Do monks and nuns suffer?

What is their suffering like?
For instance, my suffering mainly comes from trying to make a living. That is my job, investments, the uncertainty of the future. Then I suffer from family issues and the political and social environment.

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Craving arises in a mendicant for the sake of robes, alms-food, lodgings, or rebirth in this or that state. --DN33



I think it is worthwhile to really dig in and de-construct this statement to get a better understanding of suffering.What I mean is that such a very general statement contains many many assumptions, that actually makes it harder to untangle the specific unbeneficial thoughts and feelings that are the basis of suffering.

EG. I dislike having to get up at a set time everyday in order to arrive at work on time.
-Iam tired when I have to get up, I would prefer to stay sleeping
and then to investigate this in minute detail… get rid of all assumptions and really test it out.
It may be the case that one likes watching movies or talking with family etc etc and because one likes it one stays up very late in the evening, and therefore does not get enough sleep before having to get up. Or it may be something completely different such as, it is freezing cold in the mornings, and I dislike (unpleasant feeling) having to get out of the warm coziness of bed.
Then one needs to do this to every smallest aspect of the ‘compound’ experience of earning a living. It will involve literally hundreds of aspects.

Only when these things are completely seen and understood, can the “suffering” begin to be understood and dissolved.

The elements of the physical experiences will always remain - but the mental dart of suffering can be abolished by deep contemplation.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that the ‘things or circumstances’ remain the same - that suffering is the way one reacts to these conditions… that is why mental suffering can be diminished and even eradicated.

As such, an external status such as Monastic or Lay, doesn’t have anything to do with the “experience” of suffering. Instead it is the depth of contemplation and knowledge of ones own mind.



This is true. But it’s hard to live a virtuous lay life. Sometimes we need to resort to sense pleasures to take a break and recharge the ol’ batteries. You would have to be a non-returner not to do that, in the kind of stressful lifestyles which are prevalent nowadays. The other option is a semi-retirement or some such variation, which could work.

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My comment has nothing to do with the conditions that people either consciously or unconsciously put in place. It is only about understanding the nature of suffering. So as far as I’m concerned there is no ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ here - just that certain conditions have certain effects and that to be aware of them is a necessary step in understanding the nature of suffering :slight_smile:


I think it is possible to practice on the path without an abundance of virtuous precepts.

For example, after many years of climbing I lost my fear of public speaking, which helped me greatly at work, since with seniority one has to address more and more people. Wholesome practice therefore has benefit in the workplace, and my practice of climbing was wholesome in the sense of relinquishing delusions of safety or danger. I now realize that I used climbing as a form of walking meditation.

But you’re right about retirement. Now I get to read the suttas all day. :laughing:


My question is about the suffering of monks and nuns and not about lay people.
So monks and nuns should partially retired or go back to lay life?
I am sure there are lot of part time monks and nuns.

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It seems to me that monks and nuns might suffer in the west with similar concerns. Look at the monks and nuns trying to establish monasteries in the west, and having to raise money for down payments for buildings, and then service large mortgages and hope that the lay supporters will continue to fund the costs of running a monastery. There are monks and nuns that have families, and parents that are aging, and can’t be with their families of origin. Being a monk or nun in the west is perhaps the best and most noble vocation any person could have, but it has certain challenges that can make that life difficult, and prone to worry, unsatisfactoriness, or uncertainty. Monks and nuns are human, they are not arahants (for the most part) and so, they suffer maybe in ways that all of us do.

The short time that I spent as a samanera in Thailand, I saw monks that suffered. Some spent too much time on their phones, trying to distract themselves during long days. Some anguished over their inability to achieve ( at least in their own minds) stream entry. Myself, even in a monastic setting, I sometimes was painfully bored, and took long walks from the wat and back to assuage the many hours in the middle of the hot days when I just couldn’t sit or study any more than I already was.

I met Ajahn Brahm once, after he spoke at a large event. His talk was excellent, and like a seasoned speaker on a tour, he gave 100 percent during the talk, and signed every book presented to him in the long queue that formed after the talk. He broke off our chat with a joke about kangaroos, and then said he was so tired he needed to retire for the night. I watched him walk off slowly to his room for the night, somewhat guilty that I had kept this great monk from his much needed rest and solitude. The next day, he was up early and off to another city for another talk and book signing. Like the Buddha traversing many miles through northern India, and mentioning his bad back, Ajahn Brahm certainly must have felt the fatigue and stress of ministering to so many lay people, in so many cities, all over the world, year after year. Being of service, being a bearer of unconditional Metta, and spreading the Dhamma at this level involves suffering, it seems to me.

Some monks, like the great monk Ñāṇavīra Thera, suffered with a serious intestinal disease, and eventually took his own life to end his physical suffering. Many monks and nuns in Asia do not get the care they need, and suffer with poor health and other maladies, just as we might under these circumstances.

Monks and nuns do suffer. Being of support and caring for our monks and nuns is a cause of great merit, and we should be mindful that in order to preserve and protect the Dhamma, these men and women do sacrifice and suffer in some very human ways.

By way of example, I watched recently this video. . I am sure he suffers, but the smile on his face suggests that his life, like that of many of our Ajahns here, is one of great happiness and merit. This is why many of our monks and nuns are heroes to me, not because they are saints, but because they are very human, but perhaps the best and most noble representation of what a human life can be.


Listening to Ajahn Brahm last night I thought this quote was one of his gems. It was advice given to the Sangha leading into the rains retreat.

“Suffering is the gap between where you are and where you want to be”

It’s basic 2nd Noble truth stuff. Of course monastics suffer, they still have craving. Even Arahant suffer. The Buddha had a bad back. The arahant only has the first arrow. The rest of us have both arrows.


Renunciation (nekkhamma) doesn’t equal lack of cravings (alobha)


Suffering leads to Saddha and so on.

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Where you are: meditation cushion!
Where you want to be: ‘meditating’, in the bed :bed:!

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What Buddha said was that five clinging aggreagte is suffering.
What is clinging? Craving is the clinging
What is craving? Craving for becoming.

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Craving for becoming something else?

‘This body is the source of much pain and danger; for all sorts of afflictions arise in this body, that is, eye-disease, disease of the inner ear, nose-disease, tongue-disease, body-disease, head-disease, disease of the external ear, mouth-disease, tooth-disease, cough, asthma, catarrh, pyrexia, fever, stomach ache, fainting, dysentery, gripes, cholera, leprosy, boils, eczema, tuberculosis, epilepsy, ringworm, itch, scab, chickenpox, scabies, hemorrhage, diabetes, hemorrhoids, cancer, fistula; illnesses originating from bile, phlegm, wind, or their combination; illnesses produced by change of climate; illnesses produced by careless behavior; illnesses produced by assault; or illnesses produced as the result of kamma; and cold, heat, hunger, thirst, defecation, and urination.’AN 10.60: Girimānanda (English) - Dasaka Nipāta - SuttaCentral

“And why, bhikkhus, do you call it form? ‘It is deformed,’ bhikkhus, therefore it is called form. Deformed by what? Deformed by cold, deformed by heat, deformed by hunger, deformed by thirst, deformed by contact with flies, mosquitoes, wind, sun, and serpents. ‘It is deformed,’ bhikkhus, therefore it is called form. SuttaCentral

“Monks, there are these three kinds of suffering.[1] What three? Suffering caused by pain,[2]suffering caused by the formations (or conditioned existence),[3] suffering due to change.[4]It is for the full comprehension, clear understanding, ending and abandonment of these three forms of suffering that the Noble Eightfold Path is to be cultivated…”


Dukkhataa , an abstract noun denoting “suffering” in the most general sense.
Dukkha-dukkhataa , the actual feeling of physical or mental pain or anguish.
Sankhaara-dukkhataa , the suffering produced by all “conditioned phenomena” (i.e., sankhaaras , in the most general sense: see BD [ Buddhist Dictionary (2nd ed.), by Ven. Nyaa.natiloka, Ven. Nyaa.naponika (ed.), Colombo 1972] s.v. sankhaara I, 4). This includes also experiences associated with hedonically neutral feeling. The suffering inherent in the formations has its roots in the imperfectability of all conditioned existence, and in the fact that there cannot be any final satisfaction within the incessant turning of the Wheel of Life. The neutral feeling associated with this type of suffering is especially the indifference of those who do not understand the fact of suffering and are not moved by it.
Viparinaama-dukkhataa , the suffering associated with pleasant bodily and mental feelings: “because they are the cause for the arising of pain when they change” (VM XIV, 35).

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In late 1997 when I was about to set out from lay life to find a monastery that would let me ordain, my friends threw a party for me in the staff residence at Spirit Rock. (I was told I’d be the 1st Spirit Rock student to ordain.) Jack Kornfield gave a brief speech, during which he said:

“In lay life there is suffering. In monastic life there is suffering as well. The difference is that the suffering in lay life is suffering that builds up more suffering; the suffering of monastic life is the suffering-to-end-all-suffering.”

Then he looked straight into my eyes intensely, and advised solemnly:

Suffer well.”

I held onto his words after ordaining. Sometimes they helped me keep going through very difficult situations.

[Minor edits for clarity, and added the portion of sentence about lay life suffering building up more suffering.]