I thought I had finished complaining about E-Sangha, but the latest thing to happen to me is getting near the last straw.
… the Khenpos and Tulkus here at the Sengtri monastery have requested that the faithful people of the Domed area perform the following virtuous actions for a period of ten years:
870,000,000,000,000 recitations of the Mani mantra;
1,500,000,000,000 recitations of the Siddhi mantra;
35,000,000,000 recitations of the Tara mantra;
200,000,000,000 recitations of the Vajrasattva mantra;
160,000,000,000 recitations of the Amitabha mantra;
13,000,000,000 recitations of the Refuge;
1,230,000,000,000 recitations of Arapacana;
300,000,000 recitations of the Bhadracarya Pranidhana;
… and to perform other actions including, for instance “lighting 130,000,000,000 butter lamps and more”.
Now I am not sure what the “Domed” area is, and don’t know whether it as small as a village or extends throughout the world, but even in the latter case the numbers make no sense at all. Perhaps they were misunderstood, perhaps they were properly understood but simply mistyped.
This was so glaringly obvious to me that, although there were a couple of pious comments saying how wonderful and inspiring this was, I added one saying that on the face of it the numbers are bizarre. I looked at just the first one, starting with the wild assumption that a full million people would take part. I assumed that they could recite one “round” of the mala, which is 108 recitations, every minute. This is fast, but not unreasonable when this short mantra is recited as an ongoing buzz. I then assumed that these people would recite for 10 hours a day and take no holidays. A quick calculation will show that this would take 40 years. On the more reasonable assumption that only 1000 people take part, they would of course be going for 40,000 years each before moving on to the second mantra.
Having pointed that out, I asked what it was that I was missing. I might, after all, have in some way misread or misunderstood the letter, or that there might be a reply like “oh, sorry, I have put in too many noughts”. There were one or two brief replies like “perseverance” and “a long life” – actually I can’t quite remember.
End result? The next day my comment and its replies were deleted and the thread was locked down. No comment, no explanation, no request for clarification. Now if that is not petty and narrowminded, I really don’t know what is. What are they afraid of? Is it that amongst the many possible explanations, one is that the good Thubten Jamyang Gendun is not very good with numbers? Or that he has inflated the numbers just so that they are bigger than those from the next Rinpoche? Or has the translator of the letter (I don’t know who that was) got muddled over the Tibetan numbers? Is he or she someone who shall not be accused of making a mistake? Are they worried about contributors who will say BOO when something is patently silly? Whatever – it is astonishingly childish.
Or were the posts deleted and the thread closed for some other reason?
The answer was as follows:
Perhaps there were too many zeros in the number, perhaps there were thousands of people doing the accumulations. Who knows?
Why is it so important? A million or a billion or a trillion? What matters is the intention behind these accumulations and the discipline for doing them.
Why making a good thing a source of polemics? Don’t you have something better to do with your time?
- not only does “Dechen Norbu” think that having some awareness of what these numbers really mean is unimportant (an opinion you may share – it’s not a problem)
- and not only does he see fit, without comment, explanation or question, to impose his opinion by deleting the question and prevent futher discussion (which to my mind is the act of a petty control-freak)
- and, incidentally, not only does he also fail to see that even if many thousands of people are taking part, 870 trillion is still not remotely do-able
- but he sees fit to berate me for “polemics” (though he does not explain why) and for not having anything better to do.
Now if my lama tells me to recite, say, the Dorje Sempa mantra one hundred thousand times over the coming months, I neither set out to do it a hundred million times (which I would never finish), nor do I think that just a single hundred would do rather than a thousand of them. And I rather imagine that most of us, “Jamyang Norbu” included, would notice if our pay packet was a hundred, a thousand or a million times larger or smaller than what we reasonably expected. There is, I submit, nothing polemical or negative about looking at what is actually being suggested.
But that’s probably obvious. It’s the attitudes of the E-Sangha moderators that are just beyond the pale. I shall be reluctant to return.