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Monastic attitudes versus behaviours


Given recent events, I’m reminded of Richard LaPiere’s 1934 study “Attitudes Versus Actions” published in the journal Social Forces. He and a Chinese couple travelled the US for two years by car. They visited 251 hotels and restaurants and on only one occasion were they turned away. At the conclusion of their trip, LaPiere mailed a survey to each of these establishments that asked, “Will you accept members of the Chinese race in your establishment?” The available responses were “Yes,” “No,” and “Depends upon the circumstances.” Of the 128 responses 92 per cent answered “No.” The study was seminal in establishing the gap between attitudes and behaviours.

I recently turned 70 years of age when on pilgrimage. When back home, I called a Buddhist monastery to request permission for a short stay. The abbot explained that the policy required a maximum stay of three nights. I understood that was an assessment period to judge if further stays would be granted. I was a little irked but the policy seemed reasonable as did the demand for a photo identity. Dates were agreed and that was that. I provided him with my contact details and volunteered my age. That disclosure, with hindsight, was a paramount mistake of the highest magnitude. Two days later I received a call from the abbot who faltered in his explanation that the Sangha had met and discussed my request and had withdrawn their permission. I’m  not clear of their reason other that it was age related and thus discriminatory and ageist. I was and remain puzzled and hurt by the rejection and liken it to LaPiere’s survey result. I view these people as playing at being Buddhists monks as they lack an understanding of hospitality and generosity towards senior people. Of course, they fail to recognise that they too will be discriminated against one day. Their turn will come!


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