Friday, 25 December 2015

Reply to a Comment

A reader has posted a comment on our post, Comments on the Vows of the Tonsure to the Great Schema. We tried to reply with a comment but for some reason it doesn’t work. Here’s our reply:
A married man can become a monk but by becoming a monk he dissolves the marriage in the eyes of the Church. However, the secular authorities would probably not recognize his action as dissolving the marriage. He would therefore at the least be liable for whatever actions and penalties under the secular law someone who had abandoned his wife and children would be liable to. However he himself would be bound to celibacy for the rest of his life.
In Greece in the 19th Century, the Government under the Bavarian King's Protestant advisors attacked Greek Orthodox monasticism forcing many monks and nuns to marry—but this was a persecution of the Church.
The only instance of married monks is in Japan where in the 19th Century, if we remember correctly, the Meiji Dynasty forced Buddhist monks to be married by law. This of course is a contradiction in terms for a Buddhist monk. There are even today married Buddhist monks, and even married Buddhist Abbots, in Japan. We have no information on how they live with their wives.


  1. Wanted to clarify something. If a Buddhist monk was forcibly "married" and did not give up the robes, the moment he had sexual relations he would cease to be a monk, and could not be a Buddhist monk again in this lifetime. The Buddha was quite clear about this. In addition, a Buddhist monk must be ordained by at least five authentic Buddhist monks who have not fallen into any of the Four Defeats, such as intercourse. Although in Japan there are married Buddhist clergy who are called monks, they are not authentic Buddhist monks. The only authentic Buddhist monks (bhikshus/bhikkhus) in Japan are recent imports of authentic ordination traditions from abroad, such as the Theravada.

  2. Dear Tharpa: Far be it from us to tell a self-professed Buddhist what Buddhism is all about. However, we understand that ten canonically ordained Buddhist monks must participate in the ordination of a Buddhist monk, not five. We were just reading this but have forgotten where, so we can't give a link or citation. Also, your statement that a fallen Buddhist monk would cease to be a monk and could not be a Buddhist monk again in this lifetime--could you give us a citation? Your final statement that the only authentic Buddhist monks in Japan are recent imports etc. seems biased. Could you give us a link to an authoritative statement on this? Thanks.