There must be a better word to apply to some male adherents of Buddhism than “monk,” as used, for example, in the Jan. 19 Kyodo article “Matchmaking service gives Buddhist monks a boost in dating market.” If there isn’t, then perhaps we ought to make one because, in English, “monk” denotes a man living in a separated religious community and abiding by vows — especially of poverty, obedience, chastity, humility — in pursuit of spiritual purification through the self-discipline of study, worship and service.
Instead, Japanese Buddhist monks seem to live a life of wanton indulgence, which does not earn my respect. Matchmaking for monks sounds more than ridiculous. What kind of spiritual self-discipline are they showing me? Publicly enduring a frigid New Year’s purification bath doesn’t recommend anything to me.
When I first came to Japan, I toured temples in Kamakura and was interested in seeing a monk’s cottage there. The monk’s satellite dish was on the roof, his Mercedes Benz out front, and his wife hanging up his laundry out back. I thought, “What kind of monk has a wife, a car and a satellite dish? He doesn’t drink alcohol too, does he?” Later I learned that they do.
I know it’s a lingering bit of culture shock, and that maybe I ought to learn a new definition of “monk” to match the culture here. But, instead, I am still of the opinion that Japanese culture ought to learn a new definition of “monk.”
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.