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Thread: Etymology, nomenclature etc. in Soto Zen

  1. #1

    Etymology, nomenclature etc. in Soto Zen

    Hello,

    I've been following the threads over at ZFI about teachers and ordinations, and I have two questions that I'm interested in hearing opinions and facts about.

    First, the word "priest". According to one soto priest at ZFI, (Japanese) Zen Buddhism has monks (and nuns), priests, and laypeople. Since both "monk" and "priest" are tied very closely to Christian nomenclature, I'm interested in hearing what the Japanese terms are, and if they are interchangeable with the English words. That is, is the Japanese name for Christian "priest" the same as for Buddhist "priest"?

    Furthermore, have these names been "fixed" in English, that is to say, for example by the AZTA or similar, or is it up to the individual/samgha?

    Second, since we have practitioners here from different countries, how are these names used there? I for example have never heard a Swedish soto zen teacher use anything else than "teacher" (or lärare in Swedish"), never "priest" (swe: präst). However, I do have heard "monk" (swe: munk) and "nun" (swe: nunna). "Priest" for me is definitely Christian. I would never say Jewish priest, or Muslim priest.

    I know I have seen discussion here at Treeleaf on similar subjects (I think), but I don't think there have been discussions about name uses in different countries other than English-speaking ones.

  2. #2

    Re: Etymology, nomenclature etc. in Soto Zen

    Quote Originally Posted by anista
    First, the word "priest". According to one soto priest at ZFI, (Japanese) Zen Buddhism has monks (and nuns), priests, and laypeople. Since both "monk" and "priest" are tied very closely to Christian nomenclature,
    Minor nitpick. To a degree they are tied and close related, but it all depends on the Christian tradition. In some, monk and priest are same and one. In other, it is not, specially as leading a celibate life is one of the points of demarcation.

    To add a wrinkly to your OP, in the US, I think broadly speaking there are four categories: lay-teacher, teacher, priest, and monk.

    An article of interest since you mention "teacher" from Monkey Mind.

  3. #3

    Re: Etymology, nomenclature etc. in Soto Zen

    To further muddy the waters, it is very common for "homeleavers" to remain homeleavers their entire lives though never becoming teachers. This is true in the West as well as the East. Those folks are more likely to call themselves monks as they have received Shukke Tokudo, but have no desire to teach.
    So, I'm not sure that there is a single term that can be consistently used for folks who have taken that level of commitment. It seems to depend a great deal on their calling within their Dharma commitment.

    My personal take is that we are all teachers, whether we like it or not. And we nearly always act as ambassadors for some, usually multiple, group to which we belong. Some simply acknowledge it more formally and take pains to develop some skill in teaching.


    Peace,
    Eika

  4. #4

    Re: Etymology, nomenclature etc. in Soto Zen

    This question comes up from time to time ...

    The terms "priest" or "monk" are terms that are actually pretty ill fitting translations for the original Japanese/Chinese (or Pali/Sanskrit) ... imposed when Judeo-Christian vocabulary was used to translate concepts that are different in important ways. I usually post this ...

    The words "monk" and "priest" do not really work as good translations of the Japanese terms, and were picked, obviously, from a Judeo-Christian vocabulary. "Priest" carries the feeling of working some power to intervene with God/the spirits, and most Zen "monks" only reside in monasteries for short periods as part of their training ... so both words are not good fits (except when the person is actually residing in a monastery and might be described then as a "monk".). The best translations might be "Companion" "Guide" "Teacher" or (my favorite) "Rabbi (which also means "teacher")".

    I prefer "Zen clergy or teacher or minister ". One of the many Japanese terms usually (and awkwardly) translated as "monk/priest" in English is actually closer to "Buddhist companion" , which I care for very much ...

    ?? (the first kanji derives from the "san" of Sanskrit sangha = community, and the second means companion)

    So "Buddhist companion" or "Sangha Companion" may be the most accurate.

    Of course, many "Zen priests" in Japan and China do reside in temples in which they are largely concerned with performing funeral and other ceremonies for parishioners to appease the spirits, bring good fortune or the like. In such case, "priest" is not inaccurate to describe such folks.
    A very nice old term for a teacher used in China is "shanzhishi" = a good spiritual friend (Sanskrit kalyanamitra.)

    http://iamthou.wordpress.com/2008/02/04 ... riendship/

    ? (ama) is a nun ... although this term has gone out of favor in the west as sexist.

    In Japanese, different Kanji are used for Catholic priests ... ?? (pronounced "shinpu" = God & Father").

    The terms used can vary from Sangha to Sangha in the west (where anything goes!), though of course, Tradition is Tradition! In Asia, the terms seem to be pretty fixed.

    Teachers are teachers only when they have something to pass on, students are teachers of teachers. The student must be the teacher of the student ...

    I have not had a chance to look at the ZFI thread, but the article cited by James Ford is an excellent summary.

    http://monkeymindonline.blogspot.com/20 ... d-zen.html

    Another interesting interpretation I have stumbled on ...

    http://www.hsuyun.org/chan/en/part2.html

    A Zen teacher can help keep us focused on the task, help us limit distractions and "hold our hands" as we traverse difficult terrain, but no teacher, master or other person can do the difficult work for us. No person, beside ourselves, can instill the faith, fortitude and spiritual desire needed to succeed on the path. Anyone seeking a teacher - kalyana-mitra - should keep this in mind. Any authoritative Zen leader that emphasizes himself -- his credentials, his lineage, his personal spiritual attainment -- as fundamentally important should be avoided. But beyond this, every person we encounter on our journey has something to teach us. Every experience we have, be it painful or joyous, is a lesson for us if we attend to it as such. Even the most arrogant or conceited people have something to teach us about ourselves and can be a guide for us on the Path. We can only be grateful to them.
    Remember: A rose by any other name ... a lemon by any other name ...

    Gassho, J

  5. #5

    Re: Etymology, nomenclature etc. in Soto Zen

    Hi all,

    Jundo is making a very important point here: the student is also the teacher of his/her teacher. Shohei is a great teacher. So is every single moment of my life when I wake up to them.

    Jundo and I disagree about monks and priests...I like to think I am a monk, not because I live in a monastery, although my whole life is a monastery, but because of the origin of the word, monakos in Greek: the one who goes alone, who is alone.
    The reality of being alone is at the very core of my practice-life. It is not sad. It just is. That7s what all the ancient teachers did find out. Alone, and yet totally with others.

    gassho


    Taigu

  6. #6
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Etymology, nomenclature etc. in Soto Zen

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    Jundo and I disagree about monks and priests...I like to think I am a monk, not because I live in a monastery, although my whole life is a monastery, but because of the origin of the word, monakos in Greek: the one who goes alone, who is alone.
    The reality of being alone is at the very core of my practice-life. It is not sad. It just is. That7s what all the ancient teachers did find out. Alone, and yet totally with others.
    Ah, so much romance in it for those of us who have ever identified with this powerful word "alone."

    Lone ranger, outcast, outlaw, rebel, leper, messiah, yogi, saint, poet-seeker, artist, hermit, sage... so many iconic images to call up.

    But is "monk" truly one of those heroic images of one who walks alone? And does this romantic dream of the lone walker of earth really have much truth to it?

    Regardless of etymology, my understanding of "monk" (and "nun" for that matter) is not of a lone person, but a person very much identified with a community, living with that community, one with that community to the point that individual identity disappears. A monk is loyal and obedient to an abbot, takes responsibility to the community seriously, eats and sleeps in shared quarters and must actively seek privacy to find any at all. I think this is more or less the case in both Christian and Buddhist monastic communities.

    But I've seen this before... in our modern age of isolation, fracture, narcissism, virtual worlds, and 'the death of the real,' many Buddhists who identify with the word "monk" are those of us who experience or see ourselves as alone. We have renounced pursuit of that which most others value and pursue--wealth, renown, status (except when we trade in worldly renown and status to seek spiritual renown and status)--and stand apart from the world with a wry and bittersweet awareness of the cycle of samsara. Alone. How romantic it all is.

    There is a truth to it... and yet also a falseness. This idea or image of "alone" is formed out of estimation of a position relative to others. A position one must be very conscious of, to be able to think of oneself as "alone."

    And yet... all along... it is in our moments of connection with others, surprising interactions, and helping or being helped by others that we truly come alive and understand our role in the world. It is others who save us from the dangers of our self-imposed exiles. Gods know it is love that has saved me from the despairs of the solitary, again and again. Even when that love has been fleeting and impermanent.

    To the extent we laypeople who are members of Treeleaf can think of ourselves as monks, as Kyrillos called us in his wonderful message not so long ago, I think it is not in the extent to which our spiritual engagement distances us from others who buy into the world's illusions wholesale, but in the extent to which we come together as a community and find companionship, support, and mutual understanding as spiritual path-walkers. The person who walks down the street with a look in her eyes no one else on the street recognizes or understands comes here, and finds the same eyes looking back at her. "Alone" disappears.

    This is Sangha. Refuge. A safe harbor for a sailor (another romantic image for us solitary folk) to tie up his ship and come in to the local bar for a drink, for warmth and camaraderie. It is refuge because where else we go in our travels, we might feel that disconnect that comes from standing a bit outside of the samsara-game. Of course, we are just as much children of samsara as anyone else... but there is a loneliness, a spiritual loneliness that comes out of it when you constantly see and are reminded of the illusory nature of the game. You just can't buy into it with the same fervor, so you must either 'play along' or make statements that risk alienating others. The life of a perpetual stranger for whom the customs of the local township are experienced as arbitrary rather than as essential facts or truths of life.

    But when in the Sangha, when a monk among other monks, there is no need for this, because the other monks understand. Sangha, the monastic community, is a refuge from the game of samsara because we can drop the game here without sparking panic or alarm, without making others think we are crazy or hostile. We are all trying on this monk's robe, seeing what it is like to drop the competitive edge, the self-pity, the stories and dramas and misery. And we might have different lives, experiences, and stories, but we are all basically the same, all coming together to see what life feels like when we drop the story of "me." When we hitch our samsara-horses and hang our samsara-hats on a peg outside of the Treeleaf Saloon, we may have ridden here through a harsh wilderness alone, but that "alone" vanishes when we enter, just as the pedestrian vanishes when we leave the sidewalk and come inside.

  7. #7

    Re: Etymology, nomenclature etc. in Soto Zen

    Quote Originally Posted by chicanobudista
    An article of interest since you mention "teacher" from Monkey Mind.
    Thank you for the link - much appreciated!

    gassh?

  8. #8
    Treeleaf Unsui Kyrillos's Avatar
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    Re: Etymology, nomenclature etc. in Soto Zen

    Aha! There you go Stephanie, you are seeing the psychology of the monk. Romance...what romance? There's no romance to monastic life :roll: There is no end to the tales I could tell about the smashed romance the new monk has: about the aspirant who arrived in the fervor of monastic zeal, only to be put off because our monastery was not made of stone blocks like a medieval cathedral; of the postulant who turned up to breakfast on his third day with his head shaved in the old monastic corona; of the novice who left in the night because we did not scourge ourselves. The romance and the hype and basically responsible for a staying rate of about 1 in 25, at my small monastery. I hesitiate to think what it would be at one of those megalithic monasteries in Europe or elsewhere here in the US.

    There are monks and there are people living in a monastery. Those living in a monastery may one day actually become monks, but for many it is really a wonderful place to live and have your needs taken care of, if the regimen can be coped with. That is, of course, why there is usually a long trial period before the person "commits" to the life. Believe me they are carefully watched and senior monks are not known to be politically correct when it comes to calling the novices to account for themselves.

    A monk has to want to live in society, a society made up of probably the most eccentric people you could ever lock behind four walls. If you think you had a hard time growing up with your siblings and all their quirks....just try living "the rest of your life" with a bunch of over eager kids, who are very loud about their zeal; some truly eccentric and self-involved prima donas; and some rather crusty and grumpy old men. Ah, there's romance for you!!!


    But even in all that human stew one can and I believe must, learn to be alone. In truth it is a necessity in order to maintain one's sanity. And quite amazingly if one can "get outta the way", read and understand the "RULE" (whatever monastic rule one is under), correct the ego and submit to its authority to order one's life, that person can become a true monk; whether in a large teeming monastery, a small familial one or even as a hermit.

    Now that is EXACTLY why I absolutely love this Zen lineage of shikantanza. What I have been hearing from both Jundo and Taigu and the many. many of you in your wonderfully lucid moments is that Zazen is possible for anyone, anywhere and anytime. No need to sugar-coat it or romanticize it. Just like the monk waking, eating, praying, meditating, bathing, working, shitting, teaching or just picking his nose, is always and still is a monk; so we can always be in Zazen.


    Gassho.
    Monk Seishin Kyrill

  9. #9

    Re: Etymology, nomenclature etc. in Soto Zen

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    The terms "priest" or "monk" are terms that are actually pretty ill fitting translations for the original Japanese/Chinese (or Pali/Sanskrit) ... imposed when Judeo-Christian vocabulary was used to translate concepts that are different in important ways.
    That's what I thought ...

    I prefer "Zen clergy or teacher or minister ". One of the many Japanese terms usually (and awkwardly) translated as "monk/priest" in English is actually closer to "Buddhist companion" , which I care for very much ...

    ?? (the first kanji derives from the "san" of Sanskrit sangha = community, and the second means companion)

    So "Buddhist companion" or "Sangha Companion" may be the most accurate.
    Buddhist companion - that's very beautiful!

    Of course, many "Zen priests" in Japan and China do reside in temples in which they are largely concerned with performing funeral and other ceremonies for parishioners to appease the spirits, bring good fortune or the like. In such case, "priest" is not inaccurate to describe such folks.
    Sure, I agree, but that's not how things usually are done in the west (Buddhist companions performing funerals etc.). Wouldn't it be better to either keep the Japanese word, or to use something "less Christian", such as Buddhist companion? Since it is difficult to translate without distorting the original meaning, it would be more fitting to use a lingua franca: Sanskrit could be a contender, but since Japanese Buddhism differ from earlier Mah?y?na Buddhism (e.g. regarding the Vinaya) Sanskrit in these cases wouldn't be particularly fitting. Japanese would be, in this case, at least until "proper" terminology was created outside of Japan, in the US, in Europe etc.

    I don't know, maybe I'm making something out of nothing, but these names just doesn't feel right. How about a Buddhist Imam? It would be a bit misleading. Why? Because an Imam is tied to Islamic thought, Islamic values, etc. There's nothing wrong with that, but what's the point of using names that doesn't convey what you're trying to convey? We could call a zendo a "bar", but then we constantly would have to explain what we meant. I know, I'm stretching it, but I hope you see my point.

    Of course, I really understand that in this case, names doesn't matter - a priest, buddhist companion or dharma teacher - what's the difference? Still ... (OK, maybe I don't understand )

    I got interested after reading Nonin's view on this over at ZFI; I take it that he is a very respectable priest in Zen Buddhism and in the US, and he said that in Zen Buddhism these three categories existed (priest, monk, layperson). Here's the thread

    http://www.zenforuminternational.org/vi ... ilit=fugen

    Anyway, thank you for you answer Jundo, it cleared up a few things.

    Good night, and hope to see you all in the Zen hall (my new favourite place to be).

    Gassh?

  10. #10

    Re: Etymology, nomenclature etc. in Soto Zen

    Quote Originally Posted by anista

    I got interested after reading Nonin's view on this over at ZFI; I take it that he is a very respectable priest in Zen Buddhism and in the US, and he said that in Zen Buddhism these three categories existed (priest, monk, layperson). Here's the thread
    Nonin is a very well respected Zen teacher with many years of study and practice so I will be careful and respectful when saying, as I had stated before, there has evolved the layperson-teacher. In certain ways, it parallels the roles that deacons play in some Protestant churches. They are not priests-teachers, but do teach under guidance. They are not just "once a month come to the meditation meeting" layperson , since they are more involved to a greater degree than most in the sangha services. Part of it has to do with the greater interest in Buddhism and the small number of priests available.

  11. #11

    Re: Etymology, nomenclature etc. in Soto Zen

    Brilliant post, Stephanie, really. Your writing is powerful and very effective.

    And...you could have red a bit more carefully mine:

    Alone, and yet totally with others.
    Maybe you could have a go with a needle and start to sew the robe and get closer to this?

    just a thought.

    gassho

    Taigu

  12. #12

    Re: Etymology, nomenclature etc. in Soto Zen

    Quote Originally Posted by anista
    ... and he said that in Zen Buddhism these three categories existed (priest, monk, layperson).
    Quote Originally Posted by chicanobudista
    ... there has evolved the layperson-teacher. In certain ways, it parallels the roles that deacons play in some Protestant churches. They are not priests-teachers, but do teach under guidance. They are not just "once a month come to the meditation meeting" layperson , since they are more involved to a greater degree than most in the sangha services. Part of it has to do with the greater interest in Buddhism and the small number of priests available.
    Well, one of the great developments in Buddhism as it has come to the West is the greater orientation toward lay practice and participation. This is widely recognized, and generally conceived as a positive development. To quote myself (not because I think my words are etched in stone ... but because I am a lazy typist who prefers to cut and paste ops: ) ...

    [O]ne thing for folks to remember is that Buddhism did change and evolve over many centuries, as it passed from culture to culture in Asia. The Buddha lived 2500 years ago in ancient India, whereupon the philosophy passed to China 1000 years later, and then to someone like Master Dogen who lived about 1000 years after that in medieval Japan. You and I live in the strange world known as the 21st century. Certainly, some changes arose along the way in some important interpretations and outer forms. For example, the Chinese made Zen Practice very Chinese, the Japanese very medieval Japanese, and now we are making it very Western.


    For example, when Buddhism came to China it was heavily influenced by, and pretty much merged with, Taoism (not to mention that it was already "Mahayana Buddhism" by that time, a very different flavor from the original). The result was this little thing we now call "Zen Buddhism". So, congratulations, we are already "Taoists" and "Mahayana Buddhists" ... not just "Buddhists". When it got to Japan, the Japanese added Japanese culture to it. In the West, we are now making some very good changes (although we have to, of course, try to avoid bad changes). These good changes include equality of the sexes and a greater emphasis on lay practice.

    However, the Heart of the Buddha's teachings ... the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, Non-Self, Non-Attachment, the Middle Way, etc. etc., ... All are here now as much as there then!!
    Most of the Lineages in the West are trying to maintain the traditional borders between ordained and lay folks, a division established by the Buddha himself. However, it is recognized by almost everyone as being now somewhat artificial since the time, some 140 years ago, when Japanese Zen monks (and all other Japanese Buddhist clergy) were allowed to marry and have kids ... and did so in overwhelming numbers. Although originally intended (by the Japanese government at the time which was dominated by Shintoism) to weaken Buddhism, I believe it a great change which actually freed these Teachings and brought them out from behind monastery walls ... to the monastery of our homes, offices and city streets. Furthermore, most of the Lineages in the West are trying to maintain the traditional borders between ordained and lay folks, even though all the Lineages I know have completely eliminated the other traditional division ... made by the Buddha ... between male and female lay members and clergy!

    For that reason, I believe that a change is going on in Buddhism not unlike the Protestant Reformation in European Christianity. In other words, we have some clergy who are "celibate Catholics" and some who are "married ministers", and there is room for everyone. What is more, Nishijima Roshi's Lineage is pretty much about softening, or fully knocking down, the walls between lay and ordained. Personally, I think that the division that some lineages are trying to keep between "ordained Zen teachers" and "lay Zen teachers" is a bit artificial.

    Personally, I think there is still room for some distinction between "parishioner" and "ordained minister/teacher", in that the latter has the training and time and energy to keep the church going, and to step into the pulpit to preach, lead the weddings and other other ceremonies, teach the Sunday School class. This is true in the Zen world too. We need teachers and ministers to keep the Tradition alive ... so long as we also recognize that students teach teachers too, and that a "minister" is a servant, not a master over anyone.

    We are all Buddha in Buddha's eyes.

    PS - little known fact ... Hui Neng, the renowned (and half legendary) 6th Patriarch of Zen ... was a layman working in the monastery kitchen when he was recognized as the "6th Patriarch" and received Transmission of the Lineage. Only later did he bother to ordain. Many other Lay figures in Mahayana and Zen history ... such as Vimalakirti and Layman P'eng ... where recognized as great Masters who regularly taught a lesson or two to even great Bodhisattvas and the like.

    Gassho, J

  13. #13
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Etymology, nomenclature etc. in Soto Zen

    Taigu,

    Apologies for any misreading of your post. Goodness knows I've got a lot of work left to do, and things to figure out (or not figure out, or whatever). Your words just set off a reaction in me... 'aloneness' has been a central koan of my life from my childhood onward and any possible way there is of romanticizing a solitary life has probably crossed my mind at one time or another... it's pretty gender atypical for me, as a female, so I find myself relating to those male archetypes of the solitary life (though there are women, too, like Tenzin Palmo), and I know the lingo, and the posture, and the vibe, inside out and from a lot of different angles. And there really is a beauty to it, and a romance, an openness. But I've just found over and over again that for all the realities of my solitude, and all the beauties of it, my survival is totally dependent on others, and the engine of my life is love. It seems to me the monastic life is a living expression of that realization. The month I spent in a Zen monastery showed me that the monastic life is one of the least solitary modes of existence that is possible to experience!

    Gassho

    Stephanie

  14. #14

    Re: Etymology, nomenclature etc. in Soto Zen

    Anista,

    Christianity does not have a monopoly on priests nor do we own the patent to the word.

    In fact we borrowed the term and function from our Jewish ancestors. Long before the Christ came along, there were Jewish priests who offered sacrifices for the people before God in the temple in Jerusalem. In fact the term "priests" got its meaning from the function that those Jewish priests performed. A priest is one who offered sacrifice and made intercession for the people before God.

    In 70 AD (or CE), the temple was completely destroyed during the Roman siege of Jerusalem. Because there was no temple to offer sacrifice--as the Temple was only the legitimate place to offer sacrifice--the priesthood disappeared. The teaching function, however, continued on with the Rabbis, the Teachers, who were already active in the synagogues. The Christians, however, appropriated the title and function--as you say--to this day.

    So in my mind, Christians do not have exclusive rights to "priests". Thus we had Jewish priests, we still have Hindu priests, so why not Buddhist priests?

    Here's an interesting exploration on the need for Buddhist Priests: Do priests play a necessary role in Buddhism?:

    http://www.sokaspirit.org/resource/l...riests-part-ii]

    The author makes a strong attempt toward a new definition of what a priest is--especially in a modern Buddhist sense. The author makes the conclusion:
    I can find no reason to reject a priest who, in accord with the original role of the samgha, dedicates him or herself to protecting and spreading Buddhism, and to serving its believers.
    Gasho,

    James.

  15. #15

    Re: Etymology, nomenclature etc. in Soto Zen

    James,

    Thank you very much for this. I appreciate every answer here, and it has provided me with many views on the subject.

    Quote Originally Posted by frjames
    Christianity does not have a monopoly on priests nor do we own the patent to the word.

    In fact we borrowed the term and function from our Jewish ancestors. Long before the Christ came along, there were Jewish priests who offered sacrifices for the people before God in the temple in Jerusalem. In fact the term "priests" got its meaning from the function that those Jewish priests performed. A priest is one who offered sacrifice and made intercession for the people before God.

    In 70 AD (or CE), the temple was completely destroyed during the Roman siege of Jerusalem. Because there was no temple to offer sacrifice--as the Temple was only the legitimate place to offer sacrifice--the priesthood disappeared. The teaching function, however, continued on with the Rabbis, the Teachers, who were already active in the synagogues. The Christians, however, appropriated the title and function--as you say--to this day.

    So in my mind, Christians do not have exclusive rights to "priests". Thus we had Jewish priests, we still have Hindu priests, so why not Buddhist priests?
    Still, wouldn't you say then that the word "priest" is closely connected to judeo-christianity? Since Christianity rose from Judaism, the word priest is very much tied to that cultural-religious context. You don't use it in Islam, for example, as I mentioned. The risk here is that Buddhism in the west take on a terminology from judeo-christianity, thus making it seem as the two are inter-connected. In a way, all religions are inter-connected, but I think you know what I mean. Buddhism then becomes a "western" thing, and is separated from for example Islam. Wouldn't it be better to have a terminology of our own? Furthermore, the word "priest" is not, to my knowledge, used in the majority of Mah?y?na traditions (or Therav?da for that matter). It's not used in Cha'n, for example, since they use Sanskrit/Chinese.

    Hindu priest is also a translation, which have undergone the same loss in meaning as priest in Buddhism. The text from Sokka Gakkai you linked to, make that assertion as well - that priest is just another name for , but then the translation has already been confirmed, and that is what I am questioning here. Also, Judaism, Christianity and Hinduism share a monotheistic belief, hence terminology are probably easier to exchange within these religions.

    For me, living in a western society, and raised in culture sprung from Christian notions and beliefs, a priest is defined as being Christian. So, perhaps the problem lies more with me personally. I should also mention that I don't have anything at all against Christianity, but I don't see the value of chosing the terminology from one religion over another. Why not Imam, then? It would be equally unsuitable to use the word "mass" (as in liturgy) for a Buddhist phenomenon. It just doesn't translate well to what we're doing here.

    Sorry for my rant, it's not that big a deal, I'm just terribly interested in etymology, terminology and languages in general. I don't mean any disrespect against anyone, regardless of beliefs.

    Now, I'm off to a morning sit in the Zen hall,

    Take care, and deep gassh?.

  16. #16

    Re: Etymology, nomenclature etc. in Soto Zen

    Quote Originally Posted by frjames
    In fact we borrowed the term and function from our Jewish ancestors. Long before the Christ came along, there were Jewish priests who offered sacrifices for the people before God in the temple in Jerusalem. In fact the term "priests" got its meaning from the function that those Jewish priests performed. A priest is one who offered sacrifice and made intercession for the people before God.

    In 70 AD (or CE), the temple was completely destroyed during the Roman siege of Jerusalem. Because there was no temple to offer sacrifice--as the Temple was only the legitimate place to offer sacrifice--the priesthood disappeared.
    Small bit of trivia ...

    Cohen =

    "Kohen" (alt. "Cohen") - (pl. "Kohanim" or "Cohanim") - Priest;

    The Kohen is a descendant of Aharon, the High Priest, the brother of Moshe. His task is to work in the Temple, be involved with the offering of sacrifices, and with Blessing the Congregation of Israel. A Kohen (or Kohen, Hebrew ??????, 'priest', pl. ??????, Kohanim) is a Jew who is in direct patrilineal descent from the Biblical Ahron.


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kohen

    Question: What is a Kohen?

    Answer: Temple Priests

    In the days of the Temple in Jerusalem, Kohanim (plural for Kohen) were priests responsible for worship ceremonies, such as leading services, offering sacrifices, burning incense and more. To maintain a high degree of purity, Kohanim observed certain prohibitions concerning marriage and contact with the deceased.

    The High Priest

    The High Priest, called HaKohen HaGadol, was the head of all the priests. He conducted services in the Temple on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year. And he was the only person allowed to enter the Holy of Holies, the holiest place in the Temple.
    So, sometimes I like to think that I took up the old family calling.

    Yes, some of my ancestors were the "bad guys" in the Jesus story, who turned him in to the Romans ... for which I am very sorry. Truly.

    And for what it is worth ... Live Long a Prosper ...



    The Vulcan greeting is based upon a blessing gesture used by the kohanim (koe-hah-NEEM) during the worship service... [Leonard] Nimoy drew upon his own Jewish background to suggest the now-familiar salute.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priestly_Blessing

  17. #17

    Re: Etymology, nomenclature etc. in Soto Zen

    Hi Anista,

    I'm actually not disagreeing with you. I think you have a point that using the term priest for a Buddhist clergyperson may create some unnecessary connection with the Judeo-Christian concept of priest.

    But to broaden the concept just a little bit more, long before Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland, there were the Druid priests and the Vikings had their godi (temple-priests).

    In any case, I understand your point of view.

    Jundo,

    It was a pleasure to learn about the Kohen being Jewish priests who attended to the rites of the Temple. I guess, I was wrong that the Jewish priesthood disappeared...they continue on through you and the other Kohens in Jerusalem and in the diaspora.

    Also about the Vulcan salute....you never know what you will learn at Treeleaf.

    Thank you and live long and prosper Brother Jundo!

    Gasho,

    James.

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