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Buddhist Priests and Contemplatives

Work Environment

Buddhist temples come in all sizes and styles. The best-known are the pagodas in Japan and China such as Todaiji in Nara, Japan, which houses one of the largest Buddha statues in Japan and is the world’s largest wooden building. Some temples are smaller and less ornate. Walking into a temple, one may smell incense burning, freshly-cut flowers, and fruit (for offerings) and hear chanting or the sound of a gong (which is used to signify the start of the service and mark various steps in the service). At large temples, priests are assisted by contemplatives, volunteers, cleaning crews, and office support staff. At a small temple, the priest is responsible for many behind-the-scenes (e.g., business functions, temple upkeep, cleaning, etc.). Many large temples are open six days a week, nine to 12 hours a day. Priests and contemplatives occasionally travel to the homes of temple members to lead prayers and perform ceremonies and rituals. A contemplative who lives at a monastery will experience austere conditions and communal living. This lifestyle can be challenging at times. 

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