What happened historically to the Vinaya in Japan?

What happened historically to the Vinaya in Japan?

Postby JamyangTashi » Sat Feb 01, 2014 4:24 am

From what I've read, my understanding is that the Dharmaguptaka lineage was introduced into Japan but later died out. Is this correct? What were the reasons historically why this happened? Are there good resources that cover his aspect of history?
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Re: What happened historically to the Vinaya in Japan?

Postby Indrajala » Sat Feb 01, 2014 5:40 am

Basically in Tang China they did not take the Vinaya overly seriously. Ordination certificates were bought and sold. Even in the more orthodox Buddhist community, the practice of the Vinaya was only partially implemented and observed. This was the same in Japan. The "Vinaya school" was seen as a school of thought and practice which need not be universal, just as, for example, Abhidharma is an optional field of study.

Consequently, in such circumstances the Japanese monk Saichō 最澄 (767–822) devised a new monastic system based on the bodhisattva precepts from the Brahma Net Sūtra. He did not abandon the Vinaya, but saw it as merely provisional and such ordinations were to be carried out only after having a very solid foundation in Mahāyāna. There are doctrinal reasons for this. The Lotus Sūtra suggests the bodhisattva have little to do with the Hīnayāna. It logically follows you avoid the Vinaya, too.

I wrote all about this here if you're interested:

https://sites.google.com/site/dharmadep ... os-reforms

Also, bear in mind Buddhism in China often functioned without much of a full Vinaya at all. Again, shameless self promotion:

http://huayanzang.blogspot.com/2013/06/ ... inaya.html


I believe it was around the Kamakura period that Vinaya ordinations more or less faded out of existence. I believe one big reason for this was the power of Tendai, which despite Saichō having said Vinaya ordinations were to be carried out as the last component to his new system, they dropped the Vinaya altogether. This was probably more to do with power politics than anything else. Legal Vinaya ordinations were not necessarily under the jurisdiction of the Tendai school, whereas the bodhisattva monk ordinations were.

The truth is though the Vinaya was largely irrelevant to the Japanese Buddhist community, as it was in China (however alternative models like the Conglin system in Chan were developed). Kūkai had insisted on the Vinaya, but Shingon likewise dropped the Vinaya as well. There's a good article on this:

http://nirc.nanzan-u.ac.jp/nfile/2884

As for married clergy, it was in 1872 that the Meiji government government issues proclamation 133 on April 25th:

    「自今僧侶肉食妻帯蓄髪等可為勝手事 但法用ノ外ハ人民一般ノ服ヲ着用不苦候事」

    Hereafter monks may freely eat meat, marry and keep hair. Furthermore, there will be no penalty if they wear ordinary clothing when not engaged in religious activities.


Before this there were a lot of covert marriages, but this simply decriminalized such activities. Within three generations the vast majority of Japanese clergy were married with children despite what the sect authorities had to say.

Here's another good article:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/175714110/Mei ... ge-Problem
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Re: What happened historically to the Vinaya in Japan?

Postby Indrajala » Sat Feb 01, 2014 5:41 am

JamyangTashi wrote:From what I've read, my understanding is that the Dharmaguptaka lineage was introduced into Japan but later died out. Is this correct?


Yes, it was Dharmagupta. Look into Ganjin/Jianzhen:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jianzhen
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Re: What happened historically to the Vinaya in Japan?

Postby Heterodox Garden » Sat Feb 01, 2014 9:20 am

Indrajala's post above is mostly correct, but it should be noted that there was a “precepts restoration movement” (戒律復興運動) aimed at reviving the lapsed observation of the traditional Vinaya (as opposed to the Tendai-style bodhisattva precepts). It was initiated by a monk named Eison (a.k.a. Eizon;1201–1290) and his pupil Ninsho, among others, in the mid-13th century. It was mostly associated with members of the Shingon sect, and in fact a small "Shingon Ritsu" offshoot survives to this day. The 13th-century Shingon Vinaya folks did a lot of charitable work with lepers and the so-called "Eta Hinin" outcastes, and they were also deeply involved with Manjusri devotionalism. A scholar named David Quinter has done a sizable amount of work on this movement in English, and I recommend his writing to anyone who might be interested.

One point worth mentioning is that Monkan (1278-1357), who is associated with the supposedly antinomian "left-hand-tantric" Tachikawa-ryu stream of Shingon, was also deeply involved in the Shingon Ritsu movement. I use the word supposedly because the true nature of Tachikawa-ryu is debatable, and a lot of the more lurid, antinomian aspects attributed to it may (or may not) be fabrications by opponents, cooked up for political reasons. That matter is another thread in itself. But Monkan was most certainly associated with the Manjusri devotionalists and the Shingon Ritsu movement.
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Re: What happened historically to the Vinaya in Japan?

Postby Indrajala » Sat Feb 01, 2014 10:13 am

Heterodox Garden wrote:Indrajala's post above is mostly correct, but it should be noted that there was a “precepts restoration movement” (戒律復興運動) aimed at reviving the lapsed observation of the traditional Vinaya (as opposed to the Tendai-style bodhisattva precepts).


Yes, that's also important and I neglected to note that.

We still need to recognize though the revivalism wasn't terribly successful.

I imagine one underlying reason for this is the long standing widespread rejection of anything Hīnayāna, including the Vinaya. If you accept a Mahāyāna bodhisattva-monk ordination as perfectly legitimate, there's actually no reason to pursue an inferior Vinaya ordination, and if you fully adhere to the Lotus Sūtra you are not supposed to have anything to do with the Hīnayāna.
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Re: What happened historically to the Vinaya in Japan?

Postby rory » Sun Feb 02, 2014 8:04 am

Actually Eison was preceded by and a disciple of Jokei (1155-1213 ), the celebrated Hosso monk who worked to restore the vinaya to Kofukuji and Todaiji (the state ordination platform) and other temples, also Myoe (1173-1232) was keen on vinaya revival too for Kegon-Shingon.
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Re: What happened historically to the Vinaya in Japan?

Postby Caldorian » Tue Mar 25, 2014 12:08 pm

I have a tangential question: Are Japanese monks who do not follow the Vinaya generally considered monks (i.e., bhikṣus) by other traditions? I have seen the term "priest" used for them, but what is the status of these priests in the larger context? Are they considered to be devout laypeople or equivalents to the Theravāda anāgārikas?
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Re: What happened historically to the Vinaya in Japan?

Postby Seishin » Tue Mar 25, 2014 12:17 pm

You can only be considered a Bhiksu if you have taken the vinaya, but "Bhiksu" does not mean "monk". Most Japanese Ordained members refer to themselves as "monks". I believe almost all schools outside of Japan do not consider the Japanese Ordained as "monks". But since coming to the west and socialising with the greater sangha, many Japanese (and Western) Ordained members refer to themselves as "priests" to differentiate themselves from Bhiksu. I hope that helps. :smile:

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Re: What happened historically to the Vinaya in Japan?

Postby Sherlock » Tue Mar 25, 2014 12:25 pm

I think it's misleading for non-celibate religious professionals to say that they are "monks". If they are voluntarily celibate and live in a religious community dedicated to practice though, even without a formal pratimoksha lineage that can be traced to India, I don't see why they can't be called "monks" in a general sense.

1. a.1.a A member of a community or brotherhood of men living apart from the world under the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, according to a rule (characteristic of the particular order), and devoted chiefly to the performance of religious duties and the contemplative life. The different orders of monks are distinguished by habits of various shapes and colours (cf. b).
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Re: What happened historically to the Vinaya in Japan?

Postby Seishin » Tue Mar 25, 2014 12:31 pm

Sherlock wrote:I think it's misleading for non-celibate religious professionals to say that they are "monks". If they are voluntarily celibate and live in a religious community dedicated to practice though, even without a formal pratimoksha lineage that can be traced to India, I don't see why they can't be called "monks" in a general sense.

1. a.1.a A member of a community or brotherhood of men living apart from the world under the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, according to a rule (characteristic of the particular order), and devoted chiefly to the performance of religious duties and the contemplative life. The different orders of monks are distinguished by habits of various shapes and colours (cf. b).


I agree. The question is though, should the priests be on equal standing as the monks? :stirthepot:
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Re: What happened historically to the Vinaya in Japan?

Postby Caldorian » Tue Mar 25, 2014 1:07 pm

Thanks, Seishin! You were very helpful. :)

Sherlock wrote:I think it's misleading for non-celibate religious professionals to say that they are "monks". If they are voluntarily celibate and live in a religious community dedicated to practice though, even without a formal pratimoksha lineage that can be traced to India, I don't see why they can't be called "monks" in a general sense.


I agree. I must admit that I sometimes frown when people in my Zen saṅgha (European AZI) call themselves "monks" but can't even keep the five precepts (let alone the Bodhisattva Precepts) during sesshins.

Seishin wrote:I agree. The question is though, should the priests be on equal standing as the monks? :stirthepot:


Yes, that would have been my next question. Personally, having one foot in the Theravāda and the other in Zen, it's very difficult for me to have the same reverence for Zen priests that I have for truly renunciant bhikkhus (like those in the Thai forest tradition). I realise, however, that this says more about myself than about the Zen priest and the bhikkhu and their respective wisdom and dedication... :emb:
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Re: What happened historically to the Vinaya in Japan?

Postby Indrajala » Tue Mar 25, 2014 1:11 pm

Seishin wrote:I agree. The question is though, should the priests be on equal standing as the monks? :stirthepot:


In Tibetan traditions sometimes the non-celibate clergy are held as superior to the sangha. Just look at the Sakya lineage, like HH Sakya Trizin. At the ground level, too, you'll often see married lamas who command more respect than average monks do.

The problem in East Asia though is that a lot of sangha members often faithfully believe in their own superiority over everyone else. The order of precedence is such that ordained celibate clergy are always placed ahead of laypeople regardless of the qualifications of the people involved. Quite often claims to religious authority rest on the purported commendable qualities that the sangha is said to possess over the laity.

Consequently when they meet with married Japanese priests who more or less dress sufficiently like Chinese monks in formal circumstances, they are likely to feel threatened. If non-celibate Buddhist clerics work out just as well if not better than celibate sangha, what does that say for the claim to authority based on being a celibate fully ordained monk? Before WWII a number of Chinese monks commented on how Buddhism was flourishing in Japan yet suffering rapid decline in China.

Nowadays they maybe perceive Japanese priests as laypeople wearing robes and shaving their heads while claiming the same religious authority that they, as celibate sangha, expect exclusively for themselves.

Nevertheless, modern Japanese Buddhism for all its modern faults still has many good qualities and accomplishments. Both Chinese and Korean Buddhist traditions owe a great debt to Japanese Buddhist scholars, many of whom are or were clergy. So, despite perhaps feeling uncomfortable with married priests that dress like monks, the celibate sangha from other countries are not necessarily superior to Japanese Buddhists in terms of not just scholarship, but history and practice as well.

Seishin wrote:You can only be considered a Bhiksu if you have taken the vinaya, ...


Strictly speaking in actual practice (setting aside what the letter of the law says for the moment) the term in transliteration is used in Japan to refer to anyone ordained, much like how "lama" is often informally used for any male wearing Tibetan robes. Indians in general will call Tibetan monks "Lama-ji" too.
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Re: What happened historically to the Vinaya in Japan?

Postby Meido » Tue Mar 25, 2014 2:38 pm

Caldorian wrote:I agree. I must admit that I sometimes frown when people in my Zen saṅgha (European AZI) call themselves "monks" but can't even keep the five precepts (let alone the Bodhisattva Precepts) during sesshins.


We should note also that the career of a Japanese priest may well include extended periods of strict and celibate monastic practice (instances of "jumping over the wall" notwithstanding). There are some who choose to never leave the monastery, or to remain celibate. In some institutions there are positions or teaching roles which are open only to those who remain celibate.

Recognizing of course the different precept load carried by Japanese-tradition ordained folks compared to other traditions, the usage in the west I've observed becoming more prevalent is that "monk" may be used for ordained folks adhering to celibacy or engaged in monastic practice (which again, theoretically, means celibacy), while "priest" is used for others. As noted there is no separate word in Japanese for these two classes of ordained. But this English usage reflects a sensitivity to other traditions, I think, and serves to highlight the actual activity of individuals.

On the Zen side at least it also reveals a cycle that in principle underlies the whole proposition of being ordained: renunciation and a period of strict monastic practice followed by a return to involvement with, and service to, the lay community. Ideas of outer renunciation and inner renunciation, and the Zen take on precepts in general, certainly play into this.

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Re: What happened historically to the Vinaya in Japan?

Postby Seishin » Tue Mar 25, 2014 2:38 pm

Indrajala wrote:
Strictly speaking in actual practice (setting aside what the letter of the law says for the moment) the term in transliteration is used in Japan to refer to anyone ordained, much like how "lama" is often informally used for any male wearing Tibetan robes. Indians in general will call Tibetan monks "Lama-ji" too.


Hi Ven Indrajala, Is the Japanese for Bhiksu 'Bonsou' 梵僧? I've been taught that Souryo 僧侶 means "monk" but is used for anyone who is ordained, whether one is a priest or monk. Is there a difference in Japan between calling someone Bonsou and Souryo?

Thanks :smile:
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Re: What happened historically to the Vinaya in Japan?

Postby Indrajala » Tue Mar 25, 2014 3:05 pm

Seishin wrote:Hi Ven Indrajala, Is the Japanese for Bhiksu 'Bonsou' 梵僧? I've been taught that Souryo 僧侶 means "monk" but is used for anyone who is ordained, whether one is a priest or monk. Is there a difference in Japan between calling someone Bonsou and Souryo?

Thanks :smile:


No I mean biku 比丘. In writing for example one can refer to oneself as such. It sounds humble. I suspect as well historically the term was used loosely in Japan when referring to "monks" in general (I'd have to investigate that however).

Bonsō 梵僧 is rarely used in Japanese I reckon. It either means a monk who strictly adheres to their precepts or an Indian (Brahmin = Indian) monk.
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Re: What happened historically to the Vinaya in Japan?

Postby Indrajala » Tue Mar 25, 2014 3:19 pm

I'll incidentally add that the term "bhikṣu" is loosely used in modern India as well. It doesn't refer to the legal definition of a bhikṣu as having received full precepts. In practice Tibetan monks are called lamas and anyone in Theravada robes or something close enough to it is called a bhikṣu. They could just as well be śrāmaṇeras, but hardly anyone would know what that is and moreover not care so much.

The legal definitions of various ordination classes are largely unknown by common Buddhists (and incidentally Hindus too in contact with Buddhism).
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Re: What happened historically to the Vinaya in Japan?

Postby PorkChop » Tue Mar 25, 2014 3:21 pm

Seishin wrote:
Indrajala wrote:
Strictly speaking in actual practice (setting aside what the letter of the law says for the moment) the term in transliteration is used in Japan to refer to anyone ordained, much like how "lama" is often informally used for any male wearing Tibetan robes. Indians in general will call Tibetan monks "Lama-ji" too.


Hi Ven Indrajala, Is the Japanese for Bhiksu 'Bonsou' 梵僧? I've been taught that Souryo 僧侶 means "monk" but is used for anyone who is ordained, whether one is a priest or monk. Is there a difference in Japan between calling someone Bonsou and Souryo?

Thanks :smile:

In addition to 僧侶 (souryo), I've always heard お坊さん (obousan) and 坊主 (bouzu) - the later being somewhat informal. According to wiki 和尚 (oshou) is a translation for Bhikkhu, but kotobank shows this link as kind of dubious (EDIT: Indrajala's on the money with 比丘 of course). According to Kotobank, 和尚 (oshou) is more literally translated as upadhyaya or khosa (one who gives tonsure) and has the connotation of preceptor in Japanese sects. According to Kotobank 梵僧 (Bonsou) refers to a monk (僧 - sou) that maintains his purity. The term 僧 (sou) is probably the more basic form of "monk" or "disciple of Buddhism", 僧伽 (sougya) is the Japanese transliteration for sangha.
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Re: What happened historically to the Vinaya in Japan?

Postby Seishin » Tue Mar 25, 2014 3:28 pm

:thanks:
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Re: What happened historically to the Vinaya in Japan?

Postby Indrajala » Tue Mar 25, 2014 3:32 pm

In the original Classical Chinese all these Chinese terms entailed minimal legal definitions. They were just used to refer to men with shaved heads who were understood in their community as having renounced the home life to become what we would call "monks". This same ambiguity was transferred to Japan. Ordination levels didn't mean much to the Chinese or Japanese for most of their history, probably because the Vinaya was seldom ever valued or even really implemented.
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Re: What happened historically to the Vinaya in Japan?

Postby Malcolm » Tue Mar 25, 2014 5:48 pm

Indrajala wrote:
Seishin wrote:I agree. The question is though, should the priests be on equal standing as the monks? :stirthepot:


In Tibetan traditions sometimes the non-celibate clergy are held as superior to the sangha. Just look at the Sakya lineage, like HH Sakya Trizin.



This is an understandable misconception.

In the Sakya tradition there are, in general, no non-celibate clergy apart from the Khon family members. In fact, HHST wanted to become a monk, but because of his birth heritage that option was not available to him. In general, most Khon family males who were not in line to be the throne holder of Sakya usually become monks. In this case, the younger son of His Holiness, Jñānavajra, was a monk for many years. He chose to give up his vows for his own reasons, but it was not without some controversy.

While the Khon family has been the locus for secular power from the beginning of the founding of the tradition, it has only been the spiritual locus of the tradition occasionally, with the real spiritual authority of Sakya resting primarily with the Ngor Khenpos, and the heads of the Tshar school. Occasionally (and apart from the five founding masters) remarkable figures like Lama Dampa, Kunga Tashi, Amyezhabs, Kunga Lodo, Dagchen Trinly Rinchen and so on have emerged from the Khon family to become major lineage figures, but in general, the Khon family has primarily had a political role in the Sakya school as the secular rulers of the Sakya principality.

It is really only in the Nyingma school that there is a notion that mantrikas are on a par with bhikṣus. But even in Nyingma, mantrikas are still seated behind the bhikṣus.

I should also add that even where a lay person is a guru giving initiations, it is permissible, for the purpose of decorum, for monks to prostrate to the shrine rather than the person of the guru if he or she is a lay person. This is fully laid out in 50 verses of Guru Devotion attributed to Ashvaghosha.

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