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Is It True That Japanese Buddhist Monks Can Get Married?
Translator’s Note: This is an English translation of a short Chinese text entitled ‘听说日本僧人都有家室，是吗？, or ‘Is It True That Japanese Buddhist Monks Can Get Married?’. It conveys how Japanese Buddhist monks transitioned from the practice of celibacy to that of marriage. In the early 1950’s, Master Xu Yun was asked by the Chinese government to participate in the inauguration of the Chinese Buddhism Association. At one of these meetings in Beijing, a group of Chinese Buddhist monks petitioned the government to pass a law that allowed Chinese Buddhist monastics to get married – copying the example common to Buddhist monks in Japan. However, Xu Yun slapped his hand on the table told everyone that the Buddha-Dharma begins and ends with the following of ALL the precepts. Zhou Enlai looked at Mao Zedong – who nodded in agreement with Master Xu Yun – and the petition was denied. This is why Chinese Buddhist monks do not marry today.
Originally, Japanese monks were not allowed to get married. During the 12th century, the (Pureland based)Jodo Shinshu (净土真宗 – Jing Tu Zhen Zong) Sect of Japanese Buddhism was founded by the monk called Shinran (亲鸾 – Qin Luan), who advocated spiritual practice with a wife. He settled down with his wife, started a family and had children. For hundreds of years, the institution of married monks was limited to just the Jodo Sect, but following the Meiji Restoration (明冶维新 – Ming Ye Wei Xin) of 1868, the practice of Buddhist monks getting married started to spread to other Buddhist sects in Japan. Now, only a few Buddhist monks in the Jodo Sect practice celibacy, whilst the vast majority follow Shinran’s example and get married. This is a common practice throughout contemporary Japanese Buddhism, where many monks get married, and pass on their Buddhist lineage to their children and grandchildren. This is a hereditary system, where for example, the control of a temple passes from father to son. This system has caused Buddhism to spread throughout lay society, taking root within family homes, and encouraging lay-practice. However, although many Japanese monks do get married, it is also true that many other monks (and nuns) in Japan follow the precepts strictly and do not get married out of choice – even though they could do.
©opyright: Adrian Chan-Wyles (ShiDaDao) 2014.
Original Chinese Language Article: http://doorway.fjnet.com/fojiao/06fjcs/fjcs/314.htm