Pre-requisites for ordination

Discussion of ordination, the Vinaya and monastic life. How and where to ordain? Bhikkhuni ordination etc.

Pre-requisites for ordination

Postby JackV » Sun Jun 05, 2011 12:04 pm

I have been reading all the discussions an threads on this forum about ordination; why don't you ordain?, where to do it? etc.
All these discussion still haven't answered one question I have, which is how much one need to know about monastic life and practices in advance of ordaining?
Can someone who meditates regularly and tries to follow the dhamma yet is lacking in knowledge of formal practices, the language (either of Pali or local language if abroad) and temple life go forward for ordination?
What does it take to know, or to be able to ordain?

I look forward to your responses.
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Re: Pre-requisites for ordination

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Jun 05, 2011 4:18 pm

JackV wrote:Can someone who meditates regularly and tries to follow the dhamma yet is lacking in knowledge of formal practices, the language (either of Pali or local language if abroad) and temple life go forward for ordination?


You can learn all those formalities as a novice.

What does it take to know, or to be able to ordain?


Just the aspiration to be a monk and the threefold Refuge and it wouldn't hurt to know the basics of the teachings which I am sure you already do.

But it is also good to not have unreasonable expectations, such as, that all monks meditate, that they all are easy to get along with, etc. The Broken Buddha book may dispel any myths or misconceptions one might have. See: viewtopic.php?f=30&t=2698
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Re: Pre-requisites for ordination

Postby Jhana4 » Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:05 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:But it is also good to not have unreasonable expectations, such as, that all monks meditate, that they all are easy to get along with, etc. The Broken Buddha book may dispel any myths or misconceptions one might have. See: viewtopic.php?f=30&t=2698


Word.

My area has 2 Sri Lankan Buddhist Viharas. Not one. It has two because of some long standing conflict between two monks, one of whom broke away and formed the second Vihara. At the first Vihara I've met monks completely disinterested in meditation and who years ago seemed to resent having a meditation teacher/monk there ( upstaging his popularity ). He would do petty things like invite maid services to come in and vacuum during day retreats. Thankfully, a decade later that seems to have changed. I think a combination of discovering that he can increase Dana by hosting such things and other things changed his attitude. Still, at a recent Vesak celebration I saw what seemed to me to be some left handed insults between that monk and others visiting the primary Vihara. I could be wrong, I was interpreting things though my culture versus theirs. I've also seen this guy treat people poorly and in a way that would belie the kind of stereotypes David is warning about.

Asian Buddhism is an established institution very much the way western Christianity is. You have some very spiritual people here and there, some people along for the ride, some corrupt people and some people in it for reasons other than spirituality.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: Pre-requisites for ordination

Postby BlackBird » Mon Jun 06, 2011 1:51 am

You'll just have to play ball on the rites and rituals. It doesn't matter what you think on the inside, outwardly you must conform. You can use it as way to develop equanimity too. I was getting fed up with all the rituals and cultural accretions at one stage - Then I realized that I was only allowing myself to harbour hatred. It doesn't matter where you direct it, it always has the same negative impact upon your mind and others.

I would say one of the most important qualities to develop if you want to be a monk is being contented with little. Easier said than done, but if you foster that attitude right, life becomes very easy, no matter what external challenges are faced.
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: Pre-requisites for ordination

Postby Jhana4 » Mon Jun 06, 2011 12:02 pm

BlackBird wrote:You'll just have to play ball on the rites and rituals. It doesn't matter what you think on the inside, outwardly you must conform.


No disrespect of any kind, but that sounds like a horrible situation to be in. I was once caught in a job situation I didn't like and went home to a living situation I didn't like. It sounds like that and worse.

You can use it as way to develop equanimity too. I was getting fed up with all the rituals and cultural accretions at one stage - Then I realized that I was only allowing myself to harbor hatred. It doesn't matter where you direct it, it always has the same negative impact upon your mind and others.


I have to agree with that. I stayed with a bad job situation for a long time under the mistaken impression that I couldn't get out. I too realized I was harboring hatred and that doing so was only adding toxicity to an already bad situation. When I came to that realization I worked on my attitude. I was never 100% free from it and never 100% happy at that place, but the realization helped make daily life much easier on me.

Even with this valuable lesson learned of turning lemons into lemonade, I would not knowingly and voluntarily enter into a situation that I knew would be "lemons". It just took away too many of my internal resources to make the best of the things, resources that could have gone to positive things.

I read in "The Broken Buddha" that monks who are genuinely interested in the dhamma or who will at least support other monks who are, are few and far between. Were you lucky enough to get support from such monks in coming to the realizations and changes that helped you adapt?
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: Pre-requisites for ordination

Postby Jhana4 » Mon Jun 06, 2011 12:14 pm

JackV;

My impression is that many westerners with an interest in Buddhism were turned off by the pointless orthodoxies of their native religions and at some point wanted something fresh, rational by the standard of modern sensibilities and spiritual vs dogmatic/institutional.

This book is only 66 pages long. I am about 20 pages into it. I got turned onto it by following David Snyder's link to the older thread about the book.

I think reading it would be valuable for someone in your position. At the very least, reading the book will prepare you for a strong culture shock.

The link below points to a PDF copy of the book

"The Broken Buddha" by the Venerable S. Dhammika

Good Luck.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: Pre-requisites for ordination

Postby Goofaholix » Mon Jun 06, 2011 7:34 pm

The only pre-requisite is to have lived for several months in the monastery or monasteries(s) that you are considering ordaining in to see whether you fit in and the lifestyle suits you.

I'd recommend doing several intesnsive retreats in retreat centres also.

Some of the reasons for this are already outlined.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: Pre-requisites for ordination

Postby BlackBird » Tue Jun 07, 2011 1:29 am

Jhana4 wrote:
BlackBird wrote:You'll just have to play ball on the rites and rituals. It doesn't matter what you think on the inside, outwardly you must conform.


No disrespect of any kind, but that sounds like a horrible situation to be in. I was once caught in a job situation I didn't like and went home to a living situation I didn't like. It sounds like that and worse.


It's only horrible if you have a strong attachment to wanting things your own way. It's sink or swim really, those who can't foster the brahma viharas don't usually last the distance, they might hang on in for years, but they're generally the angry and unhappy ones.


Even with this valuable lesson learned of turning lemons into lemonade, I would not knowingly and voluntarily enter into a situation that I knew would be "lemons". It just took away too many of my internal resources to make the best of the things, resources that could have gone to positive things.


It's not that there's always lemons. It's just that if you spend enough time in monasteries you will come across them at some stage. They come and go. You learn to deal with it. We spend a great deal of time in our lives being upset when things don't go our way. Living in a monastery, you learn to see that life doesn't play by your rules and you realize that by building up this web of conditions that must be met so you can be happy, all you get is frustration and anger.

I read in "The Broken Buddha" that monks who are genuinely interested in the dhamma or who will at least support other monks who are, are few and far between. Were you lucky enough to get support from such monks in coming to the realizations and changes that helped you adapt?


As I said in a post in another thread to you, don't get the mistaken impression from The Broken Buddha that all monks are bad. Venerable Dhammika has had a pretty bad run as far as being a witness to scandal. I wouldn't say I'm lucky, if I were lucky I would probably be in robes right now. I met plenty of good monks though, there were much more good ones than bad eggs, but then I was very selective about where I stayed. Birds of a feather flock together, and in both Asia and the West good monks tend to congregate in good monasteries.

I don't agree with his depiction of meditation monasteries in Sri Lanka either, there was nothing dour or long-faced about the monks I met in the forest.
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: Pre-requisites for ordination

Postby Goofaholix » Tue Jun 07, 2011 2:36 am

BlackBird wrote:It's not that there's always lemons. It's just that if you spend enough time in monasteries you will come across them at some stage. They come and go. You learn to deal with it. We spend a great deal of time in our lives being upset when things don't go our way. Living in a monastery, you learn to see that life doesn't play by your rules and you realize that by building up this web of conditions that must be met so you can be happy, all you get is frustration and anger.


Well said... it works!
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: Pre-requisites for ordination

Postby rowyourboat » Tue Jun 07, 2011 5:50 am

I think it all depends on where you stay. Not all temples are the same- some (most Asian ones in the West) are community oriented and their main purpose is to provide religious/cultural services to the respective community- nothing particularly wrong with that- just dont mistake them for places of meditation practice. They may practice sila and dana (morality and generosity) to which many people might be blind to and not consider as practice. They also serve as conduits for people who want to go deeper and access places of meditation practice (vs other types of buddhist practice).

All in all, this dhamma is what you make of it. Deep teachings/retreats/monasteries are not inaccessible- just don't expect to see it in the first place you walk into.

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Re: Pre-requisites for ordination

Postby Jhana4 » Tue Jun 07, 2011 12:14 pm

BlackBird wrote:
Jhana4 wrote:
BlackBird wrote:You'll just have to play ball on the rites and rituals. It doesn't matter what you think on the inside, outwardly you must conform.


No disrespect of any kind, but that sounds like a horrible situation to be in. I was once caught in a job situation I didn't like and went home to a living situation I didn't like. It sounds like that and worse.


It's only horrible if you have a strong attachment to wanting things your own way. It's sink or swim really, those who can't foster the brahma viharas don't usually last the distance, they might hang on in for years, but they're generally the angry and unhappy ones.



Well, for people who are similar to those on this board the whole point of ordaining is to get more time for meditation, more time for sutta study, instruction in those things and encouragement ( from instructors and peers with shared goals ) in those things. If those things conditions are few and far between, why bother ordaining and learning adapt to poor support for a truly spiritual life? You can get that at home.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: Pre-requisites for ordination

Postby PeterB » Tue Jun 07, 2011 12:36 pm

rowyourboat wrote:I think it all depends on where you stay. Not all temples are the same- some (most Asian ones in the West) are community oriented and their main purpose is to provide religious/cultural services to the respective community- nothing particularly wrong with that- just dont mistake them for places of meditation practice. They may practice sila and dana (morality and generosity) to which many people might be blind to and not consider as practice. They also serve as conduits for people who want to go deeper and access places of meditation practice (vs other types of buddhist practice).

All in all, this dhamma is what you make of it. Deep teachings/retreats/monasteries are not inaccessible- just don't expect to see it in the first place you walk into.

with metta

Matheesha

Precisely...I think Jack lucked out. The Jack that is Blackbird that is.
Last edited by PeterB on Tue Jun 07, 2011 2:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Pre-requisites for ordination

Postby ancientbuddhism » Tue Jun 07, 2011 2:40 pm

JackV wrote:I have been reading all the discussions an threads on this forum about ordination; why don't you ordain?, where to do it? etc.
All these discussion still haven't answered one question I have, which is how much one need to know about monastic life and practices in advance of ordaining?
Can someone who meditates regularly and tries to follow the dhamma yet is lacking in knowledge of formal practices, the language (either of Pali or local language if abroad) and temple life go forward for ordination?
What does it take to know, or to be able to ordain?

I look forward to your responses.


They should give you the basic catechetical material for sīla, read these if you haven’t already: Introduction to the Patimokkha Rules & The Buddhist Monastic Code I. The other stuff you will learn in stride.

Piece of advise few will give you – your first year is the hardest, after that it gets easier.

Best wishes!

Jhana4 wrote: No disrespect of any kind, but that sounds like a horrible situation to be in. I was once caught in a job situation I didn't like and went home to a living situation I didn't like. It sounds like that and worse.


It can be. Bhikkhu life is like being on the clock 24/7
Fingers walk the darkness down
Mind is on the midnight
Gather up the gold you've found
You fool, it's only moonlight.
If you try to take it home
Your hands will turn to butter
You better leave this dream alone
Try to find another. – Townes Van Zandt ‘Lungs’

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)

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