Seeking Ordination

If you are seeking ordination then you should start to prepare a to do list.  Here is some of my suggestions.

  1. Understand the definition of the Sangha. It is a membership of two classes of adults at least age 20 who are biologically men or women.  Everyone trains in the same separated groups by gender for living, training and ordination, they also must be approved by the resident Sangha who is observing them during their 10 precept training time before they can be determined if they are ready to apply for full ordination.  If they are not accepted by the ordination committee.  They can choose to return to lay life or can continue for lifetime as 10 precept member.  The two classes are divided and regulated their own gender's Maha Elder Sangha.  

By gender: men are two classes 10 precept sramana and 250 precepts Bhikshu equal to women who are two classes 10 precept sramaneri and 348 precepts bhikshuni.  Notice women are not subservient to men but equal.  The full Sangha is 2-part Bhikshu and Bhikshuni.  The reference words are Sanskrit following the Dharmagupta lineage one of 6 lineages sometimes referred to by scholars as 'schools', of which only the Dharmagupta lineage has the 2-part Sangha unbroken.

Women have one more class  in the middle before ordination, sramanerika is a 2 year sramaneri who has been allowed to study the Bhikshuni precepts to prepare for her full ordination.  This time period can begin with the  permission of the Bhikshuni who are training her during her sramaneri 10 precept time additional 6 Harmony rules are added including specific guidelines for monastic life.  Training periods depend on senior Bhikshuni who decide when she is ready to apply for full Bhikshuni ordination which is always done to a special ordination committee from various vetted knowledgeable Vinaya masters from around the country or in our case around the world. Full ordination is the goal of all who start the monastic Path, not always attainable by every one who wishes to, it is normal to see some remain novices all their robed life.  

Upholding the Triple Jewel means supporting the monastic Sangha so they can continue to recite, preserve the sutras, collect dharma and translate so it can be spread the Buddha dharma making it easier to learn and access for all who care to come to study Buddha's teachings.  In this way we keep our tradition stable carrying on as Buddha taught the Sangha, now more than 2600 years old, not one of us but all of us.  

Since many of us are still in robes despite many obstacles in modern living.  The biggest problem facing Sangha residing in the Americas; specifically those in the USA is receiving donations enough to survive on and trying to focus on translating or teaching Buddha dharma.

The biggest lay group using Sangha resources, taking without donating money to pay for the most basics are all ages, races and both genders is Americans!  It is no accident they are the biggest group of whiners vicious moaners that I have ever met, especially when they take what they learn from Sangha and open their own Buddhist themed business or to add to their professional toolbox, then never to darken a temple door again!    And so to my list, reader please come back to this page as I am adding to it all the time. 

  • Do not give away your possessions, property or money.  This is a foolish way based on misguided Christian or romantic notions from movies or TV.  
What if you get rejected by the Sangha you wish to join?  
And if rejected, trying to return home after you do give away everything what will you return to? 

  • Zip your lip before you leave home!  Be kind!  Resist the urge to tell off your family, friends, co-workers, and children.  Do not think for a moment you will be free of that!  If you can't handle them while you train then let the temple handle them for you.  What would happen if your are asked to leave after some time at the temple?  Where would you go to then, would it be the homeless shelter or your parents home or the kid's couch?
  • Do not burn bridges!  Do not cut off or be rude to your former religious group or faith partners or any kind of group you are leaving behind.  They will visit you if you are friendly to them now, the will shore you up if you let them when you need them the most.

Leaving home is by acceptance or rejection by the Sangha, not your choices.  You can travel to a temple or monastery to intend to join all you want but really it depends on the Sangha who sets the time to observe you and judges whether you are capable of a monastic life within the Sangha guidelines.  They decide, not you.  People do not always get what they want, even when they think they are ready for such a life.

Monastic life in temples is not like in a book or a blog, call first.  Do not travel to a temple, monastery or even a center without contacting them first.  You can't just show up outside their door like in the often read stories of Zen masters showing up one day then having to stand for 3 days outside their chosen monastery (by a connection previously).

We do live in the telephone, voicemail, or email age.  Some places cannot take on new trainees because of money, space or time.  Some are just spaces not meant for resident living.  They won't take you if you just show up; that would not be safe for them.  You need to take the time to know them too.

  • Keep a savings, not everything is covered by your host monastery.  You may have to file your taxes, continue pay your debts, pay you property taxes and car license and tags.
  • Keep it real, read my Red Flags.  Reject the place for these reasons:  
If they say to you something like: "Oh my child, we are your family now, we welcome you!" Red flag! You don't need another set of parents, nor do you need to be treated like a child.

If you realize that you are being treated like you are slow-witted or mentally ill by the leader, the staff or the members who are being taught that by the staff or the leader.  Reject the place and leave it quickly.  You deserve better. 

Finding a place and looking at what really is taking place:
  • Be prepared for it not to be an ideal setup.  It seems that it mainly works for one person, who is the founder and their chosen few or the life revolves at the behest of a small core group who set goals, determine schedules and what you do or learn.  Accept it, you may never get to the top hierarchy in your chosen community or in any community similar to it, if you see this at any point can you live like that or can you scrabble up to the top yourself? those at the top are the least free. 
  • Leaders of any group are human beings with flaws.  Take a good long look at the leader, to see if you can cope with their flaws, that is why you need to start to be involved in the community as a visitor first, that first look helps you without being emotionally or financially committed to one group.
RED FLAG!  If a long term resident comes to you and says our leader is sleeping with me or makes comments similar to "S/He is so sexy!", take it seriously.

If you hear gossip like "that lady/guy/child over there is sleeping with her/him/the leader or staff."  

The leader or staff or the members tries to get your money for this and that; well then there it is, your GIANT red flag.  

Any action from members that alarms you, makes you cry, shocks, gives rise to anxiety, makes you fearful or terrified is a red flag.

You must use common sense all the way through your life, be safe where you are.
  • If there is a double standard one for you and one for the rest.  
  • If you point out the difference in the treatment of yourself and do not see it duplicated in others of your rank, then you are told you are crazy, too attached, to be more tolerant, or horror stories showing you that you don't have it that bad.  

  • If you are being subservient to everyone else while you see others gain or treated better or just some or a favored one gain benefits.  

If you have a resident and guest 'bosses' calling your name to do tasks in the temple that is really not normal.  

Media is littered with the abuse of people in robes, their addictions, their excesses and crimes.  Keep it in perspective not every place is harmful; even in the ones rife with controversy but not harmful, some people can live safely, learn wisely, and gain benefits that would not be seen as immoral or competitive.  

Vote with your feet the way we do and get the hell out fast when you see people do something that you know is wrong or you are told to do something that you know is wrong.

Noble robed ones must always be noble.  If you meet someone who is spending too much time trying to coerce you or others into immoral, illegal, or dangerous acts, just report them to the cops, nobody takes it in other dharma place around the world, so why should you?  
  It is not normal for Sangha to do this and we are subject to all the country's laws.  Nobody in robes should be putting you in that position. 
   There is no code of silence in the Sangha or in it's 4-fold assembly, every one must obey the laws in the country they live in at the moment (living in the USA you must obey our laws and no laws of other countries over ride our laws here in the USA, ignorance of our laws is no excuse).


Expect them to ask you to come to some activities, this is where they get to see you and you can see them.  Then it's a chance to see how they run the place, look honestly at how you feel about being there and then you leave completely to another place (your home) to think it over.  
  • This is safe, this gets you grounded in what you want out of a community and where you want to train.  Make time to visit many places in and outside your area of interest, let the fated relationships play out, otherwise you would cheat yourself out of finding a good dharma master to learn from.  
If you can't embrace the ethnic words, customs, and the people in their ethnic robes and roles then forget it completely; simply do not ordain at all, just be a lay person.  
  • Some degree of stupidity lurks in the minds of people who are against the ethnic group that trains them and ordains them.  Doing your training with this hateful heart affects your mind and your future as a monastic in robes is the surest way to create harm to yourself and many others while in those robes.  
Make your choice then leave it, take the time to stay away from the place, so people living there will not affect your choices.  No need to please anyone, tell them you appreciate the offer and need to return home to consider it while closing up your affairs.  It will take you time to do that once you decide the place is right for you. Keep in contact them so they too can prepare for your return.  
Everyone should avoid those places that demand you drop everything RIGHT NOW to stay with them and train.  NOBODY should agree to that!  It's not realistic.  
I think if you had no where to go then the offer to decide and stay immediately would be timely and welcomed but why do that to yourself? It could be leading you into a rabbit hole.

Eventually you will find a place that you feel comfortable in. Expect them to ask you to volunteer as lay person for some time, roads to full ordination really are NOT in the fast lane.  
  • Too many larger places were welcoming to Western or Easterners born in the USA.  These eager people that later they found out were not right in their minds, greedy, fame seekers, or plan unsuitable for monastic life; thus burned too many times very many set up conservative policies that make their communities take it slow.  
They do this to protect their community, it is normal.  The time period is flexible according to their expectations of you and how well you adapt to life with them.  This means you learn to listen more, take on tasks as requested and they watch what you do and say in your duty and free time.  It  matters how much effort you make for yourself during this evaluation stage.
  • Evaluation periods are from 6 months to 2 years as living there with lay precepts with additional 8 precepts of monastic living, then you may be approved to take sramana (male) or sramaneri (female) 10 precepts and only then your head maybe shaved or you are told to shave your head.  Robes appropriate for your training period are given to you and the community welcomes you as new monastic left home person.  Evaluation periods are longer for women due to the fact they can arrive pregnant or get pregnant.
Full ordination is not immediate for women it takes 2 years of training as sramanerika studying the Vinaya precepts for Bhikshuni and for men it takes anywhere from 6 months to 1 year after monastic precepts of sramana are given.  It many coincide with sramaneri precepts or may be added to them after the first 2 years, it is entirely up to the preceptor who is in charge of training you and the whole community of Bhikshu and Bhikshuni who have been observing you; primarily the same gender Sangha guides and decides.  
  • Again this time frame for women is flexible but at least from the time to take sramaneri precepts is a wait of 2 years to be qualified to apply for full ordination.  It can vary according to where you are training you can expect longer times according to the temple and according to the wishes of the Sangha training you, so don't expect the fast track, it's not corporate living or a race.  
Avoid comparing other's experiences here, this is one time in your life it's meant to be on a time frame as defined by yourself and your abilities to train.
Married men, lamas, dharma clergy who are not celibate and not ordained themselves as Bhikshu are not qualified to give novice precepts nor full precepts.  If this you then you must apply to a good place and be accepted as a novice.  Bhikshu cannot give women full ordination and only Bhikshuni should give women novice ordination and be involved in their training in the temple.  Larger temples often have male leadership, who preside over ceremonies and this is true for novice precepts as well but they need to be Bhikshu and there need to be Bhikshuni there as well.

False male or female novices or unprepared concealed Bhikshuni.     False male or female novices made through self-declaration, the actions of a married clergy (sensai, roshi, lama, rinpoche, tulku for example) or parajika broken former bhikshu or former bhikshuni. The unprepared concealed bhikshuni is a woman who has skipped training, skipped a novice ordination and is self-declared candidate for full ordination, gets a sangha member to sign her application and completes ordination. This is also the category of woman who has no proper training and a master who is not qualified like many with married men for gurus. Being ordained novice to bhikshuni by married clergy is NOT normal if it happened to you and you moved on to full ordination.  Education pre-ordination is very clear about this. If you concealed it, you have committed a fault of lying to the full Sangha and are defeated because the Parajika of lying was violated, the fault hidden as a false sramana or sramani. Bhikshuni in direct meetings as a committee or individually can and should challenge your right to wear robes.  You should not do this to the Sangha because it brings instability to you and those around you, it shames your masters.

   Only fully ordained Sangha either Bhikshu or Bhikshuni who are properly observing the Vinaya precepts may be able to give sramana or sramaneri ordination.

  •     Seek other's stories and learn about all the variations.  Find out from the autobiographies, biographies and read extensively of other's traditions and experiences and be inspired.  Do not expect the conditions to be the same for everyone for it's a case by case basis and that's always the way it has been.  If after your read about other's stories you are not inspired if you proceed without the right attitude your time would be better spent doing something else besides seeking a left home life.

Status of marriage, children and other family responsibilities.  Life brings us challenges.  Here I am discussing several ones peculiar to people around the world considering joining the Sangha.

  • If you find yourself with small children think ahead to when they are growing up, will they think of you kindly or want to be involved in your life after you have left them in other people's care? Will they think kindly of Buddhism or want to even study it in their lives? What kind of role model would you be to stranger's children that you may eventually teach or raise in an orphanage when you fail to provide for your own children?  How about the holidays?  Each and every kid has a right to grant permission or deny you permission to leave home and undertake the Path you wish as a monastic.  You should engage them in this matter, so they can begin to cope with your loss in their life.  Don't expect them to be happy for you, for they will spend their lives grieving you while you live or not.
  • If you find you are married and want to leave home, then consider this.. would be you divorcing and you consider it may be a battle if it's done during or before the divorce remember you are not above the laws in our country concerning divorce which means property division and debt division.  Would you be keeping your spouse but not ever living with them or are you planning to return and be a name only spouse?  How about the spouses feelings about you and Buddhism? Would your actions destroy their feelings about Buddhism or people in robes?  Seeking the permission of the spouse is necessary for them to be able to accept your new undertaking and you should want them to not become spiteful of you or people in robes.
  • Family responsibilities.  Parent's age, and they may need your help in their later years, can you really be so selfish?  Sanghas' age too, you may be responsible for elderly or unwell Sangha care while in robes how can you consider abandoning elderly parents in need?  What happens to them when nobody is looking out for them?  If you break off contact with them you will never be there for them when they really need you.   You should maintain contact and be aware of when things change and be capable of making decisions that will benefit them.
  • Finding you need to work.  This is the most ancient and modern concern among Sangha members around the world in all the traditions.  The need to do this is so common that people do not bat an eye; except for the Most Superior Highest Pure in Practice Western people (joking..hahaha.. sarcasm) it does seem that mainly laity or those afflicted with the wish to compete in the Sangha.  

Why do so many apply Puritanical or extreme ascetic values in everything they try to conquer?  It's not a battle out there but some treat it just as if it was.

  • Work if you need to, rejoice in the fact so many seeking to be in robes or are in robes in Asian countries must do so as well, it's normal, just not media worthy. Rejoice in the fact you are facing your reality so well and that you get to burn off Karma a lot earlier than many other people do.  It is not a punishment, not reflection of your charisma nor is it a bad deal.

Wearing robes to work does not always work so if your robes are considered a distraction or are not safe with equipment that you need to use or risks injury in the environment then change to safer modest clothing with fall leaf colors or neutrals.

Paying your way while in robes.  Sometimes this is a reality.  It's not the traditional way nor is it a good way to set your foundations while in robes.  However, it is a truth for many who wish to leave home and face this issue.  Do not be disheartened.  

In many populated Western run places in the USA residents who are monastics must pay rent in order to keep their doors open at all.  This is something that needs to change.  This is mainly due to lack of educating the members who are supposed to be donating enough to keep the doors open.  Not only are many of the Western places doing this there are other places in Mahayana or Theravada and other non Vinaya Mahayana traditions are so doing whether they be Eastern or Western founded.  Sometimes the person seeking to leave home in the Theravada tradition has to be aggressive about finding a benefactor for the course of their monastic lifetime.  This is necessary in order to travel to events, participate in dharma talks and survive.  They do it by giving commands, direct demands and other aggressive means that are not discussed openly with the public.  Really it is no different in most centers just different words.  
It's a headache here in the USA for those trying to raise funds for survival or the temples we want to open without proper guidance or proper motivation.  Aggressive fundraisers do not happen so much in other traditions but it absolutely can happen sometimes from Chinese, Vietnamese or Korean Vinaya Mahayana traditions since they use a well defined stable funding system along with very flexible level of participation from pledges to monthly donations.  Sangha members should not have to pay for food, shelter, robes, and medicine.  It's really important that center or temple residence managers asking for rent to be paid is not usual and that normally places founded by the Sangha do not have this as standard.  Maybe those who do this are doing it so to create a stable donation base required for sustainability.  The 4 requisites should be provided for them by their communities.  

Realities in the West make this very problematic.  Non profits are institutionalized corporate entities.  Corporations here in the USA are heavily regulated in law, insurances, rates for utilities and policies.  Religious churches in the USA are very profit driven.  They are billion dollar industries... should be taxed as such.  The word 'non-profit' is turned into money here. That makes it very hard on those of us with simpler ambitions of founding temples, centers and dharma places.

Biggest LIE Biggest Obstacles Biggest RED FLAG!  
"Buddha dharma is free" Thus repeatedly said against temples and centers so they are damned and then people get angry with the organizers believing they are immoral for charging fees or having suggested donations.

This is the biggest damn lie that ever told to others by Buddhists and it probably came about because 

  • people are stingy and who just take without giving back or 
  • deliberately use 'sweat equity' thinking or 
  • believing that it's all good because somehow magically everything is paid for by other people.  
This myth so often repeated it seems to become fact that "everything is free" in Buddhist communities by those using our centers and temples for bumming around. Realty, nothing ever was free because even the Buddha had requirements and often made requests of nobility and business people.  Donors make money and give money, that's the second duty of their role as householders; the first is to request the Dharma from the Sangha.

Aging Sangha.  This is a reality in the USA and abroad.  The Sangha communities are aging.  It has led to immoral acts like dumping them in nursing homes to avoid the high cost of nursing care or hunting down their families who long forgot their existence.  And instead of everyone recruiting young people in fear of depleted numbers I would suggest a more careful return to basic Vinaya guidance where the elderly are supported by their community and assigned an attendant.  And instead of knee-jerk fear involving the swaying the minds of high school students to attract them monastic life you would be better off getting volunteers from the local resources like the senior center already has lists for this purpose.

Live in America? Recruit in America!  Recruitment of overseas Sangha instead of welcoming and training interested Americans.  This is a sore point for many Western people who put in time in temples only to not progress while watching the Sangha community get excited about yet another new ethnic Sangha member's arrival from overseas who also is above you in rains.

Neglect by your own community.  Laity often assume your taken care of, or your own ethnic group is giving you resources, or they don't really care to put in effort where you are concerned.  They just come for the service, the dharma talk, the meditation session and leave, no donations to help you survive, no friendship offered, they are just taking up your space and time.  

Magical Men the Effect of the Treasured men or the Treasured ethnic women.  Sounds like a thesis or a good book, eh?  But is a real practice when a male monastic comes that is considered by all to be the REAL THING particularly if those so treasured are ethnic Tibetan, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese or just plain males.  And really they are the 'talk of the town', all go 'gah gah' over the treasured male.  Drop what you are doing and run people for the true master has arrived!  Ok, it happens... a lot.  Money seems to flow towards this ethnic guy or ethnic gal; in fact they come for that purpose, raking it in while you flounder in poverty watching it all unfold in your face. Can you endure it?  Can you keep your life in robes knowing you cannot change this when you see it for yourself?  Can you keep your mind peaceful? You should be able to, this is something every single Sangha from Buddha's time and now no matter what country they are from or what race they are are or are not.  

You don't have money for your own needs like medical insurance or travel or to get an education.  Your own members and locals, the ones' you know, these people are giving this guy or gal cash and things, cars, free upscale housing and buildings.  But hey isn't that OK while you wonder if you can make your required rent, or is it really not OK with you?  

Everything you been saying in your dharma talks is repeated by these treasures and boy! It's like the first time they hear the words and ooh, what wisdom is spoken!  We gotta deal with this.  If your in the presence of an ethnic woman then you get to see them brought forward in the photo ops instead of you who has been doing a lot of work to get them there and in-spite of the fact, the abbot or abbess is maybe not an Ethnic treasure.  You have to be OK with this or run a place by yourself.  It won't do to resent it.

Note, I'm not racist I have just seen this type of thing everywhere in Dharma centers, places and at Buddhist public events (worse damn bit of bias I've ever seen in public events!).  I observed it quietly and unemotionally because I was learning how this new culture operated around me, because it did not seem to embrace me beyond the need for a "pay-off" for the leader or his staff.

You get to decide if this tears you up inside or you vent,  If you move on from it; you have to choose how to over-ride this type of bias in your own community or if you even can over-ride it or educate them at all.  Unless you are the leader or is favored by the leader I don't think you will have much of an impact to bring about change.  I think it is best to move on mentally and physically from the obstacles like these otherwise how can you be of benefit to your community and the public?

Sexual abuse and violence in the Sangha communities

I don't know why but I am really bothered that adults would give in; many really do endure for years and not report these situations in the USA.  We in our modern lives in the USA should be most aware due to media education about sex and violence in communities.  We have had public school education and they do speak often as we age in our public classrooms.  We have public service bluntly educating us in their announcements, in movies, and by guest speakers.

Sex should not occur in any form for Buddhist monastics on any level or any rank.  This is sticky point that is often misunderstood by many in Mahayana Buddhism learning esoteric practices from people without morals who are spreading misunderstandings about  some Tantric practices.  It is often the MOST misunderstood by Tantra followers and teachers; media plays up Tantra as sex when it is not.  Tantra is method that became a small school that has origins developed in India, China, Japan, Tibet, some Pacific Rim countries and Taiwan.  Tantra masters in many countries have perfected their detailed study of their minds; having learned to remove obstacles, retraining their minds, relearning, and eventually to meet the goal of enlightenment.  

SEX IS NOT OK in Sangha communities at all.  Monastics do not need to practice or seek out sexual practices nor engage in sexual imagery.  This is the misunderstood part for monastics, SEX is NOT ALLOWED in BODY or MIND.  Parajika defeat is in BODY which is controlled by the mind.

THE NO GO ZONE.  Vinaya ordained masters should know this by heart.  From the armpits to the knees, front and back.  There is no grabbing of boobs, butts, and crotches, no one kisses touching lips or rubs each others sexual organs.  Not to be done by you or any another penetration of hands, fingers, sex organ or objects into any of the body orifices or bending of body for purpose of sexual release of yourself or others.  EW! no penetration of sex organs into animals or objects for purpose of sexual release.  There is no sex in tantra for monks or nuns AT ALL in any country of origin, there is no need for visualized sex with a partner  there is no possible way.  Tantra teaches us to identify the mind state, stages and becoming balanced and in harmony while cultivating the Path for Buddha hood and anything deviating from that is absolutely wrong.

There is no freaking way you can gain Enlightenment by having sex or thinking about sex or imaging sex.  If you buy into fantasy given by those abusers that sex with a guru, lama, dharma master for power, spiritual advancement, fun, enlightenment or any gain whatsoever because they are robed Sangha members after reading this and hearing many warnings then you are really quite a fool and should never take on robes in this life.

No monastic should ever touch your body in sexual or in a violent way.  No monastic should ever talk about your body in a sexual way or refer to you or others in a sexual way.  There is no exceptions in any traditions.  Sexual harassment is illegal in the USA and you have recourse of law available to you.  

Somebody beating on you, coercing you, raping, getting you to provide them with children for sex or touching, getting you to act as go-between for sex partners is just a fool in robes, a faker, a criminal.  You use your common sense and get out of that situation and find a sane safe community to live in.  Then call the cops and then justice can be served and lives not be destroyed.

Violence in Sangha communities.  It is indeed tolerated in some places but not all places.  Slapping, shoving, beatings of children and adults is often tolerated surprisingly   This happens in temples and monasteries including centers in the USA by overseas people and local Americans equally.  It's should not to be tolerated by you or anyone.  If you find it's you being subjected to it, then try to find a better place, if you feel you cannot then you remove yourself from the situation and the person. Chances are the leader won't do anything to change the situation until somebody gets arrested or lawyers get involved.  

Novices are threatened, beaten, slapped, and shoved and for certain elders are doing it and to each other.  This is not to be tolerated, there are guidelines in the Vinaya.  Sometimes the level of maturity of a person is just not going to arrive to meet the expectations of the Vinaya.  So really, get out of this type of place.  If you decide to endure and get your full ordination just plan to get out fast after.  Set up a safety plan for yourself to do that.  Get your family involved if you have to, they won't be happy about it and will spout terribly but at least you can get their help.  

    Mental health matters.

    This is an important concern in Temples and Monasteries.  People come to us for help shattered, grieving, suffering greatly of a variety of very serious to very mild mental health disorders.  You do not need to be a psychiatrist or social worker to be a monastic but you should have a good grounding in common sense and education regarding the variety of mental illness out there in our modern life.  Some come to escape, some to let go, some to seek a cure, some to cope, all are welcome and not discriminated against.  As long as people can take care of themselves, co-operate with the Sangha, not disruptive in daily living they can reside being respected and cared about.  Get some general training from Mental Health First Aid.  It is cheap and the time is only 1/2 a Friday and a full day on Saturday.  It is easy to learn to be a first responder for Mental Health First Aid teaches you to just be that.

    If it is you who is freaking out; don't you think you would want to feel safe here or at least be tolerated until you stabilized yourself or were taken to a health provider for necessary treatments so you can  be stable?  It's may be common thing to happen in the corporate world but the Sangha may or may not tolerate much of it for a long term type of thing.  So if your condition is stable your welcome in some places, but if you have frequent jaunts to fantasy land and have the idea you won't be participating much in community life or carry out duties expected of you then it's certain that you will not be staying for long even if you find a long term caregiver for yourself.

    So it's your responsibility to deal with your health and that includes mental health, if you hid your condition  you put yourself and the community at risk morally and legally, so it's better to be clear and declare your condition and the necessary medications needed for your stable life.  Also consider health care insurance, not every place will be paying for your medical needs or be able to; so face it, get coverage and means to pay for it yourself.

    If you are think we enjoy handling mental health issues then think a gain, we are on the path to cultivate our Bodhicitta and seek Buddhahood.  For that reason alone.  It requires sanity.  Sometimes Sangha members will break down have mental health issues happen, for those we are obligated to care about or get them care.

    When we encounter people who are in decline, in crisis, or on a long term jaunt to their own little world we are often stressed ourselves, heartbroken for those suffering, unable to make choices for another adult unless given Power of Attorney, and subject to local, state and federal laws regarding meeting the needs of ourselves, our community and trying to cope with those in distress.  We are not required to Buddhist Vinaya to care about you, we do because we can.

    Psychiatric care is expensive and requires in some cases 24 hour care 7 days a week in a hospital or long term home specializing in that area.  We cannot provide this level of care.  It's not realistic.

    Temples and monasteries are the homes of the Sangha not the householder.  We do care about people very much but our temples and monasteries are not dumping grounds for the homeless or those unwell nor the last resort for people who cannot live in society.  We embrace society and do not conceal ourselves from it.  Sometimes people need some quiet space for cultivation and this is not for the struggling nor for the unbalanced in mind.
    • Keep your primary care doctor up to date on your health, including vaccinations.  Many temples and monasteries require a TB test before you enter their doors.  This is because many overseas visitors will come that have TB or are carriers of other communicable diseases and expose people to serious illness.  No everyone has the same level of cleanliness.  
    • Some temples have laity who are doctors and they often will provide health care services for free, not always but usually.  Find out when and where and if there is a free service to you or not.
    • Big temples means the one day the doctor arrives there will be long waits or you miss your turn, hard to get the time in anyway, so be good and get medical insurance coverage.
    • Keep your allergy list around, if you are allergic to bees and wasps, keep a prescription treatment kit with you all the time; insects are not killed in temples, just shoo or open the door or window.
    • Those with complicated health conditions should not try to become monastic because it is strenuous and can make your condition worse.  Ask your doctor if you can undertake temple life. 7 days a week, no time off, no vacations, no holidays, 12 to 16 hour days, very early am, sometimes late nights.
    • Those dying should not become monastic because their time is short, it's better to recite the Buddha name instead and read sutras; engage in good activities, teach someone nicely and be a good person to prepare for the transition to where you believe you wish to go after death.
    • Elderly people who are in good shape usually can make it in the Sangha but really should be fit.  Aging brings it's weaknesses and one should not treat the Sangha like a rest home.
    The process after you are given sramana or sramaneri 10 precepts.  The preceptor must be of the correct rains age (years of being a Bhikshuni or Bhikshu and it does not include sramana or sramaneri years) of at least 10 rains for Bhikshu and 12 for Bhikshuni.  They cannot be less because they are responsible for you after the ordination time.  So choose the preceptor wisely, they should be be well versed in the Vinaya, be willing to keep advising you afterwards for the required 5 years after you are fully ordained.

    It's good to travel, you are not stuck in one place or required to be after you complete the 5th year, it matters if your preceptor abandons you, you are not at fault in that case and it also matters if you abandon the preceptor during those 5 years time and in that case you are at fault.  

    While you are a traveler you will find not too many temples and monasteries will take you on as a full time resident in their temples beyond a courtesy time.  Very few.  It's the biggest shame in Buddhist Sanghas worldwide.  I encourage you to accept traveler Sangha for they may just be the very people you may need.

    Western "Teachers" who damn Sangha.  I've read my fair share of autobiographies of Western people in Buddhist robes, most of whom failed to carry on in robes and then became very public with their damnation and publish books and articles that condemns the very group the Sangha that gave them their training and monastic education.  Also I am disappointed with those who chose to take Dharmagupta ordination and take up their non-Vinaya roles in robes, like in Tibetan Buddhism, Theravada Buddhism and and those still public in other religions mixed in with their daily life and teachings.  Just because the Path is labeled Buddhist does not make it a free for all.

    Western monastics not up to snuff.  Fame does not compliment Sangha, it hinders them.  Avoid fame, and the famous.  They are spending their lives at the cost of the publishers and media.  Their pressures are many and hard for most to understand.  Largely a surprise to me over the years is the fact that most, the majority of Western people in robes are not trained well.  

    Lack acceptance, lack of adapting.  Often in their biographies or autobiographies they are self-reporting their refusal to adapt to the conditions of ordination  the rooms, the food, the large group assemblies, the language, the robes, etc.  Their publisher may highlight these are individualism or someone standing up for their own rights or habits or culture.  They reported a point they reached they could not overcome during their ordination training and demanded exceptions in dressing or accommodations   To those around them it have seemed so odd and reading about their stories it seemed also seemed odd to me at the time that they could not for the sake of the future generations just cooperate in the spirit of solidarity and teamwork.

    After dedicating so much of my life effort into my training and ordination, I was all about cooperating during my life which carried through my training and ordination and enjoying it mostly because I knew the language.  In reading about others it seemed they were there for the certificate or a technically correct ordination, a superficial type of ordination.  In many ways the time element slows way down in Buddhism in the real world application of it in our lives and sometimes when we lack a proper foundation before ordination it can create a further slowdown or complications.  

    For example, Ven. Thubton Chodron who is recognized as one of the early ones in the West was there for her own benefit to ordain as a Bhikshuni and it broke new ground for the Tibetan Anis who didn't have the ordination to begin with, so she went to Taiwan and it turns out was at my ordination temple, the advantage of training with lots of people is that it builds up your sense of community that sustains you upon your return home to carry on.  Her doing so helped also a few dedicated women to succeed to their ordination to this day where she recently successfully formed the first Tibetan Bhikshuni Sangha with the min. number of Bhikshuni (all ordained in Taiwan under the training of Chinese Dharmagupta Bhikshuni).  

    There is one other Western woman Ven. Kelsang Wangmo (10 precept Ani) practicing Tibetan Buddhism who is also has earned the title of Geshe where she opened the door to other Anis, particularly the Tibetan ones, the right to Geshe previously denied them because they lacked full ordination that it traditionally was required to have.  Her struggle allowed the rest of the women even though not fully ordained to receive their Geshe also just recently.   
    I cannot help but think of the struggle they faced in establishing themselves in their tradition after their full ordination.  And in every case they did struggle throughout their adult life until to this year to establish a minimum number in their monastic community. 

     We have not achieved stability in the Americas through Western born people.  It is only very recent that one group of Bhikshuni have struggled to establish themselves as a Bhikshuni Sangha proper as defined by our Vinaya.  It is very important that you realize that you alone must make your life effort as diligent as you can in spite of real hardships and difficulties.  

    As for myself I am fully ordained after educating myself for 20 years after I decided to seek ordination, I decided I would seek traditional, quality, and standard training leading to full ordination.  I read every book I could find talking about nuns or monks life.  I also read the bios of contemporary monastics and I was only inspired by those that conformed to my own goals, hardly anything was written by ordained Bhikshuni in English.  I found a few PhD papers from Ven. Heng Chih and one by Dr. Ven. Kabilsingh.  So I decided I had better train well so I could be inspiring by my example rather than by seeking fame like others around me or founding a large community.  I studied languages for some Buddhist universities required French or German, and I learned Chinese.  I figured my affinity was for Chinese culture and my experiences with the Chinese community was really positive.  Also as I read Chinese history and Buddhist history in China both Theravada and Mahayana had existed for the longest time well supported.  Their system closely resembled traditional Christian monastics and financial fundraising was similar.  I went for what I had researched and studied well, culturally this allowed me to learn the difference between Chinese culture and Buddhist culture.

    Slow down you are on Buddhist time.  I really want you to understand the time concept is one of very, very slow results.  That is the difference, that is what you must realize and accept.  To hurry up and be gaining a temple the day you shave your head is one of fools, it creates no stable community, no foundation is set and no one will stay for long even if you have the charisma to pull in donors and people.

    It is disappointing that the early generations failed to provide leadership for the American public on this after they attained the right rains age in order to reach out to the public.  Perhaps their elders were shortsighted, perhaps they felt their American students just were not ready to take on that role, many of whom we have are indeed leaders within their own organizations and well-thought of but not known to the general public.  A few are trotted out to be seen by the side of the Dalai Lama or be seen on TV interviews rarely on matters that concern most Americans.  Trust me get quality training, no need to be famous or the best, just stick to the training.  It's a hell of a shock to meet them all and see that they are  all elderly, not really holding out hope that more people will be able to take upon their roles as leaders in our present times.  

    It is sad that Theravada Western laity use Bhikkhu Bodhi (Western Theravada elder) he is often quoted as saying that the Sangha will not succeed or survive in our Americas.  He has no solutions to offer.  He is a popular well-cared for treasured monk, famous, well-thought of, dedicated translator and excellent dharma teacher and really very, very nice person.  I like him and the way he teaches. He has attained leadership roles in the Chinese monastery where he resides, for which I am very grateful he has done so.  But in this one issue, I am not satisfied with his viewpoint on our future as a viable community in the West. I believe we will make significant impacts because we train traditionally, responsibly, and adapt to our own environment, eventually future generations will be funded and be so well established that we could have more temples that serve the needs of all the people in our Western countries.

    Maturity, responsibility and freedom come to mature Bhikshuni and Bhikshu who are studious, take risks and choose their living places either in Sangha temples or in hermitages or remain in solitary living.  All is good when you are on the path, remember I said do not give up your property while you are training, perhaps you can turn your former home in to a temple or hermitage.  Perhaps if you maintained a pleasant relationship with your family they may help you due to your attention and kindness towards them.  Your Path in Buddha dharma is not set any further than your feet pointing forward.  Good luck and enjoy the walk.


    1. This is good advice for people going the monastery route, there are still many monastics attached to centers in both the tibetan and theravaden tradition that go a different route and although some of this advice is really good for them too, i feel the things they are exposed to while 'training' make it more dangerous and more difficult and they need an additional set of cautions.

    2. Ok please suggest what the cautions should be and I am happy to add them, this is the first run of this page, I am hoping for more comments like yours to add to it. I've spent the whole day on this one; stopped to clean out some computer files, and just came online before I rested for the night. Thank you Venerable.


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