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Ordination preparation and artistic passion

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  • Ordination preparation and artistic passion

    Good morning Bhante

    I come seeking your advice on something that has been going through my mind for some time;

    As a lay person I am committed to my practice and have full intentions to ordain when I feel I am mentally and physically prepared to do so. I am perceiving this chapter of my life as 'ordination preparation'. I don't want to disrobe, I want to be a super happy monk and I believe that I would benefit greatly from cultivating my mind (and fixing some physiological issues) a bit more before I go forth.

    I have two questions for you today :P, the first; What would you suggest to someone in regards to preparation for ordination?

    Then this is the lead up to the second question lol; I absolutely love being creative. In particular music and writing. I love it so much that it may be a problem as it can sometimes consume me. I am aware that as a monk I will give these things up and I'm very happy about that, because I know that for me it's a big distraction. However I am confused about what I should do presently as a layperson. Sure I could refrain from following my creative desires thus have more time for meditation and less attachment/identification that comes from the music, but I'm concerned that I may not be ready to take this away from my life as well. I used to live a very complex and sensually-exciting life, and through my practice have continued to renounce and simplify things, which has been brilliantly beneficial but if I take away music/creativity I can't help but think it might be a bit too much. As in I may not be ready for such intense practice. I figure that whether I am ready or not, the letting go of music will bring a transitional period of mental disturbance/suffering, but I don't want to practice over tightly, like that simile the Buddha gave to that musician regarding the tuning of his strings. I would just experiment with this myself without asking for advice, and come to my own conclusions based on my experience, but I thought it could help to gain a wiser perspective first!

    So my second question is, what would you suggest I do, or ask myself in order to find out what to do?

    May your day be filled with a ridiculously large amount of joy

  • #2
    Hi there Dylan,

    I used to be a drummer for many years. I also played the guitar and made music on the computer, and tried various other instruments (violin even!). Needless to say, music was a big part of my life! I also had many CDs and old records - I loved listening to music. But when I decided to give monastic life a go, I did not actively try to lessen the music. It sort of happened by itself. I progressed from the hard rock to the classical to almost no music at all.

    So I would say: just take things as they go. Don't force anything. That's also my general advice in regards to preparing for ordination. It's not these kind of things that give most people much problems in the robes, anyway, it seems. Yes, sometimes I would like to listen to some music, but only occasionally that craving comes up. Now I love the silence too much.

    A better way to prepare for ordination is to keep the five precepts as well as possible. Monastic life is largely based on virtue. If you have a solid foundation of good conduct, it is so much easier to stay in the robes because you'll be happier and you'll feel like you fit in more.

    Perhaps one day I'll meet you as a monk. That'll be great! For now, good luck with preparing. But don't see it just as a preparation phase, because as a lay person you are also very capable of practicing. Don't think you have to become a monk first before you can be happy!

    May you also have joy indeed!



    • #3
      Good afternoon Venerable :-)

      Thanks for your reply, it has given me a bit to think about and I've also been reflecting on my relationship to creativity.

      Your advice makes perfect sense however I am confused when relating it to my situation. I just reread my original post and something that stood out clearly was how much I underemphasized the extent to which my attachment to creativity consumes me. I've also had a deeper and more honest look at myself/this attachment and this is what I have found;

      I have always had a rather obsessive and addictive personality and I am presently addicted to creative expression, in particular music. I obsess over it and spend around half of my time creating, practicing and thinking about my present and future projects. The vast majority of my mind's motivation for this is seeking external recognition and self actualization. For the past six months I have been in a state of conflict within myself due to wanting this but seeing clearly its restrictive impact upon my spiritual practice (which is more important to me), this conflict has brought me a fair amount of suffering and whilst it is true that if I was not conflicted and allowed myself to do it, there would be less suffering, there is also the simple yet natural suffering that comes along with investing so much time into worldly projects. So in short, my artistic projects/artistic expression is causing me suffering and I don't want to want it anymore. I want to let it go and direct all that energy towards the eightfold Path, however there is a part of me that still wants to write, record and perform. Even so I still want to stop it. The reason why I found it difficult to relate your advice to my situation is that I can't tell whether that is forcing anything or not? The desire to continue creating is definitely there, but I am averse to such action because I know it leads to my suffering.

      After reading what I just wrote, it seems obvious to me that I should refrain from continuing my artistic endeavors and a few days ago I decided to renounce my artistic dreams. The reason why I am writing this to you is that I value your opinion and am curious as to whether (after a more detailed account of the situation) you see this as forcing? And if so, under the circumstances, would you still see forcing as the wrong thing to do?

      With metta :P


      • #4
        Hi again Dylan,

        If you try to change yourself too much in one go, you'll just fall back again. I've seen that in myself, I've seen that in others. It's like training a dog. You can't just tell it to do all the tricks in a week! It takes time. And in the first months it'll do things only half and mess things up. If you get impatient and don't give it biscuits it'll even give up altogether.

        Now, I'm not saying you're a dog, don't get me wrong! But the mind tends to be like that. If you force it to let go, it won't do it very well. Instead you need to have a replacement for the happiness you are finding in music. Then it'll be easy. If you can find that happiness in meditation, then that's the best. But you can also do other things like hanging out with other Buddhists, doing voluntary work, reading inspiring books, listening to dhamma talks etc.

        But remember it's just music. There is nothing essentially wrong with it.



        • #5
          Good afternoon Venerable,
          i would like to know whether creative writing is part of wrong lifelyhood.
          i am not writing as a professional writer but i like writing fiction.
          thank you for your answer, with Metta, Denise


          • #6
            Dear Denise,

            Thank you for your question, and forgive me for taking time to reply.

            The examples the Buddha gives of wrong livelihood are such things as dealing with arms, animals or slaves. In other words, exploiting others... writing fiction doesn't fit in with such harmful acts.

            That said, you must relate to Dylan's angst, which is why you added to this post. The question is, what does creative writing do to your mind? And the mind of others? Does it increase lust and anger and delusion? And create a bigger ego for yourself?

            On the other hand, does writing help you to understand your sense of self, and therefore let it go?

            You have to look very carefully and be really honest with yourself. The mind is a tricky beast!

            Please write again if you have any insights (and I will try and respond a little sooner!)

            With metta,
            Ven Upekkha


            • #7
              Thanks venerable for your answer. You point out my underlying thoughts. I will be careful and keep your reflexions in mind. As a matter of fact, the more i listen to Dharma and read the suttas the more i am aware of what the Buddha points out about Ego, and so trying not to let it in as much as possible. It maybe is even the most important reason why i hesitate when writing.
              Thanks a lot for helping my reflexion.
              with Metta, Denise



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