Are Zen Monks Celibate

Brent Mccoy
• Monday, 04 January, 2021
• 9 min read

The largest exception is Japan ; the Emperor abolished celibacy in the 19th century, and since then Japanese clergy have been more often married than not. The Sakha school of Tibetan Buddhism has been headed by the same aristocratic, non- celibate clan since the 11th century; leadership positions pass from father to son.

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The large majority of Tibetan monks and nuns are celibate, as are all the monastic orders of Burma, Cambodia, China, Laos, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam. The Buddha's rules for the monastic orders he founded are recorded in a collection of texts called the Vijaya, or sometimes Vinaya-pitaka.

As Buddhism spread through Asia over the centuries there came to be at least three somewhat different versions of the Vijaya, but they all maintain the rules of monastic celibacy. In Theravada Buddhism monks are not permitted to so much as shake hands with a woman; nor may a nun touch a man.

Tantra employs sexual imagery and visualizations as a means to channel the energy of desire into enlightenment, but teachings and practices of the higher levels are not shared with the public. For most of us, the important point is that, whatever goes on in them, the tactic marriages are (a) between two highly advanced practitioners and spiritual equals who probably have been fully ordained for many years; and (b) not kept secret from their orders.

When a senior monastic takes a partner who is much younger and not previously initiated into higher tantra, this is not traditional; it's sexual predation. And ordained practitioners simply do not pair off with each other without their superiors in the order knowing and giving approval.

Moreover, beginning from the time of Shin ran (1173-1262) and IPSEN (1239-1289), who were known as hair, or wandering mendicants, there are many examples of the marriage of monks during the Katakana (1185-1333), Mariachi (1336-1570), and Do periods (1600-1867). An edict, number 133, issued by the new Meiji government in 1872 ordered that monks should be free to «eat meat, take wives, and shave their heads» as they chose.

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In Ties in 1920 the Judo (Pure Land) School of Buddhism issued a set of Regulations for Temple Families. The issue of monastic celibacy differs for each sect of Japanese Buddhism and for each individual monk.

We cannot say that the social issues I have outlined above reflect the definitive state of contemporary Japanese Buddhism, but it is true that where these various problems do exist, they arise from the marriage of monks. Moreover, in thinking about this question, we should not overlook the fact that nuns are usually neglected and that an exclusively male-centred point of view is argued.

Rather than being an object of faith in the context of a lord-servant relationship such as that of a creator and the ones that are saved, Buddha designates that which lets exist everything that is. Dharma signifies the matrix of impermanence and cause-effect in which Buddha as a phenomenon ceaselessly undergoes creation, change, birth and death.

As a condition for this acceptance of the precepts, one must first express one’s resolve to leave one’s home which forms a root of attachment. While the establishment of religious faith is, needless to say, a very personal and internal event, the social status of ‘monk’ or ‘nun’ presupposes a monastic community called sang ha.

Both from the point of view of the establishment of one’s own faith and from that of a harmonious effort in the sang ha community to help each other towards self-awakening, the monks and nuns’ lack of possessions is an essential condition. In the trend of historical secularization of modern civilization throughout the world, one may in Japan sometimes have trouble speaking to communities of home-leavers.

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Nevertheless, and in spite of the limited number of such vocations, I can say as one member of the Japanese Buddhist sang ha that in this day and age there are in fact still Zen monks and nuns who consciously choose to remain celibate for life. The repeated addition of more detailed rules was necessary precisely because the precepts were broken, and it served to prevent just that.

Paradoxically, the attempt to kill off desires and attachments inside the monastic community by way of precepts, produced more evil ways of breaking these precepts; and while sight was lost of the gist of the teaching, superficial hypocrisy and self-righteous interpretations became rampant. He established a ceremony for the taking of this precept and built a Mahayana ordination platform for the purpose on Mount Via near Kyoto.

They view the monastic community that ought to be their basis lightly and disregard its rules, and they are drawn into the secular world with a household and private property before having finished their own spiritual quest. I think that my way of being a Zen monk would have long ago come to a dead end if I had had to uphold by force a voluntary precept or a related threat of punishment for these two conditions for being a religious person: faith on the inside, and a life without material possessions on the outside.

Since the majority of the monks and nuns that constitute the sang ha have not yet realized this, inner effort of will and vows and outer rules become necessary. From a historical point of view, too, it is clear how meaningless it is to try to eradicate this contradiction by systematic reform.

Her calling was to be a priest, but the Church of England was not to ordain women for another 35 years; so she was pushed to search further afield. As the first woman sanctioned to teach Soto Zen in the west, Jiyu-Kennett established a monastic order where the sexes are held in theory and practice to be completely equal.

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I hadn't realized until then how disheartened I had felt from reading mostly of men's feats, opportunities and status in Buddhism. The bloodline, which traces the teaching 2,500 years from the Buddha to each modern student, appeared entirely male.

To ease my spirit I imagined libraries full of books about women's adventures, high status held equally, scriptural passages that warned against the terrible temptation of sexy men (kidding) and a lineage that traced the teaching from a female Buddha through a bloodline of great women. I imagined an abundance of women known for achievement through perseverance, hard work and ambition, regardless of whether they were mothers or not.

The thing that surprised people the most when I told them about the monastery was that men and women are happy to work together without sleeping with anyone. Their trump card was the case of abusive Catholic priests : conclusive proof, they imagined, of what happens to everyone who tries to be celibate.

The emotion and physical urge was still there, unchanged, but the surrounding landscape opened up and showed it in greater perspective: inconsequential in itself; a ripple in the stream; not something that had to be either indulged or repressed. Manly men can still be passive, sensitive and nurturing; powerful and ambitious women can still be feminine without having to talk to the press about their lingerie.

The Buddha was very explicit that monks and nuns on ordaining should relinquish their household ties (except for dedication to and respect for parents) and take a vow of celibacy. That’s because full-fledged devotion to following the Buddha’s path of practice leading to enlightenment is extremely hard to accomplish when the distractions, entanglements, and obligations of romantic relationships and family life are at play.

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Gain access to the best in spiritual film, our growing collection of e-books, and monthly talks, plus our 25-year archive Among its unique characteristics are its system of reincarnating lamas and the vast number of deities in its pantheon.

Tibetan Buddhism is most well-known to the world through the office of the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual and political leader of Tibet and the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. Historically, “Tibet” refers to a mountainous region in Central Asia covering 2.5 million sq km.

Today, many Buddhist works that have been lost in their original Sanskrit survive only in Tibetan translation. In common with Mahayana schools, Tibetan Buddhism includes a pantheon of Buddhas, Bodhisattva, and Dharma protectors.

Arya-bodhisattvas are able to escape the cycle of death and rebirth but compassionately choose to remain in this world to assist others in reaching nirvana or buddhahood. For more information on Tibetan beliefs, see the articles on the Five Dayan Buddhas, the wrathful deities, and Tara.

In Bhutan, villagers may be blessed by attending an annual religious festival, known as a tech, held in their district. In watching the festival dances performed by monks, the villagers are reminded of Buddhist principles such as non-harm to other living beings.

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A number of esoteric meditation techniques are employed by different traditions, including Mahavira, douches, and the Six yoga of Europa. Qualified practitioners may study or construct special cosmic diagrams known as mandalas which assist in inner spiritual development.

Madras are used by the monks to revitalize spiritual energies which generate wisdom, compassion and the healing powers of Enlightened Beings. With accompanying narration and a monastic debate demonstration, the program provides a fascinating glimpse into ancient and current Tibetan culture.

The distinctive doctrine of the Cinema school is Douches (“great perfection”), also known as ati-yoga (extraordinary yoga). It also makes wide use of shamanistic practices and local divinities borrowed from the indigenous, pre-Buddhist On religion.

Its teachings were brought to Tibet by Maria the Translator, an 11th century Tibetan householder who traveled to India to study under the master login Europa and gather Buddhist scriptures. In the 12th century, the physician Tampa synthesized the teachings of Maria and Malaria into an independent school.

As its name indicates, this school of Tibetan Buddhism places particular value on the transmission of teachings from teacher to disciple. The central teaching is the “great seal” (Mahavira), which is a realization of emptiness, freedom from samsara and the inseparability of these two.

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The Beluga school has held political leadership of Tibet since the Dalai Lamas were made heads of state by the Mongol leader Sushi Khan in 1642. The Dalai Lama is the head of the dominant school of Tibetan Buddhism, the Beluga (or Yellow Hats).

The current Dalai Lama, Tenpin Goats, is the 14th in a line of succession that began with Genus Drub (1391–1475), founder and abbot of Tashilhunpo monastery (central Tibet). His successor, Sonar Goats (1543–88) received from the Mongol chief Sushi (Alan) Khan the honorific title table (Anglicized as “Dalai”) in 1578.

Table is the Mongolian equivalent of the Tibetan rgya-mtsho, meaning “ocean,” and suggests breadth and depth of wisdom. The Tibetans themselves call the Dalai Lama Ghana Roche (“Precious Conqueror”), Ye shin Nor bu (“Wish-fulfilling Gem”), or simply Kunduz (“The Presence”).

He established, with the military assistance of the Host Mongols, the supremacy of the Beluga sect over rival orders for the temporal rule of Tibet. The sixth Dalai Lama, Jam yang Goats (1683–1706), was a libertine and a writer of romantic verse, not well-suited to his position.

The seventh Dalai Lama, Kelsey Goats (1708–57), experienced civil war and the establishment of Chinese Manchu suzerainty over Tibet. The eighth, Jamel Goats (1758–1804), saw his country invaded by Gurkha troops from Nepal but defeated them with the aid of Chinese forces.

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The successful revolt within China against its ruling Manchu dynasty in 1912 gave the Tibetans the opportunity to dispel the disunited Chinese troops, and the Dalai Lama reigned as head of a sovereign state. The 14th in the line of Dalai Lamas, Tenpin Goats, was born Lamp Holdup in 1935 in China of Tibetan parentage.

He was recognized as the incarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama in 1937, enthroned in 1940, and vested with full powers as head of state in 1950. He fled to exile in India in 1959, the year of the Tibetan people's unsuccessful revolt against communist Chinese forces that had occupied the country since 1950.

In 1989, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in recognition of his nonviolent campaign to end Chinese domination of Tibet. The People's Republic of China did not recognize this choice, naming Gawain Nor bu to the office of Patches Lama instead.

Many observers believe that upon the death of the current Dalai Lama, China will direct the selection of a successor, thereby creating a schism and leadership vacuum in the Tibetan independence movement.

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