I’m saying that some might feel that the first thing to do as a Buddhist is to ordain. IMO it’s advanced practice, so it might not be for everybody. However having said that there is a probationary period as samanera/ri so difficulties may be sorted out!
If one commits a pārājika, then definitely should disrobe. If one is doing other faults against the vinaya and not taking care of them via confession, should disrobe. Why? Because attending patimokkha without revealing one’s offense is a conscious lie, and a conscious lie has been pronounced by the Blessed One as an obstructing matter. Beyond that, the decision between struggling along within monastic life or disrobing really depends on one’s personal discernment in consultation with one’s community. – This is my opinion. Thanks for listening!
I think the question you rise here is an important one. Not going through the whole thread, I’d just like to say this much:
To my understanding, good is always better than bad. I can’t see the value in being a bad Whatsoever… —except maybe for a “bad bad person”?
I believe the karmic effects of misbehaviour as a monk is much more potent than as a lay person though I cant quite recall thing being spelt out openly. The fire sermon might have something to do with this impression that I have. Good and bad is relative… Devadatta’s bad deeds out did any layperson’s bad deeds. Karma is of course cannot be expressed as black or white in most situations, and the effects of good and bad karma are intermixed. There would be some merit to living a calm life as a monk… literally, than having to face the daily struggle of a lay person, though lay people make a lot of merit by giving to the four fold Noble sangha as a whole, while meditating monks would generate even more meri: AN 9.20: About Velāma (English) - Navaka Nipāta - SuttaCentral
So in conclusion maybe a good monk who goes on retreat who does minor bad deeds might be better off. At the same time a lay person who goes on retreat regularly might be equally or more better off, but require more effort, organisation and support to do so. Its better to be a lay genocidal maniac than a ordained one, if there was choice! A bad monk might be worse off than a bad lay person.
In considering damage to the dispensation a bad monk clearly is more damaging.
Thank you all for your insightful answers.
To be honest I used to look down on monks when they would disrobe, i guess being young and idealistic, i used to think anything is better than disrobing. But now having been a monk for over a decade, and having gone through or am going through a period of time where it’s not exactly clear if being a monk is the best thing to do in terms of continuing to grow in Dhamma, i have changed my outlook.
Some things I have been pondering are…
The sectarian nature of buddha-dhamma in the present day era makes it difficult to live as a monk and be free from things like religious institutions that function to preserve the status quo.
The ideal of the Sangha is not the same as reality. Good monks, good communities are almost non existent.
The bhante-avuso system is a double edged sword. Every monastery has an abbot, which often causes disfunction internally.
When you ordain you are more of less indirectly forced to become apart of a sect or group, which involves alot of politics.
Tradition is a paradox. Without it Buddhism would have died,but to keep it going often times goes against what is practical, real, and logical.
Health issues…GERD and insomnia
Politics are part of human systems - if you have to work as a lay person you will have to face office politics or family politics. Going on practice breaks might take you away from it. Growing up is partly about accepting what can’t be changed and finding what’s truly beneficial to you personally - you cannot take the whole world to nibbana
Please know that the only reason I have come to read the suttas this year is because a dear friend recently became a monk. That personal choice of his has had a profound impact on me and beyond. And your choice to become a monk also reverberates beyond the scope of what you see day-to-day. It touches all of us. Thank you for inspiring us.
I hope you will make a decision which brings you peace and happiness. I wish you to get better with your health problems.
The ideals are never the same as reality. I am sorry about your experiences, I can see a lot of goodness around.
Oddly, this appeared today in an unrelated search. It is quite sobering and pertinent to this thread. It does imply that being robed in certain conditions might be perilous and counter-productive:
In a future time there will be mendicants who have not developed their physical endurance, ethics, mind, and wisdom. They will ordain others, but be unable to guide them in the higher ethics, mind, and wisdom. They too will not develop their physical endurance, ethics, mind, and wisdom. They too will ordain others, but be unable to guide them in the higher ethics, mind, and wisdom. They too will not develop their physical endurance, ethics, mind, and wisdom. And that is how corrupt training comes from corrupt teachings, and corrupt teachings come from corrupt training.
After four more of the above, we have specifically:
These are the five future perils that have not currently arisen, but will arise in the future. You should look out for them, and try to give them up.”
12 months ago I experienced a difficult situation and just wanted to be left alone to be in peace with no impingements or distractions. I literally ‘ran way from home’, looking for the most isolated place I could find…
Anyway, I came to realise that all that happens in swapping one situation for another is that, one swaps one set of suffering for another… the idea that there is a ‘place/circumstance’ where one can avoid ‘pain and suffering’ is only fantasy… It wasn’t the result I was hoping for… but it was a wonderful lesson. I am back ‘home’ now, and realise that while not ideal, it is pretty good for following the Noble 8 fold path.
The experience has enabled my focus and resolve to be sharpened… How can I adapt the less than ideal circumstances of this place, to be more conducive to walking the Buddhas path. And importantly to be aware of the shortfalls of this place but to recognise that the world is imperfect, and no longer to engage in fantasy of the ‘perfect’ or even ‘much better place’ to practice.
Ajahn Brahm has a phrase that sums this up really well.
If one is ordained one has monastic suffering
If one is a layperson, one has layperson suffering
All one does is swap one type of suffering for another
However, if your health issues cannot be accommodated where you are, then that might be a strong enough reason to look for somewhere that they can be. Afterall, one needs a body to be able to sustain practice
All the best to you in your journey
Hey, no fair! You made me laugh at suffering!
I personally wouldn’t consider it as defeat.
The Buddha threw many rule-books to the wind when he wandered as an ascetic, searching for complete liberation. The adherents of the schools which he joined in his early days would have probably considered him as a failure when he left them, dissatisfied with their theories of nothingness and other ideas. His fellow ascetics who were with him when he indulged in self-mortification practices saw him as a fallen man when he ate some solid food. But he went on with his search…
I don’t think it is easy to be a conscientious monk in this age. The fundamental tenets of the Buddha’s teaching are still here with us, but the practice has become a vast network of institutionalized, faux-holiness. And I believe this is what the dhutanga monks tried to escape from, when they went back to the forests and sought to find the roots of true asceticism. More often than not, the practice is seen as a way to be a torch-bearer for the Dhamma and polish an external picture of serenity and righteousness that is not based on true, experiential wisdom and internal contentment. For people with a conscience, this becomes a real problem because the burden of sustaining and maintaining a made-up visage becomes nauseating as time passes - monkhood becomes just another manufactured personality.
But then, we have this gem:
These days I mostly think about how everything in my life is hanging by a thread that could snap anytime. The bits of money I have that allow me to buy a few essentials could vanish in an instant, leaving me destitute. Health, which is already a hell-hole of pain and mayhem, could deteriorate further and I could lose a few limbs today or tomorrow. When thinking about the utterly flimsy nature of the props in one’s life that give rise to a feeling of fake peace, one understands that frugality is not really true renunciation. It is during such times that the mind is drawn powerfully towards the complete extinguishing of desire, identity, possessions, associations, contact etc.
Good luck with your choices, Ven.
Thank you for that. It is beautiful and sobering sutta:)
It implies more to me how important is to find the right teacher (right monastery to ordain). Not to believe fancy words but to check their ethical conduct and lifestyle. Unfortunately (for me) this demands living with them for longer time. I remember the story when Ajahn Chah was looking for the enlighten teacher but leaving him when saw him kicking a dog…
The good thing is that from one pure gem can stems the whole line of good monks which I believe took place with Ajahn Mun, Ajahn Chah and others.
I found this video this morning. It’s just one example of what might be possible for someone wishing to explore ordination as a samanera.
My own sense is that most of the abbots in Thailand wouldn’t allow this single day ordination, but I support the idea, in that on the whole, this allows for westerners to experience Buddhism and to do it in a positive and supportive way. My own feeling is that so long as the approach is serious and respectful, the abbot of Cherntawan International Meditation Center - Home | Facebook might have a good idea going.
Greetings to all and a wish for a more peaceful new year for all of us. And thank you for this passage which coincides with my thinking about the fragility of everything. The knowledge that over time everything falls apart is both disturbing and reassuring. As my heath fails in minute increments I am reminded of the Buddha’s description of the body, although typing this phrase “dissolution of the body” into the search bar yielded no results. And being less familiar with the suttas than many of you I would not mind a reminder of that description.
Yet I am grounded by the knowledge that all form is dissolute in nature , and that impermanence is the ultimate reality.
I wonder occasionally which might be the more difficult path for a Buddhist: to live within the protected yet political confines of a monastery…protected as it is from the mundane suffering of the everyday world, or to study and live Buddhism in the midst of the ongoing confusion and chaos of the life ordinary?
Wishing you all peace, and the cessation of suffering.
This is a really great question, @Rosie. There’s likely different types of dissatisfaction with either option; as Ajahn Brahm has taught in the example of being single or being married, and both sisters, in his example, suffering. So with your question, iving in a wat has its challengesm and huge benefits. Living in lay society has some benfits, and many challenges, too. Much depends on the person, it seems to me, and the wat or the householder community they’re in.
I do think t hat if one is going to try to take their practice deeper, and have the solitude and support needed for deeper practice, finding a good monastery is important. It’s just such a great environment to be in, for study and practice, and for having the support of all of the people around you engaged in similar pursuits.
Having said that, I can say that I was in Madison, WIsconsin last night, and tried for the first time a float tank. My son gave me the floats as a gift, and what an experience! A great and deep meditation, with the mind cut off from sound and any feeling of the body. Only the sound of the breath, and so easy to connect with the breath this way. I never experienced this level of sensory detachment in Thailand, what with painful knees/ankles after long sits, flea bitten temple dogs laying next to me in the meditation hall, mosquitoes, and in the morning, neighboring roosters crowing like crazy. So, being in the city brought great stillness and a nice meditation. Who knew?
Ahhh yes and thank you for that description triggered a memory of a similar experience, with the exact same experience of delight in experiencing my consciousness without the burden of gravity and bodily karma. Hey, if I could find a monastery with an isolation tank…and maybe a sunlamp, with a vibrating massage table…Imagine the waiting list to be ordained!
@Rosie, if Wat Phra Dhammakaya gets ahold of your idea, it might become a reality.
I just listened to an old talk by Ajahn Brahm, and he mentioned almost having a chance to try one out after local business offered to let him and Ajhan Jagaro test their newly installed toy. Ajahn Brahm wasn’t able to take his turn, but when he asked Ajhan Jagaro how it was, he said his breath was too loud! It turned out that the business just wanted to be able to say in advertisements that their tank was used by meditation masters!