Some questions about Shingon

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Queequeg
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Re: Some questions about Shingon

Post by Queequeg »

Malcolm wrote: Wed Jan 13, 2021 9:53 pm My remark was not at all misleading. It was indeed terse. I made no comment on the strictness, or otherwise, of Tendai monks. That was your trip. For example, Hindu monks have very strict discipline, but they are not bhikṣus.
The context is one of OP's questions:

"Are there only non monastic clergy (priests) in Shingon or is there also a full vinaya system?"

That question is actually a little confusing because there are monastics, and have been, who in general look and live as Buddhist monks, though they may not have received vinaya precepts. The categories assumed by OP don't line up well with the situation, and your response didn't offer clarity on that. I didn't make that clear either.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Upaya Chapter

純一実相。実相外。更無別法。法性寂然名止。寂而常渉照名観。
There is only reality; there is nothing separate from reality. The naturally tranquil nature of dharmas is shamatha. The abiding luminosity of tranquility is vipashyana.

-From Guanding's Introduction to Zhiyi's Great Shamatha and Vipashyana
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Queequeg
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Re: Some questions about Shingon

Post by Queequeg »

Malcolm wrote: Wed Jan 13, 2021 10:01 pm
BTW, the article you cited above refers to a fellow who self ordained because he wasn't happy that the ordinations that were continuing to be given were not serious enough for him.
It is not that they were not serious ordinations, they were pure shams that were not carried out according to the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya procedures. By this point, Ritsu had already died out, etc.
That's what Eizon et al. seemed to think, and the article quotes a colorful remark about people running around an ordination platform. I'm going to take that with a grain of salt.

Ordination is as serious as one takes it. All the ritual formalities could be observed, and every effort made to impress the seriousness of the vows. Buddhist history is still littered with monks behaving badly even in places where we can assume ordination is the real deal.

Its an interesting article on something that happened for a while in Japan.
Again, it was a while, and the result of a lot of steps by a lot of people that finally ended the vinaya ordinations in Japan. Sure, Saicho and Tendai had a part, but its misleading to say that Saicho was the reason it died out.
Pretty much, as the most important monastic establishment in close proximity to the capital, Kyoto, the absence of bhikṣu ordination there most certainly was the principle factor that lead to the decline of bhikṣu ordination in Japan during the Heian era.
That is a good point. But you're assuming a certain set of assumptions about the state of the monastic institutions and monastics in Japan in the Heian period. Are you depending on other sources for this position? Are you arguing that the formality of ordination doesn't qualify as the continuation of vinaya ordination? I can't site to a particular article to dispute you - just that from what I know of Buddhist history in Japan, Buddhism was still a robust and vital force in Japan up until the Tokugawa period with many robust monastic communities throughout the country.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Upaya Chapter

純一実相。実相外。更無別法。法性寂然名止。寂而常渉照名観。
There is only reality; there is nothing separate from reality. The naturally tranquil nature of dharmas is shamatha. The abiding luminosity of tranquility is vipashyana.

-From Guanding's Introduction to Zhiyi's Great Shamatha and Vipashyana
Malcolm
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Re: Some questions about Shingon

Post by Malcolm »

Queequeg wrote: Wed Jan 13, 2021 10:09 pm
"Are there only non monastic clergy (priests) in Shingon or is there also a full vinaya system?"

That question is actually a little confusing because there are monastics, and have been, who in general look and live as Buddhist monks, though they may not have received vinaya precepts. The categories assumed by OP don't line up well with the situation, and your response didn't offer clarity on that. I didn't make that clear either.
There is a monastic ordination in Shingon, it is once again largely symbolic, as I understand.

https://www.jstor.org/stable/44362396?r ... b_contents

This offers more clarity on the situation with the evolution of Shingon Risshu.

M
"Nonduality is merely a name;
that name does not exist."
—Kotalipa
Malcolm
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Re: Some questions about Shingon

Post by Malcolm »

Queequeg wrote: Wed Jan 13, 2021 10:20 pm
Malcolm wrote: Wed Jan 13, 2021 10:01 pm
BTW, the article you cited above refers to a fellow who self ordained because he wasn't happy that the ordinations that were continuing to be given were not serious enough for him.
It is not that they were not serious ordinations, they were pure shams that were not carried out according to the Dharmaguptaka Vinaya procedures. By this point, Ritsu had already died out, etc.
That's what Eizon et al. seemed to think, and the article quotes a colorful remark about people running around an ordination platform. I'm going to take that with a grain of salt.

Ordination is as serious as one takes it. All the ritual formalities could be observed, and every effort made to impress the seriousness of the vows. Buddhist history is still littered with monks behaving badly even in places where we can assume ordination is the real deal.
The fact is that the bhikṣu ordination lineage in Japan was broken. Generally, Vinaydharas in India, Tibet, China, etc., would not accept such a lineage as valid.
Pretty much, as the most important monastic establishment in close proximity to the capital, Kyoto, the absence of bhikṣu ordination there most certainly was the principle factor that lead to the decline of bhikṣu ordination in Japan during the Heian era.
That is a good point. But you're assuming a certain set of assumptions about the state of the monastic institutions and monastics in Japan in the Heian period. Are you depending on other sources for this position? Are you arguing that the formality of ordination doesn't qualify as the continuation of vinaya ordination?
An ordination rite depends on the rite being carried out correctly, by a sthavira who has been a monk for ten years, and a quorum of other senior monks. It is a complicated procedure, where the vows are gone through in blocks, and the aspirant accepting them. If it is not carried out correctly, it isn't valid.

In addition, in no school does one become a fully ordained bikṣu in one day, other than the merit ordinations most Thai men undergo. Generally, one is ordained a śrāmana, a novice, then later, a bhikṣu, after living as novice under the direction of preceptor for some years.

"...people running around an ordination platform." I think this not merely hyperbole.

I can't site to a particular article to dispute you - just that from what I know of Buddhist history in Japan, Buddhism was still a robust and vital force in Japan up until the Tokugawa period with many robust monastic communities throughout the country.
But not, unfortunately, the community of bhikṣus. Monastic /= bhikṣus.
"Nonduality is merely a name;
that name does not exist."
—Kotalipa
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Queequeg
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Re: Some questions about Shingon

Post by Queequeg »

Caoimhghín wrote: Wed Jan 13, 2021 10:02 pm Supposedly, right after his death, this bodhisattvaśīla was implemented over vinaya specifically.
Tendai-shu was granted permission to construct an ordination platform and ordain monks. They had to get the Emperor's permission.

This touches on a quirk in Japanese Buddhism which since almost the beginning, it was organized as a function of the state. The state regulated how many people could be ordained, and up until the Heian period, this was controlled by limiting the ordination platform to a couple temples in Nara, iirc. Being a monk exempted one from taxes and labor, so there were serious economic implications. Which may have contributed to some ordinations being shams of a tax evasion variety. This also led to a lot of unofficial monks, especially up in the mountains. Kukai, for instance, may have been an unofficial monk before he became an official monk.

Getting the ordination platform on Hiei freed Tendaishu from the control of the Nara clergy. It also gave Tendaishu the official ability to put their ideas into practice. That said, they were still monastics - they lived like Buddhist monks with full vinaya ordination for the most part. I think that is a distinction that is causing some confusion. Does one have to receive vinaya ordination to be a Buddhist monastic?
As I understand, in Japanese Buddhism there is a formal distinction between monks and priests, but that in practice "monk" is normally used regardless, so that is often a difference only in theory. The Tendai "monks," as I understand it, are priests of Tang esoterica in the Japanese context but not "monks." Do you think this is a wrong way to look at things?
Again, are only those who receive a vinaya ordination monks?

I might not understand everything. In my mind, priests are the ones who receive some sort of ordination but still live a secular life domestically. A monk is someone who doesn't have a family and... lives like a monk, devoted completely to practice. Like the various Tendai gyoja who live on the mountain exclusively - whether for a period years or their whole lives. I don't know if that lines up with the dictionary definitions.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Upaya Chapter

純一実相。実相外。更無別法。法性寂然名止。寂而常渉照名観。
There is only reality; there is nothing separate from reality. The naturally tranquil nature of dharmas is shamatha. The abiding luminosity of tranquility is vipashyana.

-From Guanding's Introduction to Zhiyi's Great Shamatha and Vipashyana
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Re: Some questions about Shingon

Post by Caoimhghín »

"Priest" is a loaded term because it implies a priestly function, sometimes even "sacrificing" something. In religions with familial priesthoods it can mean just being born into a certain family. The Cohanim for example in Judaism when it was still a temple-centered religion. I think there's also a Nichiren sect that requires priests be from a certain family, though not all members of the family are priests. The way I was using "priest" was in the sense of "ritual specialist and initiate into an esoteric community." And I am using "esoteric community" in the sense of "holders of a secret or specialist doctrine and practice."

In the sense of "someone who serves a liturgy" or "performs a ritual," mountain or monastic hermits wouldn't qualify I suppose.

I should say I have no personal objection to calling them monks. I would even "Ven" them in whatever language we spoke. But the most monkish of these kinds of monks would be from a vinaya POV lay brahmacaris. That doesn't mean they aren't monks at heart or are not āryas or bodhisattvas.
Then, the monks sang this gāthā:

These bodies are like foam.
Them being frail, who can rejoice in them?
The Buddha attained the vajra-body.
Still, it becomes inconstant and rots.
The many Buddhas are vajra-entities.
All are also subject to inconstancy.
Quickly ended, like melting snow --
how could things be different?

The Buddha passed into parinirvāṇa afterward.
(T1.27b10 Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra DĀ 2)
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Queequeg
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Re: Some questions about Shingon

Post by Queequeg »

Malcolm wrote: Wed Jan 13, 2021 10:21 pm
Queequeg wrote: Wed Jan 13, 2021 10:09 pm
"Are there only non monastic clergy (priests) in Shingon or is there also a full vinaya system?"

That question is actually a little confusing because there are monastics, and have been, who in general look and live as Buddhist monks, though they may not have received vinaya precepts. The categories assumed by OP don't line up well with the situation, and your response didn't offer clarity on that. I didn't make that clear either.
There is a monastic ordination in Shingon, it is once again largely symbolic, as I understand.

https://www.jstor.org/stable/44362396?r ... b_contents

This offers more clarity on the situation with the evolution of Shingon Risshu.

M
When you say symbolic, you're saying it doesn't follow the process you described above, and we're talking about a bhiksu ordination speficically?

Again, I'm afraid the way you comment on these matters fails to present an accurate picture of what actually goes on. There may be those on the forum who could offer a more definitive and informed explanation. As I understand, Shingon ordination even now is not just symbolic. Maybe if we are talking about a bhiksu ordination, non-Japanese might conclude Shingon ordination is merely symbolic. But becoming a Shingon ordinand is not just a facile formality. It requires one to enter into a student-master relationship with a teacher and to undergo training. I don't know the exact course on Koya-san, but it takes considerable time and effort. And that's the similar for other sects of Japanese Buddhism.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Upaya Chapter

純一実相。実相外。更無別法。法性寂然名止。寂而常渉照名観。
There is only reality; there is nothing separate from reality. The naturally tranquil nature of dharmas is shamatha. The abiding luminosity of tranquility is vipashyana.

-From Guanding's Introduction to Zhiyi's Great Shamatha and Vipashyana
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Re: Some questions about Shingon

Post by Queequeg »

Caoimhghín wrote: Wed Jan 13, 2021 10:59 pm "Priest" is a loaded term because it implies a priestly function, sometimes even "sacrificing" something. In religions with familial priesthoods it can mean just being born into a certain family. The Cohanim for example in Judaism when it was still a temple-centered religion. I think there's also a Nichiren sect that requires priests be from a certain family, though not all members of the family are priests. The way I was using "priest" was in the sense of "ritual specialist and initiate into an esoteric community." And I am using "esoteric community" in the sense of "holders of a secret or specialist doctrine and practice."

In the sense of "someone who serves a liturgy" or "performs a ritual," mountain or monastic hermits wouldn't qualify I suppose.

I should say I have no personal objection to calling them monks. I would even "Ven" them in whatever language we spoke. But the most monkish of these kinds of monks would be from a vinaya POV lay brahmacaris. That doesn't mean they aren't monks at heart or are not āryas or bodhisattvas.
I was just thinking about this - they're referred to as お坊さん - which I think is basically "a person who lives in monks quarters". There is a transliteration of bhiku, but I can't remember if I've heard it used. Also 僧侶 which I think is a more formal term meaning member of the sangha.

Priest/Monk may be an English distinction.

But my impression of the difference is along the ideas you describe above.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Upaya Chapter

純一実相。実相外。更無別法。法性寂然名止。寂而常渉照名観。
There is only reality; there is nothing separate from reality. The naturally tranquil nature of dharmas is shamatha. The abiding luminosity of tranquility is vipashyana.

-From Guanding's Introduction to Zhiyi's Great Shamatha and Vipashyana
Malcolm
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Re: Some questions about Shingon

Post by Malcolm »

Queequeg wrote: Wed Jan 13, 2021 11:18 pm
Malcolm wrote: Wed Jan 13, 2021 10:21 pm
Queequeg wrote: Wed Jan 13, 2021 10:09 pm
"Are there only non monastic clergy (priests) in Shingon or is there also a full vinaya system?"

That question is actually a little confusing because there are monastics, and have been, who in general look and live as Buddhist monks, though they may not have received vinaya precepts. The categories assumed by OP don't line up well with the situation, and your response didn't offer clarity on that. I didn't make that clear either.
There is a monastic ordination in Shingon, it is once again largely symbolic, as I understand.

https://www.jstor.org/stable/44362396?r ... b_contents

This offers more clarity on the situation with the evolution of Shingon Risshu.

M
When you say symbolic, you're saying it doesn't follow the process you described above, and we're talking about a bhiksu ordination speficically?

Again, I'm afraid the way you comment on these matters fails to present an accurate picture of what actually goes on. There may be those on the forum who could offer a more definitive and informed explanation. As I understand, Shingon ordination even now is not just symbolic. Maybe if we are talking about a bhiksu ordination, non-Japanese might conclude Shingon ordination is merely symbolic. But becoming a Shingon ordinand is not just a facile formality. It requires one to enter into a student-master relationship with a teacher and to undergo training. I don't know the exact course on Koya-san, but it takes considerable time and effort. And that's the similar for other sects of Japanese Buddhism.
Shingon monks marry and drink. As I said their bhiksu ordination is purely a formality.
"Nonduality is merely a name;
that name does not exist."
—Kotalipa
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Re: Some questions about Shingon

Post by Malcolm »

Queequeg wrote: Wed Jan 13, 2021 11:18 pm
Malcolm wrote: Wed Jan 13, 2021 10:21 pm
Queequeg wrote: Wed Jan 13, 2021 10:09 pm
"Are there only non monastic clergy (priests) in Shingon or is there also a full vinaya system?"

That question is actually a little confusing because there are monastics, and have been, who in general look and live as Buddhist monks, though they may not have received vinaya precepts. The categories assumed by OP don't line up well with the situation, and your response didn't offer clarity on that. I didn't make that clear either.
There is a monastic ordination in Shingon, it is once again largely symbolic, as I understand.

https://www.jstor.org/stable/44362396?r ... b_contents

This offers more clarity on the situation with the evolution of Shingon Risshu.

M
When you say symbolic, you're saying it doesn't follow the process you described above, and we're talking about a bhiksu ordination speficically?

Again, I'm afraid the way you comment on these matters fails to present an accurate picture of what actually goes on.
Wevare talking about Dharmaguptaka bhiksu ordination as it exists in Japan, and as it exists at present, only in Shingon.

My comments are entirely accurate, as you will discover when you read a bit more about the history of Vinaya in Japan, how and why it disappeared.
"Nonduality is merely a name;
that name does not exist."
—Kotalipa
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Re: Some questions about Shingon

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I don't think that anybody is arguing about the presence of "literal" bhikṣuṇīs & bhikṣus in Japanese Buddhism—the Shingon Ritsu case aside (because I'm not familiar enough with it to say, but it might be an exception), it's simply a fact that actual vinaya ordinations don't take place in Japan. Hence, from the legal point of view based on Vinaya, there are no bhikṣus & bhikṣuṇīs (the aforementioned possible exception aside).

The "quality" of ordained practitioners of Japanese Buddhism in general runs the whole gamut from ritual-performing businessman with basically zero interest in spiritual practice to strict and committed bhikṣu in all but legal status. I think this is also not something anybody is arguing about. Formal commitments to a life that corresponds to (or is very close to) Vinaya prescriptions for the ordained exist as well, as already mentioned.

Obviously Saichō didn't transform Japanese monasticism overnight, and he doesn't seem to have envisioned the events that ended up happening with regards to monastic structure and discipline. AFAIK he was himself a very strict monk and never changed his behavior or standards, and didn't instill a general laxity in his community. But his actions had crucial importance for the rest of history.
Caoimhghín wrote: Wed Jan 13, 2021 10:02 pm As I understand, in Japanese Buddhism there is a formal distinction between monks and priests, but that in practice "monk" is normally used regardless, so that is often a difference only in theory. The Tendai "monks," as I understand it, are priests of Tang esoterica in the Japanese context but not "monks." Do you think this is a wrong way to look at things?
There is no formal distinction between "monks" and "priests" of Japanese Buddhism. Sometimes the terms "biku" and "bikuni" are used to designate actual bhikṣus and bhikṣuṇīs, but in general some generic terms are employed as Queequeg said. I think the ideal solution would be to use a Japanese word like obōsan to refer to ordained clergy members of Japanese Buddhism, but without that being implemented, using "priest" or "monk" are both fine, as they are both imperfect and problematic in their own ways.
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Re: Some questions about Shingon

Post by Malcolm »

Queequeg wrote: Wed Jan 13, 2021 10:39 pm
Again, are only those who receive a vinaya ordination monks?
The only people who can bear the appellation bhiksu are those who have been ordained into one of three surviving vinaya lineages: Theravada, Mulasarvastivada, or Dharmaguptaka.
"Nonduality is merely a name;
that name does not exist."
—Kotalipa
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Re: Some questions about Shingon

Post by jake »

Bodhiquest wrote: Mon Jan 11, 2021 1:33 pm In general, the few books on Shingon currently available in English are good places to start learning more through a combination of primary texts and good explanation. The first 100 pages of Kukai: Major Works is absolutely the place to start with,
I've only seen the advice of reading the first 100 pages of Kukai: Major Works when paired with the follow-up suggestion of reading Takagi and Dreitleins "Kukai on the Philosophy of Language." This newer work has excellent translations with extensive footnotes to assist in understanding of many of the same works found in the later half of Kukai: Major Works.
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Re: Some questions about Shingon

Post by Bodhiquest »

jake wrote: Sat Jan 16, 2021 11:44 am I've only seen the advice of reading the first 100 pages of Kukai: Major Works when paired with the follow-up suggestion of reading Takagi and Dreitleins "Kukai on the Philosophy of Language." This newer work has excellent translations with extensive footnotes to assist in understanding of many of the same works found in the later half of Kukai: Major Works.
I've only seen it on DW :P

Of course it's an excellent book but it's expensive, difficult to obtain, and strictly as an introduction to Shingon for a complete beginner, doesn't accomplish anything that the first 100 pages of Major Works doesn't. Those who have the means should of course get it, but Major Works will suffice for a getting a foot through the door.
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