SuttaCentral

How does a community start a monastery?


#1

How does a group of interested people start a monastery? Purchase land and invite Monks to live there?


#2

As a start, search under “Tilorien Monastery” here at Sutta Central Discuss & Discover to the learn about the inspiring story of the founding of a Buddhist Monastery in Belgium. There are numerous threads on the experiences of the awesome monastics who have been involved with this undertaking. Truly inspirational.


#3

Ven Gunaratana’s advice (he is the author of many books including “Mindfulness in Plain English”:

https://www.budsas.org/ebud/ebdha095.htm


#4

Here are some ideas:

Form a group of like-minded people. Make sure there is a broad support base for the monastery, both in terms of financial support, but also especially people who want to give time and effort to run the place. You can start by inviting monastics for dhamma talks and shorter retreats, so that you can generate some publicity and outreach.

Spend as much time in established monasteries as possible. Visit different places and stay in each for a few weeks at least. Learn how monasteries are run, and how monastics live. Talk to monastics from different monasteries to get advice on your project.

Make an effort to understand vinaya and the role of monastics. For example, monastics in forest traditions won’t touch money, drive cars, cook, do gardening work, etc. Most will not stay alone with the opposite gender. Make sure everyone in your support group is aware of this and comfortable to support this lifestyle. You will need a lot of people to keep the monastery running, especially offering food every morning and lunchtime, driving monastics around, handling financial matters, etc.

Develop the project together with the monastics who you plan to invite to live there. They will know what kind of arrangements and living conditions are suitable for their style of practise. Most forest monastics will prefer to live in kutis (small huts) in order to have the necessary seclusion for deep meditation practise. If you plan to establish a city temple, the requirements will be different. You will also need to consider whether you want to have a community of monks and nuns, or only one gender; if you want to have accomodation for laypersons as well, etc. Monks and nuns, and monastics and laypeople, usually need separate living quarters, so your financial burdens and work commitments will increase.

There is plenty more to consider when building a monastery. Don’t just put up a building somewhere and hope for the best…


#5

Generally monasery start as a rented house. (I know two cases) So find out the monthly rental for a rented house. Divide the rental by number of members. My understanding is you need about 150 people to start a monastery. Say if rental is $400 divide by 150 = $3.00 a month per person. So you need 150 commited people or 75 people commited to pay $6.00 per month (the cost of a coffe)
However food ,transport, electricity,phone has to be supplied by the members. If you have 365 members. Each can commit to give Dana one day per year.

Perhaps you can start the temple in your house if you are a single male. Give one room for the monk and use the lounge as your prayer room. Is this possible Bhante @sujato?

Then you organise fund raising and find a deposit for a house. You have to buy the house under a Associations incorporation act. (few member have to gurantee to the bank to pay the loan)
It take about ten years to stablish a monastery. You will surprise the support you get from the community.


#6

Even small monasteries or hermitages can be maintained under the right circumstances. There is a fairly well-known monastery in the Pacific Northwest of the United States called Pacific Hermitage that is comprised of a small number of resident monastics. With support from laypeople in the closest large metropolitan area (Portland, Oregon) as well as the small town where the hermitage is located (White Salmon, Washington), this small monastic community is thriving despite its relatively remote location and only a handful of monks in residence.


#7

& perhaps you can start the temple in your house if you are a single female. Give one room for the nun and use the lounge as your prayer room.

Edited because I realised I was being conditioned by cis norms and attaching to a reactive feminist view:
“& perhaps you can start the temple in your house. Give one room for the monastic and use the lounge as your prayer room.”


#8

How inspiring is every post in this thread! Sadhu to all. :pray:


#9

This does not work. Male monks can’t live in a house with female I think.
Pehaps Bhante @brahmali can give us the vinaya implication of a monk living with lay people.


#10

My edit was well-motivated, but perhaps doesn’t really help. :frowning:


#11

These ideas sound good, but of course each situation is different. Slow and easy is the way!

As for monastics living in lay accommodation, it’s not ideal, but as a temporary situation it can be done. It can create awkward situations if a monastic is living in a place with people of the opposite gender, but it depends. It also depends, not just on the circumstances of the place, but also on the monastic: not everyone is privileged enough to be able to choose to live exactly as they want.


#12

What is the difference between a Vihara and a monastery? :slight_smile:


#13

A vihara was originally utilized by travelling monks, and this raises one of the major differences between ancient and modern monastic practice , the Buddha’s lifestyle was one of continuous change of location and exposure to the elements and some conventional reality. In my mind this constitutes a necessary part of the practice.