The married monk

Casual discussion amongst spiritual friends.

The married monk

Postby balive » Mon Aug 12, 2013 7:27 am

It’s been about 3 weeks since I visited my Canadian friend who is a new monk living in northern Thailand.
I travelled for about 8 hours from Chiang Mai to go and visit him for about 3 days.

We’ve been friends in Goenka’s vipassana tradition for more than 12 years.
Visiting him in his new life as a monk was amazing.

He’s left his whole life in his late thirties. His lovely wife. Loving parents. Assets. A long successful career as a programmer in the US and Canada.

Now he sweeps the grounds of a monastery as a monk.
Interesting going from highly trained programmer, building things in the world, to being a grounds maintenance man... And yet what he's doing is so much more than that.

His life there is truly amazing. So simple. So… stress free. Cut off from world of agitation, striving, greed and lust that we live in (well I certainly do).

When I first left his new monastery, being back out in the busy world was a big shock. Even after only spending a few days there.

I got really tuned up with the purity of that place, there is something very appealing about their lifestyle. My last time as a monk was 10 years. It terrified me. But this time, I could really see so much more.

He was very encouraging of me to adopt it. But I know the time is not right.
But maybe I’m deluding myself in thinking I’ve got more to do out here in world first.

More people to help… Because I can see how after spending many years there as a monk one would really be a transformed person, in ways that you could not achieve otherwise. You would become one that could really inspire others in a dhammic life.

But in order to enter that world, I would have a lot to let go of everything... Still not ready.
He is very brave, and he was really loving it, and I can see why.

And yet… there’s still one strange thing for me. And this, he still feels very connected to his “wife”. They still talk often, he sends her emails, and he’s concerned about what she’s doing next. In many ways he has a lot of attachments to what she's doing.
To me that sounds like he’s still married… how can you be married and still a monk?

What do you think?
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Re: The married monk

Postby Virgo » Mon Aug 12, 2013 8:01 am

Can he just stop being attached?

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Re: The married monk

Postby Kumara » Mon Aug 12, 2013 8:08 am

I think it would not be useful to discuss this here.
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Re: The married monk

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Aug 12, 2013 8:37 am

Greetings,
balive wrote:To me that sounds like he’s still married… how can you be married and still a monk?

What do you think?

Well, there is the notion of temporary ordination that's quite prevalent in Thailand.

Does he see this as a lifelong decision? He might not yet have even decided this yet for himself.....

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Re: The married monk

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Mon Aug 12, 2013 9:06 am

I think its a useful topic to discuss, though it should be kept impersonal.

We don't know his personal reasons for ordaining, nor his long-term plans, and it's not our business.

However, the topic of temporary ordination, and the difficulty of fully renouncing wordly attachments is a worthwhile one.

There was one monk in the time of the Buddha who was a poor worker with just a basket and a hoe. The Venerable Sāriputta took pity on him and ordained him. He hung up his basket and hoe on a tree, and whenever he felt like disrobing he would visit the tree to remember how hard his former life was.

When the other monks asked him where he was going, he would say he was going to see his teacher. After some time he attained Arahantship, so no longer went to visit “his teacher.”
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Re: The married monk

Postby lyndon taylor » Mon Aug 12, 2013 9:30 am

As far as I know, Buddhism doesn't tell monks to break off contact with their family and parents, I don't see how a wife would be any different. Now if she was coming to visit every day, I could see how that might be a cause for gossip, but email seems innocuous enough.

The monk is taking a vow of celibacy, not a vow to stop being friends with all the important people in his former life, although he may well have to weed and choose which friends are conducive to his practice and which are not.
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community that has so generously given me so much, sincerely former monk John
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Re: The married monk

Postby plwk » Mon Aug 12, 2013 11:33 am

Not sure if this is helpful but I recall this one...
http://www.dhammatalks.net/Books2/Acari ... al%20Years
AT THE FOOT OF THE MOUNTAIN, where the path to the Sarika Cave began, stood a vipassana meditation center, the residence of an elderly monk who was ordained late in life, after having had a wife and family. Thinking of this monk one evening, Acariya Mun wondered what he was doing, and so, he sent out his flow of consciousness to take a look.

At that moment, the old monk’s mind was completely distracted by thoughts of the past concerning the affairs of his home and family. Again, sending out his flow of consciousness to observe him later that same night, Acariya Mun encountered the same situation. Just before dawn, he focused his citta once again, only to find the old monk still busy making plans for his children and grandchildren. Each time he sent out the flow of his citta to check, he found the monk thinking incessantly about matters concerned with building a worldly life now, and untold rounds of existence in the future.

On the way back from his almsround that morning, he stopped to visit the elderly monk and immediately put him on the spot:
“How is it going, old fellow? Building a new house and getting married to your wife all over again? You couldn’t sleep at all last night. I suppose everything is all arranged now so you can relax in the evenings, without having to get so worked up planning what you’ll say to your children and grandchildren. I suspect you were so distracted by all that business last night you hardly slept a wink, am I right?”

Embarrassed, the elderly monk asked with a sheepish smile: “You knew about last night? You’re incredible, Acariya Mun.”
Acariya Mun smiled in reply, and added: “I’m sure you know yourself much better than I do, so why ask me? I’m convinced you were thinking about those things quite deliberately, so preoccupied with your thoughts you neglected to lie down and sleep all night. Even now you continue to shamelessly enjoy thinking about such matters and you don’t have the mindfulness to stop yourself. You’re still determined to act upon those thoughts, aren’t you?”

As he finished speaking, Acariya Mun noticed the elderly monk looking very pale, as though about to faint from shock, or embarrassment. He mumbled something incoherent in a faltering, ghostly sounding voice bordering on madness. Seeing his condition, Acariya Mun instinctively knew that any further discussion would have serious consequences. So he found an excuse to change the subject, talking about other matters for a while to calm him down, then he returned to the cave.

Three days later one of the old monk’s lay supporters came to the cave, so Acariya Mun asked him about the monk.
The layman said that he had abruptly left the previous morning, with no intention of returning.
The layman had asked him why he was in such a hurry to leave, and he replied: “How can I stay here any longer? The other morning Acariya Mun stopped by and lectured me so poignantly that I almost fainted right there in front of him. Had he continued lecturing me like that much longer, I’d surely have passed out and died there on the spot.
As it was, he stopped and changed the subject, so I managed to survive somehow. How can you expect me to remain here now, after that? I’m leaving today.”

The layman asked him: “Did Acariya Mun scold you harshly? Is that why you nearly died, and now feel you can no longer stay here?”
“He didn’t scold me at all, but his astute questions were far worse than a tongue-lashing.”

“He asked you some questions, is that it? Can you tell me what they were? Perhaps I can learn a lesson from them.”
“Please don’t ask me to tell you what he said, I’m embarrassed to death as it is. Should anyone ever know, I’d sink into the ground. Without getting specific, I can tell you this much: he knows everything we’re thinking. No scolding could possibly be as bad as that. It’s quite natural for people to think both good thoughts and bad thoughts. Who can control them? But when I discover that Acariya Mun knows all about my private thoughts – that’s too much. I know I can’t stay on here. Better to go off and die somewhere else than to stay here and disturb him with my wayward thinking. I mustn’t stay here, further disgracing myself. Last night I couldn’t sleep at all – I just can’t get this matter out of my mind.”

But the layman begged to differ: “Why should Acariya Mun be disturbed by what you think? He’s not the one at fault. The person at fault is the one who should be disturbed by what he’s done, and then make a sincere effort to rectify it. That, Acariya Mun would certainly appreciate. So please stay on here for awhile – in that way, when those thoughts arise, you can benefit from Acariya Mun’s advice. Then you can develop the mindfulness needed to solve this problem, which is much better than running away from it. What do you say to that?”

“I can’t stay. The prospect of my developing mindfulness to improve myself can’t begin to rival my fear of Acariya Mun: it’s like pitting a cat against an elephant! Just thinking that he knows all about me is enough to make me shiver, so how could I possibly maintain any degree of mindfulness? I’m leaving today. If I remain here any longer, I’ll die for sure. Please believe me.”

The layman told Acariya Mun that he felt very sorry for that old monk, but he didn’t know what to say to prevent him leaving: “His face was so pale it was obvious he was frightened, so I had to let him go. Before he left, I asked him where he’d be going. He said he didn’t know for sure, but that if he didn’t die first, we’d probably meet again someday – then he left. I had a boy send him off. When the boy returned I asked him, but he didn’t know, for the elderly monk hadn’t told him where he was going. I feel really sorry for him. An old man like that, he shouldn’t have taken it so personally.”

Acariya Mun was deeply dismayed to see his benevolent intentions producing such negative results, his compassion being the cause of such unfortunate consequences.
In truth, seeing the elderly monk’s stunned reaction that very first day, he had suspected then that this might happen. After that day he was disinclined to send out the flow of his citta to investigate, fearing he might again meet with the same situation. In the end, his suspicions were confirmed. He told the layman that he’d spoken with the old monk in the familiar way that friends normally do: playful one minute, serious the next. He never imagined it becoming such a big issue that the elderly monk would feel compelled to abandon his monastery and flee like that.
Bhikkhus, if you develop and make much this one thing,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.
What is it? It is recollecting the Enlightened One.
If this single thing is recollected and made much,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.

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Re: The married monk

Postby fabianfred » Mon Aug 12, 2013 10:37 pm

Since in the theravada tradition a man can ordain and disrobe several times...it is certainly not necessary for him to divorce his wife.
I myself ordained for a week seven years ago when they had a mass ordination in my town. I also ordained for two years three years ago, and then disrobed to look after my kids since my wife had taken up work in BKK.

The Buddha himself was still married with a son...who became his first Novice and later the wife became a Bikkhuni.
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