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SOTOZEN.COM > Archivio > Glossario (Inglese) > monasteries and temples

Glossario (Inglese)


monasteries and temples (jiin 寺院)

The Sino-Japanese word jiin 寺院 is usually translated as "[Buddhist] temple" or "[Buddhist] monastery." In English, a temple is a building devoted to the worship of a god or gods, whereas a monastery is a place where a community of monks lives under religious vows. Thus, when focusing on the function of jiin as places for the worship of buddhas, bodhisattvas, devas, and ancestral spirits, we are likely to say "temple," and when speaking of jiin as places where Buddhist monks live together in community (and where they engage in precisely the aforementioned worship), we are likely to say "monastery." When struggling to decide which word to use in translation, we become aware of the apparent "ambiguity" of the word jiin, but in the East Asian Buddhist tradition the distinction between a temple and a monastery does not exist. A jiin is simply a jiin, regardless of how many monks are in residence or what sorts of practices they engage in. Nevertheless, for the purposes of the present work, we reserve the word "monastery" for jiin that have a community of monks in residence. All other jiin, which typically have a single abbot (jūshoku 住職) or head priest in residence with his family, are called "temples." By these criteria, there are less than 100 Zen monasteries in Japan today and approximately 21,000 Zen temples.