Calling all monks/ex-monks

Matthew McLoughlin, modified 3 Years ago at 4/22/19 8:17 PM
Created 3 Years ago at 4/22/19 8:17 PM

Calling all monks/ex-monks

Posts: 3 Join Date: 4/1/19 Recent Posts
Ola!  I've been seriously considering becoming a monk for the past 2-3 years.  I probably won't do it for life, but I'd like to try it at least for a year or two in my life.I still haven't decided which tradition I'd go to (maybe Zen), but I'd love to hear any stories or advice any Westerner has had in becoming a monk in an Asian country like Japan, Nepal, India, or Sri Lanka (etc.) and the process involved.

Would you recommend any monasteries in particular that cater more to Westerners?

Would you advise to stay away from any specific monasteries due to any toxic culture within that monastic community?

Would you recommend any country for Westerners to study in that are more accommodating than others?

Would you recommend any traditions in particular?

Thanks for any help!
Daniel Jones, modified 3 Years ago at 4/23/19 6:22 AM
Created 3 Years ago at 4/23/19 6:01 AM

RE: Calling all monks/ex-monks

Posts: 9 Join Date: 4/10/19 Recent Posts
Not a monk. Just a thought on why no one has replied yet. feel like a reasonably large set of serious bhikkhuini/bhikkhu's in theravada *may* avoid this forum as the vinaya has rules about talking about attainments of the sangha/other practitioners & ... well... would be kind of hard to maintain discipline around that rule here emoticon (it is my understanding, could be wrong, that ) Bhikkhu's are not to claim an attainment.. this includes talking about things such as "when I was in the first jhana", any of the factors of awakening "I felt strong piti" "I encounter tranquillity" etc, even "I felt the absence of desiring" etc.

could email Bhante Sujato or Akaliko at I believe Sujato to be upfront about his views (he has many!), is pretty serious about the vinaya & is busy with sutta central so likely to answer email. There's also a discord called 'students of the path' that has a few  monastics 
Paul, modified 3 Years ago at 4/23/19 9:27 AM
Created 3 Years ago at 4/23/19 9:27 AM

RE: Calling all monks/ex-monks

Posts: 72 Join Date: 1/24/19 Recent Posts
I went through something similar last year, spent a lot of time in different places, ordained for a while, then left, and so have some idea what you’re facing. Firstly, there are as many ways to be a monastic as there are monastics. That’s because everyone’s monastic journey arises out of a unique set of conditions and goes in a unique direction. There are far more ex-monastics (westerners I mean) than current monastics, and you will need to do it for yourself to find out why, as every one of them will tell you a different story. The pressures both internal and external, what it does or doesn’t do for your practice, what it shows you about yourself, the world, the tradition, etc, all cannot be known til you do it. 

So, let me jump to some tough-love kind of advice. Your tone sounds to me like someone who should go to somewhere easy like Thailand and ‘dabble’ at a monastery that’s accepting of foreigners, i.e. someone speaks English to help you out, you won’t be expected to fit in with the local monks, etc. What you’ll almost certainly find is it’s just a tad too difficult to adapt to, then you’ll be somewhat glad you tried, then you’ll go do something else. The reason is that to become a monk like you mean it requires a huge, gigantic, burning, all-consuming sense of purpose. Like it’s all you ever wanted to do. So, it helps to be driven by an overwhelming desire to throw everything in and go live in a hut on the fringes of civilisation, with a view to never coming back. Anything less is dabbling, and that’s fine if you know it as such and don’t try to live up to a standard you’re not ready for. 

I won’t try to answer all your questions because those are precisely the sorts of things you need to figure out for yourself. Start in one country, stay in a few monasteries, talk to a few monks, move on to the next, and so on. You may never find what you’re looking for, which will be a helpful realisation. Or you might commit to something, and then it will unfold as above. Or, it may even be possible you discover deep down that this is what you always wanted, and you’ll settle in one place and your lifelong monkhood will begin there. Awesome.

Example of why your questions cannot be answered by someone else in advance: toxicity can be as much something you brought with you into the monastery and projected around the place as something that’s already there in the culture. It’s a rare person who can tell the difference with self-aware honesty. So, best to go find out rather than take an online stranger’s word.

The previous poster is in the right ballpark that monastic-minded people aren’t likely to be on here.

There’s a website which lists and reviews a bunch of monasteries around the region, and includes a detailed document on the range of choices in Sri Lanka.

Final word of advice is: since in many monasteries the difference between being a lay meditator and a monk is only a bunch of formalities, like eating from a bowl rather than a plate, you’re best off going somewhere with a view to meditate your butt off for a while first, observe how the monks do things, then see how it all makes you feel, then ordain if you’re still eager. That last sentence seems pretty simple, straightforward, even obvious, but if you did what it says, you’d come away with all your questions above answered plus a whole bunch more things learned that you never expected. 

This topic can go on a lot further but I’ll stop there. All the best with your journey. If the monkhood is right for you, I hope you find that out and go for it with everything you’ve got.