Monday, June 10, 2013

Motivation to seek ordination and join the Sangha

What is your motivation if you are indeed seeking to ordain as a monk or a nun?  

I would hope it would be for the best reasons; however, I have read so many autobiographies since the 1990s of so-called modern seekers most who failed to remain robed that I should address motivation first.

If you become a monk or a nun in the Buddhist tradition called the Sangha then your motivation should be seeking Enlightenment for yourself while being a monk or a nun in Buddhist robes.  

However, people become monks or nuns for much different reasons.  Some reasons are for the fad of it, professional aspirations, supporting politics, supporting the underdog, to stand out from society, attain fame, get money, emotional satisfaction, making history, legitimizing views, infiltrate and conquer, escape, to help others, gay rights, women's rights, feminism, and many others.

Popular causes highlighted in Buddhism tend to attract people's attention.  Countries that have troubled histories in Buddhism tend to polarize people's views regarding Sangha behavior and authority. History is often ignored in light of headlines.

Those seeking ordination need to really take the time they need to explore their motivation.  If you are politically or fashionably orientated then you are facing more obstacles if you indeed achieve the goal of becoming ordained in robes.

Seek out stable long standing communities of Sangha to observe, be observed and understand how they work, practice and live.  If you go into the robes without knowing the language, culture, history or even the basics of how you are expected to live and survive in robes then you are indeed in for a really rude awakening and may become frustrated and negative in your own life.

Mental health in those seeking ordination, you must be conservative here. People do your work on yourself.  Make use of therapy and therapists before you try to join a monastic community.  Have plan of safety if you suffer form chronic mental illness. If you are good at putting it in place, taking care of your needs diligently then you should have no problems in your monastic life.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Leaving Home

Leaving Home to become a sramana a left home man given 10 precepts or sramaneri also referred to as sramanerika a left home woman given 10 precepts in the West has to be the hardest for those that have no idea where to start to find a place to leave home to.  In Buddhist countries there is the advantage of knowing where to go and the best places to go to.

It is important to go to the places first that you wish to ordain with, for women this means a longer period of observation while attending the temple as a lay Buddhist and then joining in volunteering.  Most training places in the USA are founded by overseas Buddhists thus their primary culture and language is not English.  The two largest places for those intending full ordination while training in the USA are the Sagely City of 10,000 Buddhas in Northern California and the Hsi Lai Temple in Southern California.

Both places have a "look and see" type program for inquiring people who want to consider leaving home to become ordained.  These programs are likely to ask you to be a volunteer for some time 3 to 6 months as you will better understand by experiencing monastery life.

Both places offer training with spoken English but will include and encourage you to study the Chinese language for benefit of understanding and participating in the Buddhist ceremonies which is also written in the Chinese language.  Most of their material is in Chinese with instruction in Chinese but with English as well.  It's great to learn both if your first language is neither then you need to know at least one of these two.

They both provide excellent educational opportunities.

If you choose a smaller temple it may be better to be sure you undertake it with a mature understanding.  If you are the type to take on a new language and culture with a good deal of tolerance and enjoyment then go ahead.  If you can't stand any type of new food or traditions then just  forget it.  In a smaller setting you will be taught most of the services during the course of the year, the music, the instruments, the care and preparation of services, food and events.  Everyone is wearing all duty's hats, the decisions are made by the abbot or abbess generally, everyone is responsible for themselves, their health, their training.  You need to be able to take the public nature of your life, the idea of being on a stage from the time you are up to the time you close your eyes and sleep is a good image to keep in mind.  Most of the training places are based on the Dharmagupta Vinaya precepts meaning they are entirely Mahayana in orientation.

The best training is the one that is taken fully understanding what you are getting into, seeing problems clearly in others and in yourself and striving on in spite of them both for yourself making sure you are committed to the new role and walk the Path you undertake in purity and dedication.