Shingon Monasticism

Shingon Monasticism

Postby Vidyaraja » Wed Feb 27, 2013 12:53 am

It seems Shingon is one of the more obscure schools of Buddhism, at least in terms of the amount of information available, but after doing some reading about it (namely Taiko Yamasaki's book on the subject) I find that I am very interested in it. Given that information about it is scarce, I am not sure if anyone will be able to answer my questions but here they are:

1. If one desired to become a Shingon monk today, how would they go about doing so?

2. Is there a Shingon monastic community where monks actually live in a monastery today or do the monks support themselves by other means? In other words, how do Shingon monks survive?

3. I've spoken of these concerns before in my initial thread on this forum about the efficacy or potency of particular traditions in the modern era. I know Japan has secularized to a large degree and Buddhism isn't such a huge part of people's lives, so can anyone make any remarks on the state of Shingon Buddhism today, particularly the estoeric practices for monastics?

4. Where would be the best place to go to study Shingon or become a Shingon monk? Obviously Japan comes to mind, but I believed others remarked that there has been a spread of Shingon into Taiwan, and I know there are some Shingon temples in the USA but I am not sure if there is anything like a monastic community or places for serious study.

Those are some of my chief questions as of right now, I'd be greatly obliged if anyone could tackle some of them. If anyone has any remarks, anecdotes, personal experiences, links, or advice regarding Shingon that the feel would be of assistance to me, I'd be happy to hear them.

Thanks in advance.
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Re: Shingon Monasticism

Postby kirtu » Wed Feb 27, 2013 3:56 am

Vidyaraja wrote:4. Where would be the best place to go to study Shingon or become a Shingon monk? Obviously Japan comes to mind, but I believed others remarked that there has been a spread of Shingon into Taiwan, and I know there are some Shingon temples in the USA but I am not sure if there is anything like a monastic community or places for serious study.


Until recently (the last 30 yrs), the Shingon missions in the US, mostly in Hawaii and California, only served Japanese-American's and Japanese who had relocated from Japan. This situation may have changed in the past 15 years.

The only Western Shingon monk I am aware of is Revered Eijo who lives at Mt. Koyasan. He has mentioned that there are some other Western Shingon priests/people. So please search for his input online. He used to post regularly on esangha but not so much after it's demise.

If you are currently in California or Hawaii or on the West Coast, find a local Shingon mission and ask them.

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Re: Shingon Monasticism

Postby Indrajala » Wed Feb 27, 2013 5:28 am

Vidyaraja wrote:1. If one desired to become a Shingon monk today, how would they go about doing so?


Realistically you need to live in Japan and know how to read and speak Japanese, though I hear there is an effort towards making things more accessible to English speakers.

Still, the vast majority of the canon and key texts have not been translated into English. A lot of Kukai's works, too, need to be read and they're not all available in European languages.

As a foreigner your best bet in becoming actively involved in any Japanese Buddhist institution in Japan is to study in Japan. You can make a lot of worthwhile connections and even directly study under elders without formally becoming a disciple.



2. Is there a Shingon monastic community where monks actually live in a monastery today or do the monks support themselves by other means? In other words, how do Shingon monks survive?


Koyasan has plenty of full-time monastics.



4. Where would be the best place to go to study Shingon or become a Shingon monk? Obviously Japan comes to mind, but I believed others remarked that there has been a spread of Shingon into Taiwan, and I know there are some Shingon temples in the USA but I am not sure if there is anything like a monastic community or places for serious study.


You should look here:

http://www.seattlekoyasan.com/index.html
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Re: Shingon Monasticism

Postby Vidyaraja » Mon Mar 04, 2013 11:42 pm

Alright, I have another question in regards to this subject I hope someone can help me out with. Let's say I was interested in Shingon, apart from continuing to read the relevant texts available in English, continuing to study Buddhism/Buddhist philosophy, and learning Japanese to pursue further studies, what exactly can I do in regards to practice? Since Shingon is esoteric it requires initiation into practices as far as I am aware, but if such initiations are currently unavailable to me and there is no temple/teachers of this school close to me, what can I do in the time being? Just regular seated meditation or are there some practices specific to the Shingon school for the uninitiated?
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Re: Shingon Monasticism

Postby Jikan » Tue Mar 05, 2013 2:07 am

I've heard through the grapevine that a detailed, systematic translation of relevant practice materials into English is underway. That's all I know.

To your later question on what to do now? In the past I've seen Eijo sensei advise people to do as you are doing (learn Japanese and if you can ancient Chinese and Sanskrit), and visit a reputable, mainstream Buddhist center to learn basic Dharma.

I wish you all the best in your practice.
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Re: Shingon Monasticism

Postby coldwater » Tue Mar 05, 2013 2:51 am

Hi Vidyaraja,

The dharma found in books isn't nearly as dynamic as the dharma found in communities with other teachers and practitioners. Which sounds like what you are looking for if you are looking for a monastery :)

May I make a suggestion? Have you considered visiting a temple in the US, make a connection with a teacher and pursue a priest-path first? You can then live and regulate your life as a monk until you are fluent enough to move to a monastery in Japan and you develop connections to overseas Koyasan through the temple and your teacher. It would be more gradual and you'd have people who speak your language, teach you and guide you in the practices while you learn. On top of that you'd have the connections and community in the US with more similar cultural understanding to your own perhaps. You can easily call or email one of them temples and discuss your interest or plans and they can advise you as well. That is free and doesn't require travel yet!

Either way...there are quite a few people in the US you might want to contact or meet with when you can. Discussing with them and then training under them in some form either occasionally or residentially if they have that available. If you want to become a Shingon monk finding a teacher you connect with and who would accept you as their student may be a first priority.

Below is an open daily service for lay practitioners that is available that does not require initiation- though you'd be missing out on pronunciation of the mantras, tone and chanting style that you would learn if you were connected with a temple. It is more to give you an example of a daily service a lay person may do at home. So if you learned this you may have to relearn it based on however your temple does it in the future. If you call or visit one you can also ask them what an appropriate daily practice would be for you and your current situation.

http://www.shingon.org/ritual/daily.html

You can also simply chant the heart sutra everyday (even a few times if you want) and memorize it in Japanese. That is a mostly universal practice in in the forms of Buddhism from Japan.

I don't know how Shingon monks or priests support themselves. According to academic type literature and the reports of friends who've been to Japan...they mostly support themselves by selling temple services or having a part/full time secular job outside of the temple. Huseng might know more about how Shingon monastics support themselves vs. how the temple-priest situation does...though I imagine it has as much diversity as there are individuals? It is interesting topic always as money and dharma tends to be a difficult issue and they've been doing it in some unique ways in Japan it seems?

You could also try contacting Shinnyo-En (a off shoot of Shingon) and see if that is your jam? http://www.shinnyoenusa.net/ They are a priest organization and really oriented towards lay communities but it could be a beginning step in learning more about Shingon and receiving some guidance and language practice.

Just some ideas...and whatever you decide...good luck to you!
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Re: Shingon Monasticism

Postby plwk » Tue Mar 05, 2013 2:57 am

As a personal remark here, Japan is merely 5.7 hours away from my country in South East Asia and yet have no transmission of Shingon here yet as far as the US, they have it...such are the causes and conditions...then again, the only Japanese Buddhist transmission here is Nichiren, not even Zen or Jodo, what more for Shingon, tsk tsk :|
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Re: Shingon Monasticism

Postby Konchog1 » Tue Mar 05, 2013 6:07 am

coldwater wrote:
http://www.shingon.org/ritual/daily.html

You can also simply chant the heart sutra everyday (even a few times if you want) and memorize it in Japanese. That is a mostly universal practice in in the forms of Buddhism from Japan.

This might be helpful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeKLADNSpsI
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Re: Shingon Monasticism

Postby Vidyaraja » Wed Mar 06, 2013 4:46 am

Thanks so much for the advice everyone. I suppose I will continue what I am doing and see where this can eventually lead.
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Re: Shingon Monasticism

Postby DrLang » Fri Mar 29, 2013 2:27 pm

Shingon Buddhism and essoteric Buddhism in general really demands a teacher/student relationship if for no other reason than because essoteric teachings are not something that you can read off the surface of the sutras. For this reason I highly recommend coldwater's suggestions. If you are interested in Shingon Buddism monasticism, you should (if you don't have it already) start with a firm understanding of the basics of Mahayana Buddhism in general. I would also suggest taking an entry level college class on Sanskrit if you can.

There is a temple in Fresno, California that is (or at least was) authorized to train priests. However, you will still require to travel to Koyasan in Japan to finish your training. Their website gives a good brief on what is involved in training for the Shingon priesthood and the costs that go along with it.
http://www.shingon.org/sbii/training/Training.html

Also, you may want to read this article about an American that became a Shingon priest:
http://archive.thebuddhadharma.com/issu ... urning.php

I wish you well. I have started down the path to becoming a Shingon priest, but I have not started my training yet. I have a lot that I need to learn yet as I only recently started studying Buddhim in earnest. You do not need to know Japanese to complete training and receive the essoteric Dharma. Most of the writings are actually in literary Chinese anyways. There are a couple of temples known for training foreigners. However, if you have the capability, I would suggest taking some Japanese college classes. You will find yourself less issolated in the Sangha. If you are ever able to come to Los Angeles, you should stop by at the LA Koyasan Betsuin. Their doors are open every day. If you plan a trip around it, try for the last Sunday of any month when they do the Goma service :D
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Re: Shingon Monasticism

Postby tktru » Mon Apr 15, 2013 10:40 pm

Here's a video on the lay service order to accompany you on your practice (posted by another Shingon temple in California which also offers training):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADzToYOrxug
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