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Buddhadharma : Spring 2010
57 spring 2 01 0 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly around the world, the reincarnates are often not monks, which sometimes causes problems. Bhikkhu Bodhi: The other model of monastic life is based more on partnership and community among the monks or nuns. Someone is invested with the office of abbot, perhaps by elec- tion. It can be a rotating position. But the one who exer- cises the authority of abbot doesn’t have the capacity or the authority to make decrees on their own—they are subject to control from the monastic community. Within this structure, the monks or nuns will be entitled to speak their own voice, offer opinions, and even criticize the leader. This model seems closer to what the Buddha himself envisioned in the Vinaya, but over the centuries the tendency has been for monasteries to center around one strong charismatic leader. RoBeRt thuRman: There is wisdom coming out of the Vinaya even for dealing with the problem of leaders who are too powerful. In Tibetan monasteries, for example, the bursar, the one who looks after financial affairs, is never the charismatic meditation teacher. In this country, I’ve seen situations where the leader has both the economic function of control of the monastery’s livelihood (either through donations or business interests) and also is giving initiations and ordaining. Combin- ing those two is a recipe for trouble. They tend very much to be separated in Asian traditions. A similar lack of separation occurs in Zen in this country. There’s a lot of confusion about what a monk is, and the line between a livelihood-earning person and a monastic gets blurred. I think that stems from the Meiji Restoration’s deci- sion to make monks get married, in order to break the power of Japanese monastic institutions. For the majority of Zen history, it was much more Vinaya-oriented, and monks were celibate and renunciate. As a result of this nineteenth-century innovation, however, you have people who are called “Zen monks” who are married with two children and a job. That’s something the Zen tradition has to look at. Jan Chozen Bays: That is true, though we do honor the dis- tinction. We refer to ourselves as receiving monastic training because the container is a monastic container, but we call ourselves priests, not monks. RoBeRt thuRman: That’s good. It’s important to be clear about the differences. BuddhadhaRma: What about the relationship of the monastic sangha to the large community of practicing lay Buddhists? At times it seems like there is little relationship of one to the other. Bhikkhu Bodhi: In the American Theravada community, there seem to be two tracks. One track is attracted to monastic forms. Those on that track don’t necessarily become monas- tics themselves, but they’re attracted to monks and nuns as visibly representing Buddhism. They’re eager to have monks and nuns come and settle in the U.S., and they want to support them. They’re very much drawn towards traditional Buddhist Monastic residents doing laundry at Gampo Abbey in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. myosenJuliesprottaaronklokeid