Picking a home monastery?

mostly addressing this to bhikkhus, bhikkhunis & postulants–i’m a little nervous as i fly out tomorrow to sri lanka to try staying at one monastery there & will apply to another in the country as well. i’ll be making some possible rounds too in other countries both south & southeast asia–mostly theravada but considering at least one or two mahayana monasteries.

my question is: how do you know if a monastery is the right fit? part of me feels like…if a monastery seems to have good discipline where my practice can grow, if they offer ordination i’d like to take it immediately/as soon as possible. however i think there may be some pitfalls i’m not seeing in my optimism! does anyone have advice or thoughts based on their own journey?

thank you!


Take your time and once you find a place you think is right, try it out for a while as a lay person. See if you can do 3 months or so there. Different times of year might have a different feeling too.

Get to know the monastics and see if there are people who you click with personality-wise. Good friendship is the whole of the holy life :wink:

Don’t be afraid to ask questions with regard to how decisions are made in the community, how one receives requisites, how and when retreat time is made available etc.

Best wishes on your search.


thank you!!! i’ll keep this in mind. i had no idea whether it was okay to ask these things or not, so knowing it’s okay to do so is a great comfort! :pray::pray::pray:


Yeah! April is the hottest month of the year here in Thailand, so consider visiting us next month! :slight_smile: If you can handle April, you’ll probably be fine here the rest of the year.

Also: while you’re traveling around you’ll meet other postulants making the rounds. They’ll have good intel for you on what other monasteries to visit, etc.

Big +1 - Obviously in a respectful way.

And when you get to know a junior monk or two, don’t be shy to ask them directly what are the pluses and minuses of that monastery. What kind of practitioner is it suited for, etc. The monastics I met in my search were almost always quite open about this… and when they weren’t, that was also good information to know! :laughing:

Best of luck!


heard on april! steeling myself to not have a/c when i go around!

thank you for the tips on junior monastics–whether questions are answered or not is good information on the culture of that specific monastery. i’ll keep that all in mind. :pray::pray::pray:

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Of course with the caveat that (esp us juniors) are still in training… so cut us some slack when we’re a bit weird :crazy_face::joy:


In Asian culture, if you ask these questions too early in your stay, I can see it being seen in a negative light. Try and observe things for a while first. And see if you can’t figure them out in an indirect way.

I have often felt that lay people are uniquely unqualified to pick a monastery. That is to say, it’s extremely difficult to know what it may be like to live in a place as a monastic when you are a lay person. I don’t mention this as a discouragement, but rather a validation that it’s a difficult process.

One thing to consider is what will happen if things don’t work out in a particular monastery. Will you be able to stay in robes and go to another place? That can be very difficult as a new monastic. So one way to approach it is to decide if you think you could live in a place for at least 5 years or so. It is also a big advantage if the monastery is part of a network of places so you could move around if you had to.

That’s not to say you should be planning your divorce at the same time as your marriage. But yeah, things don’t always work out.


thank you for these tips! i am very lucky to be asian & do have a sense of that trepidation, which is why i was personally hesitant to ask such questions. i’m more used to asian monastics expecting a…no questions sort of approach & while i’ve stayed in monasteries as an asian person, i do find this dynamic is harder to push against being…well, asian.

i’ve also thought about what happens should i have to leave a monastery i have ordained in. i wouldn’t mind having to leave a bad monastic situation should i find myself in one–my folks have expressed openness to helping me fly out. there is a monastery in thailand where i may join two other monastics from my same country who have expressed support towards my ordination, so hopefully if things go deeply south wherever i am, i may be able to reach out to them, possibly re-ordain in their lineage to join them.

i’ll keep all your advice in mind and frankly i appreciate the level-headed thoughts! i’ve seen monastics flee unhappy situations in monasteries & have also been concerned about that possibility!


A lot of good advice has been given here. Like choosing a university to attend, maybe try not to reinvent too many wheels, but see what paths others have taken, and which wats and countries worked best for others. A clinician from San Diego, Nick Keomahavong, USA, ordained here in northern Thailand Meditation in Chiang Mai – Pa Pae meditation Retreat, Thailand , and he hosts a very nice channel with a solid, contemporary approach to practice. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4s4I_0RxKMgp-HKRVagRnw/featured . His wat might be a good resource. Thailand has a number of wats that have English speaking monks and nuns that offer training, but try to investigate who is present at the wat and try to contact monks and nuns that may have trained there. There are many in Australia, though Oz might be tough to get a visa for and I recall there might be a waitlist for places like Bodhinyana. I’ve trained at Abhayagiri in California, USA, and it’s an outstanding resource for practice and training.

A great way to get comfortable with a country, a wat and/or a practice is to start as an anagarika in a monastic setting. It’s an 8 precept ordination, and one works to support the wat and the novices and the Bhikkhus/Bhikkhunis. Because you can drive a car, you may be enlisted to drive monastics and have some dedicated time with senior monks and nuns in the car. I mention the anagarika role as it can be more involved and closer to monastic life than living at a wat as a lay person.


ah, unfortunately i’m asian from a third world country & i cannot drive a car. i would only be useful as an anagarika for cooking & cleaning lol. but yeah, i think your points are really good!!! i’ll check that monastery out!


I actually loved being in the kitchen, and so if you can cook, it’s a great way to interact with both the monastics and the lay supporters from the kitchen. :hocho:

…and my apologies for assuming that you are living in the west…your English is perfect (as is true for many in Asia, too!) and so I referenced Abhayagiri. If you’re living in Asia, Thailand and/or Oz might offer some great choices for you, and I wish you good luck and great adventures as you venture forth.


If I may ask, which monastery are you planning to visit in Sri Lanka, is it Na Uyana?

I found this article ‘Where to ordain?’ had some interesting points, maybe it has something for you as well?

All the best! :slightly_smiling_face:


I agree it does have some good points, but it is helpful to understand the writer’s biases and possible misunderstandings (as with any writer!).


yea one of them is na uyana! waiting to see how that goes!

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As Ven. Snowbird said you have to do this somewhat discretely. This is why I said get to know the monastics. However, it’s worth building relationships so you can figure this stuff out. One of our anagarikas-to-be did an amazing job of getting to know the community. She is very observant and figured out what each person’s interests where within the community and then met them for tea or a bushwalk and was able to ask more questions about that area or offered to help out with a specific task to get to know that person better.


In Sri Lanka there is nothing known as temporary ordination. When a youth, middle aged or even an elder person ordain, they say, “sabba dhukka nissarana nibbana sachchikaranaththaya” meaning "eliminating all the suffering and realise the truth of Nibbana (Nirvana). In the Rathana Sutta it is stated, “Nibbanthi Dhirs yatha ayampadipo”, The wise attain Nirvana (Nibbana) just as a flame in a lamp gets extinguished.
I just came from a retreat, a short duration of 3 days. Monasteries do not take temporary Bhikkus in this country. But before all that have you done the Mindfulness Meditation and Vipassana?


There is no established tradition of temporary ordination in Sri Lanka, but forest monasteries—including the famous ones mentioned in this thread—do make exceptions, especially in the case of foreigners. If you explain your situation and show that you are earnest in your desire to go forth even if for the limited time you are able to, the sangha is likely take a compassionate stance.


oh. i think you misunderstand, i’m trying to take upasampada for life–not temporarily.

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yes. i’m not trying to take temporary ordination. i’m currently in a forest monastery near anuradhpura! :slight_smile:


I wish you the very best with your pabbajjā and upasampadā! :hugs:

My previous reply was for the benefit of other readers who might come across this thread and think that temporary ordination was not an option at all in Sri Lanka.