Ordination advice / Pure Consciousness


I’m planning on beginning the ordination process pretty soon (less than a year).

I don’t want to get into specifics, but I was planning on ordaining at a particular place because of its seclusion, lack of distraction, dedicated environment, etc. However, it seems that the monastery is in a somewhat blatant eternalist lineage. (Edit: I’m not referring to all TFT itself, just to this particular instance at least, it has strong inclinations). Originally I thought it was a lot more subtle and maybe not such a big deal, but looking into it in more detail over time has made it clear that there is an idea of an undying indescribable consciousness equated with Nibbāna.

I feel that everywhere I turn, I run into this. Honestly it’s a bit disheartening. The Thai Forest tradition, which is by far the most internationally available lineage of monasteries for Westerners to ordain in, is filled with these kinds of ideas at every turn from all levels of practitioners, it seems. Sometimes it’s more subtle, sometimes it’s more blatant, but it’s there. Not only that, but this view has pervaded Buddhism everywhere: It’s almost surprising (and relieving) to come across a practitioner who doesn’t think Nibbāna is some eternal state of awareness.

I’m wondering if anyone, especially monastics, has any advice about navigating this. Originally I thought I could manage and some disagreement and whatnot is always good to test our comfort levels. But I feel that I’m going to “go crazy” if I’m surrounded by people who all want to realize what is essentially just an Upanisadic Pure Consciousness. I’ve even seen the same metaphor of all rivers joining the ocean used.

It also has less to do with the view itself as much as it does the general environment of Dhamma discussion. It seems inevitable that certain topics or discussions about Dhamma could be severely limited if people are basing practice on a goal such as that.

Do you have any experience to share? Would you think it’s less of a big deal and it is still fine to start out in a place like this? Am I exaggerating? Lol. The environment really does seem good as far as seclusion, nature, etc. goes, so that’s another thing to consider.

Just throwing this out there to see if anyone may have anything to add. I’m still doing some thinking, and figured my siblings in Dhamma might have guidance.

Thank you! Much mettā :pray::yellow_heart:



This is a much misunderstood concept. The Thai forest tradition is NOT an “eternalist” tradition. Eternalism implies that some “entity” that is part of the human condition lasts forever in Nibbana. This is definitely NOT what the Thai forest teachers teach, even though many westerners think this is what is being taught.

The crux of the matter centres around what is Anatta, non-self. Acharn Thate explains it as follows:

The Meaning of Anatta

Anything fashioned by conditions, whether physical or mental, is called a sankhara. All sankharas are unsteady and inconstant (anicca) because they are continually moving and changing about. All sankharas are incapable of maintaining a lasting oneness: This is why they are said to be stressful (dukkha). No sankharas lie under anyone’s control. They keep changing continually, and no one can prevent them from doing so, which is why they are said to be not-self (anatta). All things, whether mental or physical, if they have these characteristics by nature, are said to be not-self. Even the quality of deathlessness - which is a quality or phenomenon free from fashioning conditions, and which is the only thing in a state of lasting oneness - is also said to be not-self, because it lies above and beyond everything else. No one can think it or pull it under his or her control. Only those of right view, whose conduct lies within the factors of the path, can enter in to see this natural quality and remove their attachments to all things - including their attachment to the agent which goes about knowing those things. In the end, there is no agent attaining or getting anything. However natural phenomena behave, that is how they simply keep on behaving at all times.
When meditators practice correctly and have the discernment to see that quality (of deathlessness) as it really is, the result is that they can withdraw their attachments from all things - including their attachment to the discernment which enters in to see the quality as it really is.
The practice of all things good and noble is to reach this very point.

from: “The Autiobiography of a Forest Monk”

by Venerable Ajahn Tate

You can see from this passage that NO part of the human condition survives or migrates into Nibbana.

My advice is, don’t let such matters disturb your practice. Focus on the present and see for yourself whether or not what you experience is in keeping with what the Thai teachers say about the present. If the teaching fits, stick with what you are doing. If it does not, investigate why but avoid prejudging what outcomes there may be. The breath will teach you all you need to know if you watch it with equanimity and the old Thai teachers were very good at explaining this.

I wish you well with your ordination.


You heard of SBS? https://sasanarakkha.org/ Sounds like a fit for you as you’re into EBT as well.

I am from SBS, and indeed we do help to straighten the views of those coming in with those eternal consciousness = Nibbana views.

For right view wise, living with people with different views as you, indeed may cause a subtle conflict, but that’s not so hard to avoid by just not talking about it, but the stronger danger is that you get brainwashed to their view, whether you like it or not.

Anyway, I sense a debate is coming in this topic which allows you to decide if you misunderstood somehow the way some Thai monks describe about Nibbana. My own “judgement/deduction” is that those who claim Parinibbana of an arahant is any sort of consciousness is not yet a stream enterer even, but good in meditation. However, they can still become a stream enterer, they might even be close to it, just need to read the suttas to get right views.


Good luck @Vaddha !! I obviously dont have much to say re your concerns but it strikes me that you have to start somewhere, and given that you cant control peoples minds at least you can pick a nice secluded environmnet.


Hi. I think the above is probably both inaccurate & unnecessary. The Thai Forest Tradition is not a doctrinal tradition. If you really investigate it, you may find a great diversity in what various monks believe & teach. In other words, I think conforming to a specific doctrine/interpretation will largely be unrelated to your ordination. I imagine your ordination will probably be mostly about training in & conforming to the Vinaya.


There are enough well-established groups out there that aren’t teaching an eternal citta that it might be possible to make contact and ask one of them what they would recommend in your individual circumstances? It should be fairly easy to identify the major sutta-based groups (your profile says you are into EBTs): a good indicator of their capacity to take monastic candidates might be things like a previous track record of training candidates. Also AFAIK none of Ajahn Brahm’s senior students believe in such a thing as eternal consciousness.

Source: I managed to successfully find and ordain with a group that isn’t eternalist, thank Buddha.


Hmm, I wonder what the Buddha meant when he said that Nibbana was a dimension?

“There is, mendicants, that dimension where there is no earth, no water, no fire, no wind; no dimension of infinite space, no dimension of infinite consciousness, no dimension of nothingness, no dimension of neither perception nor non-perception; no this world, no other world, no moon or sun.
“Atthi, bhikkhave, tadāyatanaṁ, yattha neva pathavī, na āpo, na tejo, na vāyo, na ākāsānañcāyatanaṁ, na viññāṇañcāyatanaṁ, na ākiñcaññāyatanaṁ, na nevasaññānāsaññāyatanaṁ, nāyaṁ loko, na paraloko, na ubho candimasūriyā.
There, mendicants, I say there is no coming or going or remaining or passing away or reappearing.
Tatrāpāhaṁ, bhikkhave, neva āgatiṁ vadāmi, na gatiṁ, na ṭhitiṁ, na cutiṁ, na upapattiṁ;
It is not established, does not proceed, and has no support.
appatiṭṭhaṁ, appavattaṁ, anārammaṇamevetaṁ.
Just this is the end of suffering.”
Esevanto dukkhassā”ti.

I have found that reliance on a particular teacher or lineage of doctrine is a huge crutch that most people fall into that can be highly stifling in general, regardless of what the particular teachings or doctrines are. My advice is to pick a monastery that will, as you mention in your post, give you a suitable environment for being unburdened by duties and conducive to seclusion. Vinaya training is also obviously very important. If the doctrinal environment there is not to your liking, just make sure that you’ll be granted access to the internet and that will pretty much take care of everything. So long as you are willing to be self-critical of your own views and practices and are willing to do the extensive research it takes to clear away the contemporary Buddhist thicket of views, you’ll find the truth. Knock, and the door will be opened as the Christians say.

Honestly, the internet is probably the best thing to ever happen to the Dhamma since…well, since the Buddha! Open-source Dhamma is a dream come true.


Thanks for the reply :slight_smile:

There is no internet there, just one phone with cell service for any calls or directions and whatnot, or if anyone needs to use it they can ask the abbot. But besides that it’s just a very simple forest monastery.

The lack of internet is a bonus to me, but it’s also not due to this very fact.



Thank you, Venerable! :blush:

Yeah, there are definitely some good places. This one in particular is specifically in the lineage of an eternal-citta type teaching though, haha. I may check out some other monasteries, but it’d a shame because it’s such a minimalistic forest monastery with lots of space to practice. I think I’ll reach out and see what I find to visit and compare maybe.

Mettā! :pray:

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I’ve also heard of the “citta goes on” comments in the Ajahn Chah tradition (and I’ve heard other Thai forest) but supposedly only from arahants. I think the key thing is they are not saying that any conditioned or unconditioned thing is self. I figure they are speaking with imperfect language from their own experience, and I’ll worry about that nuance if I am lucky enough to get there in this lifetime.

What I have not heard, which keeps me engaged with such teachers and the lineage as a serious lay practitioner is any direct contradiction to the Buddha, such as “there is actually a self that carries on after parinibbana” or “consciousness/citta are self.”

Regarding ordination, it seems important to have a good enough fit, but no place can be perfect as after all we are practicing within samsara.

Wishing you much benefit on your path :pray:



Here is are some excerpt quotes from the biography of Mae Chee Kaew and a quote from Ajahn Maha Bua contained within.

I would also say that just because someone doesn’t say “It’s a self” doesn’t mean that the idea itself does not necessitate a self. It doesn’t matter whether you call it Brahman, Ātman, Self, Pure Consciousness, the Knower, Ultimate Universal Reality, true Essence, whatever. The name does not matter. What matters is the actual content of the language, not the words themselves.

With mettā

I agree, what matters is what the words are “ineffectively” trying to represent. In this case the section in BOLD highlight in the quote you provided does not mean what you think it does.

With regard to where to practise, if you don’t respect the teacher, then you shouldn’t stay in his monastery. Instead, you should stay with a teacher in whom you can place your faith.

My experience has been that abstract doctrinal questions are far less important than the personalities involved. As long as the teacher is ahead of you on the path, you can learn from them. It’s very hard to say from the outside if someone is enlightened or not, or what the results of doing their practice will be for you. So I think it’s best to keep an open mind and try things out (within the bounds of sīla). You’ll usually know after just a couple weeks if a place is suitable for you or not.


Thank you @Vaddha for providing these direct quotes.

When I’ve listened to Ajahn Sumedho, similar questions came up for me in the discussion of Pure Consciousness. At the time, it was helpful to go back to the definition of self that the Buddha negated. To me it was clear that Ajahn was not talking about a continuation of individual sense consciousness as we experience in the human form.

In investigation individually and discussing with my teachers, it felt non-contradictory for a highly advanced practitioner who has ostensibly dropped the illusion of an individual self to still be talking about their experience of some sort of field of energy or other ongoing underlying matter of the universe. The Buddha instructed nibbana/extinguishment being the cessation of the illusion of an individual, controllable, eternal soul as far as my understanding of the texts. The undying existence of consciousness or energy of the universe itself still to me does not seem in contradiction to this definition of (non)self.

I’m wondering for you, what does this apparent contradiction mean to you about such advanced teachers?

Greetings! This is not quite correct. There are several passages to address this from the suttas, so I’ll just leave some of those excerpts here for you to consider.

The idea that the “universe” is a real existent force but the other things we see are mere illusion was and is a common Brahminical/Hindu idea, and one of the extremes that Right View transcends as incorrect

People mistake the citta or viññāṇa to be a stable reality

People may claim that consciousness can exist independently, but it is impossible. What is real is cessation.

The Buddha was fine with holding on to anything that is stable and lasting, but he did not see anything like that at all. If there were a stable form of consciousness, it would be something the Buddha himself did not know about. So one would have to think their teacher is wiser than the Buddha.

With mettā! :slight_smile:


I understand the logical steps you have taken, however, I still don’t think that these arahants (or at the minimum highly advanced practitioners) are saying that there is a self (or anything) that lasts forever. And no experience of individuality once parinibbana has occurred. To me, they are actually pointing back to the illusion of self. From your example:

It would be ideal if you could ask your potential teachers yourself, about their views and this apparent contradiction, to see if it’s satisfying for you.

I was reflecting more upon the broader issue–who to take teachings from–and realized that no teacher is perfect, and if we were to look closely, every teacher would contradict (actually or apparently) the suttas in some way or another. I personally find value from many teachers, even if I do not agree with all of their views. I try to look at the teacher mostly in terms of their sila and apparent development on the path. If those are good, I can take everything in but not on face value, I try for myself what they are saying. If they lack good sila though, I avoid them.

I’d like to remind you that the Upanṣads also teach not self, and they point away from the “illusion of self” in certain ways. The Brihadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad teaches that one has to give up all duality, all sense of subject-object, the individual Ātman, and their ātman must merge into a non-dual, non-separate sense of Pure Consciousness. They also point to everything not being the self—not that, not that. Their conclusion of course is that there is still an essence, but the not-self idea is there as well. Does this sound similar?

The idea that separateness of our true self is an illusion is also a common Upaniṣadic and Vedanta theme. Everything is really non-dual/one Pure Consciousness, and all the separateness is a trick.

I’m not going to claim to know exactly what these people meant, but I can certianly know that we should not be following it. Whether or not it was some miraculous huge metaphor that looks exactly like what Vedanta says is never possible to know, and almost nobody will admit they are teaching a “Self,” because that’s a no-no word in Buddhism. But I would recommend you check out a recent post I made where I tried to explore the actual specific claims about the citta right here. There, it turns out that the description is identical to the wrong view in MN 38 that the Buddha scolded Sāti for and said he had not penetrated a modicum of Dhamma.

We may think that these issues of consciousness are minor issues. But back to MN 38, how did the Buddha respond to someone who was saying something similar? He called him a misguided man / fool several times, scolded him in front of the entire group of monks, said he had not understood anything of his teaching, and he is now remembered in history as “the monk with wrong view that the Buddha scolded.” All for saying this thing about consciousness that he was personally convinced of. So maybe this is a big deal, according to how the Buddha responded.

I hear you, and I think this is important. But another good thing to remember: in the time of the Buddha, there were tons of ascetics who were celibate, practiced meditation, followed lots of precepts and rules, were diligent, were famous teachers, were believed to be arahants even, and yet they were not even close to Right View. They were just dedicated, virtuous samaṇas. Why can’t there be advanced, virtuous meditators nowadays like that? Are the sages of the Upaniṣads just a rare type of human that can no longer exist, and anyone within Buddhism must have right view just because they wear robes? Of course not.
People may not always use the same terminology of the suttas, or they may teach methods that are extra-canonical, and that’s fine. But when people contradict the ideas, we should be responsible and set them aside. This is the instruction of the Buddha. He said to compare to the suttas in the four great standards. Is our teacher the Buddha, or is it a tradition of a handful of monks 2,600 years later?
We can take what is valuable and respect people, while also understanding that their teaching is dangerous and misleading. We need to be responsible with these things, not excuse wrong views, in my opinion. But it’s up for every individual to decide—not everyone has to even agree with the Buddha! There are plenty of ascetics in all kinds of religions and philosophical systems. What we can’t do is mix them up and say it’s all the same.

All the best


I really like this. Its a nice way to express disagreement with otherwise respected and beloved teachers that nonetheless teach wrong view while still acknowledging that they are highly developed individuals and meditators.


Namo Buddhaya!

You will probably be fine if you don’t argue about it.

Prying people away from wrong views is a very delicate matter and one has to be very well grounded in analysis, logic and scripture.

When people are talking about works of disciples it is very difficult to evaluate their views it in light of scripture, lest you interrogate them, because the words are used differently.

If i was among TFT monks i’d just refrain from all discussion having to do with the teachings of legacy ajahns by saying that i don’t study those.

There is a good sutta about getting along with other monks.

  • Numbered Discourses 5.106
    1. Living Comfortably

With Ānanda

At one time the Buddha was staying near Kosambī, in Ghosita’s Monastery.

Then Venerable Ānanda went up to the Buddha, bowed, sat down to one side, and said to him, “Sir, how could a mendicant live comfortably while staying in a monastic community?”

“It’s when a mendicant is accomplished in their own ethical conduct, but they don’t urge others to be ethical. That’s how a mendicant could live comfortably while staying in a monastic community.”

“But sir, could there be another way for a mendicant to live comfortably while staying in a monastic community?”

“There could, Ānanda. It’s when a mendicant is accomplished in their own ethical conduct, but they don’t urge others to be ethical. And they watch themselves, but don’t watch others. That’s how a mendicant could live comfortably while staying in a monastic community.”

“But sir, could there be another way for a mendicant to live comfortably while staying in a monastic community?”

“There could, Ānanda. It’s when a mendicant is accomplished in their own ethical conduct, but they don’t urge others to be ethical. And they watch themselves, but don’t watch others. And they’re not well-known, but aren’t bothered by that. That’s how a mendicant could live comfortably while staying in a monastic community.”

“But sir, could there be another way for a mendicant to live comfortably while staying in a monastic community?”

“There could, Ānanda. It’s when a mendicant is accomplished in their own ethical conduct, but they don’t urge others to be ethical. And they watch themselves, but don’t watch others. And they’re not well-known, but aren’t bothered by that. And they get the four absorptions—blissful meditations in the present life that belong to the higher mind—when they want, without trouble or difficulty. That’s how a mendicant could live comfortably while staying in a monastic community.”

“But sir, might there be another way for a mendicant to live comfortably while staying in a monastic community?”

“There could, Ānanda. It’s when a mendicant is accomplished in their own ethical conduct, but they don’t urge others to be ethical. And they watch themselves, but don’t watch others. And they’re not well-known, but aren’t bothered by that. And they get the four absorptions—blissful meditations in the present life that belong to the higher mind—when they want, without trouble or difficulty. And they realize the undefiled freedom of heart and freedom by wisdom in this very life. And they live having realized it with their own insight due to the ending of defilements. That’s how a mendicant could live comfortably while staying in a monastic community.

And I say that there is no better or finer way of living comfortably than this.”

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