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For boys who ordained temporarily, what was the value?

For boys who temporarily ordain, what is the value? Friendships? Education?

if you do not think boys ordaining temporarily is a good practice, would you share why?

Thank you.

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Normally I would just think that it is a good thing, but I also remember having read a sutta that says disrobing causes one mental defilements to grow. But I can’t find which sutta.

More than value, i think there are some particular reasons why boys ordain, at least in Thailand.
I’m not sure what you mean by “boys”, but i will try to answer according to my understanding.

If you mean boys in a literal sense, then there are three reasons why they ordain temporarily:

  1. Disciplinary Training. I think this is quite rare nowadays, but this is basically how parents will tell their children to ordain so that they will know what it’s like to live humbly. Or in some cases, it’s to fix children’s bad behaviours.
  2. “Free” Education. At least in Chiangmai, there are some children who ordain as novices and do menial labours in exchange for their temples to pay the tuition fee for them. By the way, they study in schools that are established especially for monks and novices.
  3. Funeral. In Thailand, there’s a tradition that if a member of your family pass away, or if it’s just someone whom you knew or acquainted with, then those who ordain for the departed will gain great merit.

Now, if you mean boys as in men in general, then the reasons are basically the same as above plus one more reason: repaying kindness and compassion. In Thailand, there’s a belief that men who are age 20 and over should ordain as bhikkhus in order to repay the kindness and compassion of their parents or those who have raised them.

I personally believe that it’s good to try to live either as a novice or as a monk temporarily if it’s for the first reason that I mentioned and if people want to. However, if anyone would like to ordain, they should do it in a temple or a monastery where all monks live as equals, by that I mean there’s no disparity between abbots and other monks. Most abbots in Thailand tend to live in luxurious cabins, while other monks will live in old huts, including those who ordain temporarily as well. This is one of a few disparities between abbots and their fellow monks. I believe that if those who intend to ordain see these disparities, they will be repulsed by those sights. Unfortunately, it’s prevalent in most temples and monasteries in Thailand. In other words, i think ordaining temporarily won’t be a good practice if inequality between monks are evident since it may negatively affect one’s view about Buddhist monastics. So it depends on where one ordains.

Please keep in mind that these reasons are unique to Thailand, I have no idea what it’s like in other countries.

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Thank you, very informative.

In Bhante Gunaratana’s autobiography, he describes being ordained as a child in Sri Lanka. Based on his experience, he felt that children should not be ordained. Children are not developed yet to get to that level of commitment, and the infrastructure in the monastery just isn’t there. There is too much potential for abuse of children, lack of supervision, neglect, etc. It sounded to me like Bhante G felt like there was always an inherent pull between “being a kid” and “being a monk”, that adult monks don’t have.

I don’t know where it is in the Canon, but somewhere the Buddha was asked whether kids were wholly responsible for their actions or whether the parents were. I believe he responded it is some of each. In that way, I would think only an adult fully responsible for their actions would benefit from being ordained in a spiritual capacity. But obviously in asia, there are societal, economic, and cultural reasons why children are ordained and that has to be considered too.

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I ordained temporarily but not as a boy, and that allowed to me to gain an understanding of how people from a specific culture try to live by the Vinaya and Dhamma brought back to us by the Buddha.

I interacted with both senior bhikkhus and very young samanneras and all the memories I acquired while being among them only help me to strengthen my endeavour in developing the threfold noble path factor of right resolve.

It is a gift that keeps on giving in regards to understanding how important it is to make sure that the triple foundation of loving kindness, non-violence and renunciation is solidly built and established in my heart before I get too excited and hopeful about higher aspects of the path like deep stillness and insight.

Also, it was a great way to make friends who you can always come back to and share your experiences and difficulties in regards to advancing and living the path.

Last but not least, it gave me a good reference point to determine which qualities should be present in a healthy and conducive spiritual community.

:anjal:

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Wow. That sounds great! I am glad that resource still supports your practice.

Thank you for sharing. I find these stories from others’ practice helpful.

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Dear ERose,
I live in Thailand and to find monasteries which do not ordain temporarily (boys and men alike) is, in my experience, rarely found, it is an integral aspect of the culture, similar things hold true for Myanmar. In most of the cases I came across personally, I found it rather uninspiring to witness the status quo as it comes to temporary ordination, especially regarding young boys.

Actually I would see a lot of potential in the development of good qualities with the aid of the practice of temporary ordination if the guidance the youngsters receive would be proper and if they would have at least some inclination to do it and are not entirely forced, which I think would not be approved by the Buddha. In most cases the people (boys and men) do not truly value core aspects of monastic life and often do not behave at all like monastics, are rather happy if the whole procedure is over or completely live essentially indistinctly from householders or their offspring.

So in monasteries which have very low standards as to dhamma and vinaya we often find scenes of little sāmaneras who play video games, football and follow other activities of a similar kind. In such cases they do not suffer much since this approach is by and large not at variance with their lives outside the monastery. In monasteries where the standard is more strict, as in my place, the young men find the effort of the training in many cases rather burdensome which is easily observable in their inclinations for chatter and a general dissatisfaction in their appearance, though they are curbed from any gross behavior not becoming for a monastic (such as the examples given above).

Nevertheless I was positively surprised at how well behaved they were, after having put off the robes and therefore now markedly more relaxed, towards monks and how descent an effect it had on connecting them with the monastery and the religion.

I can remember some examples in the canon where the Buddha or the other monks seemingly allowed or even used it as a skillful device for keeping people on the right track, to lead them into the saṅgha or keep them in it by turning to wordly means and incentives (ven. Nanda might perhaps serve here as one example, whom the Buddha kept in the brahmacariya by promising him divine maidens). From that point of view it might be considered wholesome to allow temporary ordination in some cases, bearing in mind the positive effects it can have on the individual.

Another thing maybe relevant too, at least to some extant. The Buddha made it a prohibition to not ordain during the vassa period people who wanted to because these individuals changed their minds after all and did not ordain at the end. I remember also cases of ordinands who initially did not wish to go forth (Ajahn Mahā Bua is a famous example but even one monk staying with me here) and who decided to stay in robes successfully in the end. The point I want to make is that the staying in robes as such can have a conducive overall result.

To sum up I would deem it therefore perhaps proper to perform such ordinations as long as there is adequate guidance and teaching as well as a certain amount of separation of the ones who want to devote themselves to silence and more intense practice and the ones who have to struggle in other areas and live this live governed by other motivations. In places where these principals of guidance etc. are missing I see at least some benefits, as it comes to the provision of education for the young and having at least some connexion to the religion, how corrupted it may be. These are some of the main points I see to it and which I would like to offer.

Blessings

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Thank you for a thoughtful informative response.

May all beings achieve liberation.

It is hard to say no to parents and grandparents or to customs. I feel concern that neither boys nor men, and neither monastics or lay, be harmed or impaired in their paths. It is hard for individuals to break habits once established; for entire communities and cultures, at least as difficult perhaps.

In this life, I have had to recognize my limits, and also recognize that respect for others means respecting their choices about their own lives.

I do not think it is healthy for children to be ordained, or married, or enslaved.

Temporary ordinations for adults, I think can be healthy, helpful, and not too demanding on permanent monastics. (lol. if monastics disagree, I bow in your general direction, with respect).

Ultimately, I think education of all, monastics and laity, can help.

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I would also offer this in addition. I agree fully that no enslavement should happen here or really anywhere. I believe on the other hand, and we find the example of the Buddha himself ordaining his seven year old son, that children can freely decide for this lifestyle if they are lead into or towards it with respect and great skill in conveying the sense of the monastic life – children can grasp it, even Arahant children we found … But sure, no enslavement!

Mettā

Ah now that is interesting. Is Buddha’s ordination of his own son in the EBT?

I just read this thread Was the Buddha married and father of a son

I’ll restate: is the ordination of Buddha’s son at age seven in the EBT?

The account of his ordination is found in the vinaya, which is in many parts considered authentic and in this case I personally do not see a reason to doubt but perhaps there are people who would.

The fact that the Buddha approved of young boys to be ordained (as novices) remains nevertheless and is to be seen at quite some other instances – the vinaya may contain also a prohibition for ordinations under fifteen but I remember there was some ambiguity in establishing what limit was really intended. I remember also that the Buddha stated that when a boy is competent to the extant to be able to chase away crows he may ordain, if I remember correctly. Here the full reference of the story of Rāhula:

"The story of Rāhula
Then the Lord, having stayed in Rājagaha for as long as he found suiting, set out on tour for Kapilavatthu. Walking on tour in due course he arrived at Kapilavatthu. The Lord stayed there among the Sakyans in Kapilavatthu in the Banyan monastery. Then the Lord, having dressed in the morning, taking his bowl and robe, approached the dwelling of Suddhodana the Sakyan; having approached he sat down on the appointed seat. Then the lady, Rāhula’s mother, spoke thus to the boy Rāhula: “This, Rāhula, is your father, go and ask him for your inheritance.”
Then the boy Rāhula approached the Lord; having approached, he stood in front of the Lord and said: “Pleasant is your shadow, recluse.” Then the Lord, rising up from his seat, departed. Then the boy Rāhula, following close behind the Lord, said: “Give me my inheritance, recluse, give me my inheritance, recluse.” Then the Lord addressed the venerable Sāriputta, saying: “Well then, do you, Sāriputta, let the boy Rāhula go forth.”

Mettā

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I may have expressed my questions poorly, Venerable. What is the source for the age?

Additionally I now vaguely recall something about not ordaining under the age of 20; perhaps that is regarding a specific type of ordination?

I do care what is in the EBT vs what is in LBT. But also… Siddhartha was (?) when he left household life; ? 35 when he attained Enlightenment and turned the Wheel (taught the 4 Noble Truths…

The human brain is develops through to age 25, and according to some research, can be said to develop (biologically change, with capabilities coming into expression) even into or beyond the 80s. The Buddha’s body died when he was 80-something, I imprecisely recall.

If child ordination causes problems, should it be continued? It was not mandated, correct?

Thank you for this discussion

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Yes, thanks for the discussion. Also yes, this age limit refers to full ordination as bhikkhu not as sāmaṇera.

That is good, me too. I like to mention in addition that the so-called LTB are often not unanimously considered as late and they may contain in large proportions material which is early, such as the commentaries but this is another field of debate … At the end we can find in the main nikāyas that children live as sāmaṇeras. That he himself was 35 does not mean that he would not allow for anybody else to ordain earlier …

I suppose you mention this because you have doubts that this age is proper when considered from an neurological perspective!? I think from that perspective we should ordain all children … :slight_smile: because meditation and quietude proofs very beneficial for the brain.

I would say that if it causes trouble to some but benefits others it should be mended in the former and continued in the latter case. If we look alone at the story of Rāhula then the Buddha seems to have mandated it.

A thing to consider is also that the parents have to give their assent to the ordination of the child. In many cases children also like to ordain. I remember a case of a Burmese child which remembered (?) his last life or at least displayed behavior in accordance with a monastic identity, I think he happily took novice ordination or another where a child started to spontaneously recite suttas and remembered having lived at Buddhaghosa’s time (maybe later in his life, I am not sure). He did not ordain (maybe now) but the fact I want to point out is that even children can feel an inclination towards monastic life. Monastic life is intrinsically beautiful and this can, I believe, be made understood for children.

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Hmmm.

One wonders if these young people are taught well. Thailand has long built reputation for Buddhism, but also for other things which are quite shocking to non Thai. One would think, this must be a priority for elders there, for these are their own children and heirs and will carry Thai legacy forward to the world.

May all beings be happy, may all beings be well.

It seems to me that when young children have capacity or the ability to determine the need to become a bhikkhu, then they can be allowed ordination. I would suspect this is somewhere in their teens- some maybe able to determine this sooner or later than others. There maybe exception- such as abandoned children for example who could be saved, in exceptional circumstances like the Buddha did. However separating very young children -primary school age- would be detrimental as they need to be ideally living with their families, where they learn to understand feelings of being looked after and cared for so that they may internalize that and have metta towards themselves when growing up and beyond. Its a complex area with no black or white answers. For example if a parent is alcohol dependent and there is domestic violence, would the child be better growing up in a monastery? Maybe, who can say?

with metta

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In 2013 I ordained as an anigarika for a short to time. I disrobed for various reasons, some of which I’ve explained before in this forum (needing to eat more than one meal a day due to low blood sugar and no options given).

Anyhow, I spoke with a lovely monastic (unfortunately I cannot remember his name) and he encouraged me strongly to go elsewhere in Thailand where I could ordain, even if for only one day because of the good merit I would accrue. In many ways I wish I had listened and also in many ways I wish I had stayed.

I’m not sure if one gains merit by ordaining for a day, but his intentions were genuine and he really wanted them best for my life now and for my future birth and kamma.

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@Mat ty, very good points. I am just wondering how if all boys spend at least time time ordained, why non monastic men in Thailand suffer and invest in some of the social ills in Thai society. It is either related, or not related, or partially related, i guess, but it is hard for a non Thai laywoman not to wonder about.

can anyone find this? it might be helpful.