Painful home life, considering dropping out and becoming a monk

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Mind over easy, modified 8 Years ago.

Painful home life, considering dropping out and becoming a monk

Posts: 216 Join Date: 4/28/12 Recent Posts
Hello all.

As the title suggests, I'm considering dropping out of college, moving away from home, and pursuing some kind of community where dharma practice as a valid "occupation" is facilitated, supported, encouraged, understood. This is obviously an extremely large decision, and there could be quite large implications for both myself, my family, and the communities I'm involved in. Making such a decision could indeed be inspired by being in A&P territory, or also from dark night territory. I understand that, having crossed the A&P in practice, I am susceptible to making decisions influenced by cycling, and the feelings and thoughts brought about in various nanas. I'm also 19, which many argue is an age at which the mental and emotional faculties aren't mature enough to make rational and sound decisions. They would perhaps also argue that being this age, I haven't seen enough of the world, haven't sent out enough feelers, haven't digested my options, haven't developed a sound base of rationality on which it is possible to make large, influential decisions. I can also see arguments based on the three trainings, suggesting that such an abandon of my current life-platter is radically neglecting the training of morality to pursue the other two. In particular, just leaving would upset my parents immensely, and waste their money, as they have paid for one year of college so far. A possible argument is that it would be better to finish college first before "setting off".

I think it is wise to give a short summary of my life up to this point, as these details have led up to my current position. As much as I feel bad about just shooting off a long list of "problems" in my life, I feel it necessary to do so in order to show where I'm coming from. I love my parents and my sister, and I'm extremely grateful for the quality of life I live, the food and money provided, and the general comfort of life.

My Family Life:

I was adopted, privately, a few weeks after I was born. My parents are Mormon. As much as I don't like to use religion as a way to criticize people, and as much as I don't like to generalize, it is possible that many will understand some of the characteristics I speak to, leading to a better understanding of my family life. Of course, the typical teenager will complain about their parents, but please read this for what it is, rather than as the stereotypical angsty teen complaining. My parents both come from low-income households, where the father was unfaithful and left the wife and kids. Now, the household brings in what I would guess is 150-200k a year.

My mom is watching television quite frequently. She doesn't like to be talked to, really. If I try to talk to her while she's watching tv, she'll not look away, give a brief answer, and be obviously annoyed. She'll turn the tv up, and say that she's trying to watch. She gets home from work, changes out of work clothes, turns on the tv, and turns it off when it's time to go to bed. I see her taking all kinds of pills for headaches, aches, sleeping, and all sorts of things. She seems quite healthy to me, but she's constantly talking about what she thinks is wrong with her. I suspect she is a hypochondriac, and I suspect that her medical knowledge from tech school enables her to worry about a vast array of problems she's learned about. She constantly self-diagnoses herself with problems and goes to the doctor, but it seems that her only verified problem is poor eyesight and chronic migraines, of which the doctors don't understand. I attribute it to constant stress and worry. She is always worrying. She will often come into my room at night and ask if I smell something burning. We live in a mid-high income suburb, in a city with low crime and, it turns out, one of the highest police-per-capita in the nation. She boards some doors at night for fear of break-ins. We have an alarm system too. She doesn't sleep well. I suspect she only gets 4 hours of sleep or so, and it seems to be extremely light. She has explained how her mind is constantly turning at night, how her worrying keeps her up. She has also expressed depression, which I will get to in a minute. When I talk with her, she talks about her and her boss, how her boss is like her son, how she is always getting compliments, and how much she hates one of her coworkers. She is constantly baking cakes, pies, brownies, and bringing treats to work, but doesn't seem to do these things at home. She has a tendency to unload for a very long period of time without any silent space, and then once she's done, walk away without me having said a word. If I try to tell her about my day, she will distantly say "uh huh, uh huh" as she walks away, turns on the tv, or does other things. When she asks me questions, they seem to be an attempt to prove my inadequacy. When I express having had a bad day, having felt poorly, having had a bad experience, she is almost certain to respond with "You should have...", making a point of how these things are my fault, some kind of shortcoming of my foresight or emotional strength. If I am to pursue it and explain how it's just an expression of the feelings that are getting to me, she may respond with, "What am I supposed to do about it? I can't do anything about it".

She has blatantly told me that she doesn't trust me or my sister, and often makes outright incorrect claims about knowing we are doing sin, often times because the "holy spirit" has told her. She has been known to literally run suddenly up and down stairs, and ask me, my sister, or my friends if we're doing something we shouldn't be doing. One time, she was pulling in the driveway as she saw me upstairs in the bathroom through the window. I went downstairs and played piano. She had seen me upstairs when she pulled in but then when she found me on the lower level when she came inside, she accused me of doing things I shouldn't be. She has stood outside my bathroom and accused me of masturbating. She has also told us of having, in her words, premonitions where we're drowning or dying somehow, at times when our family is about to go on vacation to places where there is water. When I was probably 13 or so, I had clicked into some sort of pornography, and she saw it in the history. Amidst days of tears and hours of talks, she told me that if I didn't change my ways, she would put me up for adoption since she didn't feel safe with me around. This is not an exaggeration. My take of my mom is this: she grew up in a miserable household, had the "born-again" experience, converted to Mormonism, married my dad, but never learned to trust men, or maybe just humans in general, never learned to love herself, and never learned a set of social skills that I deem vital to raising children.

I admit that there is intense resent, but I, honestly, don't express it. I've learned to be very quiet, emotionally detached, and generally absent from the house. I don't try to talk to her anymore. I don't share feelings, concerns, school life, thoughts, daily activities, anything like that, unless there is a compelling need. I'm not cold though. I try to be a good son, since they are providing for me. I try to practice metta. I do the dishes, occasionally buy treats, take out garbage, and do nice things when they weren't asked of me. I say, "hey, how was your day?". I ask how I can help. I try to avoid any sort of disagreement, even over simple things, since she seems to lack the ability to discuss differing opinions without raising her voice, claiming that I'm condescending, and telling me not to challenge her. She's like this with my dad too.

My dad is a peaceful man. His conduct is extremely humble, meek, and non-aggressive, although he comes off to me as emotionally suppressed, as when he does get worked up, he has bursts of anger, screaming, and throwing things. He attributes his peace in his marriage to his insistence on not arguing with my mom, who seems to enjoy instigating arguments out of anything. I'm not trying to skew this to my advantage. I think she sincerely enjoys creating contention, and I don't know why. I suspect its a way to feel in control of others emotions and actions, but maybe she really had such a warped perspective that she sees her methods as a valid way to converse. Anyways, my dad is home only on weekends. He works out of state during the week. He has to put away a fair amount of money, because he has a rare, poorly understood medical condition called ITP. Doctors don't really understand what causes it, but when he relapses, he's put away in the hospital, sometimes for months. This is expensive and drains savings, which makes my mom even more paranoid. To this day, she still makes statements like, "I still worry and think, how could I feed my family on a dollar a week". Of course, we have a big house and flashy things and flashy cars, but my dad insists that these things aren't large investments. My mom, who will go out and buy expensive flashy things, doesn't seem to see any dissonance between her frugalness, constant fear of poverty, and lavish lifestyle. Anyways, when contention happens, my dad is quiet. I consider what my mom does as bullying. When he's around, I'll sometimes say, "Dad, what's your take on this", but he doesn't do anything about it. He doesn't try to talk reason into my mom, although when we talk privately, he acknowledges these problems. She won't listen though. In fact, if we pursue trying to talk to her, she goes into depressions where she says she and the whole world thinks she's a terrible parent. She's even requested that we hide the gun before. Whether or not this is a way to try to get us to not complain, or a legitimate suicide threat, I don't know. But the point is that even the most empirical, non-emotional attempt at discussion with her will lead to her becoming angry, depressed, and even non-respondent, refusing to speak at all, ignoring statements and just walking away. I believe it has gotten to this point since he has always let her walk over him. She makes the decisions, wears the pants, has the power. My opinion is that he has made a fatal flaw by not asserting his opinions, not protecting me and my sister from this emotional abuse, and using "the gospel" as a safety net.

The Mormon Church:

I was as faithful as ever, more than anyone else. I could quote scriptures, defend controversial topics, and convince others of my religious views with charisma and logic. However, I began to see problems. The members seemed to add up to this facade of constantly happy, energetic, charismatic, and "perfect" people. When I would try to discuss concerns about the doctrine, teachers would get angry, tell me I was being disruptive, tell me I was being unfaithful, and tell me that I was being an intellectual. I don't know about the rest of the world, but people who questioned the doctrine and, in general, questioned anything were referred to as intellectuals. This was a derogatory term, which stood for someone without true faith, someone who tried to outsmart the church, someone who dabbled in what the church referred to "philosophies of the world". These members were talked about by other members. I could make a list of the people who others considered intellectuals and frowned upon in privacy. Being quite "faithful" to science, logic, and cold hard data, this was of great concern to me. Then, I ran into the anachronisms. The Book of Mormon claims that Native Americans were actually Israelites, led by God to the promise land, but science has proven that Native Americans came from Asia, through Alaska, southeast into America. Then, I ran into the notion that gays were going to hell. I pulled up some data and found what I thought was undeniable evidence that sexuality is genetic, but in any case, coming to the conclusion that changing your sexuality was as feasible as changing your eye color. Then, I found blatantly racist statements made by the founders of the church. Then, I was laying outside one day, and I believe I had a spontaneous jhanic experience, or something, at which point I just had this innate conviction that there was more to be done as far as religion goes. All of these things added up to me carefully construction a letter to my parents explaining why I wasn't going to go to church today, written in the most polite, logical, and respectful way possible. Of course, my parents were furious and reacted with anger, disappointment, and what I perceive to this day to be a certain "dis-owning". Our relationship was already not wonderful, but this really killed it. They think I'm going to hell now. They think I've turned my back on all spirituality, and have scripted a kind of descent into misery and a broken life, pointing this out to me often, at times of my shortcomings. When I try to express emotional trouble to my dad, he simply tells me that his heavenly father takes care of him and his troubles.

Depression and Suicide:

The family life up to that point would've been enough to create a serious depression, but with this added disconnection from the church and breaking up with a girl I had been quite close to for years, I felt like I had no one at all. I remember being intensely interested in psychic stuff, meditation, enlightenment, and spirituality from at least 7th grade, and I have a feeling that I was already cycling through nanas by that point, and it is possible that dark night stuff was involved. I remember feeling desperation, misery, helplessness, agony, hatred towards others and myself, and isolation. However, these fits of horrible feelings would usually lead up to this odd sort of compassion that seemed outside of myself, like a mother weeping over the pain of her child. From this perspective, I felt not only a sense of compassion for myself, but also for my parents and for what pain they must experience. I felt sorry for myself, sorry for them, and guilty for these feelings of compassion for those who I thought were causing me so much pain. I tried to talk to a counselor at school and she just told me that she saw it as a teen rebellion thing, and that if she were in my parents position, she would make me go to church. I gave up at that point, seeing nowhere at all to turn, and tried to kill myself by burning lots of charcoal in my car, while I listened to Chopin and read about his life. I took the missionary fund my parents had been saving for me, cashed it, bought some weed. Two miraculous things happened. One, I smoked a joint, figuring it would be a nice way to ease the stress of dying. Two, my friend skipped class and checked his email randomly, finding a suicide note that I had intended for him to pass on to my parents. Once I smoked that joint, something snapped in my mind. I just suddenly didn't want to die after I smoked it. I've heard similar stories to that effect. Then, my friend called and calmly but intimately implored me to keep living, to step out of the car and start over completely anew. I did that. I didn't tell anyone about this besides the friends who were involved in the phone call. I don't see how it would do any good to tell my seemingly unstable parents about this.

I rebuilt myself. I learned that I could be my own center of stability. I learned that even in pain, there could be peace. Equanimity, I suppose. I learned the power of emotions, the power of thoughts, the power of attractive thinking, and the value and vulnerability of life. I realized that I wasn't the only one in such a situation of pain. I began to look at others and realize that beneath the facade, there was a mass of unacknowledged pain. I realized that we never really "have it all together", that any kind of together-ness was absolutely fictional, even in times of happiness. I saw how new-age stuff was falling short of realizing this imperfect nature, this unavoidable chaos, this unfixable imperfectness in every human. Having dropped to that extremely low point and stepping away into some kind of peace, I realized that even in the midst of the most turbulent pain, one could accept it and find that peace. I realized that I had insight of some kind, but these insights weren't really mature, formulated clearly like this, or well-practiced. But these knowledges were certainly there, and I've spent that time up to this day obsessed with understanding them. Fast forward to a year ago, when I found this pragmatic dharma scene which explained all the Buddhist concepts and meditations I had struggled to understand and practice, in a down to earth and plain-english way. I immediately began practicing.

Where I'm At Now:

So I've been practicing meditation (jhana and vipassana) for about a year or so. I admit that it isn't a long time. However, I have the ability to enter (soft jhanas) 1-4, and seem to be able to get up to equanimity in insight meditation. I believe I crossed the A&P long, long ago, since I've been obsessed with meditation, philosophy, energy, chakras, enlightenment, suffering, self, and religion through basically all of my teen years. I've been working towards stream entry. I find myself mostly between A&P stuff, dark night stuff, and poking through to equanimity. Kenneth Folk said that once you cross the A&P, you're on the ride, and you'll make choices to pursue that ride at the expense of other things. I've found this to be extremely true. I'm busy with college, but dharma stuff just takes over my mind. More and more, I'm losing the will and desire to do homework that I see as pointless. I see rigid systems and unenlightened, unhappy people trying to explain what true happiness and success is, along with fellow classmates, turning from interest in the beauty of life, to stress of work, obsession of money, and a cold, almost manic attempt to tune out anything spiritual, philosophical, or suggestive of inner-peace, happiness, bliss, joy, that kind of stuff. I understand the whole A&P excitement and evangelicalism I may exhibit, but this seems different. Before college, these people loved to walk in the woods, speculate about the universe, try meditations, and contemplate the odd, frantic, posession-driven lifestyle led by the adults. Now, there seems to be some sort of cognitive dissonance, where these moments are in opposition to the ideas of success, wealth, power, "making it big". It makes me feel like I'm not growing up, like I'm somehow less mature, somehow less directed, somehow less successful, somehow less intelligent. This is reinforced by knowing that my parents have been talking to my sister in private, telling her that they don't think I'm going to succeed in school, don't think I'm going to find any work, don't think I'm trying, don't think I'm taking it seriously, don't think about anyone but myself. These are terrible things to hear, and they add up to, "we don't believe in you or feel supportive of your life". If they really cared, wouldn't they try to talk to me about it?

My parents are paying me through college. I've offered to pay but they have said that they want to pay. I've only attended two semesters, but to be fair, I tested out and substituted free college for high school for my junior and senior years of high school, accumulating over a year's worth of credits. As I grow more and more uncertain that college is doing something for me, I worry that the longer I keep attending, the longer I waste my parents' money. The urge to drop out is strong and growing, and I worry that if I don't do it now, they'll be thousands of dollars more upset if I decide to do it down the road, or end up pursuing something other than a career in my degree-field.

There's the dharma thing too. I'm under the impression that if I get stream-entry, I am likely to rid myself of a lot of suffering, remove a lot of the pain of self-referencing, and have a much more stable position to make life decisions from. The problem is, that I feel as though I don't have time to get the momentum to get stream entry. I'm busy paying attention to lectures, to studying and practicing. I've heard of people getting stream entry at home or at work, and I suppose it's possible to get it, but I just have the feeling that I can't build up enough momentum to do it. I note when I get up and go to school, but it's just impossible to pay attention to notes during lectures and homework, and impossible to pay attention to lectures and homework during noting. Sometimes I get home and fall asleep in the evening, exhausted, and don't get up until the next day, then do it all again. Sometimes the dukkha nanas will come on so strong that I fell as though I can't make it to the end of a hallway without stopping and trying to find stability. Doing homework in intense misery is an impossibility. I fall apart upon the work. Then, there's the emotional pain and insecurity that I encounter so often with my mom, which is also hard to deal with during dukkha. I've tried to avoid bleed-through but the bottom line is, my effort seems to not have been enough, since I'm failing two classes and not really making any new progress in insight.

I also have to consider this. Is my disenchantment with the life I'm living truly just because of the dukkha nanas? Will my concerns with the system of college just disappear once I get stream entry? Will I just be like, "Oh, its all okay now and I can do this without worrying about the stuff I used to"? I am only speculating, but I don't think the concern will just disappear. Perhaps someone has experience here.

Based on all of this, I'm considering deferring schooling, heading off to a monastery where I can focus all my efforts on stream entry and possibly beyond, and then deciding from that point what would be best to do with my life. I don't know though. I don't really have anyone to talk to about all this. I've thought of contacting various monasteries and seeing if there is anyone who would have this conversation.
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fivebells ., modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Painful home life, considering dropping out and becoming a monk

Posts: 566 Join Date: 2/25/11 Recent Posts
Do it. Beats the hell out of going on a mission for two years, I imagine. And a music degree is not going to be particularly useful to you. I wish I'd had the guts to do something like this when I was your age.
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Nikolai ., modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Painful home life, considering dropping out and becoming a monk

Posts: 1648 Join Date: 1/23/10 Recent Posts
fivebells .:
Do it. Beats the hell out of going on a mission for two years, I imagine. And a music degree is not going to be particularly useful to you. I wish I'd had the guts to do something like this when I was your age.


I wasted a few years getting a linguistic degree, a subject the inspired little to nothing within me. In the midst of feeling completely lost and without purpose to life, I sat my first vipassana course. The light went on, and I finished university within 8 months and went to live at a vipassana centre for over a year, then moved to India for another year at a bigger vipassana centre there and the following years I jumped around from jobs and study and meditation. It is all i wanted to do and even though i have not established a real career because of such life decisions (I am currently studying to be a shiatsu practitioner), I shall die without any regrets for the decisions to consistently pry apart and see collapse, the claustrophobic paradigms of my own mind. I was 24 when this started and 36 now. If I had had a choice, i would have chosen to have all these experiences earlier on in life, around your age. You have more time to work stuff out later on if the 'monkhood' lifestyle (which does not have to entail taking up robes) is not doing it for you. Go see if you can live in a vipassana centre for the holidays and test the waters. Of course you will have to sit a course first.

Nick

edit: here's soemthing you could pass on to your parents to help ease their minds:
http://mormon.org/me/9pvy
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John P, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Painful home life, considering dropping out and becoming a monk

Posts: 155 Join Date: 1/24/12 Recent Posts
Mind over easy:
I admit that there is intense resent, but I, honestly, don't express it. I've learned to be very quiet, emotionally detached, and generally absent from the house. I don't try to talk to her anymore. I don't share feelings, concerns, school life, thoughts, daily activities, anything like that, unless there is a compelling need. I'm not cold though. I try to be a good son, since they are providing for me. I try to practice metta. I do the dishes, occasionally buy treats, take out garbage, and do nice things when they weren't asked of me. I say, "hey, how was your day?". I ask how I can help. I try to avoid any sort of disagreement, even over simple things, since she seems to lack the ability to discuss differing opinions without raising her voice, claiming that I'm condescending, and telling me not to challenge her. She's like this with my dad too.
My dad is a peaceful man. His conduct is extremely humble, meek, and non-aggressive, although he comes off to me as emotionally suppressed, as when he does get worked up, he has bursts of anger, screaming, and throwing things. He attributes his peace in his marriage to his insistence on not arguing with my mom, who seems to enjoy instigating arguments out of anything. I'm not trying to skew this to my advantage. I think she sincerely enjoys creating contention, and I don't know why. I suspect its a way to feel in control of others emotions and actions, but maybe she really had such a warped perspective that she sees her methods as a valid way to converse. Anyways, my dad is home only on weekends. He works out of state during the week. He has to put away a fair amount of money, because he has a rare, poorly understood medical condition called ITP. Doctors don't really understand what causes it, but when he relapses, he's put away in the hospital, sometimes for months. This is expensive and drains savings, which makes my mom even more paranoid. To this day, she still makes statements like, "I still worry and think, how could I feed my family on a dollar a week". Of course, we have a big house and flashy things and flashy cars, but my dad insists that these things aren't large investments. My mom, who will go out and buy expensive flashy things, doesn't seem to see any dissonance between her frugalness, constant fear of poverty, and lavish lifestyle. Anyways, when contention happens, my dad is quiet. I consider what my mom does as bullying. When he's around, I'll sometimes say, "Dad, what's your take on this", but he doesn't do anything about it. He doesn't try to talk reason into my mom, although when we talk privately, he acknowledges these problems. She won't listen though. In fact, if we pursue trying to talk to her, she goes into depressions where she says she and the whole world thinks she's a terrible parent. She's even requested that we hide the gun before. Whether or not this is a way to try to get us to not complain, or a legitimate suicide threat, I don't know. But the point is that even the most empirical, non-emotional attempt at discussion with her will lead to her becoming angry, depressed, and even non-respondent, refusing to speak at all, ignoring statements and just walking away. I believe it has gotten to this point since he has always let her walk over him. She makes the decisions, wears the pants, has the power. My opinion is that he has made a fatal flaw by not asserting his opinions, not protecting me and my sister from this emotional abuse, and using "the gospel" as a safety net.

It's good to see you are trying your best to be compassionate with your parents.
I just want you to remember that even though things can be really hard for you, your parents still love you and try to give their best to you and your sister. That's why they can get so desperate when they think "you are going to hell" and so.
As you said, your mother have problems and your father doesn't do much about it, unfortunately the combination of a paranoid mother and a passive father is much more common than one would expect nowadays(my parents are similar). Know that most of the time your mother cannot help doing what she does, and your father is at a loss of what to do as much as you, and knows that trying to talk back only makes things worse.
Consider this: you crossed the A&P when you were young and are in the dukkha nanas, isn't it possible your parents are in a similar situation? Maybe crossing the A&P is one of the reasons they are so involved in the church.
I know it's not easy, and any kind of change will be slow and probably won't be apparent until so long, but do not get disheartened and keep being a good and compassionate person, this training on morality will pay off.

Mind over easy:
There's the dharma thing too. I'm under the impression that if I get stream-entry, I am likely to rid myself of a lot of suffering, remove a lot of the pain of self-referencing, and have a much more stable position to make life decisions from. The problem is, that I feel as though I don't have time to get the momentum to get stream entry. I'm busy paying attention to lectures, to studying and practicing. I've heard of people getting stream entry at home or at work, and I suppose it's possible to get it, but I just have the feeling that I can't build up enough momentum to do it. I note when I get up and go to school, but it's just impossible to pay attention to notes during lectures and homework, and impossible to pay attention to lectures and homework during noting. Sometimes I get home and fall asleep in the evening, exhausted, and don't get up until the next day, then do it all again. Sometimes the dukkha nanas will come on so strong that I fell as though I can't make it to the end of a hallway without stopping and trying to find stability. Doing homework in intense misery is an impossibility. I fall apart upon the work. Then, there's the emotional pain and insecurity that I encounter so often with my mom, which is also hard to deal with during dukkha. I've tried to avoid bleed-through but the bottom line is, my effort seems to not have been enough, since I'm failing two classes and not really making any new progress in insight.

One thing worth mentioning is that exercise and diet can considerably help lessen the symptoms of the dukkha nanas.
You should also check this other thread about study and practice.

Mind over easy:
Based on all of this, I'm considering deferring schooling, heading off to a monastery where I can focus all my efforts on stream entry and possibly beyond, and then deciding from that point what would be best to do with my life. I don't know though. I don't really have anyone to talk to about all this. I've thought of contacting various monasteries and seeing if there is anyone who would have this conversation.

Personally I don't recommend it.
First of all be aware this itch to become a monk also will pass(I also wanted to for a long while, but this itch passed away eventually).
The reason I don't recommend it it's because it would be such a big change in your life, and it may not be worth it.
As a monk you will also have obligations and temptations in your daily life, and way less resources.
The biggest advantage would be a community with the same interests and goals, but usually it's not the community of serious practitioners one would expect.
So think about it again.
Mario Nistri, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Painful home life, considering dropping out and becoming a monk

Posts: 210 Join Date: 3/3/12 Recent Posts
Well... that was impressive in so many ways...

and tried to kill myself by burning lots of charcoal in my car, while I listened to Chopin and read about his life


What a wonderful way to die...

However, back to business...
I have a lot of personal ideas about what I would do in your situation but I don't think they are particoularly relevant to this topic, since there is no me in your situation, but only you in your situation, and this basically means that there is no evidence that what I think would be good for me is going to be good for you as well.

The main problem I see is that there is no obvious way to find out the right choiche; seriously, how on heart can you be sure? Does it even exist such a thing? My idea is that most calls just end up being done under the influence of so many things, rationality being just one of them, not the most important, neither the one with most influence. This, as I see it, is actually not bad at all, is just the way theese things happen.
The practical point that I want to make here is something like this: if you are thinking too much about it, probably it's bad sign, because a lot of thinking tends -in my experience, and in many others as well- to lead to stagnation.

However, about this I am pretty sure: most important than making the right choiche (wich is just a concept referring to something that is actually not there, and not only that, but I'm also pretty sure that as a concept is not even so useful in practical terms) I think is to make a strong determination to follow the choiche you'll make until the end (that being SE); by that I mean, if you decide to go for ordination, resolve to strive hard until you'll get it; if you want to keep staying as a lay person, resolve to optimize your time and to dedicate the best of your effort until you'll get that.

A thing that I used once that helped me very much in a pretty dark period: basically, what you do is making a gigantic map of your life.
At the center you put your name, and then you put around it every part of your life that has significance to you (i.e. school, meditation, parents, friends, music, and so on).
Then you take other pieces of paper and you put at the center every thing that was on the edges in the previous piece of paper, and at the edges you put sub-parts of that particoular thing, and you keep doing this until you have broken down in this way every piece of your life that have significance to you.
Then you put the whole thing together (to the floor, maybe?) and you begin to make connections all over the place; connections over the mind states involved in thoose areas of your life, about behavioural patterns, basic desires that seems to underline many apparently different things, and so on; many strange things can happen while doing this; I had some very strong conventional insights about myself, about why I did many things, about what was really important and so on. I also begun crying hard for 15 minutes or something like that, when something that I just didn't knew about me became plain obvious. The experience was to me quite intense and had the power to bring a lot of clarity over what I wanted... maybe it will be useful to you as well... for sure it's quite an interesting thing to do...

Bye!

All the best

Metta
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Jane Laurel Carrington, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Painful home life, considering dropping out and becoming a monk

Posts: 196 Join Date: 12/29/10 Recent Posts
You are carrying an enormous amount of baggage, more than your average young person. I feel for your parents, who are obviously suffering, but I feel even more for you, because it's their job to care for you, not project their dysfunction onto you. You seem to have great analytical abilities; you are able to describe their behavior in great detail, and not personalize it. You also realize that you cannot let their problems become your problem.

There is one thing in particular I do want to say: I don't think just getting SE will necessarily solve everything for you. It will clarify a lot, but it doesn't remove you from the need to deal with the other problems you've had in your life. It clears up the dukkhas for awhile, but then you'll start cycling again. This doesn't mean you shouldn't try to get there--please don't get me wrong--but don't expect to be magically relieved of suffering when you do. People's experiences vary, but I had this golden dream that my phobias would disappear and I would no longer be subject to my ups and downs, and they're still here, except I'm in a lot better place to deal with it than before.

That being said, I'm thinking that you need both an opportunity to practice and an opportunity to work this stuff out with a therapist. Jack Kornfield spent 5 years after a nightmarish childhood in a monastery in Asia and said when he emerged he still had to cope with life. You will always have to cope with life. This is not necessarily a bad thing. We're all in the same boat, after all. But I'd like you to keep some solid ground under your feet, as much as humanly possible. That means (in this economy) access to health care, access to resources like therapists, regular food, lodging, what-have-you. That's my one reservation in suggesting you chuck it all. You could shift the way you're dealing with all these things and try to hold it at a distance, keeping your long-term goals in mind (not a career in your chosen field, but your long-term awakening and well-being).

Being in a monastery is not always the lovely escape we all wish it could be; your demons can follow you on retreat. On the other hand, what do I know? It may be precisely what you need. But people with psychic damage from difficult childhoods often find themselves struggling in an environment where they are brought face-to-face with themselves all day long. It seems obvious, still, that you are being brought face-to-face with your difficult life already, right now. So it's a conundrum. Just don't make an impulsive decision if you can possibly help it.

All the best to you, Laurel
Jason B, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Painful home life, considering dropping out and becoming a monk

Posts: 346 Join Date: 8/9/11 Recent Posts
I don't have any advice to offer, but I can relate to your impulse. As a teenager I experienced periodic, inexplicable and overwhelming urges to "be a monk," though I doubt I had any idea what that means. I don't think I even knew what Buddhism is. But I felt like I was living "the wrong life...." It was weird. And it continued through my early 20's. By the time I figured out what I maybe could do about it, I was immersed in other things. Now, at 35, I think I'm glad I didn't have the opportunity. I've found a practice that is remarkably effective even for busy householders, and I still enjoy the freedom of a householder. Reading about the practices of people who have spent time in monasteries, it seems that people often make more progress in the world. I feel like I have the best of both worlds, and I don't have to submit to a specific set of beliefs.

None of which should discourage you in any way. I mean, the Buddha clearly favored the monastic life for his disciples, so maybe he knew what he was talking about. On the other hand, things have changed. And, like Nik said, you don't have to ordain. You can leave one day. You could just go for a year. See what you think.

Good luck!
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Shashank Dixit, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Painful home life, considering dropping out and becoming a monk

Posts: 282 Join Date: 9/11/10 Recent Posts
This reminds me of my own strong feeling of samvega and I had written to a very revered monk for ordination.

He gave me this reply :

It sounds as if you may be experiencing a strong feeling of saṃvega. The Lord Buddha himself experienced such feelings; indeed, nearly all Western monks feel this way. Saṃvega implies a distaste or dissatisfaction for the world, a yearning for the holy life, and a sense of urgency.

If you go to a Buddhist country to ordain, I’m sad to report that you won’t find much Buddhism there. That is, you won’t find the core, the essence, of Buddhist practice. What you’ll find is monks who are trained to work in village temples, perform ceremonies, and give hour-long dhamma talks which the laity will sleep through. You’ll find donors and supporters whose practice is limited to bringing food to the monks, reciting verses, and worshiping the temple bodhi tree. Or you may obtain a formal degree from a Buddhist university, become a scholar, write books, etc. I personally can not understand how such a practice helps one to attain Nibbāna; but then again, I’m neither a scholar nor a village monk—just a transplanted American Buddhist who formally converted to Buddhism (Mahāyāna) in 1966, and became a Theravāda monk in 2001. I’m 65 years old.

In a Buddhist country, the traditional practice is for a layman to live in the temple as a white-garbed upāsaka for a few months, observing 8 precepts, and learning monastic routine. Afterwards, he may become a ten-precept samanera (novice) for another 6 months or so, then receive the upasampada (higher) ordination and take on the 227 patimokkha rules.

Are you a meditator? Do you meditate very much? Do you have a meditation teacher? I ask this because meditation and mind-training is the core of Buddhist practice.

If you are a meditator, my advice is this:

Become a samanera (novice) locally, in India, if possible. Then, with 6 moths to a year of experience, come to Sri Lanka or Burma or Thailand or England (Amaravati monastery) or Australia (Perth) for higher ordination. Arriving as an ordained samanera will automatically confer upon you a modicum of status.

If you come to Sri Lanka, even as a layman, I would be happy to introduce you to various monasteries and meditation centers. From what little I gathered from your letter, you might do well at Amaravati monastery in England, or perhaps a forest monastery in Sri Lanka, such as Na-Uyena or Mitirigala. Stay for a while, if invited, then pursue your higher ordination there.

Even now it would be a good idea for you to travel, visit lots of temples and meet lots of practicing, meditating monks, then join with the ones with whom you feel a kinship.

The Lord Buddha said to attendant Ānanada that having spiritual friends or kin (kalyānamittā) is the whole of the holy life. In other words, it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to go it alone. Even the Lord Buddha practiced for more than 6 years under various teachers, then continued in the company of the five ascetics. He split up from the five for only the briefest period—just a few months—and after he attained enlightenment, what did he do? —he rejoined the five.

With highest hopes for your happiness,


The full post is here :
http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/3638897
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James Yen, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Painful home life, considering dropping out and becoming a monk

Posts: 270 Join Date: 9/6/09 Recent Posts
If this is truly what you want to do, then of course no one can stop you.

Just keep in mind that once you go forth you will have to put in all the more effort for your liberation, going forth is not an ESCAPE from worldly troubles, but an opportunity to practice with more vigour.

If something's to be done,
then work at it firmly,
for a slack going-forth
kicks up all the more dust.


Peace.
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Bruno Loff, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Painful home life, considering dropping out and becoming a monk

Posts: 1094 Join Date: 8/30/09 Recent Posts
Wow dude. Thank you for sharing such a personal story in the honest way that you did (rare thing, that!).

About your decision, here's what I think. I think you are much wiser than you've been told, and that you will be able to make a good decision. I think you are in possession of almost all the bits of information. I'd like to emphasize
MOE:
Making such a decision could indeed be inspired by being in A&P territory, or also from dark night territory. I understand that, having crossed the A&P in practice, I am susceptible to making decisions influenced by cycling, and the feelings and thoughts brought about in various nanas.


I also think you are wrong, if understandingly defensive, in the following:
MOE:

I'm also 19, which many argue is an age at which the mental and emotional faculties aren't mature enough to make rational and sound decisions. They would perhaps also argue that being this age, I haven't seen enough of the world, haven't sent out enough feelers, haven't digested my options, haven't developed a sound base of rationality on which it is possible to make large, influential decisions. I can also see arguments based on the three trainings, suggesting that such an abandon of my current life-platter is radically neglecting the training of morality to pursue the other two.


Pretty much every sentence above is bullshit (imo) and pure mental noise. Your mental faculties are clearly mature, as can be ascertained by reading your account. As for emotional faculties, I don't know a single person who is mature in that regard (though I concede that maybe some people are), so do the best of what you have. You clearly have seen enough of the world to make this particular decision (in fact I will soon make the case that you should not forget what you have seen). The morality issue is religious bullshit (imo); that you would take it upon yourself to carry that extra burden ("I will suffer more because of morality!") is probably the result of your upbringing.

You also write:

MOE:

In particular, just leaving would upset my parents immensely, and waste their money, as they have paid for one year of college so far. A possible argument is that it would be better to finish college first before "setting off".


I think your prediction of your parent's reaction is probably correct. One year of college is not a "waste of money" just because you don't get a degree. And even if you do get a degree, it can be a complete waste of money (I know many such cases). What matters is whether you are learning interesting stuff.

I would consider the following two facts before you decide to change. First of all, tuition is expensive in the US and you might not have the opportunity to attend college on a full-time basis later in your life. This in itself is something to weight into your decision. Of course, maybe your college isn't very stimulating and it's a waste of time either way, or something like that, in which case there is no point in staying either way. Recall that you could also pursue a college graduation that would encourage you to do meditative-like things, e.g. you could learn traditional chinese medicine, or learn massage therapy, or psychology, etc.

Second fact, recall that buddhism is also a religion. As an institution, buddhism is subject to the same kind of bullshit as any other religion. The only aspect in which it sometimes differs is with its emphasis on mental training, and as you could see from Shashank's post, even this difference is far from universal. Remember that if you become a monk, then on most monasteries you will have to sing their songs, dress their clothes, bow to the monastic superiors (who will, as often as in any other religion, be complete assholes), convince poor miserable ignorant fools to give you money in exchange for words they won't understand ("for a good cause"), etc. Remember your previous experience with religion, and beware of jumping into the conclusion that buddhism (the religion) is somehow different just because you read Daniel Ingram's book.

My point is: when you think of "becoming a monk" as your plan of escape, you are much less likely to apply the necessary criticism. Thinking of buddhism as resembling MCTB is like thinking of urine as resembling drinking water. You can turn urine into drinking water, but it requires an arduous and diligent process of filtration. The amazing thing about MCTB is that Daniel has himself put in many years of his life to figuring out what was good and what was awful in that big thing we call buddhism. He did that filtration process on his own time, before he wrote MCTB.

I can only imagine how hard it must have been for Daniel to wade through tons of cultural, dogmatic, personal, and interpersonal bullshit in order to be able to produce that gem of a book, without having any solid reference to guide him through it in the first place. I personally speculate that if he had given it all up to become a monk, he would have been much too involved to take the necessary step back. Of course, maybe after reading MCTB it becomes much easier to do this kind of distinction, and hence monkhood might be a more viable pursuit... I don't know.

Either way, you definitely should NOT think of the buddhist establishment as being somehow a living incarnation of MCTB. Read Shashank's post carefully, and through as many means as you can form an accurate image in your mind of what "becoming a monk" really means (this will certainly depend on the place you would do it, and on who is the head monk there, etc). When you have an accurate image in your head, you will be ready to make a decision, and much less likely to regret whichever decision you made.

Oh, and dude: Good luck with this, I mean it emoticon
Sounds like you're doing an admirable job of staying sane amidst all the crap you have to deal with.
First of all, I definitely wouldn't question your ability to make a sensible decision on this,
as other posters have noted, you come across as intelligent and very mature for your age.

My advice would be to drop any attempts at getting stream entry while attending college.
Although I don't have experience of it, from what I can tell the effects of the DN can be
significantly reduced by simply forgetting about Buddhist practices and doing your best to become
more grounded in daily life.

Then I'd suggest booking a 2/3-month retreat in somewhere like MBMC
for next summer. If it's anything like the way colleges work in my country, you
should have enough free time to attend the full retreat without it intruding on course
time. This could hardly cause your parents to become more distressed about you than
they already are and I also suspect a 3 month retreat would be more than enough time
to get you SE when you've already got the first 4 jhanas and are past the A&P.

Alternatively you could defer college for a year, and book like 9 months of retreats. That would
certainly be a badass way to tackle the problem! The main point I'd like to make though is
not to see it as an all-or-nothing decision, and also to make sure you're making it for the right
reasons - a decision made for the benefit of all humanity can hardly result in severe regret.
A D R, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Painful home life, considering dropping out and becoming a monk

Posts: 685 Join Date: 12/4/11 Recent Posts
As someone who tried to do this in a radical way and failed, the one word of advice I would say here is that any kind of misgivings you have with your parents will tend to get superimposed on the people you might be living with in a monastery. Your issues don't go away by taking up "the homeless life," they just change form.

The lesson I learned in my situation was that whenever my gut is telling me to run, the best advice is usually to stop instead.
Jason B, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Painful home life, considering dropping out and becoming a monk

Posts: 346 Join Date: 8/9/11 Recent Posts
B B:

My advice would be to drop any attempts at getting stream entry while attending college.
Although I don't have experience of it, from what I can tell the effects of the DN can be
significantly reduced by simply forgetting about Buddhist practices and doing your best to become
more grounded in daily life.


I have to strongly disagree with this. Once you've passed A+P, practice is the only real remedy for dark night symptoms, IMHO. If there's too much suffering, you can favor concentration. Sounds like MOE has done that.

MOE, if you in fact have hit EQ in your practice, you may not be far from stream entry. If not, a little direction might accelerate your path. Why not start a practice journal and see what happens?

Jason
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Blue ., modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Painful home life, considering dropping out and becoming a monk

Posts: 267 Join Date: 7/14/11 Recent Posts
You have more time to work stuff out later on if the 'monkhood' lifestyle (which does not have to entail taking up robes) is not doing it for you. Go see if you can live in a vipassana center for the holidays and test the waters. Of course you will have to sit a course first.


YES

I would suggest this as much preferable option than entering a monastery. At a Vipassana center you will be around other kids your age, you will get to do fun stuff like cooking.. you will still get female contact... ect. A lot of times people idealize and have this idea of what it would be like to be a monk which is not accurate and is really just craving/idealizing attainments.

good luck!

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