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Ordaining as a monk and monasticism

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Ordaining as a monk and monasticism
Answer
7/8/16 3:54 PM
Hi

I have travelled and visited / stayed in many monasteries around the world and think that I have a good understanding of what it is like in the monastic life. I have seen the bad parts and the good parts. It seems that although being a monastic is very very difficult and at times frustrating - it can (in the right places) offer something which is (except for the very wealthy who can afford to live in retreat centres) the ability to live in an environment without worldly concerns, an environment supportive to mindfulness and surrounded by people who mostly share the same ideas - and have a life in which one can completely dedicate oneself to the path of practise in a way that a lay person would find difficult because of money and other worldly necessities.

As I explore and learn about this lifestyle - when I examine my own mind I see that most thoughts I have against such a way of life actually come from desire and fear - desire for things in the worldly life and the fear of not having such things - which further reinforces my opinion that perhaps (if I had the will power to do so) monastic life would be the most effective way of practice.

In the pragmatic movement it often seems like monasticism is seen as not needed and something which is outdated. I would very much like to hear peoples opinions.

I am also interested in the reasons why you chose to maintain a lay life ( whilst in/previously in a situation without worldly ties such as children) instead of ordaining, or why it was never considered

Thank you for reading

RE: Ordaining as a monk and monasticism
Answer
7/15/16 5:19 AM as a reply to Marzo Peir MazPeir.
I am also interested in monasticism as a possibility in the future. However, I am also worried about committing to one monastery, lineage, etc. I enjoy the freedom that comes with pragmatic dhamma (finding one's own path that works and not rigidly following one thing with blind faith). I am worried that ordaining might limit that freedom. The ideal possibility would be to do a semi-ordain thing (without needing to be a proper monk) and just visit monasteries and teachers and committing wholeheartedly to meditation without needing to commit to one tradition or place.

Not sure if this is possible though...

RE: Ordaining as a monk and monasticism
Answer
7/17/16 6:21 PM as a reply to Marzo Peir MazPeir.
Marzo Peir MazPeir:
Hi

I have travelled and visited / stayed in many monasteries around the world and think that I have a good understanding of what it is like in the monastic life. I have seen the bad parts and the good parts. It seems that although being a monastic is very very difficult and at times frustrating - it can (in the right places) offer something which is (except for the very wealthy who can afford to live in retreat centres) the ability to live in an environment without worldly concerns, an environment supportive to mindfulness and surrounded by people who mostly share the same ideas - and have a life in which one can completely dedicate oneself to the path of practise in a way that a lay person would find difficult because of money and other worldly necessities.

As I explore and learn about this lifestyle - when I examine my own mind I see that most thoughts I have against such a way of life actually come from desire and fear - desire for things in the worldly life and the fear of not having such things - which further reinforces my opinion that perhaps (if I had the will power to do so) monastic life would be the most effective way of practice.

In the pragmatic movement it often seems like monasticism is seen as not needed and something which is outdated. I would very much like to hear peoples opinions.

I am also interested in the reasons why you chose to maintain a lay life ( whilst in/previously in a situation without worldly ties such as children) instead of ordaining, or why it was never considered

Thank you for reading

Marzo

I have not much to add to what you have already stated in your post. You have essentially answered your own questions. If one is interested in serious practise the monastic environment is most ideal because there are no economic concerns & burdens.

I lived in a monastery for some time but returned to non-monastic life for certain unforeseen reasons. It was not an issue for me because what I sought from meditation I had already developed. I would say it would have been impossible to develop meditation to such a degree in a non-monastic enviroment.

The meditative environment is also proper, since you can walk around like a zombie in meditation without looking strange to observers. 

The monastary is best. Try to find a good one (that does not have internal bickering & politics). That being said, you can practise as a layman. If you ordain as a monk, your first year or more will be pre-occupied with all kinds of social matters.

As for your fears & desires, they are something personal to you that you must decide on.

Best wishes

emoticon

 

RE: Ordaining as a monk and monasticism
Answer
7/17/16 2:50 AM as a reply to Marzo Peir MazPeir.
I wish I could go in the hyperbolic time chamber and be a monk for a year, and have only a day pass in the real world.  I settle for slower development in the sub-prime conditions of the world, but am grateful for what I can get.

RE: Ordaining as a monk and monasticism
Answer
7/20/16 12:29 AM as a reply to Marzo Peir MazPeir.
Last summer I visited the Bhavana Society for the first time and sat a 6 day Jhana retreat with Bhante Gunaratana. I'm signed up for their 2016 jhana retreat which starts in just a few days so my head is once again filling with retreat thoughts … it’s been six months since my last retreat but feels like a lifetime (2.5 months at IMS’s Forest Refuge this past winter) after which my practice has slackened considerably. I was channeling some enthusiasm into a search related to Bhante Gunaratana and Bhavana Society and coincidentally came upon a thread that may be of interest.

At last year's jhana retreat I met a yogi on the staff named Jayantha (Joe D) who I assumed to be an anagarika (midway status between monk and layperson) and who appeared to be doing some of the heavy lifting in retreat support including video recording the dhamma talks (for upload to the Bhavana Society's page on Youtube). It looks like Jayantha has blogged extensively about his two year journey: his passage from lay life to living at the monastery, to eventual ordination as a novice. He seems to have put a lot of thought, effort, and reflection into journaling his experience so for those considering a similar trajectory it might worth a look:

Student Of The Path
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=30&t=21723&hilit=bhavana+society

Bhavana Society Resident Profile: Jayantha
http://jayantha.tumblr.com/post/107151254943/bhavana-society-resident-profile-jayantha

RE: Ordaining as a monk and monasticism
Answer
7/20/16 5:43 AM as a reply to Monsoon Frog.
It's true that in the practical dharma world many people make the progress without becoming monastics or, in some cases, without even going on retreat. I don't think there is a easily-identified reason for that. Yes, it's true that they have a consistent practice and access to teachings and teachers/guides, but that doesn't work for everyone with the same thing. So, you could call it fate or karma or luck.

There are a few people, maybe 10%,  in the practical dharma world that have spent months/years in a monastic setting.

I would say about 75% of practical dharma people use lay retreats to their strong advantage. Whether it's a weekend,  5, 10, 14, 30, or 100 day retreats, they organize their vacation time around fitting in retreats and many of them see big jumps in their practice. To me, an ideal path for someone who wanted to make meditation a focus of their life for a few years would be to alternate work and lay retreats, especially trying to do the 3 month retreat at IMS. Two week retreats are more than enough to really promote insights.

Maybe 10% of the practical dharma world have gone pretty far with just home practice. So this is rare, but it does happen. The two things that these people definitely have is a very consistent practice and access to a teacher. I don't know anyone who has gotten very far at home without those two things. 

The main thing I would say is you have to listen to your own practice and intentions to pick your path. If your own ethics and interests don't line up with being a monk, then don't do it. You aren't guaranteed progress. I've met several ex-monastics, multi-year or even over a decade as monks, that didn't have the meditation practice and insights that practical dharma people have. I've met some currently ordained monks and I wonder what the heck they're being taught, because even their verbal teachings seem somewhat off. There are many demands on monastics as well as health problems that can occur. Teachers at monestaries come and go or die, distrupting the flow of feedback. Obviously if you find yourself in the perfect monestary for you, it's going to work out great -- it has worked for centuries. But it isn't a given that simply ordaining will solve your meditation problems.

The nice thing about lay practice is you can somewhat keep other aspects of modern life progressing: you can work on your education, job training, maintain family connections, participate in social groups, and generally be of assistance in the "real world". I put that in quotes because it isn't any more real than monastic life, but you hopefully get my point.

Best wishes. Follow your own path and see it through to completion!

RE: Ordaining as a monk and monasticism
Answer
7/20/16 2:49 PM as a reply to Marzo Peir MazPeir.
bernd the broter:
Marzo Peir MazPeir:
Hi

I have travelled and visited / stayed in many monasteries around the world and think that I have a good understanding of what it is like in the monastic life. I have seen the bad parts and the good parts. It seems that although being a monastic is very very difficult and at times frustrating
I'm somewhat interested in monasticism. Would you elaborate on those hard parts? I'd be really interested to read about this.


Among those I met and spoke with ( which was a very wide variety of Theravadan western monks ranging from newly ordained to those with decades in robes) the difficulties differed. Those with just a few years as a monk seemed to mainly have difficulties with Doubt ( Not in the teachings but in where they chose to ordain - such as whether there was somewhere else, or some other teacher they had heard of that was better to ordain with ) , and also sexual desire.  Monks which had more years 7+ seemed generally quite happy and much less doubt and having a solid practise. 

There was a common view that lay people should not view ordaining as an escape from their wordly troubles. It should be through a desire to renunciate rather than aversion and the wish to escape things. Which is somewhat different. A common theme is lay people going to the monastery , viewing the life of a monk in a romanticised way from the position of being a lay person without fully realising what is given up in order to become a monk. Mainly things such as freedom to do what you like, the dependence you have on lay people and other monastics to get by. Tasks which are easily accomplished as a lay person can be very difficult and frustrating to do as a monk due to the rules which often require the assistance of others. This is especially true in the modern world in which a Monk will have to interact with at times. The Thai forest tradition monks I spoke with explain that this is the reason they insist on the rule of a newly ordained monk staying with their teacher for at least 5 years, primarily so that they receive enough training and understanding of Vinaya that they are able to get by on their own and have a firm foundation. 

I spoke with monks who had initially ordained at very well known Burmese meditation monasteries which offered excellent meditation instructions and environmental conditions - but chose to disrobe and reordain somewhere else which taught Vinaya and how to get by as a monk as they saw that without such training they would have a lot of difficulty being a monk long term. 

I think the most important thing is to realise that in choosing to ordain - it is not like becoming a full time retreatant. It is a lifestyle choice. Choosing to live by another way of living in which you give up a lot of wordly freedoms and 'things' but in return get to live a life extremely conducive to following the 8 fold path, living day to day purely on the generosity of others without needed to worry too much about the future.

RE: Ordaining as a monk and monasticism
Answer
7/20/16 3:41 PM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:
It's true that in the practical dharma world many people make the progress without becoming monastics or, in some cases, without even going on retreat. I don't think there is a easily-identified reason for that. Yes, it's true that they have a consistent practice and access to teachings and teachers/guides, but that doesn't work for everyone with the same thing. So, you could call it fate or karma or luck.

There are a few people, maybe 10%,  in the practical dharma world that have spent months/years in a monastic setting.

I would say about 75% of practical dharma people use lay retreats to their strong advantage. Whether it's a weekend,  5, 10, 14, 30, or 100 day retreats, they organize their vacation time around fitting in retreats and many of them see big jumps in their practice. To me, an ideal path for someone who wanted to make meditation a focus of their life for a few years would be to alternate work and lay retreats, especially trying to do the 3 month retreat at IMS. Two week retreats are more than enough to really promote insights.

Maybe 10% of the practical dharma world have gone pretty far with just home practice. So this is rare, but it does happen. The two things that these people definitely have is a very consistent practice and access to a teacher. I don't know anyone who has gotten very far at home without those two things. 

The main thing I would say is you have to listen to your own practice and intentions to pick your path. If your own ethics and interests don't line up with being a monk, then don't do it. You aren't guaranteed progress. I've met several ex-monastics, multi-year or even over a decade as monks, that didn't have the meditation practice and insights that practical dharma people have. I've met some currently ordained monks and I wonder what the heck they're being taught, because even their verbal teachings seem somewhat off. There are many demands on monastics as well as health problems that can occur. Teachers at monestaries come and go or die, distrupting the flow of feedback. Obviously if you find yourself in the perfect monestary for you, it's going to work out great -- it has worked for centuries. But it isn't a given that simply ordaining will solve your meditation problems.

The nice thing about lay practice is you can somewhat keep other aspects of modern life progressing: you can work on your education, job training, maintain family connections, participate in social groups, and generally be of assistance in the "real world". I put that in quotes because it isn't any more real than monastic life, but you hopefully get my point.

Best wishes. Follow your own path and see it through to completion!

Yes I met some monks who were very open about the fact that often their meditation skills where less than that of the lay people that came to visit them. But explained that they selected the life they did as they wished to follow the eightfold path and develop these qualities the best they could.

That is what I see as the big difference between the western monastic style and that of the pragmatic dhamma movement. In the pragmatic dhamma movement it seems very much centred on meditating to achieve the attainment or level. To the monastics it seems these are just particular aspects of a more broader system of training. 

When mentioning the pragmatic dhamma approach or talking using its terminology, it usually resulted in the monk giving a talk about not focusing on attainments but instead just doing the practise. For myself although I consider myself Theravadan and use the classical definitions of the four stages rather than the DHo versions I don't care much about any labels - if the methods and advices here and in MTCB are effective in freeing up the fetters than I will use them. At times I have the concern that following a teacher in this style would lead me to end up getting stuck at the stage of believing I was an Dho style arahant and that the Theravadan version didn't exist  - but given where I am now it is sort like worrying whether I won 5 million on the lottery or 500 million!, I'd take the 5 million rather than nothing.

For now my plan is to just keep practising while taking in the advice of teachers both lay and monastic but it interests me greatly on how others in the community view monastic life, and whether or not anyone has ever thought of perhaps creating a modern version of monasticism in a pragmatic based approach!

RE: Ordaining as a monk and monasticism
Answer
7/20/16 5:28 PM as a reply to Marzo Peir MazPeir.
Marzo Peir MazPeir:
...and whether or not anyone has ever thought of perhaps creating a modern version of monasticism in a pragmatic based approach!
]


Honestly, I think that's what many practical folks are doing with their lives and efforts.

RE: Ordaining as a monk and monasticism
Answer
7/21/16 5:42 AM as a reply to Marzo Peir MazPeir.
Marzo Peir MazPeir:
For now my plan is to just keep practising while taking in the advice of teachers both lay and monastic but it interests me greatly on how others in the community view monastic life, and whether or not anyone has ever thought of perhaps creating a modern version of monasticism in a pragmatic based approach!

I started my vipassana practice with a 10 day Goenka retreat.  Interesting and motivating experiences there led me afterwards to sit for an hour, twice a day. I did a 3 day self guided retreat a few months later. I 'fell in' with the pragmatic community and changed to an MCTB influenced practice. I met a bunch of pragmatic guys a few months later and began very helpful conversations with them.  A year after my first retreat I did another 10 day retreat, and a few months later I felt that my exerience of myself and the world took a dramatic turn for the better. 

I think I could have easily never 'gotten there', had I not met people that took it for granted that anyone can get there who coaxed me along.  My impression is that some communities don't coach one along that way.  I also feel that at least the first 10 day retreat was very important for my practice. So monastic vs non-monastic choice is about both your desired lifestyle, and your conteplative goals.

RE: Ordaining as a monk and monasticism
Answer
7/27/16 12:38 PM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:
Marzo Peir MazPeir:
...and whether or not anyone has ever thought of perhaps creating a modern version of monasticism in a pragmatic based approach!
]


Honestly, I think that's what many practical folks are doing with their lives and efforts.

I have heard some in the pragmatic style talk in this way. However I think they either do not understand the monastic style or are deluding themselves. Practising whilst holding down a regular job, having relationships is certaintly possible as we all know but it is completely different to practising in an environment where one can maintain the 10 precepts, practising sense restraint, an environment containing like minded people and where there are no financial concerns, and most importantly being able to keep awareness on the meditation object from the moment of waking until sleeping. In the modern world not only would that be difficult, it would be dangerous.

I am beginning to believe that perhaps somewhere in the difference between the style of the monastic and that of the style of the dho pragmatic lay community - contains the answer as to why the pragmatic community are unable to find the arahantship that Theravadan's refer to

I think it would be very interesting if a dho style arahant were to go and ordain with a Therevadan monastic arahant and go under their guidance  to see for themselves and then report back on their experiences