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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Overworked Buddhist Monk Sues Temple Over Heavy Workload

Yeah... I read that headline and thought... just what the fug does a monk do? And then I thought... monk-y business, which made me smile, because I love a bad pun.

Then I thought about all of those Brother Cadfael mystery novels I read by Ellis Peters (pseudonym for Edith Mary Pargeter), and realize that the life of a Christian monk is quite busy.

In fact... despite the Cadfael books being set in the 12th century, people don't enter the life of monk-dom because it's an easy life. It's because it's a calling. I'm sure it's a hard life. 

I'm unsure why people become Buddhist monks, but I assume it's not merely for the free haircuts and prayer beads.

It's to serve man. Go on... watch the video below... the blog will still be here. Probably.

Now... before I get too far ahead of myself, and beside myself in self-rightousness and comedic guffawdom, let's see what's going on with this Japanese monk.

Unnamed in any news article, the monk filed a suit on April 27, 2018 with the Wakayama District Court, seeking some ¥8.6 million ($78,000) in damages and unpaid wages.

He works at one of the World Heritage Site temples at Mount Koya, starting there in 2008.

His suit says he developed depression, and had to take a leave of absence because of his heavy workload.

Holy crap. If a Buddhist monk can claim he has a heavy workload and sue and win, what does that say for the REST OF JAPAN?! 

The monk says he began feeling depressed in and around December 2015, and was of work through March of 2016.

lest we think it was all in his head, a local labor standards supervision office had previously recognized his overwork, and noted that the monk had once worked for at least a month without a day off.


But just what are a temple monk's duties? Are they strenuous? Does it involve a lot of sweeping? Is there a lot of praying involved?

Well... since the year 2015 was the 1,200 anniversary of the founding of the head temple at Mount Koya, there was a large increase of guests, forcing him  to work 64 consecutive days between March and May, and 32 straight days between September and October.

That's crazy. But what did he have to do, work-wise 

The monk was responsible for ensuring preparations from before 5AM were made for guests at the temple’s shukubo—the lodging built for both monks and worshipers—to ensure that both could take part in morning prayers.

Then, he would sometimes work late into the night to ensure guests were looked after... plus he had his usual monkly duties around the temple.

The lawyer for the monk says working at temples is considered to be "training", and that part of the lawsuit is to reveal the difficult working conditions for monks in general, and their unpaid overtime.

Wait... monks get paid? They get a salary?

I get paid a salary. I knew that going in.

It doesn't matter how much work the bosses want to shovel at you, you have to keep finding ways to complete your tasks.

Obviously this monk did try, and suffered for it.

Still... I am intrigued to know just what the temple did when this monk was off on sick leave for his depression?

Someone else obviously did the job.

Did they suffer, as well, from the over work?

Could they simply NOT have got another monk to help out the first monk - problem solved.

These monks don't have a vow of silence or anything, do they? No.

As such, wouldn't a properly placed cry for help in completing the tasks gained him some physical aid? Are these Buddhist monks so blind that they can not hear a cry for help? I know what I wrote. Do they not care?

If they do not care, then there's something rotten in the state of Buddhism at Mount Koya.
Now... conversely, there are labor lawyers who say that since the monk receives wages for his services, his work should not be considered, as the monk claims, as training.

Was there ever an employment contract drawn up that the monk signed when he donned the robes?

What I would recommend for this monk is to just drop everything and try and get away from the hustle and the bustle... maybe go up to the mountains and find a retreat or something... oh... never mind.

Okay... I'm not without sympathy here.

Like the cannibal said to the priests trying to convert them: "Send more fryers."

Send more monks.

The poor guy just needs some help.

Remember what they always say: A happy monk is a monk who is happy.

Look I have no idea what they say about monks, let alone "happy monks", but I assume it would involve some sort of Zen Buddhist riddle.

It is an interesting case.

The monk has official confirmation that he was overworked.

He has medical leave confirmation for his depression - an illness he says he never had before he became a monk... or is that true? Did he have depression before he became a monk? Oh... some lawyer is going to have a field day with that nugget.

Quite often, depression and other major mental health issues seems to manifest itself in people at around the ages of 19-20. How old was the monk when he first encountered his illness? Is his depression clinical? Or was it the type brought on by his situation?

I'm sure both are quite awful—I personally do not suffer from depression, but certainly know enough people who have a chemical imbalance-caused depression and are on medication for it.   

I'm not doubting the monk suffers from depression. I'm not doubting he was overworked. I'm not doubting his bout of depression was caused by being overworked.

I am interested to know if the monk was prescribed any sort of anti-depressants for his bout of depression, or if he was prescribed anti-depressants to battle the full-time onslaught of depression.

Seriously (sorta), if the monk's depression was caused by a work overload, what is his immediate mental health cure?

He gets a leave of absence from work... and goes... where, exactly? Some place in Japan where he would not experience an overload of stress.

I joked about him taking time to go to a retreat up on a mountain, but I'm not really joking. 

Maybe he should go to the temple at Mount Koya, and be its guest.

It might be nice for him to receive a bit of pampering.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Image at top by chrissie kremer on Unsplash

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