State of Japanese Buddhism

State of Japanese Buddhism

Postby Hae Min » Sun Dec 26, 2010 10:11 pm

Jikan wrote:
Huseng wrote:Not just Tendai, but Shingon likewise in Japan has married priests.

Enjitsu claims to have some kind of purported connection to Shingon (which is suspect as Eijo earlier has pointed out and Eijo indeed is a recognized authority), yet he's saying one can't be ordained while married (this is contrary to how Shingon actually is).


Indeed. I was going to ask enjitsu about this and other of his/her claims.

Since this is a Tendai subforum, what I'd like to know most is what particular Tendai group enjitsu finds objectionable so we can discuss it concretely.


Clarification: None of the orders in Japan carry the pratimoksha vows anymore. All priests receive ordination via the bodhisattva precepts, thus no vows of celibacy are taken.
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Re: Should indiviuals be married and be monk?

Postby Astus » Sun Dec 26, 2010 10:42 pm

Hae Min wrote:Clarification: None of the orders in Japan carry the pratimoksha vows anymore. All priests receive ordination via the bodhisattva precepts, thus no vows of celibacy are taken.


They have been taking the bodhisattva precepts only since the 9th century (custom spreading gradually to all schools from Tendai) but marriage was not allowed until the 19th century Meiji reform. Just saying that it wasn't the bodhisattva precepts that made Japanese monks non-celibate.
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Re: Should indiviuals be married and be monk?

Postby Indrajala » Mon Dec 27, 2010 4:37 am

Hae Min wrote:Clarification: None of the orders in Japan carry the pratimoksha vows anymore. All priests receive ordination via the bodhisattva precepts, thus no vows of celibacy are taken.


Not entirely true. Some Bodhisattva vows include celibacy. See the Brahma Net Sutra. There is in the major precepts the precept regarding sexual misconduct, but see number 36 in the minor set:

《梵網經》卷2:「若佛子。發十大願已。持佛禁戒。作是願言。寧以此身投熾然猛火大坑刀山。終不毀犯三世諸佛經律與一切女人作不淨行。」(CBETA, T24, no. 1484, p. 1007, c3-6)


If one is a son of the Buddha and having made ten great vows he upholds the Buddha's prohibitions and precepts he makes this resolution: I would rather fling my body into a raging fire, a great abyss or onto a mountain of knives than violate the disciplinary code of the Buddhas of the Three Worlds and engage in impure actions with any woman.



"Impure" 不淨行 here no doubt means sexual activity of any kind.

Now, that being said, even if you take vows in Japan you're under no social obligation to follow through with them. You might even take vows against meat eating and drinking alcohol, but nobody will raise a brow at monks having a BBQ party with beer.

I once asked a priest which set of Bodhisattva vows he took. He said he didn't remember. He was just a kid when he was "ordained". He didn't do it of his own volition. In Japan most priests receive their profession from their fathers.

In any case, you can't say none of their Bodhisattva precept sets include celibacy vows. They actually do, but they're conveniently ignored.
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Re: Should indiviuals be married and be monk?

Postby Jikan » Sat Jan 01, 2011 2:17 am

Can't speak to what goes on in Japan. Here's my own experience in North America (in Tendai-shu).

When I took the bodhisattva vows (in English), we were given some instruction on what the eight major & 48 minor vows meant. We reflected on these as a group and individually for some time. This is quite different from the experience in Japan that Huseng describes.

Broadly speaking, there are two schools of thought on this. One is closer to the post-Meiji reality of Japanese Buddhism, and to the living situation of most North American Buddhists: don't cause suffering by means of sexuality. (Cultivate long-term monogamous relationships, for instance; keep your promises; and so on.) This is the view of my teacher, Monshin Naamon. I myself am a married householder.

Another approach is taken at California Tendai Monastery, led by Keisho Leary: celibacy.

It's hard to generalize about such things, but it seems to me that attitudes toward the precepts and their implementation in North America and Europe is an important departure from Japanese norms. Perhaps for the better in some respects.

Here's what I'm talking about, just to be completely transparent:

http://www.tendai.org/index.php?id=46
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Re: Should indiviuals be married and be monk?

Postby eijo » Sat Jan 01, 2011 8:28 pm

Astus wrote:
Hae Min wrote:Clarification: None of the orders in Japan carry the pratimoksha vows anymore. All priests receive ordination via the bodhisattva precepts, thus no vows of celibacy are taken.


They have been taking the bodhisattva precepts only since the 9th century (custom spreading gradually to all schools from Tendai) but marriage was not allowed until the 19th century Meiji reform. Just saying that it wasn't the bodhisattva precepts that made Japanese monks non-celibate.


The Brahma Net precepts were taken in Japan long before that, and were never limited to Tendai. They were a part of Nara Buddhism, along with the Dharmagupta precepts. Just as in China then and now. As a matter of fact, the Great Buddha of Todai-ji is most likely a representation of Vairocana appearing in the Brahma Net Sutra.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T%C5%8Ddai-ji
http://www.sacred-destinations.com/japan/nara-todaiji

However, the Brahma Net precepts are intended for both lay and monastic practitioners. Celibacy is for the monastic practitioners, who would already hold that vow of course. For lay practitioners (those who have not taken Vinaya, which is basically all of Japanese Buddhism including Japanese clergy today and since the 12th century or earlier, as Hae Min points out), the Brahma Net sutra and commentaries explain that improper sexual relations with a person other than a spouse or in improper ways (improper orifices, during pregnancy, etc.) are not allowed for such a practitioner.

This is an old debate from another board, but because Japanese-tradition clergy do not take authentic Vinaya and have not for centuries, they cannot be expected to keep it. They should absolutely be expected to keep the lay aspects of the Brahma Net precepts, if they have taken them, but of course even that may not often happen, as Huseng has often reported. At the same time, they cannot of course be called bhikshu/nis.

After about the late Heian period (and earlier in some places along with the decay of the Ritsuryo codes), Japanese clergy (except Jodo Shinshu clergy) did not and could not marry because of law, temple regulations, and social custom/expectations--not because of Vinaya itself--until the Meiji period repeal of the law banning marriage. In the Nara and early to mid-Heian periods, Japanese bhikshus and bhikshunis could not marry because of both Vinaya and law. Its not a simple story, and not really a recent one either. The huge influence of Tendai and its offspring was historically not a minor factor in the degrading and eventual loss of Vinaya, however. Political scheming nailed the lid onto the coffin in the 1870's, but Vinaya had been long gone before that.

You can't blame individual Japanese clergy members really, or judge them by standards that don't strictly apply to them. The only solution is the wholesale and significant re-importation to Japan of Vinaya from another country and its re-acceptance, including in lay society of course. I'll keep on daydreaming like this.
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Re: Should indiviuals be married and be monk?

Postby Indrajala » Sun Jan 02, 2011 4:37 am

eijo wrote:You can't blame individual Japanese clergy members really, or judge them by standards that don't strictly apply to them. The only solution is the wholesale and significant re-importation to Japan of Vinaya from another country and its re-acceptance, including in lay society of course. I'll keep on daydreaming like this.


Unfortunately as I'm sure you know the system itself, never mind the individual views of the priesthoods, does not really allow for reimplementation of the Vinaya because temple ownership is hereditary. Priests pretty much need to marry to secure a disciple to pass the temple down to. He (or in some cases she) is under a great deal of pressure from the community as well because if there is no successor then the graves go untended and desired rituals for dead ancestors are not performed.

One might ask why can't someone other than a son or daughter be a successor, but with the exception of active monasteries, most temples are family run businesses with their home attached to it. Moreover most priests just have their kids as "disciples". On top of that a lot of them have their own day jobs to attend to.

Actively implementing the Vinaya is incompatible with the present system. Unless it was limited to monasteries and the monks and nuns involved were of the understanding the Vinaya also applies when they're outside the monastery (meaning no trips to the pub), it just won't work. You'd also have to convince them that alcohol and sex are hindrances to liberation. But when a lot of Japanese priests don't even believe in rebirth or karma, liberation to them is just some religious fiction not worth actually striving for. Giving up liquor in Japan amounts to making yourself socially handicapped.

I think if the Vinaya ever comes back to Japan in a serious way it will be through foreign forms of Buddhism like Theravada. I've already met a few Japanese Bhikku.
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Re: Should indiviuals be married and be monk?

Postby pueraeternus » Wed Jan 19, 2011 6:57 pm

Huseng wrote:One might ask why can't someone other than a son or daughter be a successor, but with the exception of active monasteries, most temples are family run businesses with their home attached to it. Moreover most priests just have their kids as "disciples". On top of that a lot of them have their own day jobs to attend to.


Actually, isn't adoption more or less acceptable in Japanese society for hereditary purposes? That would conceivably allow temples to continue to operate by observing the Vinaya and adopt for legal reasons?
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Re: Should indiviuals be married and be monk?

Postby Indrajala » Thu Jan 20, 2011 1:46 am

pueraeternus wrote:
Huseng wrote:One might ask why can't someone other than a son or daughter be a successor, but with the exception of active monasteries, most temples are family run businesses with their home attached to it. Moreover most priests just have their kids as "disciples". On top of that a lot of them have their own day jobs to attend to.


Actually, isn't adoption more or less acceptable in Japanese society for hereditary purposes? That would conceivably allow temples to continue to operate by observing the Vinaya and adopt for legal reasons?


Times have changed.

Moreover, priests don't want to observe the Vinaya. Most of them want to have sex, drink liquor and make a lot of money.
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Re: Should indiviuals be married and be monk?

Postby Dodatsu » Thu Jan 20, 2011 1:51 am

Huseng wrote:
pueraeternus wrote:
Huseng wrote:One might ask why can't someone other than a son or daughter be a successor, but with the exception of active monasteries, most temples are family run businesses with their home attached to it. Moreover most priests just have their kids as "disciples". On top of that a lot of them have their own day jobs to attend to.


Actually, isn't adoption more or less acceptable in Japanese society for hereditary purposes? That would conceivably allow temples to continue to operate by observing the Vinaya and adopt for legal reasons?


Times have changed.

Moreover, priests don't want to observe the Vinaya. Most of them want to have sex, drink liquor and make a lot of money.


I personally think this is a very uncalled, as well as extremely offensive, sweeping statement of Japanese priests! So are you saying that those of us ordained in the Japanese traditions like Eijo, myself and some of the others here are like that, and that our Dharma friends are also all like that?
I think you should properly read on the history and development of Japanese Buddhism post-Meiji before making such generalizing statements.
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Re: Should indiviuals be married and be monk?

Postby Indrajala » Thu Jan 20, 2011 2:11 am

Dodatsu wrote:I personally think this is a very uncalled, as well as extremely offensive, sweeping statement of Japanese priests! So are you saying that those of us ordained in the Japanese traditions like Eijo, myself and some of the others here are like that, and that our Dharma friends are also all like that?
I think you should properly read on the history and development of Japanese Buddhism post-Meiji before making such generalizing statements.


Note I said, "Most of them..." and not "All of them..."

I have no reason to believe otherwise. Most of the priests I have met or heard about in Japan enjoy drinking liquor, having romantic encounters and/or making a lot of money. I know of some who do not drink liquor, seek romance or desire wealth, but they are the minority.

I mean most of the priests I know in academia as well regularly enjoy drinking parties where liquor and meat are happily consumed.

Keep in mind I also live in Japan and go to a Buddhist University. I think you do, too, but your experience might vary from mine. But keep in mind I am very critical and say it like I see it. I am not going to sugarcoat things just because you or anyone else might find them offensive.
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Re: Should indiviuals be married and be monk?

Postby Dodatsu » Thu Jan 20, 2011 2:27 am

I don't expect you to either, but the tone of your comments are just down right offensive, and i hope you realize that.
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Re: Should indiviuals be married and be monk?

Postby Indrajala » Thu Jan 20, 2011 2:29 am

Dodatsu wrote:I don't expect you to either, but the tone of your comments are just down right offensive, and i hope you realize that.


How can you judge the "tone" of my comments?

This is a forum with only words, no speech.
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Re: Should indiviuals be married and be monk?

Postby remm » Thu Jan 20, 2011 5:51 am

Huseng wrote:
Dodatsu wrote:I personally think this is a very uncalled, as well as extremely offensive, sweeping statement of Japanese priests! So are you saying that those of us ordained in the Japanese traditions like Eijo, myself and some of the others here are like that, and that our Dharma friends are also all like that?
I think you should properly read on the history and development of Japanese Buddhism post-Meiji before making such generalizing statements.


Note I said, "Most of them..." and not "All of them..."

I have no reason to believe otherwise. Most of the priests I have met or heard about in Japan enjoy drinking liquor, having romantic encounters and/or making a lot of money. I know of some who do not drink liquor, seek romance or desire wealth, but they are the minority.

I mean most of the priests I know in academia as well regularly enjoy drinking parties where liquor and meat are happily consumed.

Keep in mind I also live in Japan and go to a Buddhist University. I think you do, too, but your experience might vary from mine. But keep in mind I am very critical and say it like I see it. I am not going to sugarcoat things just because you or anyone else might find them offensive.

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Re: Should indiviuals be married and be monk?

Postby tktru » Thu Jan 20, 2011 8:51 am

IMO If a social change were to occur in terms of teaching aspirant priests in terms of the Vinaya, wouldn't that introduction would be too sudden and a lot to take in for the next generation? And in turn would it not turn Japan's view of Buddhism to be over-dogmatic? The Bodhisattva precepts that Tendai/Shingon priests take as well as open interpretation, study and discussion is always a good start in helping priests understand these teachings.
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Re: Should indiviuals be married and be monk?

Postby Indrajala » Thu Jan 20, 2011 9:34 am

tktru wrote:IMO If a social change were to occur in terms of teaching aspirant priests in terms of the Vinaya, wouldn't that introduction would be too sudden and a lot to take in for the next generation? And in turn would it not turn Japan's view of Buddhism to be over-dogmatic? The Bodhisattva precepts that Tendai/Shingon priests take as well as open interpretation, study and discussion is always a good start in helping priests understand these teachings.


First you need to convince the leadership to reimplement the Vinaya.

That'll be hard when they've already been married for twenty or thirty years.
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Re: Should indiviuals be married and be monk?

Postby Su DongPo » Tue Feb 01, 2011 12:33 pm

I wonder if Japan is ripe for a Buddhist revival.
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Re: Should indiviuals be married and be monk?

Postby Indrajala » Tue Feb 01, 2011 12:49 pm

Su DongPo wrote:I wonder if Japan is ripe for a Buddhist revival.


I wish it was. I don't see the potential at the moment honestly.

The general perception of Buddhism is that it is an archaic funeral service. Young people in general find it unappealing what with all the talk of death and suffering. Older generations might maintain an interest and I know a few older gentlemen who retired and took up studying Buddhism at graduate school.

Religion is also held in a negative light in Japan. Aum Shinrikyo with their terrorist attack against the subway system with nerve gas really damaged the idea of "religion" in modern society.

Complete opposite in Taiwan next door where young and old you got Buddhism flourishing. Part of that has to do with the fact that monks and nuns in Taiwan generally become renunciates by their own accord and not because of family duty (in Taiwan monks and nuns are not married with kids).
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Re: Should indiviuals be married and be monk?

Postby Su DongPo » Tue Feb 01, 2011 1:12 pm

Yes, but sometimes at the nadir something new can be found. Some faithful adherence to the Dharma could provide a model and inspire others to inquire about their history and, hopefully, lead to revitalized institutions, or as someone has noted, open the door to new traditions, including Theravada.

Just saying. I have no special information, but for those of you devoted to the Dharma in Japan, I would suggest that being too close to that which disheartens may make it hard to see such possibilities.

A Japanese Buddhist charity such as Taiwan's Tzu Chi could, over some years, change both practices and perceptions.

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Re: Should indiviuals be married and be monk?

Postby Tatsuo » Tue Feb 01, 2011 3:00 pm

I don't agree, that Japanese Buddhism is degenerated. It could use some more support after the destructions of the Meiji period until the end of World War II, but I see many positive developments. The negative image of religions may come from negative examples like Aum Shinrikyō, but also has roots in the ideology of State-Shinto.
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Re: Should indiviuals be married and be monk?

Postby Su DongPo » Tue Feb 01, 2011 5:47 pm

Tatsuo wrote:I don't agree, that Japanese Buddhism is degenerated. It could use some more support after the destructions of the Meiji period until the end of World War II, but I see many positive developments. The negative image of religions may come from negative examples like Aum Shinrikyō, but also has roots in the ideology of State-Shinto.
There was a discussion about that topic between Huseng and myself in another thread.


Thank you for pointing that out. I hadn't read the thread. I am not sure that the construction of large statues, sutra classes and meditation instruction constitutes a full-blown revive, but I will take your word for it that they are hopeful signs. My knowledge of the Meiji period is limited to Japan's foreign policy with China and in Taiwan, but I can imagine how the revolutionary changes would have had a negative impact on traditional Buddhist institutions.
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