I've been accepted to stay long-term at Ajahn Brahm's monastery, on the path to ordaining. (one year as anagarika, then hopefully apply to be accepted as a novice.)
Great news, although I am little apprehensive.
I stayed at Bodhinyana Monastery, Western Australia, for 9 days and joined in with the three anagarikas in preparing food, cleaning up, washing endless dishes, sweeping the monastery, and of course meditation.
In between long bouts of dish-washing, the main highlight was the opportunity to drive Bhante Sujato and several bhikkhunis to the women's monastery at Dhammasara (six hundred acres of forest!!). I didn't say much on the drive but I got an impression the guy. Verdict: awesome.
And I had a brief interview with the man himself, Ajahn Brahm. I was super-nervous.
I asked him if I could get on the waiting list to stay at the monastery long term, with the intention of becoming an anagarika.
He asked me three questions:
Can you cook?
Do you have a driver's license?
Can you dig ditches?
I said yes to all three, but added I was only an adequate cook. He laughed, and said 2.5 out of 3 was good enough.
He looked at he other monks and they nodded and said Yes also, and that was it, I'm on the waiting list.
The guest monk says I have priority on the list as I am living locally, have stayed at the monastery already, know the monks a bit, and have no visa issues to worry about. Usually the waiting list is around 8 months long, but they said I could get in faster... hopefully.
So, fingers crossed, I may spend the rains there and take the white. If they are full for vassa, I'll find another monastery in Australia for the rains, and come back to Bodhinyana after the vassa when they have room.
The fact that it is led by Ajahn Brahm was not a factor in choosing Bodhinyana. His dhamma talks are great, he clearly has attainments of various kinds, and he is caring and wise with his monks, but I was a little put off by the malarkey and the controversy.
I was also put off by the fact that he's a superstar. I am star-struck and get shy when he walks by. Also he's very often away from the monastery doing things overseas.
But the other senior monks take over seamlessly when he does leave, so that's ok.
So, why choose that particular monastery?
To be honest, at the beginning I was going to steer clear of it due to the bhikkhuni controversy.
But having been there and seen what the sangha is like there, I was converted.
The community, the monastic sangha, is the main reason.
There are 6 anagarikas, 5 novices, and the other 22 are venerables and ajahns. There is a lot of potential for learning different aspects of the life from different style monks.
There are meditation monks with jhanas and attainments, etc. You don't tend to see too much of them.
There are practical monks who are building the next lot of kutis and maintain the old ones.
There are study monks, teacher monks, and writer monks, such as the profoundly knowledgeable and sharp Bhante Sujato.
There is a monk who specialises in vinaya, and sutta studies.
There's a computer monk who is doing something to a next-generation Access-To-Insight type website coming soon.
There's an angry monk who tells people off. (ermm, maybe it's good to have an abrasive bastard around to help grind those rough edges off! Looking on the bright side here.) EDIT: actually, after getting to know him better, he is very kind underneath, just gruff on the surface.
And there is a social monk who often sits around and chats about dhamma with the laypeople.
Lots of variety to learn from.