Scholar Monks: An Introduction

This is part of the ongoing Scholar Monks series, which explores the lives and works of people who have chosen to further knowledge while grounded in practice.

One of the main reasons I undertook this blog was due to a significant question of my own, one I had been mulling over for quite some time, and still am. That question is:

What does it mean to be a scholar monk today?

In my various studies and readings, I kept coming across figures from diverse geographies and traditions who fit into this category that I am calling “scholar monks”: Buddhist monks who traveled, collected, translated and transmitted the teachings of Buddha; Jesuit priests who were extensively educated in not only religion but linguistics, history and philosophy; Greek philosophers whose “philosophy” was both an intellectual endeavor and a way of living that prepared one for death;¬†early theologians of the Christian Church who rooted their theological and philosophical writings in practice and liturgy. And in learning of these people whose springboard for intellectual endeavor was prayer and meditation, I began to wonder, what does it mean to live this kind of life today? How different is it now than it was in these snippets of history I have been examining?

Exploring these questions is at least one purpose of this blog. The ongoing series “Scholar Monks” will explore the lives of scholar monks of the past as a way both to honor those who have come before as well as to sort out what their legacy might mean for the present day. My feet are on this ground, here and now. I love studying what is in the past, and also find it critical to transfer that knowledge in some way to the present.

A final note. Much of my personal study has been in Buddhism, particularly in Zen, and much of my professional study has been in Christianity and Neoplatonism, and so my expertise tends to float around these core areas. I fully intend to include figures from these traditions. ADDITIONALLY, and I put this in all caps for a reason, I delight at the opportunity to explore traditions and figures who I know less about and especially those that history has had a tendency to forget.

With regards to the former, I am excited to research scholar monks from Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, indigenous, modern pagan, and other traditions, fully aware that the terms “scholar monk” may not even be appropriate for those traditions, and I will do my best to engage in discussing figures from those traditions respectfully. With regards to the latter, I am particularly thinking of women, whom histories written by men commonly forget, and others who live at the margins of society, including people of color and people who do not conform to whatever is “normalized” for that time and place. I hope to enlist the help of a number of guest writers in these efforts.

If anyone has suggestions for a scholar monk they would like featured, please let me know and I will do my best to oblige.