How could I become a buddhist priest

As there is no Buddhist Temple where I live, this is greatly appreaciated in guiding me on the path. I wonder how I could become a Buddhist priest and teach Buddhism here, but I’m married.

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Wiki definition of priest : A priest is a religious leader authorized to perform the sacred rituals of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and one or more deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities.

This is NOT a description of Buddhist monastics. Best not to use the word priest for Buddhist monastics, although in some countries, where adherence to Buddhist monastic code is quite lax or corrupted, some monks/nuns act like “priests”. Not good.

To go forth, to become a Buddhist monastic, male or female, is to leave behind the family, relatives, friends, job, and to live among the celibate monks or nuns, according to the monastic rules prescribed by the Buddha in the Vinaya. There has to be a community of monks or nuns where you are, or where you are going, who is willing to accept you to live with them, after proper ordination process to see if you are a suitable qualified candidate. You will become a financial burden to the community because monks and nuns survive on alms-food and no longer earn an income like householders.

Even more important, what is the goal to become a monastic? The Buddha had explained that one needs not go forth to attain liberation, Cessation of Dukkha (the 3rd Noble Truth), which should be the aim and end goal of all Buddhists. Monastic life is a life-style alternative, the means to an end. Never mix up “the means” and “the end”. Please study the sutta MN-73, The Longer Discourse With Vacchagotta.

To be a teacher is a great responsibility. To spread wrong information has its karmic consequence. Being a teacher also carries a measure of “superiority” relative to the students, a “conceit”. It feeds the ego self, quite troublesome for one trying to break the fetters of rebirths. Unless one is an “aryan-sangha” it’s best not to think of oneself as a “teacher” and teaching, but rather sharing the teachings through discussion. Have the humility that one has not thoroughly understood the Dhamma and could be wrong.

For those already married, consider the impact on the partner and the vow pledged to enter the marriage. Of course the Buddha himself is one example of a married person going forth. Examine all the factors and conditions, best not to generate more suffering if possible. Be well. Metta to all.


I didn’t know that there weren’t priests. But who sets up and takes care of Buddhist temples? I assume this would be sort of a priestly function.

There are differences between “monastery” & “temple”.

Wiki : “…A monastery is a building or complex of buildings comprising the domestic quarters and workplaces of monastics, monks or nuns, whether living in communities or alone (hermits).” In other words, monastery is a residence where people dedicated their life to inner search, spiritual pursuit and development, live in quietude, free from the crowds and throngs of visitors.

“… A temple is a structure reserved for religious or spiritual rituals and activities such as prayer and sacrifice. It is typically used for such buildings belonging to all faiths where a more specific term such as church, mosque or synagogue is not generally used in English. These include Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism among religions with many modern followers.”

Buddhists should not intrude into monasteries and disturb the quiet of the monastics. Going to a Buddhist center, meditation hall or retreat is a different thing. Unfortunately, too many Buddhists fail to appreciate silence. As for Buddhist temples, over the centuries rites & rituals crept into Buddhism and Buddhist temples in Asian countries are as ubiquitous as cathedrals and churches all over Europe. These gathering places use up substantial monetary assets and carry huge upkeep costs. Someone has to look after the hardware, bricks & mortar. These and fund raising, pleading for donation, are constant tasks that usually fall onto the “priests”.

I’m not in that business so I can only observe from a distance.

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I really appreciate your reply. I definitely learned something new. I hope that I can come to understand such wisdom and apply it correctly to my life. I don’t think that I should leave my wife to be a monastic, but I should never rule it out. Thank you again.


I’d like to add to what was said. First of all, sadhu! to your aspiration to help serve and spread the Dhamma. :pray:

Even though it seems the monastic life is not for you at this point, there are still plenty of ways that you can contribute as a lay practitioner. If you have aspirations to serve in a teaching or other role, start laying the groundwork by studying suttas, deepening your meditation, and serving your local Buddhist community. If there isn’t a local Buddhist community, create one. I’d also encourage you to visit and stay at monasteries and Buddhist places of different traditions and natures, so that you can get some more experience as to how they work and what exactly you aim to achieve.


My understanding is that ordained Buddhist monks in some of the Japanese Buddhist sects have a role somewhat closer to our western idea of a “priest”. If that’s what you are really interested in, you should see what paths are available in those traditions.

FAQ: How Can I Become a Zen Priest/Monk/Nun? | Hardcore Zen


I’m not sure how I could create a local Buddhist community, but perhaps that will come with time. I am currently studying medicine while I teach English in Peru. I had a desire to become an oncologist in order to help people who have cancer. It was actually my studies of oncology that lead me to Buddhism (strangly enough). I was an Orthodox Christian and I wanted to fulfill the law of Christ to love my neighbor. I cannot become a priest in the Orthodox Church because of past sins (I used to drink alcoholically until I found sobriety in Alcoholics Anonymous).

I practiced the twelve steps and Christian spirituality seemed very similar except with its requirements to believe specific doctrine (AA has no such requirements to begin a spiritual journey). Therefore, my only way to learn to serve others was perhaps to study science and become an oncologist (In the USA it is very expensive to go to medical school). However, as I didn’t have money for medical school, I got my degree in Spanish with a minor in History. I moved to Peru where I got married and I began studying to go to medical school here in Peru where I can go for free. In my studies I began to recognize that the evidence for evolution was overwhelming and those who denied it were simply uneducated in it (uneducated as apposed to stupid - I don’t think it helps to call anyone stupid - there was a time when I was ignorant about it too).

This thought about God completely changed my perspective. At first, I did the normal thing and tried to explain that Christianity was compatible with evolution because six days could be any period of time. However, I had read the Bible for every day for almost 12 years straight as a spiritual practice trying to get to know God. And many little subtle things about the Biblical mentality of God and the mentality of God that would create us using evolution were not compatible. I read the Tao Te Ching and found that it seemed to describe a more accurate understanding of God. There is a part that says that Tao creates and then allows it to develop on its own. This sparked a greater interest to know if I could find greater truth in a different religion.

I had always respected Buddhism. I think Einstein said once that Buddhism was the religion of the future (maybe he never said it - many things get attributed to him that he never said, but it was interesting). Reading about Buddhism and really thinking about inconsistencies with the Christian Bible made me realize that I could probably find God more readily as a Buddhist. The flood never happened; Exodus never happened; in fact, it seems that none of the Old Testament is very historically accurate until you get past 1st and 2nd Samuel (that is about when Israel got their first alphabet and could record their oral traditions). I still respect the sayings of Jesus (after all, they seem to be equal to the purity that I find in Buddhist teachings). However, Mark was the earliest gospel written between 66ad and 70ad and has no nativity and the original resurrection story ends with the women simply noting the empty tomb and the stone had alrady been rolled away (the longer ending was added later). Furthermore, Matthew, Luke, and John were like a game of telephone that seemed to be written by second and third century Christians between 80ad and edited all the way up to 110ad (in the case of Luke there is evidence that it was still being edited as late as 130ad). Therefore, I reasoned that it was not a result of a Christian conspiracy, but simple explainable human defects that added certain doctrines.

An example is John Chapter 3. First, Nicodemous has to rememeber his conversation with Jesus and tell it to John. Then John needs to remember it to tell it to his disciple. His disciple or the next disciple finally recorded it. It is easy to see how someone would add in accidently the idea that a disbelief in Jesus would send us to hell.

Thus through understanding evolution, my mind became open to receiving Buddhism as a true path. Therefore, I’m still studying medicine, but the thought had come back that I could become a priest if Buddhism would permit it.

I am going to become an oncologist most likely (especially if being a preist is not in God’s plan for me). I just want to help people. I had pondered staring a hospital for cancer patients that would treate people for free. It probably will never happen, but it’s the only thing I can think of that would make me feel like I am helping people. Perhaps through the hospital I can find a way to create a Buddhist community, but that will be many years down the road and I probably should get too far ahead of myself. Something else could be in strore for me. I could die tomorrw. All I know is that I want to find salvation in this life. I don’t want to have to be reborn and forget verything again and again and continue disappearing from existence as if I never existed. The thought of dying bothers me. I want my consciousness to live on. I hope that I didn’t ramble too much. Maybe when I have a little more time I’ll create a new topic explaining my recent conversion to Buddhism so people here can give me counsel. I took the vows of the Buddhist according to a website, but I’ve never been to a temple.


Thanks so much for sharing your story, it is a fascinating and moving one.

My suggestion would be, keep contact with some online communities, and see about starting a small local group, maybe a weekly meditation sitting group or something like that. I am sure there are people around who would be interested.


There are “priests” who are Zen ‘monks’/contemplatives who don’t practice celibacy, and then there are also ritual specialists, like the ones who perform the goma in Tendai & Shingon.


I had actually read this before. That is the reason that I thought that the priesthood was normal in Buddhism. I suppose that is one reason why I find this conversation so fascinating; I did not expect to be told that some types of Buddhism (much less Buddhism in general) frowned on the practice. I have a lot to study. I have to realize that there is so much that I don’t know. Thank you for your answer.


What is Tendai & Shingon? Is it bad or good?

The Wikipedia entry on schools of Buddhism seems like a good place to start.


It is East Asian esoteric Buddhism. The kinds of priesthoods they have don’t really relate a lot to the kinds of asceticism-based practises found in the EBTs.

On terms of are they bad or good? I couldn’t say.

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Thanks for sharing your story. I have come to the conclusion that everyone’s life story can be turned into a movie script. Each one quite eventful and fascinating. Then again, one of my motto is “No Drama is Good Kamma” - what seems like an uneventful life can be a blessing too.

How about starting with a community of two. Find a like minded friend to share ideas. Take it from there.

I know a Buddhist monk who split his time between Sao Paolo & Buenos Aires, occasionally in Paraguay. These places are still quite far from Peru though. He might know something about Buddhist communities in Peru. I can ask him. (He had studied with Bhikkhu Bodhi in NJ, speaks fluent English, Mandarin, Spanish & Portuguese.)

You are not alone. I grew up in the Methodist church, attended Sunday school, sang in the church choir, all that stuff.

Wonderful. Do you know the story of Dr. Jivaka? He was the Buddha’s doctor. I found this brief bio of Jivaka, and also a lengthy bio of Jivaka on wiki.

I suspect that somewhere in the distant past you had heard the Buddha’s words.

The Buddha’s teaching is exactly what you are looking for. You would find Dr. Jivaka an inspirational figure: as a householder, he was recognized by the Buddha as an enlightened disciple. It was documented in the sutta AN 6.128. Read it here, AN 6.120-6.139. (To avoid redundancy the householders cited are all listed in one condensed sutta. The doctor’s full name is Jīvaka Komārabhacca. Here the Buddha declared for these householders:
“… Having these six qualities the lay follower (Bhallika ….Jīvaka Komārabhacca, … Sāragga) is certain about the Realized One, sees the deathless, and lives having realized the deathless.”

You would enjoy reading this sutta AN 8.26 too, an exchange between Dr. Jivaka and the Buddha.

You don’t really want that. No rush, but later on you might want to read Ajahn Brahm’s wonderful book “The Art of Disappearing - The Buddha’s Path to Lasting Joy”. It’s very DEEP.

The Spiritual Path pointed out by the Buddha is a gradual path. The Buddha said it is within grasp to attain liberation in one life time. But be realistic. For most people it takes longer. Much longer. Buddhists take a very long term view, in terms of many lives. No worry. Everything will work out based on cause and effect. (Conditioned Origination.)

Excellent suggestion from Ajahn Sujato. Read the Early Buddhist Texts on this web site, watch/listen to some of the talks, meditate (plenty of Dhamma talks & guided meditation sessions on youtube given by Ajahn Brahm, Ajahn Brahmali, etc.)

You’ll do fine. Be well & happy, to you & your wife.


Thank you for the readings. I will try to read them as soon as possible.

Some Online communities of Soto Zen practitioners are and Zenstudies sangha as they are western buddhists, they do call their clergy priests and they do get married.

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I am also a solitary buddhist! It can be a challenge when you are learning all this beautiful stuff and there is no-one around you that is interested in discussing it with you. Many of my friends in particular have been stung by early religious indoctrination and I can tell that they become uncomfortable when I go on about my latest amazing discovery. This site is ‘heaven sent’ in that regard - I am learning so much and feeling more connected to the dhamma and the lovely people that are trying to live by it. Thankyou everyone!


Hello. I hope it’s going well with you. I am a doctor originally from Sri Lanka. Just read this thread :pray::+1::wheel_of_dharma:.

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Hello, Mat. Maybe we can exchange information. I am thinking that if I can create a hospital here in Peru when I become an oncologist, it will be easier to make a temple in the hospital dedicated to the Buddha so that seekers could ask questions.