Ordaining with student loan debt

I’ve considered ordaining for awhile so I’m paying off all my debts within the next few years but unfortunately it will take me much longer to pay off my student loans because of the interest. I’m 63 and retired so I get social security each month which I can use to slowly pay off my student loans. I did a search and came across another post that included a question about ordaining with debt. It would seem to me that student loan debt with an ability to repay over time shouldn’t disqualify me from ordaining?

From what I read in the post I searched it seems the ordination preceptor would have the final decision concerning this. I’d also need to be ordained as an independent so I can continue my practice on my people homeland in the woods of Maine. :pray:t4:

PS: I’m in no hurry to ordain but I would like to ordain before I die. Then hopefully I’ll be reborn female near a monastery where I can play as a child and then become a Bhikkhuni :pray:t4:


It’s better not to simply still go through with that. It depends too, can you find enough monks willing to incur an offence to ordain you? And you’re still going to incur offence for handling money. But exact wording is no trading, no buying, selling with money, is paying debt a form of buying?..

Anyway, find a job? Earn more, pay back faster? I had about $50,000 Singapore dollar worth of debt when I graduated, worked and had some period of unemployment for 4 years to finish paying it all off. I put about half of my salary to pay it all off, because I am very averse to interest rate hiking up the total amount to pay. If I have bonus, I put them to reduce more debt faster. Basically living like a poor student, not indulging in much stuffs. The most expensive stuffs are 2 retreats which I pay thousands. Most of the other retreats are close to free or free for me.

To be clearer, that student loan is not from your studies when you’re young like in early 20s right? It’s more of recently went to university as lifelong learning? Make good use of the degree then, get a good paying job.


Thank you for responding to my post, I really appreciate it :pray:t4:

I do have someone to handle my money and I can probably set up direct payment for my student loans. I’ve thought long and hard about the 10 precepts and from my understanding of them I know I can keep them.

I live in the woods of Maine and there are no jobs around here and it’s 50 miles to the closest city. I retired early to focus on my practice so I’ll continue to do that. In the end it doesn’t really matter if I get to ordain in this lifetime. What matters is suffering and the end of suffering :pray:t4:

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One possible option if full ordination isn’t quite possible because of debt would be lifelong 8 precepts or perhaps to ask for 10 precepts or Samanera ordination/precepts (it is also the 10 precepts but I think you do end up shaving your head, having an alms bowl, and wearing a robe)? In this way you can still be a mendicant and live a blameless life. Of note is the fact that in one of the viharas by one of the stops on the Buddhist pilgrimage route in India, a bhikkhu stepped down from the full vows and went down to Samanera (10) so he could work on the abandoned vihara and make the area a place of pilgrimage once more.

I think if you’re trying to have the possibility of asking for alms or staying at a monastery, the latter two suggestions might be easier.

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One quick and easy way then is to basically give your bank account to the other person, along with whatever future income it has. That person helps you to pay off the debt, immediately, one lump sum, completely from their own pocket. Then you’re basically freed from debt, and no money input. Mentally relinquish all the money and account. After a few years, when the other person deem it suitable, finished the initial amount they have to pay to clear the debt, you can go with them to close the account with your name on it.

I am not sure if this is 100% ok with the vinaya (your social security money given to another person), pending input from other more senior venerables. What I know is that it’s possible to have existing money still, and whatever money the government wants to put into the account, can ask another person to take it away, as well as the interest. New money are not yours. So should be ok based on this for extension.

Perhaps most importantly, is that the relationship between you and the other person is that no one considers their payment to help you clear the debt means you are now in debt to them.

It’s you give them money, they help you clear debt. You’re not in debt to them, you also do not own any incoming social security money.

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I believe that there are rules around how Social Security is spent/saved in the US, so please do more legal research first.

[What comes to mind is an elderly monk in the usa who was getting, I believe, social security payments. They were all just being put into a savings account and somehow the govt found out and wasn’t happy. That’s different from the situation you mention, but it does remind me that with govt money, things can get complicated]

I can imagine that if you had a lay person who was willing to unofficially assume responsibility for the debt, then a preceptor may not have a problem with that. However if they actually paid off the debt all at once with the understanding that the SS payments would then belong to them, that’s where things could become problematic legally.

What might be more difficult (although it’s not the question in your post title) is finding a preceptor that would release you to live on your own after ordaining. In any case if you are going to keep the precepts and live outside a monastic community, then you will need to have (what is for a single person) quite a support system.

But perhaps what makes most sense on both questions is to start a relationship with a monastic community. Because everything springs from that.


Ordaining with student loan debt is not impossible, but it is challenging. It’s best to start planning long before ordination. Often, you can get your loans deferred during candidacy (sometimes funded by your congregation) or interest rates reduced through income-driven repayment plans.

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