Buddhist monks wanted?

One day, his mother saw an advertisement in the newspaper: Buddhist monks wanted. She pointed it out to him because she thought it was hilarious to advertise for monks, but his curiosity was aroused.

…he had no high opinion of monks, but he answered the advertisement. The job was for entry-level monk work for people who hadn’t had any training—pet funerals, that sort of thing. After a while it was too easy, he wanted to learn more.

His name is Nemoto, a Buddhist priest in Japan, who today cousels the suicidal in his temple. In this week’s New Yorker. Sadly gated.

He tells attendees to imagine they’ve been given a diagnosis of cancer and have three months to live. He instructs them to write down what they want to do in those three months. Then he tells them to imagine they have one month left; then a week; then ten minutes. Most people start crying in the course of this exercise, Nemoto among them.

My sense the New Yorker has been slipping the past year or two (or perhaps I’ve just become a bit bored) but this is one of the most interesting and varied essays I’ve read in some time.

In addition to the interesting bits above, there are insights into how coercion and suffering socialize people into work and self-sacrifice (a topic I’ve long been interested in, all but ignored in economics). Indoctrination is an effective substitute for wages.

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