Theravada Monasticism

A forum for beginners and members of other Buddhist traditions to ask questions about Theravāda (The Way of the Elders). Responses require moderator approval before they are visible in order to double-check alignment to Theravāda orthodoxy.
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Re: Theravada Monasticism

Post by halwilson »

Dhammanando wrote:Hi Dhammakid,
Dhammakid wrote:My lastest question: sleep. I know sleep can be an attachment, as it often is the reason why I choose not to practice at night. What about monastics - how much sleep does a forest monk normally get?
This varies a lot, but one might broadly distinguish three kinds of forest monastery:

1. Dhammayutt/Ajahn Mun-style forest wats where monks spends most of their day alone, communal activities are kept to a bare minimum, and so each monk is fairly free to set his own schedule. For example, at Ajahn Maha Boowa's wat the only required group activities are the morning almsround and meal, the cleaning of the sala, and afternoon sweeping and pumping water at the well. The rest of the time you're by yourself in your kuti or on your walking meditation path. In this kind of monastery there will typically be a handful of highly motivated monks who practise diligently and sleep only when exhaustion forces them to. Some of them may also undertake the sitter's practice (i.e., making an adhiṭṭhāna never to lie down). But most of the monks will be like the sluggard of the Sigalovāda Sutta:
  • 'Thinking: “It’s too cold”, he does not work; thinking: “It’s too hot”, he does not work; thinking: “It’s too early”, he does not work; thinking: “It’s too late”, he does not work; thinking: “I’m too hungry”, he does not work; thinking: “I’m too full”, he does not work.' Thus spoke the Blessed One.
In the hot season they'll sleep most of the day because the heat is exhausting; in the cold season, when it's freezing at night and unpleasant to get out from under the blankets, they'll sleep from the evening bathing time (6:00 pm) until the very last moment when they have to get up for the cleaning of the sala (5:00 am). Then they'll have another sleep after their morning meal (8:00 am) until the mid-day teabreak. Then after the teabreak it's back to bed again until the afternoon sweeping (4:00 pm).
Interesting comments that give new meaning to what J. L. Taylor calls the "terminal phase" of the forest tradition. Very terminal indeed....

Cheers, Hal
"We had the experience, but missed the meaning" T. S. Eliot
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Re: Theravada Monasticism

Post by Dhammanando »

Hi Dhammakid,
Dhammakid wrote:Bhikkhu, how did you go about choosing your current residence?
When I was a monk the first time around, after spending some years in the north of Thailand, I wanted to come to Bangkok to study. Wat Benjama was the natural choice because it's one of the two main temples in Bangkok whose residents consist mainly of northern monks. Also, several of the senior monks here were disciples of Khrubar Brahmajak, my teacher's teacher, so when I came to visit the first time there was an immediate rapport between us. I ended up living here from '91 to '94, before departing for Iceland.

When I came back to Thailand to re-ordain in 2004, I returned to Wat Benjama because the monks here know me, so I wouldn't need to jump through a lot of hoops.
What factors were important to you?
The factors that make me stay are that the monks here are mostly northerners (these are the Thais I seem to get on best with), the temple is much cleaner, quieter and more orderly than the average Bangkok wat, and there are always lots of interesting teachers passing through. In particular, whenever some Thai monk has been to study in Burma and mastered some subject that's not generally taught in Thailand, when he returns home, Wat Benjama College will always be the most eager to provide him with a venue to teach whatever it is he's learned. Another factor is that the monks here don't try to impede me when I wish to get away from Bangkok for a few months, like during the rains retreat.
Why did you rule out the others?
I didn't rule them out; they just didn't cross my mind.
Are you comfortable there, or are you considering leaving for another eventually?
I'm very content here. I may return to my monastery in Iceland one day, but probably not for some years.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
Anabhirati kho, āvuso, imasmiṃ dhammavinaye dukkhā, abhirati sukhā.

“To not delight in this dhammavinaya, friend, is painful; to delight in it is bliss.”
(Sukhasutta, AN 10:66)
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Re: Theravada Monasticism

Post by Dhammakid »

Hello Bhante,
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with me, I really do appreciate it. It gives me a better idea of what I can look for when I'm ready to ordain. I hope I can find a monastery that fits as well as Benjama fits for you. I guess I'll just have to do a lot of searching around and seeing what's comfortable.

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Re: Theravada Monasticism

Post by andyebarnes67 »

I know Ajahn Chah was of the opinion that many monks (and lay) spend far too much time sleeping and if memory serves, he advocated around just 4 hours as night as adequate.
Andy Barnes
My comments are by nature, subjective interpretations from my mind. As such, they are never wrong, They are as they are. They are never right, They are as they are.
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