Reviews, Reflections, Recollections

Just a blog filled with my usual irreverent observations about life and all that.

Location: Singapore, Singapore

enjoys reading and is perpetually trying to find space for all of the books he owns in his room. He also enjoys films, and in particular, going to the cinema. Although a self-confessed trivia buff, reports that he is an insufferable know-it-all are completely unfounded. He enjoys a nice glass of tipple now and then, be it a pint of beer, a glass of wine or a single malt whisky.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Temple Management

People often complain about the dumbing down of education, with courses like media studies, talked about with a sneer on one's face, but a recent course offered by China's Jiaotong University must surely take the cake.

Apparently, 18 buddhist monks are about to embark on something very much in the secular fold as they begin a course in "Temple Management" in Shanghai. The course will include such modules as "corporate strategy" and "religious product marketing".

This is indeed something of a departure for buddhist monks, who are often depicted in the West as seeking silence and solitude and more importantly isolation from the world in keeping with their teachings that one can only attain Nirvana through overcoming wordly desires. So it would seem incongrous in the least that monks would be taking what amounts to an MBA in their field.
Still, this recent move can be seen as part of a wider trend, and in this context it seems far less surprising. The chinese government has been rebuilding much of its Buddhist heritage over the past 20 years, but not in an attempt at religious or cultural revival - to the contrary, the money has been spent in an attempt to attract more tourists to the region. One large temple in Shanghai already boasts a monk with the title of 'General Manager' and records the names of people who donate large sums of money to the temple on plaques on the wall.

I guess it's only natural for people to feel uneasy about the mixing of mammom and God - one only needs to think of the Catholic church of old selling relics and pardons for profit to feel a deeply unsettled about the two mixing. We like to think that religious organizations have to be completely altruistic, after all they are working for God and not for man, and if there is any more potent symbol of humanity it is the dollar. Yet, in many ways this is merely a form of self-deception. Churchs still have operating budgets, and cashflow problems - just ask every vicar in every tiny village in England trying to raise funds to fix the steeple. So perhaps it isn't so odd that monks are doing degrees in Temple Management.


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