Shaolin: Can Buddhist monks also be warriors?

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Shaolin: Can Buddhist monks also be warriors?

Postby Luke » Sat Oct 02, 2010 6:02 pm

So many myths about the famous Shaolin temple at Song Shan have been created that it's often difficult to find out the real history of the temple. I couldn't find any particularly good information about it online, but I did find this review of the book " The Shaolin Monastery: History, Religion and the Chinese Martial Arts" by Meir Shahar on Amazon.com:


"Here are some of the more interesting points covered, including the slaying of commonly held martial arts myth:

1) Although he is not sure when the monks began to learn how to wield weapons, Shahar states they were practicing the use of military weapons (sword, spear, bow, etc.) as early as the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The monks chosen to learn these skills protected the monastery from mountain bandits that regularly laid siege to the complex. However, these monks were not apart of the religiously devout vegetarian body that lived within the monastery proper. They lived in small clusters located outside of the monastery and regularly broke the Buddhist precepts against eating meat, drinking alcohol, and killing. They were allowed to do this because of their distance from the monastery and the protection they provided. The allowances for killing were also connected to their religious beliefs.

2) The martial monks worshiped a Buddhist guardian deity called "Vajrapani," one of the Buddha's body guards. Legends tell how he regularly killed demons and other evil creatures that threatened the Buddha or Buddhism in general. Hence, this was all the justification the military monks needed to kill. This deity was always portrayed in Indian art with a club, but the Chinese eventually changed it to a staff (contemporary stelae located on the Monastery grounds attests to this). Vajrapani figures in Shaolin legend as the progenitor of their legendary staff method. Hence, he was connected to Shaolin arts CENTURIES before Bodhidharma.

3) Chinese fiction had a great influence on Shaolin legends. For instance, the Monkey King from the tale Journey to the West influenced the aforementioned staff legend. The legend takes place during the Red Turban Rebellion of the Yuan Dynasty. Bandits lay siege to the monastery, but it is saved by a lowly kitchen worker wielding a long fire poker as a makeshift staff. He leaps into the oven and emerges as a monstrous giant big enough to stand astride both Mount Song and the imperial fort atop Mount Shaoshi (which are five miles apart). The bandits flee when they behold this staff-wielding titan. The Shaolin monks later realize that the kitchen worker was none other than Vajrapani in disguise. Shahar compares the worker's transformation in the stove with Sun's time in Laozi's crucible, their use of the staff, and the fact that Sun and his weapon can both grow to gigantic proportions

4) Empty-handed boxing did not develop at Shaolin until the late Ming Dynasty. Before then, they were only known for their staff and spear methods. Because the Ming Dynasty revered the "Three religions" (Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism) as one universal teaching, during this time, Shaolin also studied Taoist gymnastics (stretching and breathing exorcises). These exercises were eventually combined with fist arts (in and outside the monastery) to create a new form of cultivation consisting of gymnastics, religious rituals, and combative techniques.

5) Bodhidharma was not connected with Shaolin fighting arts until the 17th century. Prior to this, he was only considered the progenitor of Chan Buddhism. The first published source that mentions Bodhidharma in connection with Shaolin arts is the Sinew Changing Classic, which was written by a Taoist in 1624. This is the source for all current legends that state he taught monks exercises to strengthen their bodies. However, as originally conceived, these exercises ultimately ended in immortality. Practitioners of the 17th century "internal school," which predates the creation of Taiji, and eventually died out, combined the Wu Dang priest Zhang Sanfeng with a Taoist God (The Dark Warrior) to create a Taoist equivalent of Bodhidharma. Hence, Bodhi became the legendary progenitor of the "External" or "Northern school" and Zhang the "internal" or "Southern school."

6) Shaolin's fame from the Tang till today was derived solely from their expertise in choosing the correct side to fight for in struggles between warring factions. For instance, Shaolin fought for the New Tang emperor, guaranteeing their future for centuries. Had they fought for the other side, they would have been exterminated. During the Tang, Buddhism was targeted because of it's foreign origins. Monks were sent home to lay life (or killed) and their monasteries where destroyed. But Shaolin was allowed to stay open ONLY because of its help to the Tang founder. Shahar gives an example of the reverse (a bad political choice). The Shaolin Temple was burnt in 1928 because they chose a side and lost."

http://www.amazon.com/Shaolin-Monastery ... P06IK9Q9J9

Another question I have is "Can a man be both a Buddhist monk and a warrior at the same time?" Everything I know about Buddhism would suggest that the answer is "No!" Would this imply that the Shaolin "warrior monks" were technically not Buddhist monks since they broke the vow of not killing frequently by killing humans?
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Re: Shaolin: Can Buddhist monks also be warriors?

Postby ronnewmexico » Sat Oct 02, 2010 7:20 pm

On a technical basis....all kill frequently. Any harvested product grain whatever requires killing to harvest.

ON a traditional basis....there exists many examples of monks being engaged thusly, but my personal opinion is that it indeed does conflict with the vows. Killing humans by a monk.....I don't think so.
This as mentioned is not isolated there exists many other examples seemingly so I would not say it is at all specific to any one form or school of buddhism. It is a error but can be found in many.

Martial arts may be engage in to cause least harm for other as well as self if properly engaged. I would suggest that was the initial of this thing in that temple, not solely on the basis of protecting the temple. Most form of nonweaponry or simple weaponry... martial arts evolved in response to imperial edicts of no military weaponry in other than the authorized military. Suchly one has the evolution of use of simple things such as numchucks throwning darts, simple staffs and other things which had a agricultural derivitive. They could be so trained in and disguised as being not military.

As a aside of sorts :smile: the buddha was born as a warrior or to the warrior caste not brahamin or other. So in a sense anyone, to my opinion, must be a warrior or have the warriors characteristics (some mistakeingly abscribe to a particular gender) to attain enlightenment.
Fearlessness strength unconcern for others opinion at times... and on and on.
If buddhism was strictly a passive or solely contemplative religion I suppose that he would have born as brahamin or other type.

A warrior however does not have to kill humans to be a warrrior. So a monk could indeed be a warrior.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
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Re: Shaolin: Can Buddhist monks also be warriors?

Postby Dexing » Sun Oct 03, 2010 1:29 am

Luke wrote:Another question I have is "Can a man be both a Buddhist monk and a warrior at the same time?" Everything I know about Buddhism would suggest that the answer is "No!" Would this imply that the Shaolin "warrior monks" were technically not Buddhist monks since they broke the vow of not killing frequently by killing humans?


The first thing to understand about Shaolin is that there are different levels of ordination in the tradition. The warrior monks are unique to Shaolin. They only take five precepts, and therefore cannot be considered as fully ordained monks.

The other thing is to understand the meaning of warrior in the tradition. It has more to do with spirit than with fighting. The warrior monks must take the precept against killing. In the past the martial arts training was used for defense, not for killing. The Buddha did not prohibit self-defense for monks, much less for those who are not even fully ordained.

Nowadays the warrior monks use intensive martial arts training to build their spirit and determination, and to strengthen and stretch their bodies and minds, always as a unique method of Chan practice, not for fighting.

It is also a point that in Shaolin Monastery today there are about 300 monks. 200 are fully ordained and train little to no martial arts, while there are only about 100 warrior monks who train martial arts along with Chan practice.

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Re: Shaolin: Can Buddhist monks also be warriors?

Postby Luke » Sun Oct 03, 2010 2:31 am

Dexing wrote:The first thing to understand about Shaolin is that there are different levels of ordination in the tradition. The warrior monks are unique to Shaolin. They only take five precepts, and therefore cannot be considered as fully ordained monks.

So, should they even be called "monks" then? Perhaps "warrior priests" would be more accurate?

Dexing wrote:The other thing is to understand the meaning of warrior in the tradition. It has more to do with spirit than with fighting.

Okay, people can come up with different interpretations of the word "warrior." But I meant "warrior" in the original sense of the word: a person who fights in life-or-death battles regularly. In my opinion, people who just practice techniques which people who fought in battles used to use are not warriors--they are more like actors or dancers or other performing artists or athletes.

Dexing wrote:The warrior monks must take the precept against killing. In the past the martial arts training was used for defense, not for killing. The Buddha did not prohibit self-defense for monks, much less for those who are not even fully ordained.

But self-defense sometimes involves killing your attacker. When that happens, the precept against killing is broken.

There are still so many myths about the Shaolin that the historical facts get obscured. The fact is that the Shaolin monks did fight offensively as well.

"621 - Shaolin monks fight Wang Shichong with Prince of Qin, capture fortress
The Prince of Qin, Li Shimin, later had his older brother killed and became the second emperor of the Tang Dynasty. He was generally anti-Buddhist, but the Shaolin Temple got special consideration due to the warrior-monks' help against Wang Shichong. On May 23, 621, monks helped to capture Wang's fortress and seized the warlord's nephew as a hostage."

http://asianhistory.about.com/od/warsin ... meline.htm

"1511 - 70 Shaolin monks die fighting bandits
Bandit armies flooded Hebei and Henan Provinces; the Shaolin monks marched out to fight them, and took fairly heavy casualties."

http://asianhistory.about.com/od/warsin ... toming.htm

Not very monk-like...
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Re: Shaolin: Can Buddhist monks also be warriors?

Postby Dexing » Mon Oct 04, 2010 12:53 pm

Luke wrote:So, should they even be called "monks" then? Perhaps "warrior priests" would be more accurate?


The word used on them is 僧 Sēng, which is a Chinese transliteration of "Sangha". They are monastics in every sense when they are living in the monastery (keeping 10 precepts then), but their level of precept is secular. It is a class of monk unique to Shaolin.

Dexing wrote:Okay, people can come up with different interpretations of the word "warrior." But I meant "warrior" in the original sense of the word: a person who fights in life-or-death battles regularly.


The word translated as "warrior monk" is 武僧 wǔsēng. The first character is like "martial", but is made up of several smaller characters: 一 one, 止 stop, 戈 spear. So it is a method by which one stops the spear. That means it's a defense method. So warrior in this sense does not mean they are killers, but protectors.

Dexing wrote:But self-defense sometimes involves killing your attacker. When that happens, the precept against killing is broken.


It involves killing your attacker if you don't keep your precepts. But who says warrior monks don't keep those precepts? They only used sticks to defend themselves. Sticks won't hardly draw blood, like a bladed weapon, much less kill someone. But they can fight them off.

There are still so many myths about the Shaolin that the historical facts get obscured. The fact is that the Shaolin monks did fight offensively as well.


One of those myths is the story of the 13 staff monks saving the Tang emperor. Professor Ma Mingda of Jinan University, who is a historian specializing in Shaolin studies, says that it is completely a legend. Just a story. It is completely unrealistic that the emperor of the great dynasty would have to rely on several monks for protection.

There is no evidence that the monks engaged in battle where they killed. In fact, too many times they were killed by attackers destroying their monastery. They fought to protect and defend their monastery and their country, but I doubt they were all aggressive killers. :thinking:

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Re: Shaolin: Can Buddhist monks also be warriors?

Postby Luke » Mon Oct 04, 2010 3:47 pm

Dexing wrote:The word translated as "warrior monk" is 武僧 wǔsēng. The first character is like "martial", but is made up of several smaller characters: 一 one, 止 stop, 戈 spear. So it is a method by which one stops the spear. That means it's a defense method. So warrior in this sense does not mean they are killers, but protectors.

Hmm, that's interesting. Then maybe they should be called "defender monks" or "protector monks" instead.

Dexing wrote:It involves killing your attacker if you don't keep your precepts. But who says warrior monks don't keep those precepts? They only used sticks to defend themselves. Sticks won't hardly draw blood, like a bladed weapon, much less kill someone. But they can fight them off.

Eventually accidents will happen in the heat of battle. It's not too hard to kill someone with a sturdy staff. If you hit someone in the throat by accident even with only your fist, their windpipe can swell to the point where they can't breathe and they can suffocate and die. Hitting someone on the back of their heads or necks can kill them quite easily, as can any hard blow to the skull. A hard enough strike to the chest area above the heart can also cause death. etc.

Dexing wrote:One of those myths is the story of the 13 staff monks saving the Tang emperor. Professor Ma Mingda of Jinan University, who is a historian specializing in Shaolin studies, says that it is completely a legend. Just a story. It is completely unrealistic that the emperor of the great dynasty would have to rely on several monks for protection.

Interesting. Thanks for sharing.

Dexing wrote:There is no evidence that the monks engaged in battle where they killed. In fact, too many times they were killed by attackers destroying their monastery. They fought to protect and defend their monastery and their country, but I doubt they were all aggressive killers. :thinking:

What about the quote I posted above about them marching out to fight bandits in 1511? Are you saying that that's also a myth?

Or what about this one which comes from Meir Shahar's research:
The monks won their greatest victory at Wengjiagang.[18] On 21 July 1553, 120 warrior monks led by the Shaolin monk Tianyuan defeated a group of pirates and chased the survivors over ten days and twenty miles.[18] The pirates suffered over one hundred casualties and the monks only four.[18]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaolin_Kung_Fu
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Re: Shaolin: Can Buddhist monks also be warriors?

Postby Dexing » Mon Oct 04, 2010 9:46 pm

Luke wrote:Hmm, that's interesting. Then maybe they should be called "defender monks" or "protector monks" instead.


I think "warrior monks" fits just fine. There are many words from certain cultures that one may not understand if they don't bother to learn about the culture. Warrior is a word that can be interpreted in different ways. It is best to simply learn about the Shaolin culture and how the word is used therein, rather than change words that you may not like.

Dexing wrote:Eventually accidents will happen in the heat of battle. It's not too hard to kill someone with a sturdy staff. If you hit someone in the throat by accident even with only your fist, their windpipe can swell to the point where they can't breathe and they can suffocate and die. Hitting someone on the back of their heads or necks can kill them quite easily, as can any hard blow to the skull. A hard enough strike to the chest area above the heart can also cause death. etc.


It's also pretty easy to hit and kill someone with a car, when your intention was just to drive it. The Buddha only prohibited intentionally killing, because it is the intention that constitutes negative karma, not simply killing by accident. The Buddha never prohibited self-defense; he only said not to harbor anger or ill-will toward an attacker. Of course in self-defense you will try not to kill, but only subdue. Shaolin skills are full of joint-locking and pressure point maneuvers that will leave the opponent helpless, but not dead. These types of techniques are trained the most.

Dexing wrote:What about the quote I posted above about them marching out to fight bandits in 1511? Are you saying that that's also a myth?


There were several times when the monks of Shaolin were slaughtered without defending themselves. Like when being ambushed during morning chanting services.

Other times they protected themselves, the monastery and elder monks, and defended their country when the Japanese invaded, which is not prohibited. Would you rather each time they simply get slaughtered?

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Re: Shaolin: Can Buddhist monks also be warriors?

Postby ronnewmexico » Tue Oct 05, 2010 2:55 am

As a point in fact Mushashi a famous samuri, years ago in Japan, who eventually gave it all up for a solitary retreat style in zen, was known for useing a wooden sword, in several of his battles, and with his most equal adversary which resulted in that adversaries death.

As I mentioned earlier....the initiation of karate lies in the use of common implements as royal edict prohibited other useage.

The monestary in mention was to my dim recollection essentially eliminated during the cultural revolution. It is present now but there was a exception of several years.
My personal antedotal experience as I have had acquaintance to one who studied martial arts training in that place...he seemed not monastic but dressed as a regular person and engaged as a regular person, though not a native of the US. Abeit a spiritually typed regular person. Which would fit in with what was stated.

His conception of emptiness was not mine, and I discussed this with him. He held to aware aspect of inherantly existant quality.
I assume that was the reflection of his school but am not certain. His martial arts strategy seemed to have a essential spiritual componant as evidenced by another acquaintance well advanced in the martial arts, who did train with him on occasion, and related that to me.

To add a little local color to this :smile:
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
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Re: Shaolin: Can Buddhist monks also be warriors?

Postby remm » Tue Oct 05, 2010 3:28 am

Thanks Dexing, I never really knew that about Shaolin monks either and often wondered if they kept the full 250 precepts or just parts of it.

Thanks for your clarification.
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Re: Shaolin: Can Buddhist monks also be warriors?

Postby Dexing » Tue Oct 05, 2010 4:48 am

remm wrote:Thanks Dexing, I never really knew that about Shaolin monks either and often wondered if they kept the full 250 precepts or just parts of it.

Thanks for your clarification.


To be clear, that is only warrior monks. There are many more fully ordained monks than warrior monks who do in fact keep the full precepts, and don't practice much martial arts.

Of course though, there's nothing much to hear about from them. :shrug:

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Re: Shaolin: Can Buddhist monks also be warriors?

Postby Luke » Tue Oct 05, 2010 5:10 am

Dexing wrote:It's also pretty easy to hit and kill someone with a car, when your intention was just to drive it. The Buddha only prohibited intentionally killing, because it is the intention that constitutes negative karma, not simply killing by accident. The Buddha never prohibited self-defense; he only said not to harbor anger or ill-will toward an attacker.

Are you saying that killing a person accidentally doesn't even produce even a little bad karma? Somehow that doesn't sound quite right to me.

I wish I could find a sutra which would clarify these ethical issues...
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Re: Shaolin: Can Buddhist monks also be warriors?

Postby Huifeng » Tue Oct 05, 2010 5:17 am

Luke wrote:
Dexing wrote:It's also pretty easy to hit and kill someone with a car, when your intention was just to drive it. The Buddha only prohibited intentionally killing, because it is the intention that constitutes negative karma, not simply killing by accident. The Buddha never prohibited self-defense; he only said not to harbor anger or ill-will toward an attacker.

Are you saying that killing a person accidentally doesn't even produce even a little bad karma? Somehow that doesn't sound quite right to me.

I wish I could find a sutra which would clarify these ethical issues...


If someone hit a person violently, even though not intending to kill them, if the victim died, although technically that is not breaking the precept of "killing" - because one had no intention to kill, due to the very fact of violent intention and action, of course there is negative karma.

It helps not to confuse "karma" with "breaking / upholding precepts". There are a huge amount of activities that do not break precepts but still make a lot of bad karma. In particular, of course, mental emotions.

As for "self defence", this is a classic example. It is very difficult for the majority of people to act in self defense without some sort of self-view behind it, which quickly leads to aggression. Socially it may be acceptable, but for 99.9% of people, there will still be making karma.

However, a sheer accident is another matter. No intention = no karma. Simple as that. To say otherwise is a shift towards the Jaina teachings, clearly refuted by the Teacher.
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Re: Shaolin: Can Buddhist monks also be warriors?

Postby ronnewmexico » Tue Oct 05, 2010 5:28 am

Well the warrior I had talked to....we talked about emptiness as I mention and we talked about wilderness and retreat. He used retreat and did engage in wilderness, as a means of discipline or to try the senses to see the me. I talked about wilderness and seeing the fearful response to see the me. There was a oppositional view on those things both, emptiness and employment.

We talked not a bit about any fighting technique, strength or anything of that sort. My other acquaintance he did on another occasion when I wasn't there. I find those things boring, for the most part.

So I suppose one could talk about such things to a fully ordained. Their understandings would be more advanced and complex I would assume, and more interesting. However few fully ordained do I run accross in the circles I am in.

How do we know....."However, a sheer accident is another matter. No intention = no karma."
this is(this sheer accident) not a result of karma? Is this then a claim of such knowledge? Are there any sheer accidents....I suppose there are none. Does that statement perhaps mean karmic result?
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
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Re: Shaolin: Can Buddhist monks also be warriors?

Postby Luke » Tue Oct 05, 2010 1:01 pm

Huifeng wrote:If someone hit a person violently, even though not intending to kill them, if the victim died, although technically that is not breaking the precept of "killing" - because one had no intention to kill, due to the very fact of violent intention and action, of course there is negative karma.

It helps not to confuse "karma" with "breaking / upholding precepts". There are a huge amount of activities that do not break precepts but still make a lot of bad karma. In particular, of course, mental emotions.

As for "self defence", this is a classic example. It is very difficult for the majority of people to act in self defense without some sort of self-view behind it, which quickly leads to aggression. Socially it may be acceptable, but for 99.9% of people, there will still be making karma.

However, a sheer accident is another matter. No intention = no karma. Simple as that. To say otherwise is a shift towards the Jaina teachings, clearly refuted by the Teacher.

I am grateful to hear your clear thinking on this matter, Ven. Huifeng.

Which Buddhist books or sutras deal with the topics you mentioned (the karma created by self-defense, refutation of Jain philosophy, etc.)?
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Re: Shaolin: Can Buddhist monks also be warriors?

Postby Lazy_eye » Tue Oct 05, 2010 2:35 pm

Dexing wrote:The first thing to understand about Shaolin is that there are different levels of ordination in the tradition. The warrior monks are unique to Shaolin. They only take five precepts, and therefore cannot be considered as fully ordained monks.


This may clear up a bit of a mystery...after I visited Shaolin a few years ago, some Chinese friends told me "oh, we heard some of the monks up there have girlfriends".

I assumed they were mocking the "monks" and accusing them of corruption, but if it is as you describe, there wouldn't have been any prohibition broken.
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Re: Shaolin: Can Buddhist monks also be warriors?

Postby Huifeng » Wed Oct 06, 2010 3:27 am

Lazy_eye wrote:
Dexing wrote:The first thing to understand about Shaolin is that there are different levels of ordination in the tradition. The warrior monks are unique to Shaolin. They only take five precepts, and therefore cannot be considered as fully ordained monks.


This may clear up a bit of a mystery...after I visited Shaolin a few years ago, some Chinese friends told me "oh, we heard some of the monks up there have girlfriends".

I assumed they were mocking the "monks" and accusing them of corruption, but if it is as you describe, there wouldn't have been any prohibition broken.


Because they are not monks. But for a number of reasons, their actions are attributed to "monks", and this influences people's perceptions of actual monks.
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Re: Shaolin: Can Buddhist monks also be warriors?

Postby Dexing » Fri Oct 08, 2010 12:04 am

Huifeng wrote:
Lazy_eye wrote:
Dexing wrote:The first thing to understand about Shaolin is that there are different levels of ordination in the tradition. The warrior monks are unique to Shaolin. They only take five precepts, and therefore cannot be considered as fully ordained monks.


This may clear up a bit of a mystery...after I visited Shaolin a few years ago, some Chinese friends told me "oh, we heard some of the monks up there have girlfriends".

I assumed they were mocking the "monks" and accusing them of corruption, but if it is as you describe, there wouldn't have been any prohibition broken.


Because they are not monks. But for a number of reasons, their actions are attributed to "monks", and this influences people's perceptions of actual monks.


The other thing is that in the Shaolin area there is also what is called 表演僧 "performance monks", who take a number of precepts and such during their time performing. They of course dress the part, which may lead to confusion. But that's just a lesson, don't jump to conclusions.

There have also been a number of fraudulent performance groups that have even traveled the world claiming to be monks from Shaolin. The Shaolin Monastery has been cracking down on this, but it's just another thing that muddies the water of what actually happens within Shaolin's actual monastic community.

The majority of them are actually fully ordained monks, who live lives just like any other Chinese monk.

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Re: Shaolin: Can Buddhist monks also be warriors?

Postby ball-of-string » Sun Oct 10, 2010 8:27 pm

Somewhat off topic, but maybe y'all could help me with this. I used to train in a Japanese martial art. Of the ethnic Japanese who practiced this martial art, many were Zen Buddhist practitioners, including Zen monks. I asked about this once, thinking it was a contradiction for Buddhists to practice martial arts. A Zen monk explained to me: Lord Gotoma was a well trained martial artist before going forth into the ascetic life. So training mind and body in the defensive arts is a way of replicating the Boddhisatva path. Has anyone else heard this or encountered this philosophy?
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Re: Shaolin: Can Buddhist monks also be warriors?

Postby Luke » Sun Oct 10, 2010 8:46 pm

ball-of-string wrote:So training mind and body in the defensive arts is a way of replicating the Boddhisatva path. Has anyone else heard this or encountered this philosophy?

This may not be exactly what you were talking about, but it's close:
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/ ... 09,00.html

It's about Drukpa Kagyu nuns in Nepal who practice kung fu in order to develop confidence and physcial strength.

I don't know if learning martial arts makes someone more bodhisattva-like, but as long as you're not killing people intentionally, it doesn't make you less bodhisattva-like.

I respect Zen Buddhist monks, but I think a lot of western martial artists who talk about Zen a lot seem to equate it with only a bit of shamatha, Japanese decorations and clothes, and mysterious poems.
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Re: Shaolin: Can Buddhist monks also be warriors?

Postby Indrajala » Sun Oct 10, 2010 9:46 pm

ball-of-string wrote:Somewhat off topic, but maybe y'all could help me with this. I used to train in a Japanese martial art. Of the ethnic Japanese who practiced this martial art, many were Zen Buddhist practitioners, including Zen monks. I asked about this once, thinking it was a contradiction for Buddhists to practice martial arts. A Zen monk explained to me: Lord Gotoma was a well trained martial artist before going forth into the ascetic life. So training mind and body in the defensive arts is a way of replicating the Boddhisatva path. Has anyone else heard this or encountered this philosophy?


Miyamoto Musashi trained in a Zen temple for a few months and killed several dozen people in duels during his life. Not to mention that he was an active participant in the war against Christians in Kyushu.

Does that mean Buddhism and duelling to the death are compatible? Of course not. It just means some notable individuals in Japan took some interest in Buddhism while maintaining a violent and destructive lifestyle.
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