Places to Ordain in the Chinese Tradition

PsychedelicSunSet
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Places to Ordain in the Chinese Tradition

Postby PsychedelicSunSet » Tue Dec 01, 2015 3:09 pm

I was wondering what places there are that one could ordain in the Ch'an tradition? I don't think I'd want to ordain in the West, so I'd assume that would just leave China and Taiwan? What places are out there? What are the training situations like for monastics? I speak English (and a little bit of Thai) but no Mandarin. Any advice would be appreciated.



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Re: Places to Ordain in the Chinese Tradition

Postby Admin_PC » Tue Dec 01, 2015 4:32 pm

Well if you change your mind on the west, there is always the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association and City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. They have extensive programs for learning Chinese, multiple locations for ordination (both domestic and abroad), and seem to have a lot of support.

Ven Hui Feng from this forum is part of the Fo Guang Shan organization. They have a University with a Buddhist studies department that offers scholarships and has Multi-lingual training.

Some other options to consider:
Dharma Drum Mountain
Chung Tai Chan Monastery
Tzu Chi University
Bodhi Monastery

... I'm probably missing a lot...
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PsychedelicSunSet
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Re: Places to Ordain in the Chinese Tradition

Postby PsychedelicSunSet » Tue Dec 01, 2015 8:50 pm

Upon doing more research, I think I should perhaps change my question!

I didn't realize that the Ch'an in Taiwan was of a different breed than the Ch'an that I've encountered through books. I'm not particularly interested in "Humanistic Buddhism" as I'm seeing it termed. The Ch'an I'm interested in is I suppose a pre-WW2 Ch'an? What I've read has been mostly things from Hui-Neng up until Hsu Yun, which has painted a very different portrait of Ch'an than what I'm seeing going on in Taiwan.

So I suppose my new question is, does Ch'an monasticism as I know it even still exist? And if so where? I would also be open to Japanese Zen monasticism, if in fact it exists in the form of a celibate renunciate, and not as a family man in robes (no disrespect to Zen priests intended).





PorkChop wrote:Well if you change your mind on the west, there is always the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association and City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. They have extensive programs for learning Chinese, multiple locations for ordination (both domestic and abroad), and seem to have a lot of support.

Ven Hui Feng from this forum is part of the Fo Guang Shan organization. They have a University with a Buddhist studies department that offers scholarships and has Multi-lingual training.

Some other options to consider:
Dharma Drum Mountain
Chung Tai Chan Monastery
Tzu Chi University
Bodhi Monastery

... I'm probably missing a lot...



Thank you for your reply. From what I've heard of the CTTB, ordaining there usually entails a lot of time spent teaching, and being involved in the community affairs, which I'm not so much interested in.

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Re: Places to Ordain in the Chinese Tradition

Postby Astus » Tue Dec 01, 2015 10:08 pm

What kind of monasticism do you thing there was until the mid-20th century? As far as I am aware, the great communities in Taiwan mentioned here are not that different at all, and in some ways even better because of the modern conditions and such. Still, if you want to ordain in Taiwan or PRoC, you need to be able to speak Chinese (eventually). Most of the smaller Buddhist churches and even larger monasteries do not have English language websites, except for tourists.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the whole monastic realm is not like a restaurant chain where you can rely on some quality control and order whatever food you like. On the ground things might turn out to be quite different from what you would expect, for better or worse. Not because no information is available, but because there are aspects one may not think of beforehand, like all the rituals and ceremonies, or the kinds of food they have, etc.

A good thing about such organisations like FGS is that you can actually visit them, even spend some time there if you like, and they are not only prepared for that, but invite people.

I don't know what books you have read about Chan, but maybe you should read for instance Holmes Welch's work: The Practice of Chinese Buddhism, 1900-1950. And some other relevant works, like Buddhist Monasticism in East Asia, Buddhism in the Sung, Burning for the Buddha, Enlightenment in Dispute, Cultural Intersections in Later Chinese Buddhism, Monks, Rulers, and Literati, Coming to Terms With Chinese Buddhism, and others that discuss the social history of Buddhism in China. It clarifies how the Chan world that may come through their own religious works (i.e. Chan books) is little more than a myth.

Also, Chan actually means Chinese Buddhism, with all its teachings, practices and rituals. There is no exclusive Chan school where monks sit all day long contemplating an old phrase. At the same time, one may find places where one can find certain practitioners who focus more on meditation than other matters. Even more so, if one is drawn to emulating the old masters of the Chan school, that means long solitary retreats, just as Xuyun did, and so did people like Shengyan (founder of Dharma Drum) and Weijue (founder of Chung Tai).

The best way to get information on places of ordination is to establish a personal connection with the people of the nearest Chinese Buddhist community. Then they can refer you to their home monastery.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"

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Re: Places to Ordain in the Chinese Tradition

Postby PsychedelicSunSet » Tue Dec 01, 2015 10:17 pm

Astus wrote:What kind of monasticism do you thing there was until the mid-20th century? As far as I am aware, the great communities in Taiwan mentioned here are not that different at all, and in some ways even better because of the modern conditions and such. Still, if you want to ordain in Taiwan or PRoC, you need to be able to speak Chinese (eventually). Most of the smaller Buddhist churches and even larger monasteries do not have English language websites, except for tourists.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the whole monastic realm is not like a restaurant chain where you can rely on some quality control and order whatever food you like. On the ground things might turn out to be quite different from what you would expect, for better or worse. Not because no information is available, but because there are aspects one may not think of beforehand, like all the rituals and ceremonies, or the kinds of food they have, etc.

A good thing about such organisations like FGS is that you can actually visit them, even spend some time there if you like, and they are not only prepared for that, but invite people.

I don't know what books you have read about Chan, but maybe you should read for instance Holmes Welch's work: The Practice of Chinese Buddhism, 1900-1950. And some other relevant works, like Buddhist Monasticism in East Asia, Buddhism in the Sung, Burning for the Buddha, Enlightenment in Dispute, Cultural Intersections in Later Chinese Buddhism, Monks, Rulers, and Literati, Coming to Terms With Chinese Buddhism, and others that discuss the social history of Buddhism in China. It clarifies how the Chan world that may come through their own religious works (i.e. Chan books) is little more than a myth.

Also, Chan actually means Chinese Buddhism, with all its teachings, practices and rituals. There is no exclusive Chan school where monks sit all day long contemplating an old phrase. At the same time, one may find places where one can find certain practitioners who focus more on meditation than other matters. Even more so, if one is drawn to emulating the old masters of the Chan school, that means long solitary retreats, just as Xuyun did, and so did people like Shengyan (founder of Dharma Drum) and Weijue (founder of Chung Tai).

The best way to get information on places of ordination is to establish a personal connection with the people of the nearest Chinese Buddhist community. Then they can refer you to their home monastery.




Thank you for responding. What I've seen in my (quite limited) research thus far, is that there seems to be a breed of Ch'an in Taiwan that is of a fair different flavor of what I've perhaps imagined Chinese Monasticism to be. Different in the sense of it being "Humanistic Buddhism" and also that it follows a seminary program that isn't particularly teacher oriented (teacher in the singular sense, as I'm sure there's obviously people teaching if there's classes going on!) And I suppose the Caodong and Linji schools are mostly to what I'm referring. I do apologize for not being able to provide more specifics in the Ch'an vernacular as such.
So do such places exist? Ones in which the focus is more on monastic life, not so much on community work, and in which the monks are at least somewhat autonomous after an initial training (I've been reading about the total lack of autonomy in the Taiwanese monastery's)?



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Re: Places to Ordain in the Chinese Tradition

Postby Fortyeightvows » Wed Dec 02, 2015 6:29 am

astus gives some good advice above. the holmes welch book is really excellent.
and of course city of ten thousand buddhas would be a really excellent choice. you'd get good training there.
there are tons of small temples in taiwan that are what your thinking. an example might be 臨濟護國禪寺 in taipei.
there is no doubt a difference between different temples. the vibe at cttb and that orginization is quite different from the vibe around fgs. you can even feel the difference between ddrm and fgs, although it is less of a difference.

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Re: Places to Ordain in the Chinese Tradition

Postby Fortyeightvows » Wed Dec 02, 2015 7:13 am

if you are in the united states then it would probably be a good idea to go do a retreat at hsi lai or cttb.
they both have retreats like this at least a few times a year. then you can kind of try it out
something like this:
image.jpg
image.jpg (391.89 KiB) Viewed 1831 times

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Re: Places to Ordain in the Chinese Tradition

Postby Fortyeightvows » Wed Dec 02, 2015 7:56 am

you would also do well to inquire here:
http://www.tvct.org

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Re: Places to Ordain in the Chinese Tradition

Postby PsychedelicSunSet » Wed Dec 02, 2015 6:32 pm

Fortyeightvows wrote:astus gives some good advice above. the holmes welch book is really excellent.
and of course city of ten thousand buddhas would be a really excellent choice. you'd get good training there.
there are tons of small temples in taiwan that are what your thinking. an example might be 臨濟護國禪寺 in taipei.
there is no doubt a difference between different temples. the vibe at cttb and that orginization is quite different from the vibe around fgs. you can even feel the difference between ddrm and fgs, although it is less of a difference.



Thank you for replying.

Would one have to be able to speak Mandarin well upon arrival to ordain at a smaller temple? And is there any information on them online/in English?

Is there any information available regarding what the ordination process and monastic training is like at the CTTB, I haven't been able to find any? And also what it's like after the training period in terms of what kind of options are available to them?

And what are the difference between CTTB, Dharma Drum, FGS, and Chung Tai? Which of these is the most oriented towards formal practice? What is the life and training like for the monastics in each?



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Re: Places to Ordain in the Chinese Tradition

Postby Huifeng » Thu Dec 03, 2015 6:39 am

Hi,

Nice question. Here's the straight dope from someone in the know.

First of all, as you've already kind of acknowledged, perhaps the idea you have in mind is something of a romanticized image, rather than what Chinese Buddhism actually is. Perhaps you should actually spend some time at a real Chinese Buddhist monastery (including Taiwanese) before you go any further. I would strongly recommend it.

Second, apart from just a couple of places in Taiwan -- Fo Guang Shan, Dharma Drum and maybe Chung Tai -- all the other places will really only be feasible options once you've master Chinese. Exception being City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in north California, but these people are very ascetic, and still heavily Chinese. Also, strictly speaking, it is possibly even illegal for you to ordain and train in mainland China if you're not a Chinese national yourself. The only places I've seen it actually happen are at FGS and DD, and the former has a better record (i.e. actually has a number of Western monastics still around).

And cross Tzu Chi and Bodhi monastery off your list... Oh, and if you don't want to do any community work, nobody will take you, wherever you go, so you might as well give up on that idea / fantasy, too.

Some other potentially relevant posts / threads here at DW: search.php?keywords=huifeng+ordination

~~Huifeng

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Re: Places to Ordain in the Chinese Tradition

Postby PsychedelicSunSet » Thu Dec 03, 2015 12:48 pm

Huifeng wrote:Hi,

Nice question. Here's the straight dope from someone in the know.

First of all, as you've already kind of acknowledged, perhaps the idea you have in mind is something of a romanticized image, rather than what Chinese Buddhism actually is. Perhaps you should actually spend some time at a real Chinese Buddhist monastery (including Taiwanese) before you go any further. I would strongly recommend it.

Second, apart from just a couple of places in Taiwan -- Fo Guang Shan, Dharma Drum and maybe Chung Tai -- all the other places will really only be feasible options once you've master Chinese. Exception being City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in north California, but these people are very ascetic, and still heavily Chinese. Also, strictly speaking, it is possibly even illegal for you to ordain and train in mainland China if you're not a Chinese national yourself. The only places I've seen it actually happen are at FGS and DD, and the former has a better record (i.e. actually has a number of Western monastics still around).

And cross Tzu Chi and Bodhi monastery off your list... Oh, and if you don't want to do any community work, nobody will take you, wherever you go, so you might as well give up on that idea / fantasy, too.

Some other potentially relevant posts / threads here at DW: http://www.dharmawheel.net/search.php?k ... ordination

~~Huifeng




Thank you for your post, Huifeng,


Can you tell me more about the track records of these two places? As in, why it may be that Westerners leave those places, and one more than the other (I'm guessing it's probably somewhat of a case by case basis, but I'm assuming there must be some common threads.)

As for City of Ten Thousand buddhas, I don't really have any qualms with asceticism. Are they practicing dhutangas? What kind of asceticism exactly? Do you have any knowledge of the experience of westerners who have ordained there?

Why do you think Tau Chi and Bodhi should be crossed off the list? And when you say community work, do you mean work outside the monastery such as outreach work, or work in the monastic community? I have no trouble with work in general, it's just out reach type work which I (perhaps wrongly) perceive as being fairly common in the Taiwanese monastic communities.



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Re: Places to Ordain in the Chinese Tradition

Postby Fortyeightvows » Thu Dec 03, 2015 6:31 pm

if you go and check out a few of these places and stay for a while, you'll get a better idea of the differences.

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Re: Places to Ordain in the Chinese Tradition

Postby Fortyeightvows » Thu Dec 03, 2015 6:32 pm

one spoonfull is worth a thousand yelp reviews

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Re: Places to Ordain in the Chinese Tradition

Postby PsychedelicSunSet » Fri Dec 04, 2015 9:01 pm

Sorry to bump this thread up, but I have an additional question.


Is ordaining in Hong Kong out of the picture? As far as I know it's part of the PRoC, but I've heard it's somewhat autonomous. If it's not out of the picture (I imagine it probably is) are there places one could ordain as an English speaker?

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Re: Places to Ordain in the Chinese Tradition

Postby Caodemarte » Fri Dec 04, 2015 11:50 pm

Why do you want to ordain? Why in Chan? What kind of Chan practice have you already established? These are the questions you will likely be asked and will certainly have to ask and answer yourself.

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Re: Places to Ordain in the Chinese Tradition

Postby remm » Sat Dec 12, 2015 1:47 am

PsychedelicSunSet wrote:
Fortyeightvows wrote:astus gives some good advice above. the holmes welch book is really excellent.
and of course city of ten thousand buddhas would be a really excellent choice. you'd get good training there.
there are tons of small temples in taiwan that are what your thinking. an example might be 臨濟護國禪寺 in taipei.
there is no doubt a difference between different temples. the vibe at cttb and that orginization is quite different from the vibe around fgs. you can even feel the difference between ddrm and fgs, although it is less of a difference.



Thank you for replying.

Would one have to be able to speak Mandarin well upon arrival to ordain at a smaller temple? And is there any information on them online/in English?

Is there any information available regarding what the ordination process and monastic training is like at the CTTB, I haven't been able to find any? And also what it's like after the training period in terms of what kind of options are available to them?

And what are the difference between CTTB, Dharma Drum, FGS, and Chung Tai? Which of these is the most oriented towards formal practice? What is the life and training like for the monastics in each?



:anjali:


Hi,

I think you should really consider what Ven. Huifeng has said to you. You should really visit some monasteries first before you embark on finding this romanticized 'image' of monasticism.
The tradition here at CTTB is quite austere. You are required to go to every single ceremony throughout the day. Periods in between ceremonies you are required to do community service to build up your merit and blessings.

Here's a brief description of the daily schedule:
Morning ceremony begins at 4:00am - 5:00 am
Universal Bowing 5:00am - 6:00 am
Breakfast (for laity) 6:15am - 6:50am
Avatamsaka Sutra Recitation 7:00am-8:00am
Community Work 8:00am - 10:30am
Meal Offering Ceremony 10:30am - 10:45am
Lunch 11:00am - 12:15pm
Great Compassion Repentance 12:30pm - 2:00pm
Community Work 2:00pm - 3:30pm
Translation/Classes (depending) 3:30pm - 5:00pm
Evening ceremony 6:30pm - 7:30pm
Sutra Lecture by Master Hua 7:30pm - 9:30pm
Meditation/Study/Own Time 9:30 - 10:30
Rinse and Repeat.

On another note: The regular schedule changes when there are sessions. For example, Guan Yin Session, Earth Store Session, Amitabha Session, and Ch'an Session (which is coming up in January). You are not allowed to miss incenses during these sessions. You're required to be in the Buddha-hall from start to finish. These sessions last from morning until evening--no break except lunch.

On the men's side, you are under observance for six months before you are transmitted the eight precepts and officially become a trainee. Then as a trainee you are under observance for another six months before you can ordain as a novice monk and are transmitted the ten precepts.

Those who are serious about leaving home at CTTB also practice eating one meal a day. Some laity in the program also sleep sitting up.
Also, In terms of living conditions, well, come here and you'll find out. Don't expect anything comfortable here. You can't do as you wish. We function as a community. If you're purely looking to hide out and meditate--good luck leaving home. Many people have come here to do that and they just end up leaving.

If you plan on visiting CTTB some time during the winter, be really prepared to pack thermals and tons of sweaters. There are no built in heating systems at the City. So you can only imagine how cold it gets. With regards to monastics, I see some of them wearing just three layers of robes. So, I guess this is also a form of the ascetic practice here.

Also to answer one of your questions: I have not seen any Westerners leave the home life here in years. The only westerners that are left are the eldest disciples of Master Hua who ordained when he was still in the world. Since his passing, I have not seen one westerner leave the home life.

If you want to know more, please feel free to PM me. I just left the City to go back home for a break (seriously needed).
Last edited by remm on Sat Dec 12, 2015 2:05 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Places to Ordain in the Chinese Tradition

Postby Zhen Li » Sat Dec 12, 2015 2:04 am

PsychedelicSunSet, if you're a Theravada practitioner simply looking to incorporate some Ch'an teachings into your practice, then ordaining in a modern Ch'an tradition is, frankly, probably not for you, regardless of where it is.

You will spend very little time meditating, most of your time will be spent engaging in tasks for spreading the Dharma, like teaching or preparing and managing for events. Regardless of where it is, you will spend many hours reciting Mahayana sutras, mantras, and dharanis, especially Pureland ones (even Hsu Yun did this). These are very important and meaningful to Mahayana practitioners, but it may not make sense if you're expecting only Ch'an, in the sense of sitting meditation, and which Ven. Huifeng may imply by the "romantic" view of Ch'an. Meditation is obviously central, and important, to modern Ch'an traditions, but it is not practiced in the way that you might think - it is practiced in daily life, doing both holy and mundane tasks, because if we cannot see Ch'an when we're cleaning the loo, how can we see it when we're in the meditation hall? If we cannot collect pennies, how can we expect ourselves to collect gold?

Also, take it from a layperson in a Ch'an tradition, it's hard enough not speaking Chinese and not being a monk, you really can't do anything except the stuff the other English speakers do. So there's really no point expecting you can get far after ordination if you don't know Chinese, or aren't at least training in it. Likewise, the idea of autonomy after ordination is really not realistic. Who will support you? How will you pay rent? If you just live with friends or family, or get a job, then you are defeating the whole purpose of ordaining. If you join a monastic order, they put in time and effort and resources to train you, and in return you give back to your teachers and supporters. You should be willing to devote your entire life to the Dharma and to your guru, and stay with that order until you die, otherwise you'll just be another westerner who joined and gave up (which frankly, makes us all look bad). The pay off is that you will get life-long support to practice and spread the Dharma. I would suspect these are the main reasons westerners give up so often: not prepared in terms of knowledge of Chinese, and not into subordination to older monks. But it's naive to join a Chinese tradition and not expect to practice in Chinese language and Chinese customs. There's also quite a long training period, so you can't expect any exciting jobs, or relative autonomy, for quite a few years.

I don't quite think this is harsh, I think it's just what one should expect, and to me it sounds lovely. It's important to have a realistic view of what the road ahead would look like.

Also, it might help if you give us an idea about your life situation, education, age, etc.

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Re: Places to Ordain in the Chinese Tradition

Postby Huifeng » Mon Dec 14, 2015 2:35 am

Two wise posts from my old friends Zhenli and Remm, above.
And I know for a fact that both of them are well involved with the traditions under discussion.

Remm -- nice to "see" you here again, too, after so long.
(Am seldom if ever here myself of late.)
Have a good rest back home, okay? Message me whenever.

Zhenli -- how did your applications go?
When's you next visit to us in Taiwan?

~~Huifeng

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Re: Places to Ordain in the Chinese Tradition

Postby Zhen Li » Mon Dec 14, 2015 4:52 am

Huifeng wrote:Two wise posts from my old friends Zhenli and Remm, above.
And I know for a fact that both of them are well involved with the traditions under discussion.

Remm -- nice to "see" you here again, too, after so long.
(Am seldom if ever here myself of late.)
Have a good rest back home, okay? Message me whenever.

Zhenli -- how did your applications go?
When's you next visit to us in Taiwan?

~~Huifeng

It's also nice to hear from you on DW again. I'm now in the doctoral program.

I'd like to come for the FGBMR; apparently there's a group from my temple who may be going to Dunhuang (after/before Taiwan? for Master's 90th), not sure what part of August this will be. But if they're both compatible I'd like to do both. I think I'll need to get one extra credit in the summer, but I may be able to finish my requirements for that before July then the prospect's not so bad.

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Re: Places to Ordain in the Chinese Tradition

Postby Fortyeightvows » Mon Dec 14, 2015 6:00 am

just throwing it out there but if someone learned their zhuyin, that would allow them to recite most of the lituragy.
and i'm curious as to why Venerable said to check Bodhi monastary off the list?


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