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  • Trying out the life of a monk.

    Venerable sirs,

    My first contact with Buddhism was a quote i found 2-3 years ago on the internet. i did some light research on Buddhism but I let it aside because there was a greater conflict in me, wether to be a Christian or and Atheist.

    This summer on the other hand I don't know out of what reason I decided to research Buddhims in depth. At a very fast pace, reading through whatever I could find (the Dhammapada being my all time favorite), I fell into agreement with 80% of what i read (a percentage which grew overtime). More than that it felt like it was unlocking understanding which I already had. Not to mention it helped me lift doubt and anger from my thoughts (not completly, but it felt like crawling from underneath a boulder). Sooner or later I found out about talks on the internet and also began researching different practices. In my weighing of what i researched I found out this community to have the most in common with my personal beliefs.

    Since then my life had changed a lot, my view of life seemed to have matured somehow, unloked from the burdens of doubt. But I found myself in a world that would hear me but not understand me. There is almost no Buddhism in my country. I found myself looking at people and trying to show them what i see, I found Buddhism more and more difficult to express, I later understood the meaning of conditioning and how many are not yet able to comprehend life in the Buddhist way.

    I've been contemplating a lot on the subject, and the life of a monk actually became appealing to me. But i still have my fears and doubts about it. I was wondering , and this is my actual question, if it would be possible for me to come all the way from Romania and try out the life of Buddhist monks?

    I am currently finishing my studies in Business Administration (the irony) and I also have plans to get employed or follow a master's degree. But the irony is that following the Buddhist teachings i slowly begin to loose interest in money, personal gain and career (which were my main motivation through my studies). So I do not know when it will be possible and for how long, but i want to break free from my lay life and try following the monks and their way of life. Of course I would have my parents permission.

    With Metta,
    Daniel.

  • #2
    Dear Daniel,

    ... if it would be possible for me to come all the way from Romania and try out the life of Buddhist monks?
    Can do! I have to warn you that it is very difficult to know whether you will actually enjoy monastic life until you have tried it out. I would suggest you come for a few weeks first of all - this is the standard procedure for staying at our monastery - and then you can decide afterwards whether you wish to stay on.

    With metta.

    Comment


    • #3
      Thank you very much. I was wondering if there's any paperwork though, i think i'd need a visa.

      I have to warn you that it is very difficult to know whether you will actually enjoy monastic life until you have tried it out.
      That is why i'd rather just try than make commitments. My greatest fear is for my health. I'm pretty sure that the lack of stress in a monks life would help out a great deal with that. But my fears, although coming only from assumptions, are of new food, new eating habits, new living style and how that may affect my overall health.

      With that i'd have some questions:
      1) Is a monk allowed to eat after 12 if he is ill?
      2) Is a monk allowed to ask for a another place to sleep if the current one is truly detrimenting his health?
      3) Is a monk allowed to wash more often if needed to preserve his health?
      4) Is a monk allowed to refuse or ask for different food if he is ill or if he thinks it may affect his health?
      5) Do monks have access to dentists and doctors?

      I hope i don't sound like a hypochondriac.

      And now for some less serious questions:
      6) Are monks allowed to keep or bring with them specific hygene objects? for example i have outgrowing nails at both my toes and i need to cut them and shape them using 2 different tools in order for them not to get infected.
      7) Are monks allowed to use deodorant, not with the purpose of making them smell nice of course?

      Comment


      • #4
        Dear Daniel,

        I was wondering if there's any paperwork though, i think i'd need a visa.
        Yes, you need a visa. The best thing is to apply for a three month tourist visa. This can be expended in Australia, if you should wish to stay on. If you have any problems getting a visa, we may be able to supply you with a letter of invitation.

        1) Is a monk allowed to eat after 12 if he is ill?
        No. If you are really ill you may take broth in the afternoon. Otherwise there is always "tonics" available. This includes juices and chocolate, as well as tea and coffee. But I wouldn't worry about this until you have tried it out. Very few people have any problems with not eating in the afternoon.

        2) Is a monk allowed to ask for a another place to sleep if the current one is truly detrimenting his health?
        Yes.

        3) Is a monk allowed to wash more often if needed to preserve his health?
        Yes.

        4) Is a monk allowed to refuse or ask for different food if he is ill or if he thinks it may affect his health?
        Yes.

        5) Do monks have access to dentists and doctors?
        Yes.

        6) Are monks allowed to keep or bring with them specific hygene objects? for example i have outgrowing nails at both my toes and i need to cut them and shape them using 2 different tools in order for them not to get infected.
        Yes.

        7) Are monks allowed to use deodorant, not with the purpose of making them smell nice of course?
        Monks should generally not use any kind of perfume or scented products. However, non-scented deodorants would be no problem.

        With metta.

        Comment


        • #5
          Venerable Ajahn Brahmali,

          Thank you for your pacience in answering my questions. I still have a few curiousities and i hope i'm not asking too many questions.

          First of all i would like to know what else I would be required to cover financially (beside the trip to get there) and if I am required to have health insurance.

          Secondly, I have read that monks are not allowed to attend some forms of entertainment. So from my understanding there is no TV, no games, no listening to music, no attending to shows etc. But is a monk limited on what he may read? May a monk read stories or novels, or the newspaper?

          With metta.

          Comment


          • #6
            Dear Daniel,

            First of all i would like to know what else I would be required to cover financially (beside the trip to get there) and if I am required to have health insurance.
            Yes, you would need some sort of health insurance; travel insurance is usually sufficient. As a lay visitor to all Buddhist monasteries that I know of, you will generally be expected to cover your own personal expenses, such as overseas telephone calls. However, there are usually very few expenses incurred while staying at a monastery.

            May a monk read stories or novels, or the newspaper?
            There are no absolute guidelines here, but generally the reading of novels will be discouraged. In the end it is up to each individual to make the most of monastic life. At our monastery newpapers are read by some monks whenever they are offered to the Sangha. Again, moderation is encouraged.

            With metta.

            Comment


            • #7
              Venerable Ajahn Brahmali,

              I will just jump in this thread to ask some little questions too!

              I understand you said it is possible for lay people to spend some time on the monastery? I want to know, how exactly does that work? For example, (a very naive question! ) can females visit the men's monastery? And usually, how long would a lay visitor stay? (Is there a minimum, maximum period of time?) During specific times of the year, for example, during the rains retreat are the rules different ?

              If there is a web page about those things on the dhammaloka website you can just refer me to it, I looked for but didn't find any.

              Thank you!
              With metta,
              Valeria

              Comment


              • #8
                Dear Valeria,

                We have three rooms for women at Bodhinyana Monastery, and the maximum stay for overseas visitors is 1 month (no minimum). If you come for the rains retreat then you would normally stay for the full three months. However, it is quite difficult to get a room for that period.

                With metta.

                Comment


                • #9
                  What a coincedence that I stumble upon this beautiful subject. (as far as there is any coincedence) :-) I just finished a reply to a member, stating that there have been times in my life I would want to become a monk. And to be very honest, that feeling is still inside me. I have contemplated that a lot, but as for the others that replied to this subject, I have questions. As for me, being dependent of a wheelchair all the time, would it even be possible? If I look back at my life so far, I cannot say anything else than that I had to depent on material things a lot, as best example my wheelchair.
                  Like Daniel, my interest in material things subsides quickly. I will lose my car in a few months which on one hand makes me sad because the car always has given me a certain freedom to go wherever I like, but on the other hand I do not panic (as I did some years ago when there was a chance I would lose it).
                  I find that my increasing practice is changing me (for the better). Although I have to rely on books only as I stated in a previous post here, I feel that the need to put the knowledge that I gain into practice, becomes stronger and stronger.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Dear Jo,

                    Unfortunately, it is unlikely that you will be able to ordain. There are rules in the monastic discipline against ordaining someone who has a serious illness or handicap.

                    However, you may well be able to stay at a monastery for an extended period as a lay visitor. At Bodhinyana Monastery in Perth we do not have wheelchair facilities for the male guests (although we do have them for female guests, since the female accommodation was built more recently). Otherwise we would have been most happy to have you as a guest. However, there may be other monasteries that have the appropriate facilities.

                    Whether one ordains or stays in a monastery as a long term guest may not make too much difference. As long as one is able to make proper use of the facilities, one should be able to make good progress on the path.

                    with metta.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Dear Ajahn Brahmali,

                      Thank you for your clear reply. Indeed, I don't remember exactly where I've read or heared it, that people with a serious disability can't ordain but I kind of knew this in the back of my mind. Just to satisfy my curiousity, do you know why those rules exist? Mayb because disabled or seriously ill people are too dependent of material things like medicine, wheelchairs or other facilities which can interfere with practice?

                      I think you're very right that ordaining or not is not that important when it comes to practice. In fact, I find myself setting more time aside to practice in my current environment, which feels very good to me.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Dear Jo,

                        I think the best I can do is simply to cut and paste from information available at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/a...mc2.ch14.html:

                        Undesirable. Applicants falling into the following categories should not be given the Going-forth.
                        ...
                        5) Those who are physically handicapped, feeble, or deformed. The following list is from the Canon, with passages from the Commentary in brackets: an applicant with a hand cut off [C: at least from the palm] ... a foot cut off [C: at least from the ball of the foot].. a hand and foot cut off ... an ear cut off ... a nose cut off ... an ear and nose cut off [C: in the case of ears and nose, if the cut-off part can be reconnected, the applicant may go forth] ... a finger or toe cut off [C: so that nothing of the nail appears] ... a thumb or big toe cut off .. a cut tendon ... one who has webbed fingers [C: if the fingers are separated by surgery, or if a sixth finger is removed, the applicant may go forth] ... a bent-over person [C: bent-over forward (a hunchback), bent-over back (a swayback), bent-over to either side; a slight crookedness is to be expected in all candidates, as only a Buddha is perfectly straight] ... a dwarf ... one with a club foot (or elephantiasis) [C: if the foot is operated on so as to become a normal foot, he may go forth] ... one who disgraces the assembly [C: through some deformity; (the list here is very long and includes many seemingly harmless characteristics, such as connected eyebrows, a lack of a beard or moustache, etc. This is one area where the Commentary seems to have gone overboard)] ... one who is blind in one eye ... one who has a crooked limb [C: limb = at least a hand, foot, or finger] ... one who is lame ... one half-paralyzed [C: paralyzed in one hand, one foot, or down one side] ... a cripple [C: one who needs a crutch or stool to move along] ... one feeble from old age ... one who is blind... dumb [C: unable to speak or with such a bad stutter that he cannot pronounce the Three Refuges clearly]... deaf ... blind and dumb ... blind and deaf (ยง โ€” not mentioned in BD) ... deaf and dumb ... blind and deaf and dumb.

                        Again, some people have questioned the compassion behind these prohibitions, but the point of the prohibitions is to keep the bhikkhus from being burdened with looking after those who are a burden or an embarrassment to their families. There is at least one case in the Canon of a dwarf who ordained and became an arahant (Ud.VII.1-2), but apparently he, like Aṅgulimāla, was accepted into the Community by the Buddha himself. If it so happens that a bhikkhu develops any of these handicaps after his ordination โ€” e.g., he goes blind or loses a limb โ€” he need not disrobe, and his fellow bhikkhus are duty-bound to care for him (see Chapter 5).
                        With metta.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Thank you, it is now also clear to me what the reason behind it is. Makes perfect sense to me.

                          With metta, Jo

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            dear ajahn brahmali,
                            i am a teacher (still), 62 years of age and practicing vipassanna meditation for half of my life at various meditation centers (retreats) and in my home. i always wanted to become a monk because i think only in such environment one can really advance. but i have been a married houdeholder, too weak, with many worldly desires and resulting duties.
                            is it still possible at least for a couple of years? or am i too old? do i have to formally divorce for that?
                            i feel that a somewhat older man who maybe not comitted for life (because of care for the sangha in case i get sick - i am in good health now) might not realy be welcomed as my physical strength can not compare to young ones.
                            what is your opinion about my wish.
                            thank you
                            roland

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Dear Roland,

                              Our monastery is essentially open to everyone. What is important is that you try out monastic life. You will soon find out that the idea and reality of monasticism are quite different. It is quite possible that will find out that this is not for you. On the other hand, if you do like it, and you are able to follow the monastic routine and discipline, age should not be a barrier. In the end it is up the Sangha of any particular monastery to decide if you should or should not be ordained. The only problem at our monastery is that it is quite full at the moment, and I cannot guarantee we will be able to fit you in.

                              By the way, tonight we are ordaining a 70 year old man as a novice monk!

                              With metta.

                              Comment

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