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Wanting to become a monk
Answer
4/8/14 11:13 AM
Maybe someone can offer some sort of advice for me. I'm thinking about becoming a monk, I've been thinking about it for a number of years now. I don't think I want to be a monk my whole life, but I feel like it's something I need to do, and I don't necessarily put any expectations on if I want to be a monk for the rest of my life or for a few years, etc, whatever.

Basically I'm stuck and don't know what to do. In a few months I'll be transferring from a 2 year school to a 4 year university to get a bio degree. My plan was to make the decision to go into monastic life after my bachelor's degree is finished. But a large part of me wants to just go for it now. I go in and out of being excited about things to being very unhappy about daily life. Furthermore, it's hard for me to invest so much into education,relationships, my professional future, etc. when I feel I will most likely just end up monking it up in a few years regardless. It's tough. I feel like, at the end of the day, I feel most at home and at peace during times of meditation. I know material things will not make me happy and at the end of my life I feel my most important thing will be my spirituality. And I have serious doubts whether or not I can make it where I want to go fitting in my practice in between daily life. I don't want to get caught up in things, and then years from now realize I never did what I wanted to do, which was seriously invest in my meditation.

Does anyone have experience with this? What can they suggest? It's frustrating - and it's a difficult decision to kind of give up my 'life' to go meditate. Any feedback totally appreciated. Thanks!

RE: Wanting to become a monk
Answer
4/8/14 11:47 AM as a reply to Brian K..
Hello Brian,

A similar query was answered by Nathan over here.

I dont know how to quote a specific post so I'm just copy pasting it. I feel you'll find it more valuable than anything else most of us can come up with.

Unfortunately he's not around ATM to respond to further queries.




By "seriously" I mean is it something worth dedicating one's life to? Ordaining as a monk for? Spending upwards of a year on retreat for? I don't request that you answer each of these questions, but just want to elaborate on what I mean by that word.

By "think" I mean for you to assume you are forced to take a position on whether or not each of the relevant teachings (such as karma and rebirth) are true, based on your meditative experience alone, and whichever position is more likely. By "true" I mean being in literal accordance with how it is defined in the Pali canon.

By "strive towards" I mean endeavor to attain. By "attain" I mean be for the rest of their lives accurately characterized by."

------

Thanks for defining your terms, that helps considerably with understanding your meanings and intentions and with my understanding what is important for you. Also thank you for elaborating on what is important for you more specifically because otherwise I would not know anything about it. I am far better equipped to offer some more appropriate and potentially useful insights as a consequence of those kinds of appropriate considerations. I will do my best to respond satisfactorily.

Consider this as like a rough first draft. Feel free to let me know where or how it is deficient for your purposes and I will work on the next draft based on that guidance. Does that sound fair?

[Edit - A more succinct answer has come to mind. If you are impaled on a stake you will have some adequate sense of how seriously you should take this. An example exists in the form of someone who succeed by this means in the form of the story of one of Sariputta's students and attendants who, properly prepared, realized this under these, appropriate in that context, conditions. Something you can research among other excellent examples for yourself at your leisure.]

Personally, I don't think this specific goal could ever be taken too seriously. Anyone else will need to make these determinations for themselves. To put that in context I think that to take it with complete seriousness will not only require but also strongly reinforce your sense of humor and that you will laugh much more often than you would have otherwise but what will develop will be a very, very serious sense of humor. You can get a 'serious sense of humor' other ways but however you may acquire such a nature people with a more conventional sense of humor will not get the jokes a lot of the time.

Personally and based on all of my life experience so far I have no cause for not considering the doctrines in the Pali Canon that are considered Buddha Vacana as anything other than entirely correct. In the same context then I can't see how or why any of the discipline involved is not also very valuable in some way if taken seriously even if in the contexts in which it is undertaken it often seems anachronistic now, some 2500 years later. As an option we could certainly undertake similarly effective disciplines if we first fully understand the intentions and methodologies of those given disciplines and can discern serviceable contemporary equivalents which are more appropriate to our times and places.

I think an important criteria for ever succeeding with becoming an Arahant as the Pali Canon defines it will have to involve becoming a bhikkhu or bhikkhuni or minimally a mendicant and renunciant, as far as becoming an Arahant is concerned in this world. (Which is why I fully support the restoration of the Bhikkhuni Sangha and consider doing so comprehensively urgent and not doing so yesterday contemptible and the fact that this is not obvious to the Bhikkhus something for everyone to think about very, very seriously - as far as the surrounding cultures go I think they and everyone including many of us in the West are very wrong headed about all of this.)

I think it would be significantly easier at this point to become an Arahant in one of the other realms where there is a lot less dukkha in general. I think for that to happen it will probably be an important condition to have established oneself in the stream by the same strict criteria and that any time spent as a bhikkhu/bhikkhuni in this world will be important conditioning that will incline one to do so in a more pleasant world otherwise the pleasure is going to be irresistible to indulge in and more of an obstacle than the extra pain is in this realm.

I think that once you have a clear enough sense of the scale of the difficulties involved by making strong and skillful efforts the expectation of how much effort is involved starts to stretch out. I think what determines the length of a more accurate assessment of that is the depth of the difficulty for you as an individual together with the depth of the insight you are bringing to accurately assessing such a question for yourself.

So the definitive answer is going to come for you and from you and we have to begin by being honest with ourselves and accepting the truth of this. So the only honest answer to the question how seriously do you have to take something like this to have a hope of achieving it is completely seriously.

I often use my case as an example because it also serves as a way to introduce people to where I am at with all of this and helps to demonstrate why I find it so hard to give definitive or final answers to these kinds of questions. If I base my view of this only on experiential criteria such as how various other people define meditation experiences, I don't think there is any experience of consequence that anyone else has reported experiencing that I couldn't recognize from my own experience. There is one exception to this and that is summed up in a declaration like the Buddha made that is usually phrased along these lines; "Birth is ended, done is what needed to be done, the holy life has been lived, there is no more returning to being and becoming in this or any other world."

I see this as very very clear, definitive and final, first of all for the Buddha for himself and then for those he addresses. I think that everything else that the Buddha does and says (in the Pali Canon Texts) supports this. I can see how the entire Buddha Vacana, the Pali Canon, the entire Sangha and the Theravada Buddhist school of thought is an effort to enshrine the doctrines about all of this as rock solid establishment stuff.

So as far as all of that goes, those are the authorities to turn to in relation to all of your questions. You can see what is a rule for them and what they declare to be so and not otherwise and it is all very black and white. I think in the context of that there is still a lot of uncertainties in relation to how this could play out for any one of us. If they are right about everything, then I think we have to lean in the direction of being very conservative about adding to our expectations. Also I think in that context that we are given every indication that the difficulties are serious and that we will really have to give it everything we've got to have any hope of any serious progress towards completing the work.

If you are a woman you will find that if you are entirely serious about this you are going to be as upset by the crap that men are doing in this context. You will probably be just as sad about how they are so insecure about being less of anything than anyone else that they have to oppress women in this context as you would be in any other. You will see that you have about a hundred years of progress to work at on all of this that has been done in other contexts still needs to be done in this one. I find that to be a very strong indication that the institutions involved are highly compromised by profound ignorance on the state, cultural, institutional, community and personal levels and this includes the Sangha so if you are a woman, my heart goes out to you, you have twice the support from me that I would give to any man and I would like you to know that I think all of this is criminal in any context and it is probably the main reason I have strong reservations about the sincerity and authenticity of all of the men involved and this includes the Sangha.

I know the texts might indicate, but then again more likely not, that there has to be some kind of unbroken line of succession of handoffs of something or other that needs to go all the way back to the Buddha. That kind of logic makes no sense to anyone but lawyers so… I very much doubt that this is true of any group today in relation to the Buddha and I know it to not be publicly proven by any group. So no group should be allowed to claim such a status that can't give all of the evidence necessary to demonstrate the truth of it. I take thinking that there is some kind of lineage that long that is verifiable or necessary as an indication of indulging in delusions. So there is no good reason that makes any sense as to why women couldn't have a fully functional Sangha yesterday or anyway and the longer this unfair arrangement persists the sooner it will fully destroy the viability of the Sangha for men as well. What we are seeing today was much more likely what the Buddha meant about women shortening the length of the Sangha by half. Not because of women being included but because of them being excluded by men. Not only that but in terms of one of the recorded versions of this prediction, the one that is more likely an authentic prediction the dates match perfectly, 5000 years shortened to 2500. So in that context either all the men wake up and get this handled right now or else we are actually watching the entire Sangha kill itself live and on TV, so to speak. Watching the Sangha predominantly refusing deal with this wisely does not bode well for any of the other institutions in this world either…

Another thing to get conversant with is the idea of living a holy life of renunciation. One would need to try that out for a while and I think one can do so alone to an extent if not as well as in any other context. This is something to do before we have any sense of whether or not we could even get started with that before we can hope to imagine when we would be finished with that.

I'm not willing to simply conform entirely to any establishment doctrines that exist today in any form anywhere without making a lot of study of what is involved beforehand. I have really given it a big effort and there have always been difficulties with that for me even though sometimes it is the best option for me. Groups that are appropriate to what you are dealing with are really great when you find them and if they will accept you and work with you then that can really be helpful. Sometimes that works very well for a period of time and everyone benefits and then it starts to become counterproductive, other times it just gets better for a person or a group. A big part of the difficulty is often just finding a group that is going to be suitable for you personally at a given point in your life.

I just so happen to come down on the side of the Buddha Vacana most of the time after I have really hashed something out for myself and gathered a lot of experience with it first hand, but that doesn't mean that all of the subsequent details and uncertainties that the various institutions involved attempted to further set in stone beyond those which they attribute to the Buddha himself are more helpful than the uncertainties which remained.

So that would be my first advice, find out what the Buddha said in response to the same or similar questions. I say that because he is the only one who so far receives my complete confidence without any reservations.

I do think the difficulties any of us have are usually greater than the insight we have to deal with those difficulties. That should be another indication of just how steep the learning curve and the workload can be sometimes.

I know if I could find a Noble Bhikkhu and his associates who were willing, that I thought could be excellent examples and guides in entering into that life of renunciation and doing this work that way, that I would drop everything else and do that at any moment. So far for me finding precisely that is a lot harder than it looks. I have found excellent Bhikkhus who I have the utmost respect and regard for but more often than not they are unwilling to take on that kind of responsibility with anyone and I am not at all surprised because it is a big responsibility and a lot of work even if someone is very well prepared.

So if you are very serious about all of this already and you understand how serious all of this is then I suggest you give preparing for that day every effort and that like me you continue your search for someone who is clearly making progress ahead of you on the path and beg them to take you on. The best way to move them to take you on is by doing as much of that work for them beforehand that they are otherwise going to have to do for you.

If you have a family you are probably very invested in those commitments and have strong feelings in those regards. I would not walk away from that without thoroughly considering everything very very carefully. I can't advise you to do such a thing at all and I will not. The Buddha was in a similar situation and he just walked away. So it would appear that he considered all of this much more serious and he is the most serious person I have ever heard of. I would consider the situation very serious either way and I am neither married nor do I have children and I do not intend to take on any of those very serious responsibilities either. I do think this is a serious commitment that if you do well understand you will also understand you should continue to take seriously so in such a case I would take all of that much more into consideration.

In such a context I would make my criteria for ordaining very high. We aren't going to become the Buddha on our own when we join the Bhikkhu or Bhikkhuni Sangha, we are going to be disciples and we need to understand very very well what we are entering into and committing to and take it much more seriously than a marriage particularly if we are leaving a marriage to do so. Also, as I indicated we need to very carefully assess the authenticity and viability of any community we make such a commitment to.

If you don't have a family then I think if you want to succeed with the aims as these are defined in the Pali Canon then you should give it everything you have starting right now and put arriving at the goal entirely out of your mind. I would study and practice all of it as if I was a monk and at the same time I would work and save and travel and search for a community that I like and that likes me where I can really start doing it entirely 'by the book'.

If you want to try out being a bhikkhu for a while the easiest place to do that is Thailand, they really don't mind if you ordain there at various monasteries for a short period and then disrobe and then do so again later at the same or some other place. Other countries are more inclined to take the attitude that either you are going to stick with it once you start and think if you stop at any point for any reason that you are just giving up because you are not ever going to be suitable to do this. So that is very good to know, how this is perceived differently in different places in SE Asia. In the west it is very difficult finding anyone who will take on a new monk and the tendency is to want to see a few years of serious involvement first and then they will be more comfortable with maybe taking someone on. No matter how you go into it it will be far better if you get very clear about a lot of stuff before hand.

I would really like to do this if the conditions were right but even defining that has been a learning curve and I am still learning and preparing all the time. The advantage of remaining unattached, unaffiliated and secular is that I can enjoy those freedoms as minimal and limited as those are. The better I understand how differently freedom is viewed from a bhikkhu's perspective the less of a culture shock I will face if and when I enter into that life in any permanent sense. If you know nothing about what is involved I suspect it will come as such a shock that your staying power will be measured in days and not years.

I hope that helps, if I'm still falling short of the kind of info or perspective you are looking for just let me know and I will give it another try.

straight trippin
triplethink


RE: Wanting to become a monk
Answer
4/8/14 1:34 PM as a reply to Brian K..
Hi Brian,

You haven't provided us with enough information regarding a mature inclination to ordain. What have your realized about yourself, about your practice, about the Dhamma, about life in general, that is feeding this desire to "become a monk"? Is "becoming a monk" some kind of romantic ideal that you hanker after? (Possibly not, I'm just asking in order to illustrate a point.)

While I can certainly understand the surface elements involved in this inclination ("I know material things will not make me happy and at the end of my life I feel my most important thing will be my spirituality."), just responding to things based on surface feeling is not always the best or strongest reason to committing oneself to an action (such as ordaining). And yet, even with a mature inclination, timing and the right situation can be an important consideration when one is contemplating making such a move.

I've been in the same situation that you are likely undergoing now, and I know that it is difficult to continue doing what society agrees is the right thing to do in terms of what you should be doing with your life and setting up a career path that will help you make a living. Yet, at your age (approx. 20 years), there is plenty of time for you to pursue this desire and yet at the same time, gain some further experience in life that may help you to take a better decision about the timing and situation in ordination.

I was twenty-eight when I met a man who impressed me enough with his knowledge and spiritual experience that it encouraged me to become a student of his. Even then, it took two more years under his tutelage before I was able to join the order that he founded. This gave me more time to observe this person in a variety of situations and circumstances to see how he handled himself. Having that knowledge and exposure was a tremendous advantage. It allowed me to take a very natural decision when the time for it arrived. Unless you are in that kind of situation, it may be prudent to hold off until such a situation turns up.

What I'm saying is: give yourself some time to get to know yourself a little better, to experience more life, to become more disillusioned with the current world situation, to mature in your budding practice to the point where you have a much better idea of the specific things you are seeking to achieve through becoming a monk. Because, how you perceive these things today may not be the same as how you will perceive them two, four, or six years from now.

In the end, though, this is a personal decision. And sometimes youth and enthusiasm win out over maturity and experience. Just remember: anything that you decide to do, you will ultimately have to be responsible for. All I'm really saying is: think this thing through and be thorough about it (or as thorough as you are able) before arriving at a course of action. It can be a real downer to realize "Yeah, I really want to do this now, but now is not the time."

This comes down to an old spiritual saying, one that I'm certain that you have heard before: "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." You are much better off being pissed off (and enduring that feeling) and waiting for the right situation to develop, than to plow forward into the unknown and perhaps set yourself up for a fall that you did not see coming.

Anyway, take some time to contemplate some of these things before you take any action.

Best to you.

In peace,
Ian

RE: Wanting to become a monk
Answer
4/8/14 3:14 PM as a reply to Brian K..
Brian K.:
Maybe someone can offer some sort of advice for me. I'm thinking about becoming a monk, I've been thinking about it for a number of years now. I don't think I want to be a monk my whole life, but I feel like it's something I need to do, and I don't necessarily put any expectations on if I want to be a monk for the rest of my life or for a few years, etc, whatever.

Basically I'm stuck and don't know what to do. In a few months I'll be transferring from a 2 year school to a 4 year university to get a bio degree. My plan was to make the decision to go into monastic life after my bachelor's degree is finished. But a large part of me wants to just go for it now. I go in and out of being excited about things to being very unhappy about daily life. Furthermore, it's hard for me to invest so much into education,relationships, my professional future, etc. when I feel I will most likely just end up monking it up in a few years regardless. It's tough. I feel like, at the end of the day, I feel most at home and at peace during times of meditation. I know material things will not make me happy and at the end of my life I feel my most important thing will be my spirituality. And I have serious doubts whether or not I can make it where I want to go fitting in my practice in between daily life. I don't want to get caught up in things, and then years from now realize I never did what I wanted to do, which was seriously invest in my meditation.

Does anyone have experience with this? What can they suggest? It's frustrating - and it's a difficult decision to kind of give up my 'life' to go meditate. Any feedback totally appreciated. Thanks!


Need or want?

I know our culture is conditioned on the belief that material things will make you happy, but if you are aware of that, you don't have to buy into it. There are other ways of being.

Sometimes I think what is the point in investing in my career, friendships and so on knowing that one day I will just be space dust. But thankfully it doesn't last long.

Where do you want to go?

Sounds like you want to be "happy", and cure "unhappiness", and that you see spirituality as that cure.

Yes, meditation is peaceful and nice! (and so is snuggling under the covers on a lie on Saturday mornings...) And life can make you unhappy. And life can also be exciting.