From John Le Carré's Smiley's People:

There were even two Buddhist monks from a local seminary, complete with saffron robes and lace-up boots and knitted woolen caps, who offered their assistance.

I think a seminary,according to dictionaries, is only to prepare students for the priesthood, ministry, or rabbinate. How come it also educates Buddhist monks?

  • 7
    Presumably this is a Buddhist seminary that educates students for the Buddhist priesthood and for Buddhist monasteries. A seminary isn't an all-in-one religious school: you have different seminaries for educating rabbis and for educating Catholic priests. You also have other seminaries that teach Buddhism.
    – Peter Shor
    May 14 at 13:25

1 Answer 1


The dictionary you consulted seems to be missing this common sense of the word “seminary”:

seminary, n. 4. A place of education, a school, college, university, or the like; often explicitly seminary of learning, seminary of science, etc. Also in more specific sense an institution for the training of those destined for some particular profession.

Oxford English Dictionary.

Here are some uses of “seminary” to refer to a school that teaches Buddhism:

The datsan of Lake Gùssino quite recently still owned a Buddhist seminary containing some forty students

Anatole Leroy-Beaulieu, trans. Zénaïde A. Ragozin (1896). The Empire of the Tsars and the Russians, volume 3, p. 584. London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

At the Nishi Hongwan temple in Kioto the party visited the Buddhist seminary, where students were being educated to serve as missionaries in Christian countries.

Anon (1897). ‘Books of Travel’. In The Athenaeum 3636 (3 July 1897), p. 32.

the magnificent retreat of Nālanda, the most frequented Buddhist seminary of the peninsula

J. Barthélemy Saint-Hilaire (1914). The Buddha and His Religion, p. 245. London: Kegal Paul.

  • Let me note that the use of seminary for non-religious schools is not very common nowadays, but that the more standard definition should be expanded to "a place where people are trained for professions in religion," so that it encompasses all religions; there are Buddhist seminaries and Islamic seminaries.
    – Peter Shor
    May 15 at 11:03
  • Surprisingly, Wiktionary is missing this sense of the word. The omission has been noted on the talk page since 2016. May 15 at 11:50

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