Taego Lineage Seminary

Re: Taego Lineage Seminary

Postby Haemin » Sat Mar 17, 2012 7:28 pm

Astus wrote:
Haemin wrote:This is incorrect. I've just confirmed this with the Bishop, Venerable Dr. Jongmae Kenneth Park. The Taego and Jogye orders follow the same pratimoksa (Caturvagga Vinaya of the Dharmaguptaka--which is in use in the Chinese and Vietnamese traditions as well). However, celibacy is optional for men in the Taego Order. There are 250 bhikkhu precepts, 348 bhikkhuni precepts, and 10 samanera precepts. Also, both schools adopted the Indraraja Sutra that contains 10 bodhisattva vows and 48 lesser precepts. Contrary to some misconceptions, the Taego Order does not use bodhisattva vows as the basis of it's monastic ordinations. So there's just that one difference: celibacy.


Then it is strange how they can explain committing a parajika offence being acceptable. Although considering that monks can even act as soldiers it is not that outstanding.


It isn't a parajika because male Taego clergy aren't required to take a vow of celibacy to begin with. It's only a parajika if you take a vow of celibacy and then break it. Of course, more traditional orders would most likely not recognize non-celibate Taego clergy as bhikkhu.
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Re: Taego Lineage Seminary

Postby Tilopa » Sat Mar 17, 2012 11:51 pm

Haemin wrote: It isn't a parajika because male Taego clergy aren't required to take a vow of celibacy to begin with.

It isn't parajika because it's impossible they are real Bhikkus in the first place.
It's only a parajika if you take a vow of celibacy and then break it. Of course, more traditional orders would most likely not recognize non-celibate Taego clergy as bhikkhu.

No one who understands Vinaya would recognize such people for the simple reason that a Bhikku is defined by his four root vows: no killing, stealing, lying or sexual activity. The notion that you can pick and choose from the monastic precepts, keeping some while ignoring others, and still call yourself a Bhikku is utterly preposterous.
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Re: Taego Lineage Seminary

Postby jrzen » Sun Mar 18, 2012 12:23 am

Haemin,

It is interesting that you put so much time, energy, and effort into excusing discriminatory policies. Are you putting as much energy into having these policies reversed? I suspect not.

The story in the Vinaya about the man acting inappropriately was an isolated incident that allegedly over 2,500 years ago and certainly does not describe all gay men. And what about lesbians? Where is the story about a lesbian woman not qualifying for ordination in the Vinaya?

And what about the Vinaya rules that clearly forbid any monk from having sex at all or from being married? The Taego Order allows it's straight male monks to be married and/or to have sex. So by your own standards, you still belong to an Order that follows some of the Vinaya while completely ignoring other aspects of it. Cherry-picking at it's worst.

Back in the time of the Buddha it made sense not to allow an unhealthy man to ordain since he would then become the responsibility of the sangha and they would have to carry him around. Physically challenged people today lead independent lives and the Taego Order would not be obligated to support them in any way so it's an outdated and completely unnecessary rule that the Taego Order is enforcing.

While some other Asian traditions may not ordain gay and lesbian people, what is different about the Taego Order is that it is promoting itself as a liberal Order reaching out to Westerners. To have such double standards for full ordination (no women, no gay and lesbian people, no one over 55 and no physically challenged people) and to expect Westerners to tolerate them because of "cultural" or "traditional" reasons is absurd.

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Re: Taego Lineage Seminary

Postby Haemin » Sun Mar 18, 2012 1:18 am

jrzen wrote:Haemin,

It is interesting that you put so much time, energy, and effort into excusing discriminatory policies. Are you putting as much energy into having these policies reversed? I suspect not.

The story in the Vinaya about the man acting inappropriately was an isolated incident that allegedly over 2,500 years ago and certainly does not describe all gay men. And what about lesbians? Where is the story about a lesbian woman not qualifying for ordination in the Vinaya?

And what about the Vinaya rules that clearly forbid any monk from having sex at all or from being married? The Taego Order allows it's straight male monks to be married and/or to have sex. So by your own standards, you still belong to an Order that follows some of the Vinaya while completely ignoring other aspects of it. Cherry-picking at it's worst.

Back in the time of the Buddha it made sense not to allow an unhealthy man to ordain since he would then become the responsibility of the sangha and they would have to carry him around. Physically challenged people today lead independent lives and the Taego Order would not be obligated to support them in any way so it's an outdated and completely unnecessary rule that the Taego Order is enforcing.

While some other Asian traditions may not ordain gay and lesbian people, what is different about the Taego Order is that it is promoting itself as a liberal Order reaching out to Westerners. To have such double standards for full ordination (no women, no gay and lesbian people, no one over 55 and no physically challenged people) and to expect Westerners to tolerate them because of "cultural" or "traditional" reasons is absurd.

You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig no matter how you decorate it.


It seems I have been misunderstood. My only point is that discrimination is not unique to the Taego order. And I'm not defending these policies, just providing context. As a liberal Western convert, I would love to see the entire Buddhist world see things from an inclusive perspective, so I think the criticism of discrimination in Asian Buddhism is fair.
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Re: Taego Lineage Seminary

Postby Jikan » Sun Mar 18, 2012 1:34 am

Do you think that the kinds of discrimination you find characterizes Asian Buddhism are presently reproduced in North America & Europe in the Taego Order, Haemin?
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Re: Taego Lineage Seminary

Postby Haemin » Sun Mar 18, 2012 2:40 am

Jikan: I find that the kinds of discrimination that characterize Asian Buddhism are found in North America and Europe in a variety of orders. For example, there is no full ordination for women in the Theravada and Tibetan traditions, regardless of where one lives. Homosexuals are denied ordination in the Chinese, Vietnamese, Theravada and Korean orders regardless of where one lives. Any order that purports to follow the Vinaya has the rule against ordaining people with disabilities, regardless of location. Once again, these issues aren't unique to the Taego Order. The only way around this is to join an order than is either administratively independent of an Asian Buddhist order or one that was specifically created in the West. The Mook Rim Society founded in part by my own teacher is one such option for ordination.

It's my understanding that a lot of the clergy ordained in the West in the Soto and Rinzai lineages, for example, are not registered in Japan and those lineages are more administratively decentralized anyway, so they can ignore whatever rules they want. I think that's why we see more liberal structures in those traditions. There are other groups of which I am confident you are aware.
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Re: Taego Lineage Seminary

Postby Astus » Sun Mar 18, 2012 7:52 pm

Haemin wrote:It isn't a parajika because male Taego clergy aren't required to take a vow of celibacy to begin with. It's only a parajika if you take a vow of celibacy and then break it. Of course, more traditional orders would most likely not recognize non-celibate Taego clergy as bhikkhu.


It is more than just a single vow involved in being non-celibate, like the first four sanghadisesa precepts. It is quite a heavy change in the common Pratimoksha of 250 vows. Also, if we consider that many precepts of the minor vows are not observed because they are outdated, celibacy is one of the few things that can still be upheld. On the other hand, it can be argued that since there are precepts that are irrelevant and generally has not been observed for a long time (e.g. eating only before noon), one could as well say that celibacy is not that important. However, I'm not sure if the laity is OK to support not just a monastic with minimal needs but a whole family or even families who make little contribution to the community.
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Re: Taego Lineage Seminary

Postby Haemin » Sun Mar 18, 2012 8:55 pm

Astus wrote:
Haemin wrote:It isn't a parajika because male Taego clergy aren't required to take a vow of celibacy to begin with. It's only a parajika if you take a vow of celibacy and then break it. Of course, more traditional orders would most likely not recognize non-celibate Taego clergy as bhikkhu.


It is more than just a single vow involved in being non-celibate, like the first four sanghadisesa precepts. It is quite a heavy change in the common Pratimoksha of 250 vows. Also, if we consider that many precepts of the minor vows are not observed because they are outdated, celibacy is one of the few things that can still be upheld. On the other hand, it can be argued that since there are precepts that are irrelevant and generally has not been observed for a long time (e.g. eating only before noon), one could as well say that celibacy is not that important.


For centuries throughout the Buddhist world, the official pratimoksha has not been the list of rules actually observed by the sangha. Each tradition, and sometimes individual monasteries, have had their own rules that have actually governed monastic behavior. I've heard this from monks and nuns from more than one tradition and from scholars as well. It has also been my own observation over the years.

Astus wrote:However, I'm not sure if the laity is OK to support not just a monastic with minimal needs but a whole family or even families who make little contribution to the community.


How are you defining "contribution to the community"? Personally, I feel that teaching the Dharma and providing for the spiritual needs of the community (through leading communal holidays, funerals, memorial services, etc...) contributes a great deal to the community. The reality, though, is that all the clergy in our tradition in fact support themselves, at least outside of S. Korea. I have found that this is also the case generally speaking in at least the Tibetan and Japanese traditions in the West, though you can find exceptions. I even know of Buddhist clergy who work for money not just to support themselves, but to subsidize a Dharma center as well. This is certainly the case in the Taego Order where actual temples/Dharma centers exist.
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Re: Taego Lineage Seminary

Postby Tilopa » Sun Mar 18, 2012 10:35 pm

Astus wrote: On the other hand, it can be argued that since there are precepts that are irrelevant and generally has not been observed for a long time (e.g. eating only before noon), one could as well say that celibacy is not that important.

One could and some do but it's to the detriment of the monastic Sangha and in direct contradiction to the teachings of the Buddha. Unfortunately this is the Kali Yuga and many misguided ideas proliferate and often gain acceptance. Dharma ending age indeed!
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Re: Taego Lineage Seminary

Postby Tilopa » Sun Mar 18, 2012 11:15 pm

Haemin wrote: For centuries throughout the Buddhist world, the official pratimoksha has not been the list of rules actually observed by the sangha.

It was and still is in those monasteries where Vinaya is taken seriously. There are differences in monastic lineages but if monks (or nuns) aren't keeping the principal vows they do not qualify as Bhikkus/Bhikkunis. The Pratimokksha makes this quite clear and while the strictness and interpretation of minor precepts does differ between traditions all of them consider the 4 roots and 13 sanghadisesa essential.


Each tradition, and sometimes individual monasteries, have had their own rules that have actually governed monastic behavior. I've heard this from monks and nuns from more than one tradition and from scholars as well. It has also been my own observation over the years.

This doesn't mean anyone can institute whatever monastic discipline they think is appropriate to the time and place and still claim to be pure Bhikkus or Bhikkunis if it contradicts the rules laid down by the Buddha.
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Re: Taego Lineage Seminary

Postby Astus » Sun Mar 18, 2012 11:37 pm

Haemin wrote:For centuries throughout the Buddhist world, the official pratimoksha has not been the list of rules actually observed by the sangha. Each tradition, and sometimes individual monasteries, have had their own rules that have actually governed monastic behavior. I've heard this from monks and nuns from more than one tradition and from scholars as well. It has also been my own observation over the years.


Ordination is about taking up the precepts, and those precepts are the sramanera, bhikshu and bodhisattva vows in the triple ordination system. Thus technically those who participate actually vow to uphold them. Local monastic rules and further vows are only extra. It is OK to say that ordination is mere formality and the reality is different, however, that is the same as saying being a monk is a mere formality too. So perhaps some other definitions are required then.

Haemin wrote:How are you defining "contribution to the community"? Personally, I feel that teaching the Dharma and providing for the spiritual needs of the community (through leading communal holidays, funerals, memorial services, etc...) contributes a great deal to the community.


What I meant is that while the cleric does serve the community, his family does not and thus they are a burden on the supporters. Self-supporting monks are a different matter. But again, if a monk earns a living, what makes him a bhikshu, a beggar? It's not that I don't understand the difficulties involved in Western Buddhism, but making money (not to mention having a family) is quite the opposite of renouncing the world and living on donations. It is not true that one can't live on donations in the West, since many unfortunate homeless people do exactly that.
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Re: Taego Lineage Seminary

Postby Jikan » Mon Mar 19, 2012 12:00 am

Hi Haemin,

Thank you for your replies so far. I'm still struggling a bit to understand your position properly, and I have reason to think I'm not the only one. So I have one more clarification question for you.

On one side, you seem to agree with most of the criticisms made by jrzen and others regarding the rules by which ordinands are ordained in the Taego Order specifically and East Asian Buddhism (and the vinaya) more generally (the Order obviously belonging to the broader category under critique). This is why I asked earlier if, in your view, the Order is reproducing the same injustices outside Asia as you point out in the Asian context.

On the other side, you identify as both an ordinand and a Westerner. You are committed to this; it is your spiritual life, so I assume you take it very, very seriously.

It seems to me that these are terms in contradiction, or at least in conflict, insofar as you are in a position that asks you to propagate a cultural order that is in its fundamentals against your conscience.

Am I misunderstanding you? If not, how do you resolve this tension, short of joining the Order of Interbeing (to pick but one)?
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Re: Taego Lineage Seminary

Postby Haemin » Mon Mar 19, 2012 12:38 am

Tilopa wrote:
Haemin wrote: For centuries throughout the Buddhist world, the official pratimoksha has not been the list of rules actually observed by the sangha.

It was and still is in those monasteries where Vinaya is taken seriously. There are differences in monastic lineages but if monks (or nuns) aren't keeping the principal vows they do not qualify as Bhikkus/Bhikkunis. The Pratimokksha makes this quite clear and while the strictness and interpretation of minor precepts does differ between traditions all of them consider the 4 roots and 13 sanghadisesa essential.


Each tradition, and sometimes individual monasteries, have had their own rules that have actually governed monastic behavior. I've heard this from monks and nuns from more than one tradition and from scholars as well. It has also been my own observation over the years.

This doesn't mean anyone can institute whatever monastic discipline they think is appropriate to the time and place and still claim to be pure Bhikkus or Bhikkunis if it contradicts the rules laid down by the Buddha.


Yes, the root vows are required to be recognized as a bhikshu or bhikshuni. Perhaps it would be more correct to say that the actual rules that govern a monastic community are an amalgam of the pratimoksha and the "new" rules of that particular lineage or monastery.
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Re: Taego Lineage Seminary

Postby Haemin » Mon Mar 19, 2012 12:46 am

Astus wrote:
Haemin wrote:For centuries throughout the Buddhist world, the official pratimoksha has not been the list of rules actually observed by the sangha. Each tradition, and sometimes individual monasteries, have had their own rules that have actually governed monastic behavior. I've heard this from monks and nuns from more than one tradition and from scholars as well. It has also been my own observation over the years.


Ordination is about taking up the precepts, and those precepts are the sramanera, bhikshu and bodhisattva vows in the triple ordination system. Thus technically those who participate actually vow to uphold them. Local monastic rules and further vows are only extra. It is OK to say that ordination is mere formality and the reality is different, however, that is the same as saying being a monk is a mere formality too. So perhaps some other definitions are required then.

I wasn't going quite that far - to say that the traditional ordination is just a formality. As I replied to Tilopa, I think it would be more correct to say that the actual life of a monastic is governed by a combination of the pratimoksha rules and the rules of a particular monastery or lineage designed for that time and place. It's more of a negotiation.

Haemin wrote:How are you defining "contribution to the community"? Personally, I feel that teaching the Dharma and providing for the spiritual needs of the community (through leading communal holidays, funerals, memorial services, etc...) contributes a great deal to the community.


What I meant is that while the cleric does serve the community, his family does not and thus they are a burden on the supporters. Self-supporting monks are a different matter. But again, if a monk earns a living, what makes him a bhikshu, a beggar? It's not that I don't understand the difficulties involved in Western Buddhism, but making money (not to mention having a family) is quite the opposite of renouncing the world and living on donations. It is not true that one can't live on donations in the West, since many unfortunate homeless people do exactly that.


I disagree that the family does not serve the community. In fact, from what I've seen with my own eyes my teacher's wife helps a great deal in the temple (and works as a nurse as well). In Japan, the wives of priests work incredibly hard for the temples. There is a problem, though, that if their husband dies, where does the wife go? She usually has to leave the temple to make room for a new priest and his family. But they do in fact serve the community a great deal behind the scenes. Check out Covell's Japanese Temple Buddhism for a more in depth discussion of this.

As for a working monk not being "a beggar," you're right. The problem is that Western Dharma communities are either to small to support even a single monk or nun, or they are unwilling to do so. Personally, in the West at least, I think a combination of married clergy and celibate priests works. Married lay people may not feel comfortable turning to a celibate monk if they have marital/family issues and Westerners do expect their clergy to counsel them. As for me, it's the celibate life, working stiff though I will be once I graduate!
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Re: Taego Lineage Seminary

Postby Haemin » Mon Mar 19, 2012 12:58 am

Jikan wrote:Hi Haemin,

Thank you for your replies so far. I'm still struggling a bit to understand your position properly, and I have reason to think I'm not the only one. So I have one more clarification question for you.

On one side, you seem to agree with most of the criticisms made by jrzen and others regarding the rules by which ordinands are ordained in the Taego Order specifically and East Asian Buddhism (and the vinaya) more generally (the Order obviously belonging to the broader category under critique). This is why I asked earlier if, in your view, the Order is reproducing the same injustices outside Asia as you point out in the Asian context.

On the other side, you identify as both an ordinand and a Westerner. You are committed to this; it is your spiritual life, so I assume you take it very, very seriously.

It seems to me that these are terms in contradiction, or at least in conflict, insofar as you are in a position that asks you to propagate a cultural order that is in its fundamentals against your conscience.

Am I misunderstanding you? If not, how do you resolve this tension, short of joining the Order of Interbeing (to pick but one)?


I have a Western friend who is a nun in the Tibetan tradition. She is very frustrated by the lack of teaching and training opportunities for herself and her sisters, the subservient role nuns play and the lack of the full ordination in the Tibetan tradition. I asked her why she stays in the Tibetan tradition when there are other options. She said she only felt connected to that form of practice.

I feel the same way. I couldn't pick an order simply based on the socio-political issues we've been discussing. I need to feel connected to my teacher and to the form of practice. I'm currently staying at a Vietnamese temple while I'm a grad student - the abbot offered me a room (he's a former classmate). But I feel no connection to the Vietnamese tradition. As for the Order of Interbeing specifically, I find Thich Nhat Hahn's style of teaching too sugary sweet for me. Over the years I've explored a variety of Buddhist forms, mostly Japanese, but I feel no connection to them either.

So, it's an ongoing conflict. I don't quite feel as though I'm "propagating a cultural order," though I see what you mean. I see it as working within an imperfect system (and all systems are imperfect to one degree or another) to help bring the Dharma to the West. The forms that the Dharma will take going forward in the West will undoubtedly be more in line with Western values, for better and for worse (and when I say worse I'm thinking of the capitalist bent of some Dharma communities, for example).
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Re: Taego Lineage Seminary

Postby jrzen » Mon Mar 19, 2012 4:49 am

Haemin,

I'm also a bit confused by your comments thus far but I do appreciate your attempts to clarify. Considering how controversial the Taego Order is, trying to justify one's involvement with them and defending their policies must be a very daunting and lonely task.

Is there any point at which you would feel it irresponsible to be part of any Asian lineage trying to spread into the West? If the Taego Order didn't allow people of color to fully ordain as monks, would you still belong to it? If not, why is it ok to be part of an order that openly discriminates against women and other groups of people?

<<I feel the same way. I couldn't pick an order simply based on the socio-political issues we've been discussing. I need to feel connected to my teacher and to the form of practice.>>

Also, I am wondering who your teacher in the Taego Order is exactly? Are you engaged in some sort of regular, ongoing, teacher/student dialogue with him?

As I understand it, people are able to join the Taego seminary program just as long as they pay the tuition and then they choose a teacher with whom they have very little, if any, regular contact.

And you are clear that it is clearly stated in the Vinaya that monks are to be celibate? Which means that the vast majority of Taego monks are not considered valid monks based on the rules set forth by the Buddha.
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Re: Taego Lineage Seminary

Postby Haemin » Mon Mar 19, 2012 7:41 am

jrzen wrote:I'm also a bit confused by your comments thus far but I do appreciate your attempts to clarify. Considering how controversial the Taego Order is, trying to justify one's involvement with them and defending their policies must be a very daunting and lonely task.


I cannot stress enough that, as I see it, the Taego Order alone isn't controversial. All of Asian Buddhism is. All of Asian Buddhism discriminates against women, homosexuals and the disabled. I'm still confused about why there's a fixation on the Taego Order here. Tibetans have branched out into the West, as has the Theravada tradition and the Jogye Order. (I know of more than one Chinese/Taiwanese group that is trying to branch out in the West, but as far as I can tell they haven't been particularly successful.) However, if I was a member of the Jogye Order, for example, no one would bat an eye.

Perhaps it's because there's an assumption among Westerners that Asian Buddhism is the liberal, inclusive religion we want it to be but these issues have come to light for the first time in relation to the Taego Order? In any case, if you're going to raise these issues in relation to the Taego Order, you have to ask everyone ordained in the Theravada tradition, everyone in the Tibetan tradition, everyone in the Korean tradition, etc... the same questions.

jrzen wrote:Is there any point at which you would feel it irresponsible to be part of any Asian lineage trying to spread into the West? If the Taego Order didn't allow people of color to fully ordain as monks, would you still belong to it? If not, why is it ok to be part of an order that openly discriminates against women and other groups of people?


That's a very good question and I don't have a good answer. I feel caught in the middle. But what is my choice? I was born to be a monk - I really believe that - but I need to engage in a practice with which I feel connected and be with a teacher who will actually teach me. I have had other teachers (in traditions that haven't been taken to task for these issues), but they made it clear through their actions that they didn't really care whether or not those they ordained or those monastics within their community were supported, trained and educated or not. In fact, I experienced a lot of judgement from lay people and even some other monastics over the years for not having formal training and education. And as I wrote earlier, I can't pick an order simply because it fits my own liberal views. I feel no connection with the practices of the more liberal, Westernized groups.

You know those teachers that have created more inclusive institutions started out in traditions that discriminate. I wonder if anyone would ask them how they could have done that, given the discrimination. Lawrence Grecco, who brought all this to light in the Taego Order last fall, went on to ordain originally with the International Order of Buddhist Ministers founded by Venerable Chao Chu, a Sri Lankan monk ordained in two traditions that discriminate (Sri Lankan Theravada and the Chinese tradition).

As an aside, did you know the monastic sangha has caste in Sri Lanka? There's a Sri Lankan monk who lives at the Vietnamese temple where I am currently living (he's also a student at the same university where I study). He said there's one ordination lineage or order in Sri Lanka reserved for low caste people. The Newari Buddhist tradition in Nepal has a caste system as well, though they no longer have monastics. But I digress....

jrzen wrote:Also, I am wondering who your teacher in the Taego Order is exactly? Are you engaged in some sort of regular, ongoing, teacher/student dialogue with him?


My teacher is Bishop Jongmae Park. I live near him and see him once or twice per month, given our busy schedules. I'm hoping to see him more once I graduate this coming December. I'm also looking into the possibility of going back to S. Korea in the near future for additional training, albeit for just a few months.

jrzen wrote:As I understand it, people are able to join the Taego seminary program just as long as they pay the tuition and then they choose a teacher with whom they have very little, if any, regular contact.


This is not uncommon in the Tibetan tradition either, for example. You might not see your teacher for months or even years on end. The Five Mountains Order is also spread out and uses an online seminary to educate people for ordination. Some of us in the Taego Order have been discussing this issue and see the need to develop regional centers where there's more face-to-face time. Personally, I wouldn't have the skill to have disciples from afar.

jrzen wrote:And you are clear that it is clearly stated in the Vinaya that monks are to be celibate? Which means that the vast majority of Taego monks are not considered valid monks based on the rules set forth by the Buddha.


lol. Of course I am! I've been a monk (celibate) for ten years and a Buddhist for more than 20. Personally, I don't care about the celibate / non-celibate thing. How someone else sees a non-celibate member of the Buddhist clergy doesn't concern me, though I am well aware they are not recognized as bhikshu by other orders.
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Re: Taego Lineage Seminary

Postby Indrajala » Mon Mar 19, 2012 8:25 am

Haemin wrote:In Japan, the wives of priests work incredibly hard for the temples.


Most temples in Japan are commercial enterprises that exist more or less only to turn a profit by providing archaic rituals that Japanese people feel culturally obliged to maintain and pay a lot of money for.


The problem is that Western Dharma communities are either to small to support even a single monk or nun, or they are unwilling to do so.


I'm waiting for the day when I see a western monk begging for scraps of food from streetside cafes and living in public parks and homeless shelters.

The 'homeless life' means actually being homeless, not living a comfortable middle-class lifestyle just without the sex.



Personally, in the West at least, I think a combination of married clergy and celibate priests works.


This is a recipe for disaster especially if an organization has both. The unmarried celibate monks will inevitably feel a mix of jealousy and pride towards those priests who earn a sizable income and support a family while enjoying equal status as their celibate brothers and sisters.
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Re: Taego Lineage Seminary

Postby Haemin » Mon Mar 19, 2012 9:10 am

Huseng wrote:Most temples in Japan are commercial enterprises that exist more or less only to turn a profit by providing archaic rituals that Japanese people feel culturally obliged to maintain and pay a lot of money for.


Yes, funeral services in Japan are expensive, but the belief that Japanese priests are wealthy entrepreneurs is a myth. I spent three years in Japan (Hokkaido, Osaka and Mie Prefecture) and the priests I met were often taking care of more than one temple because there weren't enough priests. Some of them were working regular jobs on top of this (one was a part-time grade school teacher and also taught classes at a local university) or said that temple wives often work outside the temple in addition to their unpaid work at the temple. From all I was told, the majority of priests in Japan were scrapping by financially.

Huseng wrote:I'm waiting for the day when I see a western monk begging for scraps of food from streetside cafes and living in public parks and homeless shelters. The 'homeless life' means actually being homeless, not living a comfortable middle-class lifestyle just without the sex.


How easy it must be for you to make such pronouncements. You're not even a monk yourself, are you? If not, get ordained and you live like that, then judge. Even in the Buddha's time, the monastic order moved from being a wholly itinerant one to a community of settled monks and nuns living in community. Eating twice a day at that time when many and perhaps most people were lucky to eat once a day meant that the Buddha's monks and nuns had a healthy diet. Literal begging was a culturally appropriate practice in India in the Buddha's time, but was dropped centuries ago in East Asia when Buddhism moved to China.

For the record, I have small room in a Vietnamese temple. The other monks and nuns are all Vietnamese and none of them beg either. The situation is temporary and not middle class. In fact, most of the monastics I know live close to or actually in poverty, especially the Western ones.

Huseng wrote:This is a recipe for disaster especially if an organization has both. The unmarried celibate monks will inevitably feel a mix of jealousy and pride towards those priests who earn a sizable income and support a family while enjoying equal status as their celibate brothers and sisters.


Based on what do you assert this? I've seen no such problems as this. I'm a celibate monk and I don't feel jealous toward my non-celibate brothers and sisters in my own order or any other.
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Re: Taego Lineage Seminary

Postby Indrajala » Mon Mar 19, 2012 9:41 am

Haemin wrote:Yes, funeral services in Japan are expensive, but the belief that Japanese priests are wealthy entrepreneurs is a myth. I spent three years in Japan (Hokkaido, Osaka and Mie Prefecture) and the priests I met were often taking care of more than one temple because there weren't enough priests.


Most of the Japanese priests I came to know when I lived there and studied at Komazawa University for my MA degree displayed great wealth. For one thing, the tuition was over US$10,000/year (I was on a full scholarship fortunately), and many of the graduate students would stay there for at least nine years from undergraduate until PhD. Meanwhile, they regularly made use of the Shinkansen and wore fashionable clothes. I also came to understand how Japanese temples operate. They are exempt from paying taxes. They also can carry out rituals for payment in cash. Even rituals as simple as a blessing at a home or something to that effect.

It is not a myth as you suggest. Temples often allow a priest to live a comfortable middle-class or higher lifestyle.

Some of them were working regular jobs on top of this (one was a part-time grade school teacher and also taught classes at a local university) or said that temple wives often work outside the temple in addition to their unpaid work at the temple. From all I was told, the majority of priests in Japan were scrapping by financially.


Your experience is vastly different from my own.



How easy it must be for you to make such pronouncements. You're not even a monk yourself, are you? If not, get ordained and you live like that, then judge.


I don't have to ordain to make that judgement. Most monks I know live very comfortable lifestyles and are free from most ordinary worries in life (such as food, shelter and clothing). They get three square meals a day, comfortable lodging and sufficient funds to cover any of their expenses. If this is to be supported, then the laity will have to be relied upon and supporting such lifestyles will make Buddhist monasticism very hard to transmit as it becomes heavy with cultural baggage and expensive. If monks begged for their food and required little to no money to support, then this problem would be remedied and you'd have an organic renunciate movement arise in the west rather than trying to support overly pampered monastics. If people supported such renunciates, it would be quite genuine and moreover inexpensive, at least until the institutionalization of the act set in.

A lot of people like the idea of "being a monk" but not actually living the prescribed renunciate lifestyle. The renunciate lifestyle is in theory supposed to be where you live free from monetary concerns, or as much as possible. The question of "how much is possible" is up in the air, but more often than not the "reality of our times" is used as an excuse for justifying unnecessary expenditures.

Even in the Buddha's time, the monastic order moved from being a wholly itinerant one to a community of settled monks and nuns living in community. Eating twice a day at that time when many and perhaps most people were lucky to eat once a day meant that the Buddha's monks and nuns had a healthy diet. Literal begging was a culturally appropriate practice in India in the Buddha's time, but was dropped centuries ago in East Asia when Buddhism moved to China.


This is because early on the state came to support institutionalized Buddhism. However, there were plenty of wandering vagrant monks who people helped and supported.


For the record, I have small room in a Vietnamese temple. The other monks and nuns are all Vietnamese and none of them beg either. The situation is temporary and not middle class. In fact, most of the monastics I know live close to or actually in poverty, especially the Western ones.


You probably live better than most Vietnamese people all things considered.

Having people support you is fine, but my concern is an underlying sense of entitlement, especially in the context of creating monastic institutions in the west. People think they can't become monks unless they have health insurance paid for them, for example.


Based on what do you assert this? I've seen no such problems as this. I'm a celibate monk and I don't feel jealous toward my non-celibate brothers and sisters in my own order or any other.


Look at the post-war history of the Korean Jogye order. The celibate monks formed a movement to eject or at least actively isolate the married priests.
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