The last post was about a Soto Zen priest ordination. However, recently a couple of ordained Soto Zen something-or-others have written about why they don't want to be called priest or reverend or any such thing. So what do we call them?
But first, some clarification. Unlike in some Christian denominations, in Buddhism there is no class of priests separate from monks and nuns. In most schools that maintain a monastic sangha, there are (at least) two levels of ordination, novice or entry-level and full. I believe most of the time -- there probably are exceptions -- important ceremonies and rituals are conducted by the fully ordained, which makes them something like priests, arguably.
The rules of celibacy were suspended in Japan in the 19th century, so Japanese monastics go on dates, marry and raise little monastics. As the Japanese orders moved into the West, they took the no-celibacy rule with them. And often in the West, the ordained married whatever-they-ares live in their own homes, not in a temple.
So it seems odd to call them monks or nuns."Priest" seems to fit better.
The practice in western English-speaking Soto Zen appears to be to call a person receiving initial clerical -- so to speak -- ordination a priest. This should not be confused with lay ordination, usually called "jukai," but there are other names for that, too.
People who are recognized as what's called a dharma heir or lineage holder are re-ordained and called "teacher." This happens when a teacher recognizes a student as a successor who may begin teaching. They are also still priests/monastics, of course.
Teachers are also called "sensei," which means "teacher"; or "roshi," which means "old man." I understand that in Japan, "roshi" is reserved for especially venerable teachers. I understand also that in Japan there are hierarchies of ranks within those levels of ordination, but it's not clear to me what they are.
Also, FYI: the Japanese title that means "Zen master" is "zenji," and it is given to really outstanding and admired teachers who have passed into history. Living people are not called "zenji."
That out of the way -- Zen teacher Dosho Port says he doesn't want to be called "reverend" or "priest."
"Sometimes I get called 'Reverend' and it just doesn't sit right.
"You see, I don't see myself as a minister in the Protestant mold or a priest in the Catholic/Anglican mold either. Neither molds approximate the Zen mold."
He explains why in more detail in his post, and then he proposes that people who receive priest ordination be called sōryo, which means "companion of home-leavers." Hmm. I'd say it needs some work.
A few days earlier, Zen teacher Brad Warner also argued that he doesn't see himself or any other ordained zennie as a member of the clergy. He thinks he is more of an artisan.
This sounds like something that needs to be discussed at the next meeting of the American Zen Teachers Association. I looked for Japanese words for monks/priests and rather like hojo, a Zen monk or priest in a temple. Short, easy to pronounce, works for me. Except that it reminds me of ... Howard Johnson? Maybe not.
Also -- read more about Zen teachers at Nyoho Zen.