Clergy - Buddhism

Buddhism

see also Bhikkhu

Buddhist clergy are often referred to as the Sangha and consists of the order of monks (bhikshus) and nuns (bhikshunis) founded by Gautama Buddha during the 5th century BC, as well as lay priests in the modern era and ngagpas of the Tibetan tradition. According to scriptural records, these celibate monks and nuns in the time of the Buddha lived an austere life of meditation, living as wandering beggars for nine months out of the year and remaining in retreat during the rainy season. In modern times, however, the role of Buddhist clergy can vary greatly across different countries. For instance, in Japan and in some sects in Korea, monastic law regarding celibacy has been abandoned and Buddhist clergy do not take the ordination of a monk or nun but take alternate ordination which allows them to marry (though nuns, at least in Japan, tend to remain unmarried). Likewise, there are some lamas (Buddhist teachers) of the Tibetan tradition called "ngagpa," who do not receive monastic ordination. On the other hand, countries practicing Theravada Buddhism, such as Thailand, Burma, Cambodia and Sri Lanka, tend to take a much more conservative view of monastic life, and continue to observe precepts that forbid monks from touching women or working in certain secular roles.

While female monastic (bhikkhuni) lineages existed in most Buddhist countries at one time, the Theravada lineages of Southeast Asia died out during the 14th-15th Century AD. Furthermore, it appears that the bhikkhuni lineage was never transmitted to Tibet in the first place and only the novice ordination is available to them. The status and future of female Buddhist clergy in these countries continues to be a subject of debate. In countries without a formal female monastic lineage, women may take other religious roles, but they are generally not granted the same rights and privileges as recognized male monastics.

The diversity of Buddhist traditions makes it difficult to generalize about Buddhist clergy. In the United States, Pure Land priests of the Japanese diaspora serve a role very similar to Protestant ministers of the Christian tradition. Meanwhile, reclusive Theravada forest monks in Thailand live a life devoted to meditation and the practice of austerities in small communities in rural Thailand- a very different life from even their city-dwelling counterparts, who may be involved primarily in teaching, the study of scripture, and the administration of the nationally organized (and government sponsored) Sangha. In the Zen traditions of China, Korea and Japan, manual labor is an important part of religious discipline; meanwhile, in the Theravada tradition, prohibitions against monks working as laborers and farmers continue to be generally observed.

Currently in North America, there are both celibate and non-celibate clergy in a variety of Buddhist traditions from around the world. In some cases they are forest dwelling monks of the Theravada tradition and in other cases they are married clergy of a Japanese Zen lineage and may work a secular job in addition to their role in the Buddhist community. There is also a growing realization that traditional training in ritual and meditation as well as philosophy may not be sufficient to meet the needs and expectations of American lay people. Some communities have begun exploring the need for training in counseling skills as well. Along these lines, at least two fully accredited Master of Divinity programs are currently available: one at Naropa University in Boulder, CO and one at the University of the West in Rosemead, CA.

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Other articles related to "buddhism":

Comparative Studies - Is Buddhism A Religion?
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Decline Of Buddhism In India
... The decline of Buddhism in India, the land of its birth, occurred for a variety of reasons, and happened even as it continued to flourish beyond the frontiers of India ... Buddhism was established in the area of ancient Magadha and Kosala by Gautama Buddha in the 6th century BCE, in what is now modern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar ... Over the next 1500 years Buddhism became one of the region's influential sects, spreading across the Indian sub-continent (see History of Buddhism) ...
Decline Of Buddhism In India - Ideological and Financial Causes - Islam
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Decline Of Buddhism In India - Decline of Buddhism Under Various Governments
... said by some writers to have competed in political and spiritual realm with Buddhism in the gangetic plains while Buddhism flourished in the realms of the Bactrian kings ...

Famous quotes containing the word buddhism:

    A religion so cheerless, a philosophy so sorrowful, could never have succeeded with the masses of mankind if presented only as a system of metaphysics. Buddhism owed its success to its catholic spirit and its beautiful morality.
    W. Winwood Reade (1838–1875)