How to know if you are suitable?

Discussion of ordination, the Vinaya and monastic life. How and where to ordain? Bhikkhuni ordination etc.
Coyote
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How to know if you are suitable?

Post by Coyote »

Is there any criteria for knowing if you are "fit" for the Bhikkhu's life? Obviously being able to keep the rules would be one, and seeing the value in living that way as opposed to the lay life.
I was think along the lines of "if by one year, you are not happier than you were as a lay person you shouldn't ordain". It seems common sense to me, but does anyone know of any advice that speaks along similar lines - from the canon, well-respected monastics? Your own opinions, thoughts?

Coyote
"If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared."
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LonesomeYogurt
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Re: How to know if you are suitable?

Post by LonesomeYogurt »

I've heard from a few monastics that one should spend around a month straight at a temple as a lay resident before deciding on whether or not anagarika ordination would be suitable. Afterwards, the general one-year period in the white robes is a good test run for how you handle sense restraint, meditation, etc.

At the end of that one year,I can imagine the questions all boil down to, "Do I still want to do this?" You just have to be honest with yourself. If one month feels good, commit for a year; if that year feels good, keep going. You'll never know until you take the plunge and try it.

Good luck :)
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.
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Polar Bear
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Re: How to know if you are suitable?

Post by Polar Bear »

If you can tolerate and endure:
And what are the fermentations to be abandoned by tolerating? There is the case where a monk, reflecting appropriately, endures. He tolerates cold, heat, hunger, & thirst; the touch of flies, mosquitoes, wind, sun, & reptiles; ill-spoken, unwelcome words & bodily feelings that, when they arise, are painful, racking, sharp, piercing, disagreeable, displeasing, & menacing to life. The fermentations, vexation, or fever that would arise if he were not to tolerate these things do not arise for him when he tolerates them. These are called the fermentations to be abandoned by tolerating.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
If you can follow the vinaya
He dwells restrained in accordance with the Patimokkha, consummate in his behavior & sphere of activity. He trains himself, having undertaken the training rules, seeing danger in the slightest faults. This is the second prerequisite for the development of the wings to self-awakening.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
And if you're determined to follow the path to completion no matter whether you're more happy after a year or miserable then I think you're good to go for sure.
"And who is the individual who goes against the flow? There is the case where an individual doesn't indulge in sensual passions and doesn't do evil deeds. Even though it may be with pain, even though it may be with sorrow, even though he may be crying, his face in tears, he lives the holy life that is perfect & pure. This is called the individual who goes against the flow.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
I think being a bhikkhu is pretty damn hardcore if you actually plan on living in isolated forest dwellings, so be prepared for more dukkha before less or none.
"Yes, brahman, so it is. It's not easy to endure isolated forest or wilderness dwellings. It's not easy to maintain seclusion, not easy to enjoy being alone. The forests, as it were, plunder the mind of a monk who has not attained concentration. Before my Awakening, when I was still an unawakened Bodhisatta, the thought occurred to me as well: 'It's not easy to maintain seclusion, not easy to enjoy being alone. The forests, as it were, plunder the mind of a monk who has not attained concentration.'
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

"Endowed with four qualities, a monk is fit to stay in isolated forest & wilderness dwellings. Which four? [He is endowed] with thoughts of renunciation, with thoughts of non-ill will, with thoughts of harmlessness, and he is a discerning person, not dull, not a drooling idiot. Endowed with these four qualities, a monk is fit to stay in isolated forest & wilderness dwellings."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
[3] "Then there is the case where I see a monk sitting in concentration in a village dwelling. The thought occurs to me, 'Soon a monastery attendant will disturb this venerable one in some way, or a novice will, and rouse him from his concentration.' And so I am not pleased with that monk's village-dwelling.

[4] "But then there is the case where I see a monk sitting, nodding, in the wilderness. The thought occurs to me, 'Soon this venerable one will dispel his drowsiness & fatigue and attend to the wilderness-perception, [1] [his mind] unified.' And so I am pleased with that monk's wilderness-dwelling.

[5] "Then there is the case where I see a wilderness monk sitting unconcentrated in the wilderness. The thought occurs to me, 'Soon this venerable one will center his unconcentrated mind, or protect his concentrated mind.' And so I am pleased with that monk's wilderness-dwelling.

[6] "Then there is the case where I see a wilderness monk sitting in concentration in the wilderness. The thought occurs to me, 'Soon this venerable one will release his unreleased mind, or protect his released mind.' And so I am pleased with that monk's wilderness-dwelling.

[7] "Then there is the case where I see a village-dwelling monk who receives robes, alms food, shelter, & medicinal requisites for curing the sick. Receiving, as he likes, those gains, offerings, & fame, he neglects seclusion, he neglects isolated forest & wilderness dwellings. He makes his living by visiting villages, towns, & cities. And so I am not pleased with that monk's village-dwelling.[2]

[8] "Then there is the case where I see a wilderness monk who receives robes, alms food, shelter, & medicinal requisites for curing the sick. Fending off those gains, offerings, & fame, he doesn't neglect seclusion, doesn't neglect isolated forest & wilderness dwellings. And so I am pleased with that monk's wilderness-dwelling.[3]

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
If you can accept the challenge for the sake of the goal, then you're ready.

:namaste:
Last edited by Polar Bear on Wed Mar 13, 2013 4:45 pm, edited 3 times in total.
"I don't envision a single thing that, when developed & cultivated, leads to such great benefit as the mind. The mind, when developed & cultivated, leads to great benefit."

"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
lojong1
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Re: How to know if you are suitable?

Post by lojong1 »

I heard recently that bhikkhus at a certain monastery who had planned to be there long term were more likely to disrobe early, while bhikkhus who planned no more than a day/week/month ahead tended to stay on longer, month after month after year after year.
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Nyorai
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Re: How to know if you are suitable?

Post by Nyorai »

Recommended is to stay in the temple as laybuddhist for 2 years. The purpose is to get yourself use to the happy stoical living of monastic lifestyle. One will face many people from all walks of life and each and every monastic themselves also may have their impressionable wisdom, so get in tune is helpful for yourself. So your purpose of being a laybuddhist for 2 years in the temple is to handle this consciousness in complete harmony and peace. 2 years in the temple are not studying their life but learn to be complete and sincere loving kindness with all, doing the routine chore there, live simple lifesyyle such as light food, and at the same time, your consciousness is always remained peace. Hope as many as possible enjoy being monastic as their simple lifestyle has been cushioning the worst impact for the environment, and helping themselves easier in reaching the within. There is a sutra that specifically extolling the merit and blessing of being bhikkhus / bhikkhusni. Well! expressing this greatness and you may ask why don't you renounce, may i confess it is not easy for me as having family to feed and people to care. And my vow never cease as renounced life in every life until all sentience become buddha, upon my attainment of supreme enlightenment metta :anjali:
ImageTo become vegetarian is to step into the stream which leads to nirvana.
If you light a lamp for somebody, it will also brighten your path. He who experiences the unity of life sees his own Self in all beings, and all beings in his own Self.Image
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convivium
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Re: How to know if you are suitable?

Post by convivium »

i think even if you've stayed around buddhist circles for years you might still have to flip a coin.
Just keep breathing in and out like this. Don't be interested in anything else. It doesn't matter even if someone is standing on their head with their ass in the air. Don't pay it any attention. Just stay with the in-breath and the out-breath. Concentrate your awareness on the breath. Just keep doing it. http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Just_Do_It_1_2.php
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James the Giant
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Re: How to know if you are suitable?

Post by James the Giant »

Just go try it. It's not like you have to cut off a body party or tattoo your forehead. You can go back to lay life at any time.
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
SN 9.11
makarasilapin
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Re: How to know if you are suitable?

Post by makarasilapin »

James the Giant wrote:Just go try it. It's not like you have to cut off a body party or tattoo your forehead. You can go back to lay life at any time.
lol +1!
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Mr Man
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Re: How to know if you are suitable?

Post by Mr Man »

Ajahn Chah used to ask those ordaining to make a commitment of at least five years, Ajahn Sumedho the same.
Coyote
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Re: How to know if you are suitable?

Post by Coyote »

Thanks for the replies everyone :) It is really insightful to know other people's opinions on this topic.
I guess what it boils down to is what the standards should be for evaluating what route to take your life down when faced with a choice. The statement "if it tends towards dispassion, to freedom from dukkha" seems good, but Polarbuddha you bring up a good point about the suffering that naturally goes along with the monastic life, before the fruit.
And of course, as James points out, it need not be a permanent choice.
You have all given me lots to think about.
lojong1 wrote:I heard recently that bhikkhus at a certain monastery who had planned to be there long term were more likely to disrobe early, while bhikkhus who planned no more than a day/week/month ahead tended to stay on longer, month after month after year after year.
This is interesting. I wonder if it has anything to do with the idealism of those who want to ordain long-term, vs. the practicality of those who are just testing the waters.

Coyote
"If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared."
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kmath
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Re: How to know if you are suitable?

Post by kmath »

Hi Coyote,

kmath here. I spent 18 months at a Western Thai monastery, 9 as a lay person and 9 as an Anagarika.

One great aspect of the Thai tradition is: even if you ordain, there's no expectation that you will stay in robes forever. In fact 70% of Westerners and 90% of Thais disrobe eventually. So don't think of ordaining as necessarily a lifetime commitment.

Also, you are correct about why people disrobe. When I asked the senior monks why so many people leave, the majority of monks said idealism. That is, people come in with lofty ideas about what their practice will be like, and when it doesn't live up to those ideals, people become disillusioned and leave.

And I can speak from experience on that one...

Now I'm curious, what makes you want to ordain? How's your lay life and practice going? Do you have any monasteries in mind?

Take care,

kmath
Coyote
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Re: How to know if you are suitable?

Post by Coyote »

kmath wrote:Hi Coyote,

kmath here. I spent 18 months at a Western Thai monastery, 9 as a lay person and 9 as an Anagarika.

One great aspect of the Thai tradition is: even if you ordain, there's no expectation that you will stay in robes forever. In fact 70% of Westerners and 90% of Thais disrobe eventually. So don't think of ordaining as necessarily a lifetime commitment.

Also, you are correct about why people disrobe. When I asked the senior monks why so many people leave, the majority of monks said idealism. That is, people come in with lofty ideas about what their practice will be like, and when it doesn't live up to those ideals, people become disillusioned and leave.

And I can speak from experience on that one...

Now I'm curious, what makes you want to ordain? How's your lay life and practice going? Do you have any monasteries in mind?

Take care,

kmath
Thanks for your post. I'm thinking of staying at a monastery with an eye towards anagarika and eventually bhikkhu if all goes well after I complete my degree and pay off the (sorry for boasting) relatively small debt. My plan is to keep all options open so that I don't become disappointed - I've never even visited a monastery. And I try not to have any high ideals about what the experience will be like, but hopefully whatever comes I will take with equanimity.
As far as my reasons for wanting to ordain - I guess it is wanting to do the best with my life that I can - the "good life". We only live once (at least in this body, with this opportunity) so I want to take the opportunity if I can. Spending my life as a lay person seems like a waste if I don't have to, not to disrespect the lay life. Though the pull towards sense-desire is very strong. No doubt a lot of idealism and desire in there, but those are the truth of my reasons.
There are several well-renowned monasteries in the UK (Ajahn Chah branch) so I don't see any need for looking outside the country unless something drastic happens.
"If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared."
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kmath
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Re: How to know if you are suitable?

Post by kmath »

Well, it sounds like you have a pretty balanced attitude about it. Feel free to contact me if you have any more questions.
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LonesomeYogurt
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Re: How to know if you are suitable?

Post by LonesomeYogurt »

kmath wrote:Also, you are correct about why people disrobe. When I asked the senior monks why so many people leave, the majority of monks said idealism. That is, people come in with lofty ideas about what their practice will be like, and when it doesn't live up to those ideals, people become disillusioned and leave.

And I can speak from experience on that one...
Interesting. It would be great to hear your story!
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.
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kmath
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Re: How to know if you are suitable?

Post by kmath »

Well I went to the monastery with a gung ho spirit about meditation and Buddhism. For the first year or so I practiced hard and saw some results. But eventually I lost my steam. Then the whole lifestyle became kind of a grind and my meditation more or less fell apart. After six months of drudgery, I left!

Many Westerners who leave tell a similar story: initial excitement => ordain => overly vigorous practice => burnout => disrobe.
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