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Going Forth When Married

@NgXinZhao, Vandami Bhante! I can see what you mean. I remember reading an incident of Yasa who became monk and his parents started searching him after noticing his disappearance. But then Buddha hid him thorough psychic powers and preached dhamma to parents. Parents were also then ordained later on. Leaving the supernatural element aside, I think here Buddha dealt the situation by offering appreciation for going forth. Of course, nobody can teach like Buddha but we may note a point that complaints are expected due to attachment from loved ones. Here, one can invite them to renounce as well seeing their suffering but it may not be always successful.

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I am curious about how this works on a practical level, considering the age limits (both stated and unstated) for ordaining that were discussed in this recent thread:

Is this more of a problem for Western Buddhists who might not come into contact with the Dhamma (and also might not decide to marry and have children) until later in life? It just seems like an increasingly narrow window of time to decide to pursue ordination.

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It’s an appellation not uniquely applied to Rahula though, e.g., see Thag1.41 (I think there a number of such examples).

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I think the rule against ordaining debtors would have some bearing here, at least in any country where the law requires the payment of child support to the ex-spouse who has custody of the children. To get around it the divorcé(e) in a marriage with children would need to come to some kind of arrangement in which the ex-spouse agrees to accept, say, an immediate large cash payment in lieu of monthly maintenance.

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Hi @Chetaknn, the pursuit of the spiritual path the Buddha proposed necessarily involved, at a certain point, leaving behind the householder status and its associated obligations.
DN2 is a must read to get oneself introduced to the idea:
DN 2: Sāmaññaphalasutta—Bhikkhu Sujato (suttacentral.net)

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There’s plenty of monasteries in the world. Don’t just focus on one tradition.

Anyway, yes to a certain extend, to meet the dhamma while young (and not foolish on sex, which can produce kids) is a very good resultant from previous good kamma.

Many Buddhists don’t really appreciate it, see how many of them still want to get married despite having known the dhamma from young.

So, one way to provide such good opportunity for the next generation is for those who are parents, send your kids to sunday dhamma school! Many westerners are reluctant to do so cause of the brainwashing thing they don’t like from other religions who send their kids to Sunday church services. Maybe providing such good kamma of exposing your kids while they are young can be the cause of you meeting the dhamma when you’re young and have the opportunity to renounce much easier.

What Bhante @Dhammanando provided is a nice solution. One lump sum payment.

Also, the Buddhist music group wayfarer has this song “Little Pal”, which from the lyrics seems to be of a father who’s going for ordination, and asking the young kid to listen to the mother, be good while father’s away. It’s the emotional impact of leaving your kids.

Little Pal when daddy goes away,
promise you’ll be good from day to day,
do what mother says, and never sin.
Be the man your daddy might have been.

Something like that.

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@Chetaknn have you spent time in a monastery? I don’t mean a few days during a retreat, but actually experiencing the day to day lifestyle? Real monastic life is often times quite different than what people expect. It’s very regimented and hierarchical. You trade having a boss at work for senior monks who have authority over you. You trade dealing with a wife for having a community of monks that you live and interact with all day, every day. You trade being judged by worldly standards (which university you went to, what job you have, your income, if you own a house or car) to being judged by Dhammic standards (your behavior will be scrutinized 24/7 by the monks you live with and the lay people who attend your monastery). And there aren’t any days off from being a monk! You can’t take two weeks off from the monastery’s routine, sleep in, and wander down to the local cafe for a late brunch, latte, and to quietly read your favorite book. You will also have daily duties and chores in the monastery. You will not be allowed to sit in your kuti meditating all day. I’m not trying to dissuade you, just offering a glimpse of what real life is like in a monastery.

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My understanding is that it can be a good thing to have wise monks having authority over you. I think the key is to have a teacher that you really respect and trust; then if you really believe your own will is your enemy and that you have delusion, having people that you regard as wiser to have authority over you can be a good thing. I really think it’s a question of having trust and respect for the senior monk; otherwise indeed it could be just experienced as having someone exerting power over you.

Also daily interactions with monks can be good if they are wise because you can pick up by osmosis as it were the right attitude, behaviour and mood…anyway one hopefully would spend vassa basically on their own.

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Absolutely. I wasn’t saying any of those things are bad, just emphasizing that monastery life has a lot of parallels with lay life. You mostly trade one kind of social interaction or responsibility for another, not completely give up either. In my experience, that’s something a lot of people don’t understand. They think monastery life is all about noble silence and meditation, but it isn’t. It’s very social, and the rules for social interaction are quite different in a monastery.

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It’s even more difficult which’s why many did disrobe!

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Hi @Gabriel_L, indeed, it is a wonderful sutta. Like Kevatta sutta, here too the same link of going forth is found after listening to the dhamma. It is quite inspiring as there are many finer fruits that are listed as a result of ascetic life. These fruits are important junctions of dhamma practice.

"A householder hears that teaching, or a householder’s child, or someone reborn in some clan. They gain faith in the Realized One, and reflect: ‘Living in a house is cramped and dirty, but the life of one gone forth is wide open. It’s not easy for someone living at home to lead the spiritual life utterly full and pure, like a polished shell. Why don’t I shave off my hair and beard, dress in ocher robes, and go forth from the lay life to homelessness?’

After some time they give up a large or small fortune, and a large or small family circle. They shave off hair and beard, dress in ocher robes, and go forth from the lay life to homelessness."

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Hi @dayunbao, this reminded me of an incident where the Buddha was watching over Mogallana when he was experiencing drowsiness in the pursuit of Nibbana.

I am sure monkhood is very difficult simply because of its goal of total extinction of suffering (which is not easy and requires hard work). Still, I believe for the right practitioner the path brings happiness in the start, in the middle and at the end.

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It’s better to have realistic easing into monk’s life instead of thinking that it’s always difficult.

If you’re used to many meditation retreats, stayed for some time in monasteries, can adjust to 8 precepts easily, you’ll have less difficulty in the initial adjustment period.

If monk’s life doesn’t contain joy and happiness too, it’s not sustainable.

On studying vinaya, it’s good to have a senior monk to keep on asking questions, clarifying doubts on how on earth does anyone observe this? Can I really observe this? Or else it could be discouraging.

Concrete first steps is to go for retreats. How many of them have you been to?

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I was reflecting on this:

and in a way it can be quite scary, making it sound like life life in a Kafka novel…

Would you be scrutinized in matters concerning etiquette too? I guess a lot depends on the spirit with which it is done; i.e. is it done with the aim to help you, or to criticise you?

A teacher that really inspires me said that his job is not to control or ‘spy on’ monks, but to inspire them; so that they will behave properly because of the inspiration, not out of fear of being caught. So probably a lot depends on the monastery you are in?

Would be interesting to hear from anyone who has spent time in monasteries.

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It’s more of you’re the one watching yourself with mindfulness. It’s important to know how to be mindful without using effort. Like Sayadaw U Tejaniya’s teaching. Or else, one may feel tired to be mindful every waking moment.

It can be dangerous. One moment of lapse of mindfulness, then hey, isn’t what I am doing breaking the precepts? Then next thing you know, meditation becomes harder, then have to confess.

It’s not so much tight, depends on one’s attitude towards it. Young monks tend to take vinaya more tight, old monks tend to be already used to living by the vinaya, and seemed more relaxed.

If one’s behaviour doesn’t seem inspiring, it could subtly affect the atmosphere of the place and people’s attitude towards you.

So it’s not so much 24/7 you’re with people. A lot of time is alone time for meditation or other stuffs. It’s more like you can read (via mindfulness) people’s body language, actions and behaviours over time, we know who’s got what habits like family members.

Also, part of the vinaya requirement for admonishment is to do it with metta, and see within oneself if one has this fault, if got, cannot admonish others. Must also do it at the right time, situation etc, not to embarrass people.

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Whether or not the Buddha was actually married, I think he also was in the unusual situation of being born into a wealthy clan (perhaps not literally a royal family but more like having a father who might have been a Sakyan leader). If there was any dependent wife or child, they would have been well looked after and supported.

MN 81 comes to mind also, which focuses on a past life of the Buddha, then named Jotipāla, where he meets the previous Buddha Kassapa after being literally reluctantly dragged there by his friend the potter Ghaṭīkāra:

Ghaṭīkāra said to the Buddha Kassapa, ‘Sir, this is my dear friend Jotipāla, a brahmin student. Please teach him the Dhamma.’ Then the Buddha Kassapa educated, encouraged, fired up, and inspired Ghaṭikāra and Jotipāla with a Dhamma talk. Then they got up from their seat, bowed, and respectfully circled the Buddha Kassapa, keeping him on their right, before leaving.

Then Jotipāla said to Ghatīkāra, ‘Dear Ghaṭīkāra, you have heard this teaching, so why don’t you go forth from the lay life to homelessness?’

‘Don’t you know, dear Jotipāla, that I look after my blind old parents?’

‘Well then, dear Ghaṭīkāra, I shall go forth from the lay life to homelessness.’

Even though Ghaṭīkāra is a layman, caring for his aged parents, he is later described as being a non-returner (with the five lower fetters destroyed). In the suttas, laypeople being on the first two stages of awakening, as stream-enterers or once-returners, is not that unusual a situation. There are also cases of lay non-returners (celibate and sometimes described as “clothed in white” – obviously with the destruction of the fetters of sensual desire and aversion, that part of lay life no longer interested them). Though, IMO going the entire way to arahantship is closely associated with ordained monastics in the suttas.

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Is there anywhere these days where monastics dwell in the forests or in wilderness areas?

In any case, as a lay follower I would like it if the monastics were able to sit in their kuti meditating all day.

I have often wondered whether the monastics at the monasteries I have visited get enough solitude.

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Do visit forest monasteries. The answer is plenty.

I think that @dayunbao is saying applies more to a few things:

  1. First 5 years where a monastic is under training to become a monk. You can’t be trained if the teacher cannot see you often. There’s plenty of stuffs to learn, not just meditation.

  2. In monasteries where the schedule does have group stuffs. Eg. Group cleaning, group chanting, group meditation, group sutta study, group sewing class, group meal, etc.

  3. The fortnightly patimokkha recitation.

  4. If you want mainly meditation kind of schedule, go to Pa Auk monasteries. It’s intense.

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I think it is important to have a deep reflection here. First of all, I remember that a robe does not make a monk at the spiritual level. Ordination is not equal to liberation, something people today often seem to forget. Albeit ordination help and it is still probably an excellent option today, despite there is a clear emphasis for it by people who are ordained (and it cannot be otherwise anthropologically speaking because of their own choice and experience), ordination is not a magic bullet.
Studying the texts and understanding Buddha’s message deeply shows that liberation comes through a mental process; it is a mind liberation, not liberation by style or practice. This means that it is also extremely personal.
Liberation is obtained through the eradication of the kleshas and the deep understanding of anatta. It is that process that provides the way and the results, not ordination.
In other words, despite the efforts to argue differently, there is no evidence that you must be a monk to reach the different degree of liberation, and you do not need, in theory, to be a “Buddhist” either as the Buddha clarified by answering such a question on his deathbed.
Sure, a structure can help, and the ordination helps because you have more or less guaranteed a certain level of survival and support.
Yet if you really practice, if you make your life in tune with the teachings, and you really work hard following the path and working on your mind, there is no reason that you will not reach results of different degrees or even enlightenment.
Indeed, if we think carefully, or we must accept that any sotāpanna will become a monk before becoming a sakadāgāmi, anāgāmi or arahant, or we must accept that some sotāpanna may reach another stage or even arahant level without maybe any experience of being a monk. And since paccekabuddhas existed even before monastic orders, it is clear that there is no reason why not becoming a monk should prevent you from reaching all the stages.
So, what can you do? Compromise. If you have children and a wife, you can discuss a solution that allows you to progress as much as possible to your path, even to dedicate most of your life to practice. I know that. In some cases, you may have even more time for practice and learning about the mind than in certain monasteries or situations.
Just speak and explain to your family and wife your spiritual needs and be compassionate and kind. Times are different from the time of the Buddha and teaching as so available. Most of us will not be forced to kill (one of the reasons for which monasticism was seen as so important at the time of the Buddha since you could have been forced to go to war or kill or find yourself in very unskilful realists we can easily avoid today).
At the same time, try not to be greedy, since you must rally evaluate how much your desire to become a monk may end in actually increasing your kleshas and bring you more distant from the path of liberation than not actually a very well controlled life, with 8 or more precepts and focus on the development of the mind. :pray:

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I wasn’t implying that there aren’t any monasteries where people spend a lot of time meditating in kutis in the forest. I was just pointing out that even in those kinds of monasteries the residents have responsibilities. Keeping the monastery clean (sweeping, mopping, washing windows, cleaning toilets, cleaning shrines, etc.), keeping insects and other critters out of kutis (which, if you live in a forest, is not a trivial task and requires cutting back trees and bushes to keep them away from the kutis, at a bare minimum) maintaining/repairing kutis, building new kutis, dealing with guests, dealing with the local lay supporters, dealing with aspiring monks, training new monks…off the top of my head, those are a few of the things I saw during my stay at various monasteries that needed doing on a semi-regular to regular basis. Of course, if the monastery isn’t in a forest, isn’t growing (so no new kutis need to be built), or is well established and has a large group of lay supporters, then a lot of that work becomes much lighter. A well run monastery will find the right balance between work and meditation, but “balance” is a rather subjective term.

True. The Buddha never said, “By shaving your head, wearing robes, and living in a monastery/forest/cave, your suffering will end.” Suffering ends through practice, a lot of it. A long time ago something a nun once said to me really stuck with me. It seems relevant to this discussion. She said, “When you’re a layperson living in the world, you have the suffering of a layperson living in the world. When you’re a monastic living in a monastery, you have the suffering of a monastic living in a monastery.”

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