] made ashamed.

Also found lajja in an online English-Pali Dict (http://www.buddhanet.net/budsas/ebud/di ... ctep-s.htm):

shame : (f.) lajjā; hiri; apakitti. (m.) avamāna. (v.t.) lajjāpeti; avamāneti. (v.i.) lajjati. (pp.) lajjāpita; avamānita; lajjita.

shame faced : (adj.) lajjanasīla; vinītasabhāva.

shameful : (adj.) lajjitabba; nindanīya; akittikara.

shamefully : (adv.) lajjitabbākārena.

shameless : (adj.) nillajja; ahirika.

shamelessly : (adv.) nillajjākārena.

shamelessness : (f.) alajjitā; ahirikatā.

And Lajja (Sanskrit) is defined as "modesty" (http://www.experiencefestival.com/a/Lajja/id/108374).

Again, thanks everyone http://www.buddhismwithoutboundaries.com/images/smilies/hands.gif Moreover, in light of my statements about shame above, what "ends" do you feel this type of shame (losing face. etc) serves?

Aloka
16 Mar 10, 13:02
Hi James,

'Bashfulness' isn't quite the same thing though, is it ? A friend who's a Theravadin and who lived in a monastery in Thailand for a while said its 'hiri' for shame and if you look at the Buddhadasa article I posted in the Theravada forum, he also says 'hiri'

Its mentioned at the Theravada Access to Insight dictionary of Pali terms like this:

<u>hiri</u>-ottappa [hiri-ottappa]: "Conscience and concern"; "moral shame and moral dread." These twin emotions — the "guardians of the world" — are associated with all skillful actions. <u>Hiri</u> is an inner conscience that restrains us from doing deeds that would jeopardize our own self-respect; ottappa is a healthy fear of committing unskillful deeds that might bring about harm to ourselves or others


Kind wishes,

http://www.buddhismwithoutboundaries.com/images/smilies/hands.gif
Dazz

jamesve1
16 Mar 10, 13:29
Hi James,

'Bashfulness' isn't quite the same thing though, is it ? A friend who's a Theravadin and who lived in a monastery in Thailand for a while said its 'hiri' for shame and if you look at the Buddhadasa article I posted in the Theravada forum, he also says 'hiri'

Its mentioned at the Theravada Access to Insight dictionary of Pali terms like this:

hiri-ottappa [hiri-ottappa]: "Conscience and concern"; "moral shame and moral dread." These twin emotions — the "guardians of the world" — are associated with all skillful actions. Hiri is an inner conscience that restrains us from doing deeds that would jeopardize our own self-respect; ottappa is a healthy fear of committing unskillful deeds that might bring about harm to ourselves or others

Thanks Daz for the clarification http://www.buddhismwithoutboundaries.com/images/smilies/hands.gif

'Bashfulness' .... no, I don't think it's the same thing, but related for sure, i.e., one can act bashful at the right time so as not to offend (if one offended, this could cause shame). Not wanting to offend through acting 'proper', I suppose ...

This could be related to:



"(3) He feels concern for [the suffering that results from] bodily misconduct, verbal misconduct, mental misconduct.

Element
16 Mar 10, 18:26
from post #1

I would say whatever shame & fear there is in Thai culture is offset by alot of love (metta-karuna).

In Thailand, the children have so much self-respect.

My view is the Thai case cannot be compared to traditional Western Judaic/Christian model, full of fear but deficient in love.

Kind regards

Element

http://www.buddhismwithoutboundaries.com/images/smilies/grin.gif

jamesve1
16 Mar 10, 19:04
I would say whatever shame & fear there is in Thai culture is offset by alot of love (metta-karuna).

In Thailand, the children have so much self-respect.

My view is the Thai case cannot be compared to traditional Western Judaic/Christian model, full of fear but deficient in love.

Kind regards

Element

Yes, I agree, there's so much kindness and love taking place in the Thai context. Thanks again http://www.buddhismwithoutboundaries.com/images/smilies/hands.gif

Esho
17 Mar 10, 00:04
As for fear - personally fear has never had any place in my Buddhist practice, I tend to associate it with superstition and control - but maybe it has a place in morality teachings.

Thanks Dazz dear,

I still think that the concept of fear has a lot to do with jude/christian traditions. It is strange to find the concept of fear in Buddhism.

http://www.buddhismwithoutboundaries.com/images/smilies/grin.gif

Esho
17 Mar 10, 00:10
Yes, I've actually never heard it discussed either. Although I think this is something implicitly expressed/emphasized, at least from what I've seen/experienced in Thailand. For example, "you must show respect so do this", when visiting temples (the same can be said when around elders, etc). I think that this prevents me, the person accompanying me, and the person receiving the "respect", from losing "face". I think this is the type of shame/regret I'm getting at, not exactly "guilt"..

We have a kind of "proper way" of getting into the dojo. We do not asociate it too much with the shame/regret/guilt issue. It is a kind of protocol that has to be observed strictly because it focus your mind for the coming ceremony and the zazen practice. It stills your mind and your body and brings you some sort of pacefulness before the practice at the dojo (temple).

Esho
17 Mar 10, 00:13
Exactly, a culture that has "already arrived", so to speak (an "enlightened culture"? - probably wouldnt go that far).

As a Buddhist practitioner I can not tell about that but as a cultural anthropologist I recoment not to idealize too much any culture. All cultures have its own reasons to behave as it does and most of the time this is neither good nor bad.

http://www.buddhismwithoutboundaries.com/images/smilies/grin.gif

Esho
17 Mar 10, 00:20
"Conscience and concern"; "moral shame and moral dread." These twin emotions — the "guardians of the world" — are associated with all skillful actions. Hiri is an inner conscience that restrains us from doing deeds that would jeopardize our own self-respect; ottappa is a healthy fear of committing unskillful deeds that might bring about harm to ourselves or others

Thanks Dazz,

Seems like the concept of Kung Fu in some Soto Zen schools which means a kind of inner strength or inner faith. A kind of "conscience and concern" that is also developed through zazen sesions.

Nothing to do with the TV series.

http://www.buddhismwithoutboundaries.com/images/smilies/hands.gif

Aloka
17 Mar 10, 00:31
It is strange to find the concept of fear in Buddhism.

Not really Kaarine. One can find references to fear of having bad rebirths, and fear of being reborn in the Hell realms etc

Esho
17 Mar 10, 00:40
from post #19

Well yes, that is right... sometimes I forget that Buddhism can be taken as a religion.

http://www.buddhismwithoutboundaries.com/images/smilies/wink.gif

jamesve1
17 Mar 10, 15:10
As a Buddhist practitioner I can not tell about that but as a cultural anthropologist I recoment not to idealize too much any culture. All cultures have its own reasons to behave as it does and most of the time this is neither good nor bad.


Completely agree.



Not really Kaarine. One can find references to fear of having bad rebirths, and fear of being reborn in the Hell realms etc

This might be related to distinctions between Buddhists along the lines of "Kammatic" vs "Nibbanic" . Or, the distinction between "I believe in Buddha/Buddhism", versus, "I practice Buddhism", perhaps? And there's a combo of both (likely the most common in reality). If distinctions are to be made ...

Esho
18 Mar 10, 00:01
Or, the distinction between "I believe in Buddha/Buddhism", versus, "I practice Buddhism", perhaps? And there's a combo of both (likely the most common in reality). If distinctions are to be made ...

Good point, http://www.buddhismwithoutboundaries.com/images/smilies/grin.gif

I would go for both: I practice Buddhism because I have (more than believe) confidence; but here confidence comes from a kind of personal confrimatory experience through practice, even if it is just for an instance.

http://www.buddhismwithoutboundaries.com/images/smilies/grin.gif