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Why Not Become a Monk?

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Why Not Become a Monk?
Answer
3/4/17 10:35 PM
It makes sense that there are no monks to be found on this website, because monks would never do things like talk about attainments openly to lay people. So I do understand that in a way this is a weird question to ask......

But from my current dark night point of view, the life of a house holder seems to be nothing but pointless, useless hassle. Of course I would never expect someone who knows nothing of Buddhism or meditation to see things this way, but it sometimes seems curious to me that everyone on this site, knowing what they know and having experienced what they have experienced, still continue to choose the life of a house holder over the life of a monk. The only explanation I can think of is of is that one feels that they could do more good in the world having the physical freedom of a lay person.

On the other hand, I also feel very puzzled when I go to local sangha meetings and witness lay people who know large portions of the pali canon like the back of their hand, yet don't get serious about actually realizing what the Buddha was talking about it. My impression is that they simply don't realize that awakening is actually something realistically achievable, which is understandable. But still... these people are working their intelect intensively to try and understand the Buddha's teachings on morality and making genuine efforts to apply this to their lives. But I can't help but think.... how did the Buddha come up with all of those teachings on morality in the first place? By experiencing the true nature of reality, right? So why don't they think to do the same? It seems like a contradiction to have faith in the teaching of the Buddha yet not have faith in the possibility of realizing awakening for themselves, which is the core of what the Buddha taught.

I would love to hear your guy's thoughts on this matter

RE: Why Not Become a Monk?
Answer
3/5/17 1:26 AM as a reply to Yamazaki.
Yamazaki:
It makes sense that there are no monks to be found on this website, because monks would never do things like talk about attainments openly to lay people. So I do understand that in a way this is a weird question to ask......

But from my current dark night point of view, the life of a house holder seems to be nothing but pointless, useless hassle.
Well, As a householder, a husband, a father of 6 children and a perpetual dark night yogi I have to agree, disagree and both agree and disagree.
Even though on my better days I can see through the emptiness and the impermanence of it all. I realize that it would create a tremendous amount of suffering if I were to leave and become a monk. So i meditate when and where I can juggling my time between work, attention to family and introspective awareness.

I hold the stories of dipa ma near and dear as a teacher that has helped illuminate the minds of many a householder all the way up to enlightenment.
Even though I realize at times that there is no-one who will suffer if I leave I am sure that my family members will think and feel otherwise. Grounded in reality or not an action like that will have severe ramnifications for them and possibly karmic repercusions for me. After i had a falling out with my parents and not seeing them for almost 2 years now. the worry and remorse from that still at times comes to hinder my meditations.

RE: Why Not Become a Monk?
Answer
3/5/17 3:33 AM as a reply to Yamazaki.
I personally find the life of a monk imoral, because I feel that if one is able to sustain oneself, then one should not lay that burden on others.

But working just enough to get by so that there is plenty of time to meditate, that seems OK with me. Though still inferior to working for the improvement of society. Being a monk while one recovers one's well-being seems OK with me, as well.

RE: Why Not Become a Monk?
Answer
3/5/17 4:09 AM as a reply to Yamazaki.
Yamazaki:

monks would never do things like talk about attainments openly to lay people. 

Mahasi Sayadaw was an ordained Theravada monk, and he talked about attainments openly to lay people.

Shinzen Young is an ordained Shingon monk, and he talks openly about attainments to lay people.

Culadasa John Yates is an ordained Theravadin upasaka, and he talks openly about attainments to lay people.

If you believe the legends, there was once this guy called Siddharta Gautama, who established the whole ordination thing in the first place, and he talked openly about attainments to lay people. Even if you are skeptical about those tales, it still sets a very important symbolical antecedent.

RE: Why Not Become a Monk?
Answer
3/5/17 6:44 AM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
I think you have a very misguided understanding of how monks and monastic orders operate. There are of course cases of what you have indicated. What monks or monasteries that you know of are operating in this way? Cases of monks and monastic orders that offer poor service, should be exposed and scrutinized so that their behavior can become known and their support withdrawn, as a form of quality control that promotes monasteries that work for the improvement of society in your neighborhood and others.

RE: Why Not Become a Monk?
Answer
3/5/17 5:13 AM as a reply to neko.
The Visuddhimagga, my favorite commentary is signed "By The Arahat Upatissa".

Practical Insight Meditaiton, my favorite dharma book, is signed, "Agga Maha Pandita", which means Arahat.

There are monks who have posted here before, actually, while being monks, and how many of the posters are monks is unknown, as plenty of posters don't tell who they are. A number of people who have been monks in the past have also posted here, as I know some of them personally.

As to becoming a monk, I curiously just had a conversation with my wife about what would happen if one of us inherited various amounts of money under various circumstances and what we would do with it, and one of my possible scenarios involved at least a year of monasticism and deep meditation.

As to Dark Nighting: yes, it definitely makes the monastic life look less bleak and pointless than most of the rest of life. That said, there are rich rewards to householder lives that, from the right point of view, make monasticism look bleak and pointless. Clearly, given that these things are in the mind and the mind profoundly colors our views on them, absolute conclusions and evaluations are hard to come by, and so we are left with two options:

Make your life align with your vision.

OR

Make your vision align with your life.

I guess there is the third option, which is to continue to live a life where your vision and life do not align, but that clearly sucks, doesn't it?

Best wishes,

Daniel

RE: Why Not Become a Monk?
Answer
3/5/17 9:52 AM as a reply to Yamazaki.
Pretty much what Daniel implies. Because of emptiness you can pay attention to what's alluring or detracting from any decision you make and it will affect your motivation, like a pro and con analysis. If someone wants to pay attention to the benefits of being a monk then they need to continue to pay attention to those benefits constantly to maintain a positive mood and then go back to their duties with interest and passion, until of course passion is not needed. emoticon

The grass is not greener on the otherside because all sides have some detraction if you focus on it. Pay attention to something that you can look forward to throughout the day and you'll be in a better mood regardless of the choices you make. The brain follows what is alluring but that is based on details that are alluring. If you imagine or pay attention to details that aren't alluring your motivation will go down. The different 'ways of looking', as Rob Burbea would say, show the emptiness in daily life.

Even Thanissaro Bhikkhu will tell people who are experiencing physical pain, to pay attention to what doesn't hurt and concentrate on that. This takes practice but people can get insanely good at manipulating their perceptions and moods. There's hard work at monestaries and as Daniel and Bill Hamilton point out in their books, there's plenty of scandal, envy, power, and control going on. Cluster B's and frauds are everywhere. There's no hiding place.

Then looking at modern life coaches like Brendon Burchard, he'll say that you have to generate your emotions like a powerplant generates emotions. You can't wait for them to happen. It's up to you. When there's work to do, pay attention to the benefits or the results, until you get motivated. I highly recommend being around positive people who are congruent with goals that you like. That's another benefit because people imitate their surroundings. If you don't exert on your environment, then your environment will exert on you.

Having an imagination is important and I realise that many people don't practice visualizations but it's common in sports training. Visualize and sell ideas to yourself. Develop the skill. If it's a healthy idea with tangible real world consequences that are healthy then keep doing that. Pay attention to healthy details and healthy attitudes and keep generating them regardless of your life orientation.

RE: Why Not Become a Monk?
Answer
3/5/17 10:24 AM as a reply to Bigbird.
Maybe I have a "misguided understanding of how monks and monastic orders operate". But here is my current view.

My current view is that monks do not contribute to the productive functioning of society upon which they depend on for survival. 

My current view is that most monks and monastic orders pay for their food mainly by encouraging superstition in the foolish and the under-educated, and by selling false salvations of various kinds.

My current view is that this applies even to some monks who know genuine practices. They end up promoting at least some bullshit, at least part of the time. For example, because genuine meditation practices sell a lot worse than new-age feel-good nonsense.

I personally have a friend who teaches chi kung and another who teaches tai chi, full time (and from whom I have learned these skills), and I have seen them struggling to resolve the tension between teaching people stuff that works but is hard to do and keeps people away, and platitudes that sound profound, lead nowhere, but make people return.

I have nothing against being a monk, per se, and I don't think it is imoral in itself. I think it is possible to do it full time in a moral way, under certain conditions. But my current guess is that it is very hard to be a monk without being dependent on other people's gullibility for putting food on the table.

RE: Why Not Become a Monk?
Answer
3/5/17 12:12 PM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
Thanks for the input everyone! It gave me a lot to think about.

When I first started learning about Buddhism I watched a shit ton of YouTube videos by this western monk called Yuttadhammo, who REALLY sold the monastic life, so I guessed this biased me from the start. I also listen to a lot of dharma talks by Ajahn Brahm and other students of Ajahn Chah so I guess I never got to hear about the darker sides of monasticism.

My impression was that in monasteries such as the forest ones in Thailand, lay people feed monks because they have respect for the noble quest the monks are on, and it brings them happiness to support it. Lay people also go to monks for advice, and many monks seem to study hard and write books to help people. I have also heard Ajahn Brahm say that it apparently costs more to take care of a dog than to keep a monk alive, so this exchange doesn't sound unreasonable or immoral to me. I understand that these kinds of monasteries, run by the compassion of lay people who understand what exactly they are supporting, may be far and few, but if I was to ordain I would search out a monastery of this sort.

Your guy's comments also helped me realize that at this point my main motivation for wanting to ordain is simply to run away from everything I don't like about the world. I won't make any big decisions until I am safely out of the dark night

RE: Why Not Become a Monk?
Answer
3/5/17 12:46 PM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
Certainly if that's what goes on at the monastery or monasteries in your area, that would be very disappointing and i can fully understand your reservations. Does this come from personal experience? Have you visited or stayed at these places, and witnessed this? What country do you live in?
There would be no value in being a monk in a monastic environment such as you have described.

RE: Why Not Become a Monk?
Answer
3/5/17 12:50 PM as a reply to Bigbird.
True monk will born to a nun.

RE: Why Not Become a Monk?
Answer
3/5/17 2:09 PM as a reply to Yamazaki.
it kind of has to be like you open your eyes and become aware that you are a monk in a monastery.

 edit: if you not making babies then you might anger your ancestors. Whats their wishes..

RE: Why Not Become a Monk?
Answer
3/5/17 1:04 PM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
the renounciate, doesn't ask for food, if noone gives food,he/she dies. It is god servants who hear messengers or something who tell tehm to bring food for renounciate. Something like that.

RE: Why Not Become a Monk?
Answer
3/5/17 1:08 PM as a reply to Yamazaki.
May i suggest Bodhinyana Monastery as a suitable place to practice. May i also suggest that you contact Ajhan Brahm now and ask to be put on the waiting list. It will be a considerable wait for a position to come up, much shorter if your an Australian. When the time comes, if you have lost interest there will be plenty of other applicants willing to accept. Declining will not be a problem or an inconvenience.
The other option means that only monasteries that have more immediate entry will be available, and these are often not the best option.

RE: Why Not Become a Monk?
Answer
3/6/17 2:50 AM as a reply to Bigbird.
I have never visited a buddhist monastery. I think this particular view is formed by the following experiences: a 10 day Goenka retreat (especially what Goenka said on the recorded tapes played at that retreat), talks I heard online (including several from monks), writings by people who teach meditation for a living (e.g. Eckhart Tolle), personal contact with various teachers who teach for a living, documentaries about buddhism, and personal stories I've heard about priests... And possibly other things, but these are the ones that immeditately come to mind. In all these experiences, I have seen teachers deceiving students (most of the time only after deceiving themselves), and I have attributed this is mainly due to two things: the need for spreading their faith to new followers, and the need to earn a living. I have lived in Portugal, Holland, and the Czech Republic.

I don't think that there would be no value in living in such a monastic environment. E.g. one can meditate a lot, which is valuable for oneself. I just think it is imoral to do so (at least when conscious of what it entails). This was the conclusion I came to when I pondered on whether I should be a monk, when that urge came to the fore.

How about you, what is your view on the matter, and where did you acquire it?

RE: Why Not Become a Monk?
Answer
3/6/17 1:15 PM as a reply to Yamazaki.
This is a subject which I explored and studied for a long long time. I lurked and posted previously but cannot recall my login details. I hope the following is of some use and isn't too long.

Note: I'm only talking about Theravadan monasteries.

Being a monk is like practicing in Hardcore mode.

Yes a lot of lifes problems are gone, you don't worry about money or worldly problems. It is a life where you really can fully apply yourself to practicing from the point you wake up until the point you go to sleep, without having too many situations in which doing so would be dangerous or unpractical. You do not have to think about tomorrow or the past a great deal (although your mind will want to). You have very little worries. Just living in the monastery your mind will automatically quieten. You will (mostly) be surrounded by like-minded dhamma people and forge relationships and help each other practice.
You will have the opportunity to meet and talk with highly attained monks in situations that many lay people would not easily get due to the issue regarding a monk discussing attainments with laity.

Yes, (usually) you have a lot of time to meditate , to study dhamma. Because of living in that system and the Vinaya, your conduct and Sila will be tend toward excellent and provide a foundation from which you practice.You will inspire Sila in others, you will inspire others to practice just by them seeing what you are doing. You can focus your entire life towards the Dhamma.

Sounds good.. from the perspective of Lay life. When you have been there a while, days, weeks, months, years - it is HARD. Your freedom and all the little nice things from lay life are gone. You are on Hardcore mode now. You are not there just to do some good meditation, get some attainments, you are there to develop wholesome qualities and have your unwholesome qualities removed. 

As a lay person you may normally practice when you are feeling good, well refreshed, not hungry, not thirsty, the room temperature just right.. as a monk you will be in a community of people you may not always agree with, You will sometimes be very tired, you will sometimes be very hungry, hot, cold, sick, you will be bossed around and told to do things and it will be unpleasant! You will at times have to do unpleasant physical labour. Your comforts gone. The delusions you have in lay life of how 'I am not that attached to much at all in the world' will be revealed!! You will realise that it was all delusion, and that in reality you only thought that because you still had all the nice little things. The nice cup of coffee when you want. The snack. The entertainment. The pleasant walk outside. Freedom. There isn't the 'in another 30 days the retreat ends and I'll go do X'.. This is it. Forever (or until you quit). Often it may feel like your duties and work get in the way of your own formal practice. You will begin to think that maybe the monks life isn't for you. How being a laymen and practice would be really nice......    you could walk into a shop and buy whatever you liked.. like a nice cold pepsi whenever you felt like it. Instead of waiting until you happen to be given one.

As you follow the monastery rules and the Vinaya , you will see your flaws. You will see the Kilesa. You will ooze desire and aversion.

"I" don't want to do this. "I" am too tired. "I" shouldn't be spoken to like that. "I" think my way is better, "I" don't think he is practicing the way he should.

You have to let go of your likes and dislikes.

You can either go with these thoughts and suffer endlessly as some do, or you can observe them.

Your task is to ride it just as you would normally, observe the mind, observe the body, see the characteristics. Follow the 8 fold path.

To be clear, as others have said most Theravadan monasteries do very little towards actually practicing or meditating.
This is because in Buddhist countries they serve more a community purpose, ceremonies, marriages, deaths, blessings. The 'religious stuff'. Buddhism is part of the culture. Some people become monks just because its a better life than starving and being poor, some even do it because they become rich, some do it to get an education. The Vinaya is often not strictly followed. Being there you can easily begin breaking the rules.. and before long disrobe.

Then there are the other type, the small minority, the forest monasteries or monasteries where there are those that actually do practice. The names of many are well known around the world. In these places most people practice, they are strict, they are hard.

As a trend in buddhist countries, the number of places that tend towards being the 1st type is increasing as the modern world creeps in, and the 2nd types are gradually becoming more like the 1st types. But there are still many places left that have a solid training.

There is however no perfect place. You may find somewhere that is a great location but has too many non-serious monks, or a very serious training place that is in a terrible environment. Within the monks there may be a lot of hierarchy issues, bossing around, people letting power go to their heads, jealously. Mean monks. Difficult lay people. You just have to ask yourself 'Is this good enough, is it okay?' Everywhere will have its problems.
You will have to deal with the religious stuff, the chanting, things you will not agree with - but remember, this is their religion.. if it wasn't for doing such things (from which the lay people gain faith and at the least train their sila) - you get your requisites, you are fed and the monastery has buildings.
It isn't just about the monks. The monks and the lay people must work together.

In the DHO community I have seen comments about Theravadan monasticism which I often think is quite ill informed. The biggest thing I often read is about attainments. Many people perpetuate a myth that in the modern world nobody believes being an Arahant is possible, or that attainments are not possible. This is not true. From what I have seen, the only place where this view is predominant is within Theravadan buddhist in the West. In buddhist countries it is not uncommon for people to chat about a 3rd parties attainments. People will talk about which monks are arahants. Monks will talk about lay people who reached particular attainments. Monks will discuss with each other these matters. One thing that monks will not is talk about their own attainments with lay people, as this is against the Vinaya. Some people will claim that some well known monks have done this.. in reality they did not. Usually in these circumstances they were discussing the matter with monks.. but were either overheard by lay people, or the discussion was recorded and a lay person later heard the recording. Other times they just describe what actually happened (the sensory experience) as they reached that attainment and it is up to the reader to assume what it means. It is not uncommon to find books or CD's in bookshops whose title translates as 'A Manual to become a Sotapanna', or to meet someone who says that 1st path is what they hope to attain in this life. Unfortunately, outside of Sri Lanka, English is not well spoken in Theravadan countries - so often unless a person understands the local language - it appears that none of the above is happening, and instead there is just the usual western style books in English. That said the standards for attainments are usually set very high.

One thing that must be understood. Being a monk is not just about attaining 1st/2nd/3rd/4th path. It is lifestlyle/system in which you live as part of a community/sangha - monk and laity, developing your sila, developing wholesome qualities, uprooting unwholesome qualities, assisting others in developing those things, assisting the sangha, teaching the dhamma, being a symbol of the dhamma.. WHILST working towards those attainments... and supporting others so that they may reach those attainments.  

As for whether you should you become a monk.. It depends on the circumstance.  If you are married with children then obviously lay life is probably better suited. It also depends on your motivation. If you want to become a monk to escape from the world.. then you will find the monastery has even more suffering. Start by trying to keep a daily sitting practice in the morning and evening - whilst maintaining 7/8 precepts. Do that for a few months. Then go to a monastery and stay for month. The only will you will know if it is for you is by staying in a monastery and seeing it for yourself what it is like.

If you have the strength to do it, are able to do it AND practice (rather than just surviving) - then there is no more direct a way of practicing the Buddha's teaching. It is total immersion. Ajahn Chah was once asked how he was able to get to where he did - he replied 'I dared'

RE: Why Not Become a Monk?
Answer
3/6/17 1:43 PM as a reply to Fon.
Excellent, truthful and insightful post. Thanks for that.

RE: Why Not Become a Monk?
Answer
3/6/17 6:40 PM as a reply to Fon.
Great post! Thanks!

RE: Why Not Become a Monk?
Answer
3/7/17 2:36 AM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
True nature of reality aside if you consider that our species is at least somewhat telepathic then giving small amount of food so that some people can generate nice experiences isn't at all bad deal.

Another good argument for a Universal Basic Income

RE: Why Not Become a Monk?
Answer
3/7/17 2:42 AM as a reply to Fon.



As a lay person you may normally practice when you are feeling good, well refreshed, not hungry, not thirsty, the room temperature just right.. as a monk you will be in a community of people you may not always agree with, You will sometimes be very tired, you will sometimes be very hungry, hot, cold, sick, you will be bossed around and told to do things and it will be unpleasant! You will at times have to do unpleasant physical labour. Your comforts gone. The delusions you have in lay life of how 'I am not that attached to much at all in the world' will be revealed!! You will realise that it was all delusion, and that in reality you only thought that because you still had all the nice little things. The nice cup of coffee when you want. The snack. The entertainment. The pleasant walk outside. Freedom. There isn't the 'in another 30 days the retreat ends and I'll go do X'.. This is it. Forever (or until you quit). Often it may feel like your duties and work get in the way of your own formal practice. You will begin to think that maybe the monks life isn't for you. How being a laymen and practice would be really nice......    you could walk into a shop and buy whatever you liked.. like a nice cold pepsi whenever you felt like it. Instead of waiting until you happen to be given one.

As you follow the monastery rules and the Vinaya , you will see your flaws. You will see the Kilesa. You will ooze desire and aversion.

"I" don't want to do this. "I" am too tired. "I" shouldn't be spoken to like that. "I" think my way is better, "I" don't think he is practicing the way he should.

You have to let go of your likes and dislikes.

You can either go with these thoughts and suffer endlessly as some do, or you can observe them.
Just sounds like the military.