In the West, more and more, Zen clergy have come to resemble Protestant Christian Ministers, married with family and, very often, with outside jobs to pay the bills, yet leading a congregation.An old friend of mine is the son of a Shin Buddhist minister, and he used to routinely refer to his father as a monk. Other Buddhists gave my friend quite a bit of flak over his terminology. In contrast, Cohen is willing to bow to convention and accept the ascetic sense of the word monk, rather than trying to stake a flag in it. He could certainly provide justification to do so, but alternative titles are proposed instead. I find that admirable.
That’s why calling many of us “Zen Monks” is kinda funny, excepting those periods of months or years when Zen clergy live and train in a monastery, usually in a celibate situation. (Then, the name “Zen monk” is appropriate). After that, most live in temples, with their families — wife and kids. So, maybe “Zen Priest” is a better term, or “Zen Minister”… or perhaps just “Zen Teacher”or “Zen Clergy”…
April 8, 2010
Jundo Cohen addresses some confusion over the use of the term “monk” in Zen settings and its often tacit association with an ascetic and solitary lifestyle—especially when the term is pointed at him.