SuttaCentral

A Note from Matty Weingast on The First Free Women

This past year has been hard on everyone.

Each of us has suffered deep losses.

Each of us continues to deal with the turmoil of the world in our own way.

And my guess is that each of us is struggling to some degree.

I believe that every single person involved in this discussion deeply cares about the Dhamma and is speaking from a place of integrity and advocating for what they think is best—not just for themselves, but for our whole community.

I also believe that all of the questions that have been raised are points about which thoughtful people can disagree.

We all come from such different backgrounds and inhabit such different bodies in such different ways.

We have all come to the practice for different reasons. And we each relate to the practice in a different way.

It would be weird if we all thought the same things, believed the same things, wanted the same things.

It would be weird if we all agreed on everything.

If you have something to say, by all means say it. And if you wish, say it loudly.

By speaking our truths out loud, we learn to listen and better understand one another. We learn to better understand our own views and how we relate to our own views.

Of course, when people start speaking their truths, we quickly realize that what is true for me is not true for another. And what is true for someone else is not true for me.

It is my hope that this book will continue to encourage open dialogue within our community—as all good books should do.

I hope that this discussion continues honestly, respectfully, and productively for everyone involved.
May we all awaken.

And may we all continue to support one another along the path to awakening.

I ask that you please forgive these somewhat sloppy sentences. I am sure that fault can be found with some of the wording, but my meaning and intention I hope are clear enough.

And for those who deeply disagree with everything I’ve said here, please know that I respect your view and would defend your right to express it.

Matty Weingast
June 1, 2021

6 Likes

Beautifully said, Matty :heart:

I find your poems deeply inspiring, full of wisdom and helpful for my spiritual practice and I am glad they were published. (I am also glad that it was clarified that it is not a translation.)

I sincerely hope that as time goes on, your poems can be understood not as a threat to or a replacement of spiritual scriptures but as the result of a deep engagement with these texts and an invitation for others to use them in that way as well .

best wishes,
Sabrina

3 Likes

Thank you for this post, which for me really embodies the buddhist virtues as I (personally) see them. Especially the quoted sentences are a good reminder of something all too easily forgotten.

And thank you for your interpretation of these ancient poems.

Much metta,
Christian

Forum participants are advised that Matty Weingast is NOT available on the forum to respond to any feedback on this note.

Thanks to the moderators for the clarification. (their full text is at the top of the thread) Mr. Weingast had an account on the forum and he apparently requested that it be deleted (although his few posts here can still be read).

This leads me to kindly ask @teacuplane, where did you get this statement? The way you posted it I though this was a new account created by Mr. Weingast. I see now that you do include a real name on your account, which I appreciate. But here we like to have citations :grin: to verify authenticity as much as possible.

Perhaps @creinig or @Sabrina may know since you seemed to have created new accounts to respond as soon as the post was made. [EDIT: I was wrong. The accounts were not created the day of the OP. Aplogies]

Welcome to all of you! I hope that you will benefit from the discussions here.

But we should all be aware that this statement

is not in line with the early Buddhist texts that this forum is here to discuss. So you may be surprised that people strongly push back against something that you strongly agree with.

We are all entitled to our own opinions, however we are not entitled to our own facts. As far as I know, nowhere in the Early Buddhist texts did the Buddha say that what is true for one person is not true for someone else. This may be more of a Mahayana thing, although I’m not qualified to say.

So if the statement in the OP was indeed said by Mr. Weingast, then it would appear he maintains that he did nothing wrong in representing his original work as the words of the Arahant Theris. It’s true for him, despite the fact that it is demonstrably false. Do others think I am misunderstanding?

10 Likes

Please be a bit more careful in your research before implying such a thing. My account is very new, true, but as you can see in my profile I joined about a week before this post was made.

I have no idea who @teacuplane is – actually I was under the impression this had been posted by Matty himself (which is reflected in the wording of my post).

And sorry for posting this publicly instead of as private message (as would have been more polite), but since your profile is hidden that option is unfortunately not available to me.

With much metta.

1 Like

No. I agree with you.

It’s weird either way. Why didn’t he just post this himself? He could just log out afterwards and never respond if he wanted to speak for himself. If he asked someone else to do it, consented to someone else doing it, or if someone else did it on their own, it certainly isn’t helping anything. Regardless, the content basically amounts to, “I’m sorry you feel that way,” which is a disingenuous statement. It means, “I’m not sorry at all because I’m right and you feeling otherwise is your problem.”

Putting aside doctrinal issues, I don’t know how Weingast couldn’t have expected to at least be charged with gender appropriation by taking the voices of women. Anyone who’s glanced at any kind of news in the last month would have seen that Justin Bieber was charged with cultural appropriation because he dredded his hair. It was all over every major news site and social media. Frankly, Weingast is just lucky that no one pays attention to Buddhism in the West. Otherwise this would be him:

That’s just the first page, by the way.

Maybe for next book of poems he can “interpret” the poems of Amanda Gorman, Maya Angelou, and Gwendolyn Brooks.

Anyway, I’m done with all of this.

3 Likes

My apologies. I thought I had seen that this was your first time posting, and I wrongly assumed that you had both just joined. I appreciate you pointing out my mistake/assumption. Lots of assumptions are being made and it’s good to call them out. So thank you.

Also, I didn’t realize that people could not send me direct messages. I’ll check on that. Sometimes the forum software prevents newish accounts from sending direct messages. [EDIT: It’s not a new account issue in this case. I’m still working on it, though. Seems there is one setting that allows people to send messages (which I had indeed allowed) and a different one that makes your profile hidden. (Which I did indeed have set to hidden, but I have changed the setting and it still seems hidden.)

2 Likes

Anyone could’ve written this. Until it’s certain who wrote it and why, I don’t see much use in responding.

3 Likes

Sabrina joined last year.

1 Like

Yes, my apologies, again. I was wrong. I assumed that first time posting meant that they had just joined. Obviously that is not true. I forget that people create accounts even when they never post. I’ve edited my post.

Perhaps we could get back to the topic.

3 Likes

:+1:

Especially after that disclaimer at the top was posted. And “teacuplane” has their name listed as “Morgan Lane.” Very odd all around…

3 Likes

My post was hidden at my request, as @Niyyanika informed the moderators, since I wasn’t able to get online this afternoon; thanks @moderators! You can open it again now that I’ve written over it.

I had felt quite sure that the message purporting to be from Matty wasn’t his, due to the cryptic presentation from someone not unfamiliar, and content that I deemed unlikely. I then launched into a critique of that content that would’ve been ok if I’d been correct. I learned by phone call from Aloka Vihara that the post as indeed Matty’s. Oops. My apologies to Matty and all inconvenienced by the post.

5 Likes

This post was flagged by the community and is temporarily hidden.

2 Likes

Thank you, @Snowbird :slight_smile:

As the statement is called “A Note from Matty Weingast” and was signed with his name and the date, I assume these are indeed his words and that maybe a friend of his posted them for him. I cannot blame him if - for his peace of mind - he’d rather not engage directly here on the forum. However, I have no inside knowledge to know one way or the other.

As I understand, Matty has agreed to make it more clear in the upcoming edition of TFFW that he is the author of the poems and while his inspiration came from the Therigatha, it is for the most part no translation but rather an interpretation of these ancient texts. I think at this point, basically everyone agrees with that.

However, I get the impression that the poems are still seen as problematic by many here on this forum. And that is something I don’t understand. Why are the poems seen as in contrast to the Dhamma and not as some kind of commentary by a serious practitioner who sat with these poems for a long time to see how they resonate for him and then put his meditative understanding of them in contemporary form? Why is is seen as a corruption of the teachings and not a contribution, just like those of any Buddhist teachers teaching in this day and age?

In my opinion, these poems are not some kind of “feel-good, anything goes, good vibes only” fluff, but they do speak about renunciation, about letting go, about observing the arising and ceasing of everything, about dealing with sexual abuse, with grief, about how to see the body and mind clearly without attachments etc (and even mention rebirth which was doubted by some). I cannot imagine that the ancient nuns would have a problem with that if it clearly comes from a place of respect for the scriptures and the Dhamma.

This is also very perplexing to me. An author - no matter their gender - using the literary device of talking in another’s “voice” is very common in poetry as well as in other forms of literature. Otherwise the only literature we’d have would be autobiographic. He is not actually pretending to be an enlightened nun from ancient India, he is just writing from their (imagined) point of view.

And yes, if he would insist that these are the exact words of the ancient nuns, then that wouldn’t be true. And as I already said in my previous post, I am glad that this was made more clear thanks to the efforts of many dedicated advocates of the original Therigatha.

All in all, I just wanted to express my thanks to Matty for his poems with my first post because I felt sad reading some unkind and harsh judgements of him and his work on this forum and I felt that he didn’t deserve so much vitriol for something that - in my opinion - comes from his love of the Dhamma and not from any cold-hearted monetary calculations. And as we cannot look inside his head, maybe it would be a good idea to at least not assume the worst.

6 Likes

The @moderators have added two different disclaimers at the top of the post. It probably would have been better if they had also done a green-box mod message at the current end of the thread because none of us who have already read the thread will ever see that message. So I post it here, as it currently stands at the time of my posting:

Forum participants are advised that Matty Weingast is NOT available on the forum to respond to any feedback on this note. The content presented hereunder has been posted by him under a nom-de-plume with a proviso that he shall not be responding to comments. Please keep in mind the forum guidelines while responding!

This was confusing to many of us, especially those who knew that he already had an account here.

You raise many good questions and I hope to reply later.

2 Likes

Though it has been independently verified that teacuplane is indeed the nom de plume for Matty Weingast, the author has expressed his desire to abstain from any further discussion. His statement on the issue is as presented above in the thread.

4 Likes

Dear Sabrina, thanks for your post. I’ll try to answer the questions you pose below :slight_smile:

In part it is exactly because they are still dealing with the issues (suffering), it becomes hard to distinguish where they veer off track so much - this is what makes them so very destructive. It is like a demonstration of Ayoniso Manasikara (unwise attention) because it focuses attention on the wrong things, and diverts or erases the salient parts from a Dhamma perspective.
Note: if these were just independent poems and not presented as either the direct or even ‘re-imagined’ versions of the Therigatha, there wouldn’t be this problem, then it is just a person giving their take on life …like any one of the thousands of authors writing in this field.

Here is an example Bhante Sujato provided

It is precisely because the focus has moved, from the process of Liberation and penetration of delusion, to the ‘suffering’, that the Dhamma quality has been removed.

One of the tragic things about watering down or adapting the Buddhas teachings to make them more ‘palatable’, is that the very purpose of the teachings and training is removed. If the Buddhas teachings are like a map of samsara, it is like someone has gone in and kicked over and removed the EXIT sign. But that is the whole purpose - Liberation from samsara, and how to realise it… Instead it is glorifying/romanticising all the obstacles and the difficulties of the journey - but removing the destination , the end, the cessation of suffering.

It might be easy to relate to the suffering, as the Weingast poem focuses on the

and ends with a vague statement perhaps referencing mindfulness? This isn’t challenging, it is just a vaguely empathetic expression for how tough it can be…

But it doesn’t tell you how to solve the problem, which the Therigatha does

Now this is challenging, and difficult (each word references specific practices outlined in detail by the Buddha in the suttas) - but it is the solution. It’s no coincidence that the Buddha is often compared to a surgeon… the process may be difficult, but it is the medicine that will cure the disease. By substituting the medicine with candy/lollies one is simply being given a placebo and kept in ignorance.
This is what moves it from Dhamma to ADhamma.

And I’m pretty sure the Enlightened Nuns would indeed have quite a bit of a problem with this :pray:

I hope that this clarifies the issue a bit more :slight_smile:

With Metta

8 Likes

Since this discussion is still going strong, I’ve decided to also finally give my perspective on it.

I’ve followed the TFFW controversy since the beginning, and it’s been a very emotional thing for me. This is also one of the reasons why I haven’t posted here before - I did not trust myself to be able to practice right speech in the face of the emotional turmoil and especially anger I was feeling. By now I’ve gained a better understanding and am mainly experiencing sadness, so I’ll finally give it a try. It is not in any way my intention to personally attack anyone and extend my sincerest apologies if I should fail in expressing this properly. My aim with this post is to offer my personal perspective and with that, hopefully, further mutual understanding, just as I have after a long struggle come to understand the dominant perspective in this forum a bit better (I hope).

Some people here have expressed perplexity on why Matty did not post his statement here himself, under his own account (side note: I believed this to be authentic, and by now it has been thankfully clarified). My assumption is that his motivation for this is basically the same as my second major reason for not posting earlier: I don’t feel safe here.

I have been in forums since before web-based versions of them existed, and while SuttaCentral certainly has the most fancy words of all, I have never once witnessed the amount of viciousness, hatred and baseless allegations leveled towards Matty here. This has deeply shocked me and eroded my trust in the Dhamma and the Sangha (how can long term practitioners still be acting like this and consider themselves righteous for it?). I still don’t feel safe here, but by now I don’t care anymore. If necessary I can simply decide that this is not a place I want in my life and walk away. And in all likelihood I will do that. I however still fear that some backlash against my post(s) will be intentionally or subconsciously directed towards my friends, which is the reason why I won’t disclose more about myself and especially my associations here.

Now, since these are certainly strong words, please let me reiterate that this is not in any way intended as personal attack, but as a truthful and open description of how this controversy has impacted me, in the hope of furthering better mutual understanding.

Which leads me to my other point, namely my aforementioned (hopefully) better understanding for the dominant view expressed here on the topic. To be able to properly explain this I first have to describe a bit my view of Buddhism (my “truth”, to pick up on the paragraph I quoted from Matty’s message in my first post):

In my personal view, Buddhism is at its core about developing and embodying the 5 precepts (or more, if you are a monastic), about developing and embodying the brahmaviharas, and about developing a clear view of reality as it truly is through realizing non-self and impermanence. Or, to put it even more succinctly, to develop the often quoted “Wisdom and Compassion” and the Dalai Lama’s “My Religion is Kindness”.

Now, what I have picked up here and what appears to be the view dominant in this forum (or at least among the most vocal forum members) is that there is something even more important than these noble qualities, and that is the preservation of Dhamma in the form of the scripture or, in other words, Dogma. As Bhante @Akaliko puts it in the other thread, referring to what I experienced as shockingly vicious attacks against Matty:

I have also come to realize why this view (this “other truth” commonly held here which is very different from “my truth”) had such a strong emotional impact on me (among other reasons): because as I see it it fits (or at the very least strongly reminds of) this definition:

Fundamentalism usually has a religious connotation that indicates unwavering attachment to a set of irreducible beliefs. However, fundamentalism has come to be applied to a tendency among certain groups – mainly, although not exclusively, in religion – that is characterized by a markedly strict literalism as it is applied to certain specific scriptures, dogmas, or ideologies, and a strong sense of the importance of maintaining ingroup and outgroup distinctions, leading to an emphasis on purity and the desire to return to a previous ideal from which advocates believe members have strayed. Rejection of diversity of opinion as applied to these established “fundamentals” and their accepted interpretation within the group often results from this tendency.

(Source: Fundamentalism - Wikipedia )

I am deeply sorry for continuing with such “big guns” and want to emphasize (again) that this is not intended as personal attack in any way. On the contrary, it is a heartfelt offer of an outside perspective that hopefully provides some insight on how words written here may be perceived by others.

And please don’t get me wrong: I consider it very important to preserve the old scriptures as closely to the original as possible, as is done on SuttaCentral. I am very grateful to everyone contributing to this monumental effort. I am only trying to explain that I personally consider it very dangerous to react to someone else publishing his interpretation of the Dhamma somewhere else by essentially (in my impression) abandoning core teachings of the Buddha - especially Metta, Karuna, Upekkha and Right Speech.

Furthermore I want to express that I now think I can better understand what pain the initial mischaracterization of the poems has caused here - considering the described view of Buddhism as base, such pain is an obvious and natural response. I also hope that I could provide a little insight on the pain the response on this forum has caused to people holding the other view, like myself. May we develop better empathy and understanding for each other and may this help a bit with restoring harmony in the Sangha.

7 Likes