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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.

grant piper

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