Apparently, not everything is calm, serene and conflict-free for all Buddhist spiritual workers as a Japanese monk sued his temple for overworking him - leading to his depression.
The monk, in his 40s, is seeking $78,000 in damages from his temple on Mount Koya, a World Heritage Site regarded as one of the most sacred Buddhist areas in Japan.
The monk’s lawyer, Noritake Shirakura, shares that his client who started working for the temple in 2008 suffered from depression around December 2015. The lawyer blames the lack of time management involved in the work of a monk for his client suffering from “overwork” that led to his depression. Shirakura added: “You provide labor, but you are told it’s part of religious training. And it is training, you must endure even if it causes you significant hardship.”
Shirakura even suggests that their legal battle is not just for redress for his client-monk, but to draw attention to the religious notion of a monk’s work that is so “outdated” already.
The case of the unidentified monk also argues that the “victim” was forced to perform paid labor “far beyond his spiritual duties,” and at times was even made to work for more than two months straight.
The suit also states that during the 1,200th anniversary of the Koyasan area in 2015, the monk was forced to work for more than 64 days in a row to take care of the surge of tourists to the site.
Shirakura also added that there were even days his client was made to work for 17 hours straight, performing a variety of temple functions including attending to visitors.
It is very rare in Japan to witness a public labor dispute involving the spiritual sector. Overwork is a significant problem in the Asian country, and death by overwork is a recognized phenomenon known for its Japanese term “karoshi.”
The monk has the backing of a local labor bureau which stresses that working without holidays or day offs is indeed a form of overwork.
Shirakura declines to release the identity of his client and the temple being sued to protect his client by preserving his anonymity in case he would want to return to his job someday or find a position elsewhere since the Buddhist monks only make up a small community in the country.