January 27, 2012

Buddha Buzz: Dating, Drugs, and Death

First off, Happy Lunar New Year! Welcome to the year of the dragon. faith goble

As befits such a year celebrating a creature who is often associated with longevity, some Buddhist monks in Japan have a similar concern in mind: from the Japan Times, "Matchmaking Service gives Buddhist monks a boost in dating market." From the article:

In Japan, it is typical for relatives of monks—especially head monks—to inherit caretaker duties of their temples.

But because of a lack of successors, the monks have become desperate to find wives in order to preserve this tradition and save their temples from being closed or integrated.

According to Takua Kamei of Kongobuji, the head temple of the Shingon sect, one problem is that "the harder they pursue Buddhism, the fewer opportunities they can have to meet people of the opposite sex."

I hear you there, Takua Kamei.

Kamei noted that families, known as "danka" in Japanese, which for generations have provided voluntary financial support to Buddhist temples, are also concerned about their temples if monks remain single and have no successors.

At first I was imagining a sort of monk OKCupid profile, but these monk dating services seem to be a lot more serious: "Under the service, those who are interested submit to the temple forms in which they introduce themselves and state various information, including whether they are willing to live with their potential in-laws or to be adopted by their partner's family," two pieces of information that it is hard to imagine being volunteered on OKCupid. The article lists at least two sects, Koyasan Shingon and Nishi Honganji, who participate in such services, and says that altogether 16 couples have married or started to date since the inception of the service. 

On an unrelated note, what do you see when you look at this?

 

waitscm

No, this isn't a koan. Religious object, Tibetan prayer wheel, silver thing with a wooden handle...all basic and acceptable answers that fit among the responses that I suspect the general population would offer.

But someone among us looked at this hollow cylinder and thought of something else: opportunity! Check out this article, "Smuggler hid drugs in Buddhist prayer wheels." Apparently some bright-eyed genius out there named Kristian Peter Stiegler spent the last three years in Nepal and India stuffing prayer wheels with hashish and what's suspected to be opium and FedExing them to the United States and Europe. For shame, Stiegler, for shame. We all know what happened to the drugs once they hit the ground in the U.S. and Europe, but I can't help but wonder what the recipients did with the prayer wheels.

And our last Buddha Buzz news item for the day: Jonathan Doody has been granted a retrial on the grounds that his confession was forced from him by police officers. The then-teenager was convicted of shooting, execution style, six monks and three temple-goers at Wat Promkunaram, a Thai temple in Arizona, 20 years ago. If you're unfamiliar with the facts of the case, various court documents related to the trial can be read here. Alan Dershowitz, who has represented famous clients like O.J. Simpson and Mike Tyson, has taken on the case, seeking Doody's freedom.

 

Photo 1: By faith goble on Flickr. http://www.flickr.com/photos/grafixer/6753753689/.

Photo 2: "Buddhist prayer wheel," by waitscm on Flickr. http://www.flickr.com/photos/chriswaits/6270760021/.

Got an idea for Buddha Buzz? Let me know on Twitter! @tricyclevarv. And while you're at it, check out the rest of the Tricycle team: @tricyclerachel, @tricyclesam, @tricyclemag.

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johen761's picture

"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."

Gethim2day

Dominic Gomez's picture

Aren't monks required to observe celibacy? And the pool of future monks drawn from the families of lay believers who send their children off to temples? Buddhism in Asia may be undergoing a major paradigm shift to fit the times...they are a-changing.

Emma Varvaloucas's picture

Many monks in Japan are not celibate, but get married and have families. The word can cause confusion, though. Check out this response to the matchmaking article: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/rc20120129a2.html.

From that response:

"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."

Dominic Gomez's picture

Buddhist leader would work. No need to dualise the sangha into laypersons and priests.

John O.'s picture

All discussions of propriety aside, the word "monk" is an unfortunate choice for someone seeking a mate--it comes from the Greek word for "single."