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when to become a monastic?

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  • when to become a monastic?

    I am trying to find out if the Buddha gave any advice on when a lay follower should become a monastic? For over a year now it is all I have wanted but would mean abandoning my wife and child with little means to support themselfs. I have gotten to a point where I am repelled by the household life. When at work I see the dangers around me for my spiritual practice I see the habits being formed that strengthen my sense of self and give rise to unwholesome states. At home I see the exact same things. The best simile I can give is to imagine you wake up in the morning and on your drive to work you see people eating poison drinking poison immersing themself in poison yet they say it's happiness. At work everyone is partaking in poison saying it's happiness saying it's what everyone should do and when I try to say no these things are poisonous they will agree with my argument but it has no meaning. At home I see poison everywhere though no one even sees it here. I'm at the point where when I have no choice but to help my wife go shopping all I see is danger in every aisle. I am able to let go of it understanding this is just the way of the world the way of people but still it's there. I'm not sure how to say that this is good enough and be content with it. The Buddha said time and time again to abandon the household life but I can't seem to find any suttas saying at what point or criteria. I do as much as I can to live like a monastic at home. I do as much as I can to investigate my mind constantly throughout the day to say no to the cravings that pop up. I restrict my eating sleeping I don't go to parties or events I barely speak rather i look inwards. I don't criticize others for not practicing but only look at my own practice yet all around me I see that I'm being blocked by others by the household life. It is clear to me that the longer I stay in the family life the more suffering I will go through to undue the increase in my sense of self this life has given me. Has the Buddha given any advice on this?

  • #2
    Dear Dustin,

    Thank you for your question. Being a monastic, I understand how you might feel. Unfortunately I don't think there is a sutta in the texts where the Buddha says exactly when it is the right time to leave the household life!

    Personally I feel when the conditions are right, the doors just open for you - at least that is how it happened for me. Having a wife and child who are dependant on you...its an important responsibility. I'm sure you know that. In the Mangala Sutta the Buddha says 'Mata pitu upatthanam, putta darassa sangaho...etam mangalam uttamam' - 'supporting one's mother and father, looking after one's spouse and children - this is the highest blessing'. The Buddha put it up there - 'the highest blessing'.

    Also in the Vinaya, you are asked if you have the permission of your spouse to ordain.

    Material support aside, it's good to talk to your wife and child about how you want them to understand, so that your child will not grow up feeling abandoned. I'm not saying that's true, but it is good to talk to them about it - hear their side too. Its a big decision, and if they are suffering, it would be hard for you too. Having remorse makes it difficult to meditate!

    Also, having been ordained, let me tell you that life in a monastery is not a utopia. Living in a community, you come into contact daily with human frailties - you are surrounded by people of all sorts! If you are seriously thinking of taking up the robes, I suggest you actually give it a try for a few months. Find a monastery that it is possible for you to ordain in and talk to the abbot about your circumstances - he has to assess and accept the situation too. Give it a test ride so you actually see what monastic life is like in reality!

    Finally I think there is great relief and joy if developing the brahmaviharas in daily life. Personally I have found that changing my attitude to the suffering around me, actively cultivating compassion to replace the revulsion, has helped me to be more at ease in the world.

    Be there for your wife and child - embracing the people who love you and depend on you. Don't isolate them from your life - imagine what it would be like if the shoe was on the other foot! A soft heart that accepts and embraces rather than pushes them away is as much an important part of the practice as sitting in meditation is. Practicing metta meditation will help I feel in this respect.

    Allow your family to grow with you!

    A lot of living in a monastery is having to be with people of all sorts. Embracing and loving your family will help you go a long way in monastic life.

    With metta,
    Ven Upekkha


    • #3
      Thank you for the reply. I had a feeling there wasn't much said by the Buddha. Yes I have talked with my family a lot about it. It's more of the conditions for practice are better within the monastic life. I am not looking for a happier place to live per se, in my practice I've found I make good progress in the bad times when there is stress suffering and pain it allows me to investigate it, to understand why suffering arises. The last thing I want is to be somewhere without any suffering! For me at least that's where my work really comes in. The monastic life offers more time to meditate your surrender by teachers and friends in the spiritual life and you can have solitude! That right there is what I'm after, a good environment for meditation solitude and teaching along with some suffering to put into practice my practice and to see how life actually is. I try to follow this as best as I can in the household life but it's just grossly inadequate in time to meditate and to have solitude, yet is full of time to experience suffering. I do understand that wanting something more means one can't enjoy what they already have. I also understand that taking care of one's family is one of the highest things to do. However after reminding myself of this the thought comes into my mind about how many times the Buddha said to abandon one's family one's friends one's fortune and possessions to go forth into the homeless life. I also know that for a while after becoming a monk I would experience a lot of transition suffering going from home life into monastic but that's what I want. I've already given up a lot in the ways of shopping movies music food possessions cloths etc etc. Giving these things up did bring some discomfort but over time has brought a much simpler and happy life. With all this said a part of me feels you are completely right in that when the time is right the doors will open. There is still progress I can make at home and that has been my driving force keeping me going. This is what I have to work with for now so I'm trying to make the best of it and I've recently accepted that I'm seeing too much of the bad side and I need to develop my compassion my sympathy my kindness and my level mindedness. Thank you for allowing me to get this off my chest I greatly appreciate your reply.


      • #4
        You're welcome!

        Best wishes on your path.

        With metta,
        Ven Upekkha



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