The girl who lives at our temple graduated from middle school yesterday. She’s pictured here with her adoptive mother, one of our nuns. Congratulations!
Although we don’t see it as much these days, orphaned or abandoned children raised in temples by nuns and sometimes monks used to be a common thing. Although Buddhist texts speak of a “youth-monk,” or dong-jin-chul-ga (동진출가), as any monastic ordained at roughly 20 years of age and never married, in contemporary Korea the term is most often used to designate monastics who grew up in the temple and then ordained, rather than simply someone who ordained at a young age.
Ordination is not incumbent on kids raised in temples. A number of the girls who grew up at our temple during the 80’s and 90’s left after high school, attending college and then finding jobs. They come back to visit sometimes, usually around the holidays, and chat with the adopted family–the sisters and auntie nuns–with whom they shared much of their childhood. Some of the girls stayed, of course, and became the next generation of monastics.