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Before Ordaining

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Before Ordaining
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8/29/18 10:01 PM
A friend of mine - a senior monk in the Theravada tradition, who wishes to stay anonymous - sent the following list to me. It is recommended that someone who is thinking about ordaining should consider these points before making the commitment.

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Top questions to ask before Ordaining as a Buddhist monk (as you “Shop around” at different monasteries):

1. What is the “teacher’s fee” for the training? Sure, it might not be in money, but what do they feel they are entitled to, life-long, in return for having taught one? What level of service and loyalty does one owe one’s teacher, lifelong? Does a monk who does not render a satisfactory level of service axiomatically disqualify himself from having possibly attained to any particular level of attainment?

2. Is it true that if a student is not totally loyal to his teacher, then he completely lacks gratitude to the teacher?

3. Is there a “debt of gratitude” that is owed to the country that one has spent time living and practicing in? How is the “debt of gratitude” repaid?

4. Does the teacher teach with an “open hand” or a “closed hand”? Are certain deeper teachings kept a secret, and reserved only for students who make it into the “Inner Circle”?

5. What does a monk need to do to earn his “Independence”? At how many years of seniority does a monk typically earn his “Independence” in your tradition?

6. Are newly-ordained Bhikkhus entitled to seclusion, or is seclusion something they have to “earn” first? How is it earned?

7. Are acts of merit-making (such as group-chanting) optional, or mandatory? If mandatory, mandatory for whom? At what level of seniority do these activities become optional?

8. During the fortnightly confession, do both the Junior and Senior monks actually reveal their offenses, stating their particular offenses, or do they just recite a stock formula, which counts as confessing? Note: Offenses are “not removed” by one who does not state them specifically:

Vinaya Pitaka - Monastic Rules - Khandaka 2 - The Uposatha (Translated from the Pali by I.B. Horner.):

“Whatever monk remembering while it is being proclaimed up to the third time that there is an existent offense and should not reveal it, there comes to be conscious lying for him. Now, conscious lying, venerable ones, is a thing called a stumbling-block by the Lord. Therefore the existent offense should be revealed by a monk who remembers that he has fallen (into an offense) and who desires purity; for when it is revealed there comes to be comfort for him.’"
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“There is an existent offense” means: either one comes to be committed or if fallen into is not removed.
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“Should not reveal” means: should not tell, should not make clear, should not open up, should not make plain in the midst of an Order or in the midst of a group or to one individual.

9. When very-senior monks visits the monastery, traveling from a far distance, what level of fanfare and higher treatment do they deserve? “4 star” treatment? 5 stars? 6 stars? 7? How “all-out” does this monastery normally go for such an event? What would be an acceptable amount of money be, to be spent (out of the monastery coffers), per-day, on such a monk’s visit?

10. Does the community do all the formal community transactions (Sanghakamma) as explained in the Vinaya, or is it more simply the case that the abbot's will is "equivalent" to the will of the community (and he need not do formal community transactions, he can just make these sorts of decisions on behalf of the community without their input or approval, especially when it comes to having large sums of money spent, and the approval of plans which would cause the spending of money).

11. Do the monks in this tradition handle money? Accept money directly?

12. Do these monks give house blessings? Attend weddings? Attend other places and events to chant blessings?

13. Which specific lineage is this? Where are the headquarters? Who is the lineage-holding monk? How many monks total are in this lineage? Which other lineages are friendly enough that they will accept one as a guest at par, honoring all of one’s years of seniority (“Rains”) as a fully-ordained Bhikkhu? Which other lineages would not treat a monk from this lineage as an equal, as a Brother, giving them poor treatment?

14. Who does construction? Hired tradesmen, or monks?

15. In the history of this monastery, what was the longest period of time when there were no construction projects? How often do periods like that occur?

16. Is reading of the Suttas encouraged? Required? How about the commentaries? How about the Abhidhamma? Are the books freely accessible, or are the books under restrictions? When the Early Buddhist Texts (or Commentaries) say one thing, and the teacher says another, who is right? Are the Commentaries Authoritatively true, and must be taken as absolutely true?

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I will not be able to, personally, provide any further commentary and/or clarifications on the above points.

RE: Before Ordaining
Answer
8/30/18 4:45 AM as a reply to Infinite Seeker.
Great! Thanks!

RE: Before Ordaining
Answer
8/30/18 6:22 AM as a reply to Infinite Seeker.
Hey, thanks for posting that. Looks like some very important points to ask before becoming deeply entangled with a formal community.