How difficult is monastic life vs full time job?

Discussion of ordination, the Vinaya and monastic life. How and where to ordain? Bhikkhuni ordination etc.
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Sam Vara
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Re: How difficult is monastic life vs full time job?

Post by Sam Vara »

mikenz66 wrote: Thu Mar 16, 2023 6:24 am
JamesTheGiant wrote: Thu Mar 16, 2023 12:18 am
Alex123 wrote: Wed Mar 15, 2023 9:39 pm What did you have to do at the monastery? Aren't monks supposed to have "few duties" and be devoted to seclusion?

Thank you.
A description of one day:
viewtopic.php?p=337473#p337473
I was a little puzzled by the question, and some of the responses. There seems to be an implication that "duties" or "requirements" are just stuff that gets in the way of "real practice".
There's a lovely story that Ajahn Sumedho told about his early days at Wat Pa Pong. Ajahn Chah, in those days very fierce and exacting, was having his monks build a road up the side of a steep mountain to expand the monastery. Hard, monotonous manual work with primitive tools, in the heat, with poor food. Sumedho went to the Ajahn and explained that he had come a long way to train at the monastery, and that he thought meditation would be a better use of his time than all this manual labour.

The next day, Ajahn Chah was allocating work to his monks, and said off-handedly, "Oh, by the way, Tan Sumedho doesn't wan't to help carry rocks today. He thinks it's better for him if he stays in his kuti and meditates all day".

After that, Sumedho didn't ask any more, and became an enthusiastic rock-carrier.
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Re: How difficult is monastic life vs full time job?

Post by TRobinson465 »

SarathW wrote: Thu Mar 16, 2023 8:12 am Considering the fact that we do not have Buddha today, they all depend on the chief monk and the other control freaks around you.
If you get into a temple that is building a temple all you do is a labor job.
If you have to train a lot of other monks or lay people what you will be doing all day will be teaching.
I think there is a Sutta about choosing the right temple.
The best is to live with your teacher as a lay person for while.
Yes this is correct. I ordained once at a place where they were building up a temple and most of what we did all day was labor. Preparing roads and cleaning the forest area, cleaning the then abandoned buildings etc. The batch that came after us the next year didn't have to do much of anything in terms of labor. In a different year I ordained we stayed at a place that was already built up and it was just basic maintenance and mostly meditation and vinaya training.

The difficulty just depends on ur preferences and where you ordain. I have met ppl who are very physical ppl and preferred the labor. In some ways monk life was easier for me because less responsibilities. Just following orders. In other ways it was harder because it's regimented.

I generally don't recommend going from E-Buddhism directly into monastic life, you'll be the most knowledgeable sutta nerd in the batch but will lack the personal qualities of Buddhist training relative to your cohort as it consists mostly of real life Buddhists not e-buddhists. You should definitely go to temples in real life, see how they operate and consider which one you like first. If you like Thai traditions - I always always always recommend trying out a short term ordination program. At best, it can be a life changing experience, at worst, you know monastic life isn't for you or it'll make it so you want to try monastic life at a different monastery.

My recommendation. Go to temples in real life first don't just read suttas and argue with strangers online and be like imma practicing Buddhist. As long as you're okay with Thai traditions, as opposed to Sri Lankan or something like that, try a short term ordination program, if you don't like it, try a different one later. If you do, you have something to go off of.

Lastly. Do not make "easy" or "hard" your sole criteria. It can be a factor but not the only factor. Too many Western Buddhists take it way too easy. They pick and choose what doctrines they want to believe. They pick and choose Buddhist practices they think are easy/fun and ignore the rest. An E-Buddhist who reads suttas and meditates because that's what they like, and then ignores the duties of a layperson like supporting the sangha because it's "too hard" to get off their chair and be generous to the keepers of the Dhamma but won't ordain because they want to have sex and don't want to clean monasteries will get very little benefit from buddhism compared to the numerous poor illiterate villagers I've seen in Asia who have never read a sutta but get up early to give modest alms that make up probably 10% of their income to support the sangha as a lay Buddhist should. What's easy for you is hard for someone else. Also. Monasticism and Buddhist practice in general is about training yourself. Training yourself on what is easy/fun has little value. It's training yourself on what is hard that is the most valuable.
"Do not have blind faith, but also no blind criticism" - the 14th Dalai Lama

"The Blessed One has set in motion the unexcelled Wheel of Dhamma that cannot be stopped by brahmins, devas, Maras, Brahmas or anyone in the cosmos." -Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta
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mikenz66
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Re: How difficult is monastic life vs full time job?

Post by mikenz66 »

Thanks Sam Vara and TRobinson465. You summarise well my concerns about some of the posts and attitudes I see here. Particularly having a fixed idea about what "real Buddhist practice" is.

Particularly pernicious is the: "My teacher is the Buddha" argument. The Buddha is not around. He can't discipline you in the ways described in the suttas. Get over it.

Some of what I read on this Forum would be analogous to my students saying "Mike is pretty lame compared to Einstein and Feynman. Standards really have slipped in the 21st Century. I don't think I'll bother doing his boring quantum mechanics homework - I'll just watch a few youtube videos and have a cup of tea."

Good luck with the final exam! :tongue:

:heart:
Mike
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Re: How difficult is monastic life vs full time job?

Post by TRobinson465 »

Sam Vara wrote: Thu Mar 16, 2023 2:37 pm
mikenz66 wrote: Thu Mar 16, 2023 6:24 am
JamesTheGiant wrote: Thu Mar 16, 2023 12:18 am
A description of one day:
viewtopic.php?p=337473#p337473
I was a little puzzled by the question, and some of the responses. There seems to be an implication that "duties" or "requirements" are just stuff that gets in the way of "real practice".
There's a lovely story that Ajahn Sumedho told about his early days at Wat Pa Pong. Ajahn Chah, in those days very fierce and exacting, was having his monks build a road up the side of a steep mountain to expand the monastery. Hard, monotonous manual work with primitive tools, in the heat, with poor food. Sumedho went to the Ajahn and explained that he had come a long way to train at the monastery, and that he thought meditation would be a better use of his time than all this manual labour.

The next day, Ajahn Chah was allocating work to his monks, and said off-handedly, "Oh, by the way, Tan Sumedho doesn't wan't to help carry rocks today. He thinks it's better for him if he stays in his kuti and meditates all day".

After that, Sumedho didn't ask any more, and became an enthusiastic rock-carrier.
Yes even in the Buddha's time monks built thier own monasteries and kutis unless a king or wealthy person built one for them.

I don't understand why western ppl nowadays "envision" true monk life as being entitled to having everything handed to you while you only do things you like such as meditate and read and argue about suttas. When Asian Buddhists make merit western laypeople criticize it as a "selfish" and lowly practice to seek a better rebirth by accumulating merit rather than seeking the end of rebirth. When western Buddhists ordain to try to end rebirth, they whine the merit seeking Asian lay supporters they live off didn't try to accumulate even more merit for themselves by building out and cleaning the entire monastery for them so they can have more time to only do the Buddhist practices they actually like.
"Do not have blind faith, but also no blind criticism" - the 14th Dalai Lama

"The Blessed One has set in motion the unexcelled Wheel of Dhamma that cannot be stopped by brahmins, devas, Maras, Brahmas or anyone in the cosmos." -Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta
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Re: How difficult is monastic life vs full time job?

Post by JamesTheGiant »

I would be fine with a monastery where we had to work a lot. There was a mindfulness game we played at the monastery, while we dug a long trench for sewerage. We tried to remain mindful for at long as possible, and said "Lost it!" when we forgot, and started again.
The best monk stayed mindful for about 3 hours, whereas I lasted about 20 minutes before starting again.
All work and activities can be like that, continual mindfulness no matter what you're doing.
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Re: How difficult is monastic life vs full time job?

Post by Dan74 »

TRobinson465 wrote: Thu Mar 16, 2023 6:28 pm
SarathW wrote: Thu Mar 16, 2023 8:12 am Considering the fact that we do not have Buddha today, they all depend on the chief monk and the other control freaks around you.
If you get into a temple that is building a temple all you do is a labor job.
If you have to train a lot of other monks or lay people what you will be doing all day will be teaching.
I think there is a Sutta about choosing the right temple.
The best is to live with your teacher as a lay person for while.
Yes this is correct. I ordained once at a place where they were building up a temple and most of what we did all day was labor. Preparing roads and cleaning the forest area, cleaning the then abandoned buildings etc. The batch that came after us the next year didn't have to do much of anything in terms of labor. In a different year I ordained we stayed at a place that was already built up and it was just basic maintenance and mostly meditation and vinaya training.

The difficulty just depends on ur preferences and where you ordain. I have met ppl who are very physical ppl and preferred the labor. In some ways monk life was easier for me because less responsibilities. Just following orders. In other ways it was harder because it's regimented.

I generally don't recommend going from E-Buddhism directly into monastic life, you'll be the most knowledgeable sutta nerd in the batch but will lack the personal qualities of Buddhist training relative to your cohort as it consists mostly of real life Buddhists not e-buddhists. You should definitely go to temples in real life, see how they operate and consider which one you like first. If you like Thai traditions - I always always always recommend trying out a short term ordination program. At best, it can be a life changing experience, at worst, you know monastic life isn't for you or it'll make it so you want to try monastic life at a different monastery.

My recommendation. Go to temples in real life first don't just read suttas and argue with strangers online and be like imma practicing Buddhist. As long as you're okay with Thai traditions, as opposed to Sri Lankan or something like that, try a short term ordination program, if you don't like it, try a different one later. If you do, you have something to go off of.

Lastly. Do not make "easy" or "hard" your sole criteria. It can be a factor but not the only factor. Too many Western Buddhists take it way too easy. They pick and choose what doctrines they want to believe. They pick and choose Buddhist practices they think are easy/fun and ignore the rest. An E-Buddhist who reads suttas and meditates because that's what they like, and then ignores the duties of a layperson like supporting the sangha because it's "too hard" to get off their chair and be generous to the keepers of the Dhamma but won't ordain because they want to have sex and don't want to clean monasteries will get very little benefit from buddhism compared to the numerous poor illiterate villagers I've seen in Asia who have never read a sutta but get up early to give modest alms that make up probably 10% of their income to support the sangha as a lay Buddhist should. What's easy for you is hard for someone else. Also. Monasticism and Buddhist practice in general is about training yourself. Training yourself on what is easy/fun has little value. It's training yourself on what is hard that is the most valuable.
:goodpost:
_/|\_
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Re: How difficult is monastic life vs full time job?

Post by Pondera »

mikenz66 wrote: Thu Mar 16, 2023 7:55 pm Thanks Sam Vara and TRobinson465. You summarise well my concerns about some of the posts and attitudes I see here. Particularly having a fixed idea about what "real Buddhist practice" is.

Particularly pernicious is the: "My teacher is the Buddha" argument. The Buddha is not around. He can't discipline you in the ways described in the suttas. Get over it.

Some of what I read on this Forum would be analogous to my students saying "Mike is pretty lame compared to Einstein and Feynman. Standards really have slipped in the 21st Century. I don't think I'll bother doing his boring quantum mechanics homework - I'll just watch a few youtube videos and have a cup of tea."

Good luck with the final exam! :tongue:

:heart:
Mike
Can you put the first dø/dt for Schrödinger’s equation on the next test, Mike? PLEASE!!!! I’ve done that before :clap: it’s easy!
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Re: How difficult is monastic life vs full time job?

Post by mikenz66 »

Pondera wrote: Fri Mar 17, 2023 7:48 am Can you put the first dø/dt for Schrödinger’s equation on the next test, Mike? PLEASE!!!! I’ve done that before :clap: it’s easy!
:rofl:
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Re: How difficult is monastic life vs full time job?

Post by robertk »

mikenz66 wrote: Thu Mar 16, 2023 7:55 pm .

Particularly pernicious is the: "My teacher is the Buddha" argument. The Buddha is not around. He can't discipline you in the ways described in the suttas. Get over it.

Some of what I read on this Forum would be analogous to my students saying "Mike is pretty lame compared to Einstein and Feynman. Standards really have slipped in the 21st Century. I don't think I'll bother doing his boring quantum mechanics homework - I'll just watch a few youtube videos and have a cup of tea."

Good luck with the final exam! :tongue:

:heart:
Mike
Dear Mike
Consider this sutta:
https://suttacentral.net/sn22.43/en/bodhi
At Savatthi. “Bhikkhus, dwell with yourselves as an island, with yourselves as a refuge, with no other refuge; with the Dhamma as an island, with the Dhamma as a refuge, with no other refuge. When you dwell with yourselves as an island, with yourselves as a refuge, with no other refuge; with the Dhamma as an island, with the Dhamma as a refuge, with no other refuge
So there needs to be balance. Presumably you would cite from Einstein at times and your students might be worried if your lectures deviated from established understanding of Physics.
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Re: How difficult is monastic life vs full time job?

Post by TRobinson465 »

robertk wrote: Fri Mar 17, 2023 1:18 pm
Consider this sutta:
https://suttacentral.net/sn22.43/en/bodhi
At Savatthi. “Bhikkhus, dwell with yourselves as an island, with yourselves as a refuge, with no other refuge; with the Dhamma as an island, with the Dhamma as a refuge, with no other refuge. When you dwell with yourselves as an island, with yourselves as a refuge, with no other refuge; with the Dhamma as an island, with the Dhamma as a refuge, with no other refuge
So there needs to be balance. Presumably you would cite from Einstein at times and your students might be worried if your lectures deviated from established understanding of Physics.
Taken literally. That text is contradictory. Because it says take no other refuge than yourself and take no other refuge than the dhamma. Unless one considers yourself = dhamma it seems he's talking rhetorically since u can't take no other refuge than yourself and also take refuge in the dhamma.

The kalama sutta also says don't believe in things simply because they are in your scriptures. That doesn't mean don't believe in anything in the scriptures. Middle way is the key yes.

In Buddhism, particularly western eBuddhism, you have ppl who think they themselves and only themselves can interpret the suttas better than the ancient commentators who were experienced monks, meditation masters, and lived in a culture closer to the Buddha's culture than modern America or Australia, as well as better than modern meditation masters, you have ppl who think they can practice the dhamma better as laypeople sitting at home on a computer all day, eating dinner, having sex and sleeping on luxurious beds than as monastics who live a life of austerity because monastics don't follow "true monasticism" exactly how it was in the Buddha's time in preindustrial ancient India because they use electricity and running water, because you know, true monkhood is all or nothing apparently. And becoming a monastic would mean you have to do things like maintain the temple and serve and teach the lay community that supports you rather than doing only the fun stuff like meditate and study/argue about suttas. You have ppl who look down on merit making as an "inferior" practice for laypeople that is not a practice for the "noble" Buddhist followers like themselves who seek to escape suffering, even tho they are not even monks themselves and the Buddha routinely praises meritorious deeds as marks of wise people.

These behaviors are not signs of taking refuge in yourself/the dhamma. It is hyperinflated egoism and a grandiose sense of self importance. There are serious Buddhists who are honest about why they haven't taken up monastic life, and there are others who lie to themselves and others about the real reason they won't ordain and make up purity test about how they themselves are "too good" of dhamma practitioners to be monks since monasteries nowadays don't meet their impossible purity tests of being exactly the same as ancient India and operating in the exact way as recorded by the ancient Vinaya texts. Some ppl truly don't rely on themselves enough, others far too much.
"Do not have blind faith, but also no blind criticism" - the 14th Dalai Lama

"The Blessed One has set in motion the unexcelled Wheel of Dhamma that cannot be stopped by brahmins, devas, Maras, Brahmas or anyone in the cosmos." -Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta
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Re: How difficult is monastic life vs full time job?

Post by mikenz66 »

Hi Robert,
robertk wrote: Fri Mar 17, 2023 1:18 pm Dear Mike
Consider this sutta:
https://suttacentral.net/sn22.43/en/bodhi
At Savatthi. “Bhikkhus, dwell with yourselves as an island, with yourselves as a refuge, with no other refuge; with the Dhamma as an island, with the Dhamma as a refuge, with no other refuge. When you dwell with yourselves as an island, with yourselves as a refuge, with no other refuge; with the Dhamma as an island, with the Dhamma as a refuge, with no other refuge
So there needs to be balance. Presumably you would cite from Einstein at times and your students might be worried if your lectures deviated from established understanding of Physics.
Certainly. It's a matter of context.

The sutta you quote, and other "dhamma as a refuge" suttas, is is addressed to Bhikkhu's who have been well trained. Their dhamma practice is the refuge (not the texts).
So Ānanda, live as your own island, your own refuge, with no other refuge. Let the teaching be your island and your refuge, with no other refuge.

And how does a mendicant do this?
It’s when a mendicant meditates by observing an aspect of the body—keen, aware, and mindful, rid of desire and aversion for the world.
....
https://suttacentral.net/dn16/en/sujato ... ript=latin
It's not what the Buddha teaches to new Bhikkhus. He trains them in sila, sense restraint and so on.

:heart:
Mike
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