I was watching a recent youtube Zoom call with Ajahn Martin where he went off on his frustration about sending time training monks only to see them leave after a few months because they can’t handle the training. His frustration seemed particularly aimed at Westerners and older initiates who just can’t handle the training. It is painful, you have to literally learn everything, from sitting to washing your robes, from scratch. Younger monks will criticize you if you do something wrong. And it is physically painful. He said he didn’t mine lay people coming to practice, but highly discouraged westerners and older folks from from wanting to come to become a monk.
Then he said something interesting: while ticking off all the things you need to learn he mentioned: You have to learn the chants or otherwise you have no livelihood. And if lay people don’t think you practice correctly, they will not support you.
It really struck me that even a monk has to make a living, and that much of the monks training and time is not spent on release as much as officiating and taking care of the spiritual needs of the community who supports them. We in the west have a romantic notion of monks just sitting around in meditation without pondering that much of your focus needs to be focus on simply making a livelihood.
I began to think that as a retired person, with nothing to do and enough resources not have to work, that I’m in a better position to focus just on “release” than a monk in a monastery in Thailand. No matter who you are, you still have to bring the bacon home and market yourself. Even a monk. Especially a monk.
For some reason that one phrase: You need to learn the chants or you won’t have a livelihood really made me realize the reality of the spiritual life. No different than when I was an entrepreneur looking for customers. It isn’t all meditation and getting fed by others.