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Monastic Life

Posted: Tue Dec 13, 2011 10:24 pm
by billybudd
For someone living in the United States, what's the easiest way to live as a monk?

Has anyone here tried ordaining?

Re: Monastic Life

Posted: Tue Dec 13, 2011 11:36 pm
by sangyey
Billybudd, Thupten Chodron has a section on her web page of resources for those considering ordination.

http://www.thubtenchodron.org/BuddhistN ... index.html

Re: Monastic Life

Posted: Wed Dec 14, 2011 4:49 am
by Huifeng
billybudd wrote:For someone living in the United States, what's the easiest way to live as a monk?

Has anyone here tried ordaining?
Not quite sure what you mean by the "easiest way".
Usually, monastic life is considered the "hard way" (duscarya)...

~~ Huifeng
(ordained, but not in the USA...)

Re: Monastic Life

Posted: Wed Dec 14, 2011 5:56 am
by billybudd
sangyey wrote: Not quite sure what you mean by the "easiest way".
Usually, monastic life is considered the "hard way" (duscarya)...

~~ Huifeng
(ordained, but not in the USA...)
Several of the monasteries that I've found in the US seem to be money seekers, charging upwards of $2000 for a few month stay. And going out of the country requires about the same amount in airfare and visas, along with months of planning and uncertainty to where I would be going.

I did find a monastery in West Virginia after posting this, however. It looks good, but also seems to require months of waiting before being allowed to stay.

Organized religion makes me uneasy, and my views on Buddhism seem to vary from what the greater community believes. But despite this, this is the best path I've found. I am trying to imagine a monastic life without joining a monastery as well.

Re: Monastic Life

Posted: Wed Dec 14, 2011 12:09 pm
by Huifeng
billybudd wrote:
sangyey wrote: Not quite sure what you mean by the "easiest way".
Usually, monastic life is considered the "hard way" (duscarya)...

~~ Huifeng
(ordained, but not in the USA...)
Several of the monasteries that I've found in the US seem to be money seekers, charging upwards of $2000 for a few month stay. And going out of the country requires about the same amount in airfare and visas, along with months of planning and uncertainty to where I would be going.

I did find a monastery in West Virginia after posting this, however. It looks good, but also seems to require months of waiting before being allowed to stay.

Organized religion makes me uneasy, and my views on Buddhism seem to vary from what the greater community believes. But despite this, this is the best path I've found. I am trying to imagine a monastic life without joining a monastery as well.
My advice would be to first establish yourself in a given Buddhist tradition,
and closely follow the teachings of a teacher or teachers in that tradition,
assessing the wisdom and compassion of that teacher and tradition,
before discussing with that teacher about the possibility and means for
ordination within that tradition.

This is not just for yourself, but the fact that any decent teacher worth
studying with would also want to assess the student for a time period,
before taking them on as a full time ordained student.

Consider about these things carefully - your spiritual life depends on it!

~~ Huifeng

Re: Monastic Life

Posted: Wed Dec 14, 2011 7:50 pm
by billybudd
Huifeng wrote: My advice would be to first establish yourself in a given Buddhist tradition,
and closely follow the teachings of a teacher or teachers in that tradition,
assessing the wisdom and compassion of that teacher and tradition,
before discussing with that teacher about the possibility and means for
ordination within that tradition.

This is not just for yourself, but the fact that any decent teacher worth
studying with would also want to assess the student for a time period,
before taking them on as a full time ordained student.

Consider about these things carefully - your spiritual life depends on it!

~~ Huifeng
You talk of choosing teachers and traditions, but if I have ever met a single Buddhist in person, I did not know it at the time.

How did you choose a teacher?

Re: Monastic Life

Posted: Wed Dec 14, 2011 8:27 pm
by DGA
Hi Billy,

I know your question is directed to Ven. Huifeng, but I would like to contribute some thoughts as well in the meantime.

I would like to encourage you in your pursuit of a full-on commitment to Buddhist practice. The question is how to get started: how to find a teacher you can work with, a situation in which you can learn and grow.

A good approach would be to get out in the world and meet some Buddhists. You can use a directory such as the one at DharmaWeb (see link below) to get underway. You can also tell us where you are geographically in rough terms and we can help steer you toward a healthy sangha.

http://www.dharmaweb.org/index.php/Cate ... _Directory" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Re: Monastic Life

Posted: Wed Dec 14, 2011 8:37 pm
by mint
Jikan wrote:A good approach would be to get out in the world and meet some Buddhists. You can use a directory such as the one at DharmaWeb (see link below) to get underway. You can also tell us where you are geographically in rough terms and we can help steer you toward a healthy sangha.
Finding one other Buddhist in the real world is like finding a single breadcrumb on a long trail of breadcrumbs which ultimately leads to a master.

Re: Monastic Life

Posted: Wed Dec 14, 2011 8:52 pm
by conebeckham
The first question is, do you wish to practice Buddhism, as a beginner, or do you wish to become a monk?

These are two different, but related, things.

As you'll note, when you poke around here for more than a few days, the vast majority of Buddhist practitioners in the United States are non-monastic. Although becoming ordained as a monk is a truly wonderful thing, it is a step not necessarily recommended for a beginner.

More important than finding a place to ordain, in my opinion, is finding a teacher in a lineage or tradition that seems to resonate with you. With that in mind, and understanding that you have some reservations with what you perceive to be the "general community" considers Buddhism, the first step is to do some research. The internet is your friend, though not always accurate source of information. Are you interested in Tibetan tradition, or is that too exotic and ritualized? Does the "vibe" of Zen feel authentic to you, or is it too austere? Do cultural trappings make you uncomfortable with Chinese Mahayana traditions, etc.? Not judging your answers to any of these questions, but asking yourself, and answering, will help determine the next step.

If you'd care to give us a general geographic area, I'm sure we can come up with a list of centers from various Buddhist traditions that are within reasonable travelling distance...unless you live "really" out there...... :smile:

Re: Monastic Life

Posted: Thu Dec 15, 2011 9:06 am
by Huifeng
billybudd wrote:
Huifeng wrote: My advice would be to first establish yourself in a given Buddhist tradition,
and closely follow the teachings of a teacher or teachers in that tradition,
assessing the wisdom and compassion of that teacher and tradition,
before discussing with that teacher about the possibility and means for
ordination within that tradition.

This is not just for yourself, but the fact that any decent teacher worth
studying with would also want to assess the student for a time period,
before taking them on as a full time ordained student.

Consider about these things carefully - your spiritual life depends on it!

~~ Huifeng
You talk of choosing teachers and traditions, but if I have ever met a single Buddhist in person, I did not know it at the time.

How did you choose a teacher?
After spending a fair bit of time going around various Buddhist groups,
participating in whatever was going on with those groups, I soon found
a few good teachers that I thought would be worth studying under.
The one I went with in the end, I didn't become their disciple, but ordained
under their teacher (making us Dharma siblings in the end).
However, that teacher I ordained with is very senior, and so seldom
teaches new comers himself. I was thus taught by a number of his own
students.

Most important point: Go around a number of places and teachers,
and take it from there.

~~ Huifeng

Re: Monastic Life

Posted: Thu Dec 15, 2011 1:01 pm
by Indrajala
billybudd wrote:For someone living in the United States, what's the easiest way to live as a monk?

Has anyone here tried ordaining?
I'm no monk, but I've travelled around to numerous monasteries in Asia. I got a lot of monk friends, too.

Visit Asia if you can (Taiwan is a good start perhaps, and for westerners perhaps optimal because visas and funding are not a problem as far as I know), go see a number of monasteries, see how you feel there, talk to people, try the food... if you can see yourself in such a place, then in some cases even doing a few weeks of volunteer work in the kitchen or wherever might lend some insight into whether or not you really want to ordain.

If you're interested in Tibetan Buddhism here in India or in Nepal, or actually anywhere in the world, you'll probably face problems with funding. Tibetan monasteries don't necessarily provide everything their monks need, and it is often left to family and sponsors to provide for individual monks (robes, monthly living expenses, computer, phone, etc...). If you're a Tibetan Buddhist monk in the west you'll probably need to have a very generous sponsor or be independently wealthy. This isn't the case for monks in Taiwan though where everything necessary is provided. Theravada this is the case as well.

You also might want to consider the dark side of monastic life and consider if you can tolerate it. There can be venomous politics in monasteries no matter the country. It isn't all smiling faces and chanting.

And if some organization wants you to pay silly sums of money to stay in a monastery, just drop them and go look elsewhere.

Re: Monastic Life

Posted: Fri Dec 16, 2011 9:26 pm
by DGA
What do you think, billybudd?

Re: Monastic Life

Posted: Sat Dec 17, 2011 10:02 pm
by billybudd
Jikan wrote:What do you think, billybudd?
I think I have some traveling to do.

I don't believe in gods or afterlife, and I have failed to find meaning in the ups and downs of daily life. I'm not certain if I would like to ordain, but I would like to live similarly to someone who has.

I live near Roanoke, Virginia

Re: Monastic Life

Posted: Mon Dec 19, 2011 6:17 am
by Huifeng
billybudd wrote:
Jikan wrote:What do you think, billybudd?
I think I have some traveling to do.

I don't believe in gods or afterlife, and I have failed to find meaning in the ups and downs of daily life. I'm not certain if I would like to ordain, but I would like to live similarly to someone who has.

I live near Roanoke, Virginia
Sounds like you need to start at Buddhism 101, before anything else.
Even if you lived like a monastic, it would only be externals without an understanding and faith in the Dharma.

~~ Huifeng

Re: Monastic Life

Posted: Mon Dec 19, 2011 6:41 pm
by billybudd
Huifeng wrote:
Sounds like you need to start at Buddhism 101, before anything else.
Even if you lived like a monastic, it would only be externals without an understanding and faith in the Dharma.

~~ Huifeng
We all have our own version of Buddhism. In my version, I feel that I need to work on calming certain parts of my mind before I will be able to make any more progress. Rules build habits, even if I don't understand the reason for them at the time.

Re: Monastic Life

Posted: Mon Dec 19, 2011 7:32 pm
by DGA
Hi billybudd,

Good news: if you can make a quick trip up the road to Charlottesville, or in the other direction to Asheville, NC, then you can make some contacts. There are good things happening in Richmond ( http://www.ekojirichmond.org" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; ) There is also a Zen group in Radford: http://www.healingzen.com" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

I only know of one Buddhist center in Roanoke, the Dharmapala Kadampa Buddhist Center. I would not recommend this one for your purposes.

If you're ever in NoVA, or would like to make a visit, look me up. Coffee's on me! :geek:

Jikan

Re: Monastic Life

Posted: Tue Dec 20, 2011 11:55 pm
by billybudd
Jikan wrote:Hi billybudd,

Good news: if you can make a quick trip up the road to Charlottesville, or in the other direction to Asheville, NC, then you can make some contacts. There are good things happening in Richmond ( http://www.ekojirichmond.org" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; ) There is also a Zen group in Radford: http://www.healingzen.com" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

I only know of one Buddhist center in Roanoke, the Dharmapala Kadampa Buddhist Center. I would not recommend this one for your purposes.

If you're ever in NoVA, or would like to make a visit, look me up. Coffee's on me! :geek:

Jikan
I don't make my way up there very often, but I might take you up on that one day. Thanks for the links and kind words, I'll look into these.

Re: Monastic Life

Posted: Wed Dec 21, 2011 6:25 pm
by Nosta
Monastic life is very hard because it demands total commitment and saying goodbye to almost everything we are used to: television, computers, going to beach, going to nightclubs, flirting, seducing, having dinners, playing tenis, reading [ordinary] books, having a pet, having a family, a job, etc, etc. Monastic life means to get to simplest way of life: eat, meditate or learn/study sutras and buddhism, sleep and do daily monastic activities (cleaning for example). This is what i suppose! I am just an ordinary guy. But i think that anyone thinking on retiring itself forever must think on such issues. One should bear in mind that monastic life means to have a very strong will and means to train and sharp your mind every moment by meditating! And thats overwelming for people used to the stupid and sleepy way of life we have in Western. But i also think that every buddhist should try to spent a few days in a monastery just to taste the bliss of its quiet and peaceful life style.

Re: Monastic Life

Posted: Thu Dec 22, 2011 6:44 am
by billybudd
Nosta wrote:Monastic life is very hard because it demands total commitment and saying goodbye to almost everything we are used to: television, computers, going to beach, going to nightclubs, flirting, seducing, having dinners, playing tenis, reading [ordinary] books, having a pet, having a family, a job, etc, etc. Monastic life means to get to simplest way of life: eat, meditate or learn/study sutras and buddhism, sleep and do daily monastic activities (cleaning for example). This is what i suppose! I am just an ordinary guy. But i think that anyone thinking on retiring itself forever must think on such issues. One should bear in mind that monastic life means to have a very strong will and means to train and sharp your mind every moment by meditating! And thats overwelming for people used to the stupid and sleepy way of life we have in Western. But i also think that every buddhist should try to spent a few days in a monastery just to taste the bliss of its quiet and peaceful life style.
Yes this is closer to the intent of this thread. What are ways to simulate monastic life outside of an actual monastery. A long hike someplace like the Appalachian Trail was the first thing that came to my mind.

Pan handling on the sidewalk of an intersection doesn't exactly sound the same as doing 'alms rounds for the spiritual improvement of the townsfolk.' But there is little difference, other than how it sounds I guess.

Re: Monastic Life

Posted: Thu Dec 22, 2011 11:03 am
by Quiet Heart
billybudd wrote:For someone living in the United States, what's the easiest way to live as a monk?

Has anyone here tried ordaining?
-----------------------------------
No I haven't and almost certainly won't try ordination.
I know I don't have the character and inclination for it.
Mainly, because like you say you apparently do.....I don't tend to accept authority well...and for that reason I would have programs in a monastic situation.
I tend to ask questions when lectured , and not simply accept what I am told is "the right way".
When I hear "it's always been like this", my first response is, "O.K., but why?"
The sacrifice and austerity of a monastic life wouldn't bother me....I've done something similar before.
But that's just my nature.
What I really wanted to say is that you should start out by exploring ALL options in Buddhisim. Then pick that option...or no option at all if that is your choice...that seems the best for you.
Investigate first, don't simply jump in and join...until you are sure that the group you are joining is really right for you.
If that choice is the monastic life....then that's great...do it.
Personally....and I acknowledge this is my personal opinion....I feel that living outside in the real world but NOT SACRIFING YOUR PERSONAL BUDDHIST VALUES AND BEHAVIOR...living as a Buddhist layman....is a higher calling than living a monastic life.
But again, that's my personal choice.
Others would probably disagree. As they say, "Results may vary".
:smile: