Seeking ordination advice for 37 year old Western male

My aim in possibly ordaining is to cultivate a clearer, happier mind to serve others better. I prefer meditation-focused training followed by periods of study and am particularly interested in Pali, early Buddhism and somewhat in Abhidhamma. Due to safety concerns in Myanmar, I seek a program elsewhere. Preferably in English. Burmese or Sinhalese I also like, but would have to learn first. I’m drawn to techniques akin to Mahasi Sayadaw’s, the tradition of Ajahn Tong and Sayadaw U Tejaniya. I actually have a slight preference for observing what is most prominent, but without the slow walking and noting. Possibility of maintaining some contact with my parents is important. Any advice on selecting a teacher, monastery or program, especially regarding meditation techniques and study opportunities, would be highly appreciated.


Hi Sammavaca, welcome to the forum! There are a few Mahasi monasteries in Sri Lanka, might worth a look. There a probably more, but for these I could find a description and photos.

  • Nissarana Vanaya Forest Monastery, Mitirigala [description]
  • Siyane Vipassana Meditation Centre, Kanduboda [description]

  • Sumathipala Meditation Centre, Kanduboda [description]

  • I also heard good things about Na Uyana in Sri Lanka (though a Pa Auk monastery and not Mahasi) [their website]


One thing I would caution… As a lay person it is easy to come up with a long list of qualifications of what we think we want in a place to ordain. But it’s only after spending some time in robes that we can actually see what really matters in the monastic life. And it’s only after spending time in a place that we can see what it is really like. Everything can look good “on paper” but once in it we can discover that living with monastics who are kind and have deep faith in the Buddha is more important that the precise meditation technique they may or may not follow.

If you are planning on ordaining for life, it may be more valuable to find out how often a monastery is able to produce monastics who stay in robes long term. Because once you are well established in monastic life you can then easily seek out whatever teachers and lifestyle you think is appropriate. And the techniques and lifestyle you think you want now may not turn out to be what is right for you, and it is certainly likely to change over time.


I think the generic advice is pretty good: aim to visit several monastic communities, stay there as a guest for a time, get to know the community and the teachers.

This way, you also get to meet other aspirants, you’ll get the “inside” information on where to go and whom to talk to :female_detective: (I still keep in touch with some of the other aspirants I’ve met during my travels)

I also think your past kamma will influence where you end up. So, an option is to just start visiting places and trust that your past kamma will lead you to the right place (without letting go of all critical thinking of course!) :slight_smile:


…in addition to all the valuable and practical advice on how to proceed, let me just add a note of congratulations on coming to the decision to join the long (?endless) line of renunciant followers of the Enlightened Ones, who inspire the rest of us to dedicate more time and effort to our practice :slight_smile:


My current teacher said once I become a monk I shouldn’t travel here and there and just stay at one place. For example, if I would go to study in Myanmar I would make a commitment for five plus years. I do think it’s important to find a monastery where I think I could stay.


Thank you.

Right. When I said that what I meant was after you have finished your dependency, i.e. minimum of five years. Sorry.

My point was that it is more important to find a monastery that will prepare you to be an independent monk at the end of your dependency rather than a place that matches your current meditation desires.

Because many of the monasteries that will have you doing 8+ hrs of meditation a day won’t do much necessarily to train you to live the monk life outside of their walls.

Good luck!


This above advice is good.

Also, if you have long term aspirations as a monk, try to plan to stick around in one place for 6 years. That would be 1 year before you get a full ordination and 5 years after. (some places have 2 years before you become a full monk). On the other hand, it is perfectly fine to temporarily ordain and just take it year by year, or even month by month. It depends on your intentions and parami. Lifetime is best, but some cannot make that commitment in the beginning without trying.

This article: does not speak about monasteries you describe, but it might be useful advice to read for those who want to ordain and select a monastery. Usually abhidhamma and ebt do not mix and most Myanmar traditions that meditate are abhidhamma based (for the practice). So if you ordain at an ebt place, you will not easily find abhidhamma support. If you ordain at a Myanmar practice center with abhidhamma, you will not easily find ebt support. You can study either on your own, but you will be on your own. You should also take advice from a teacher on what you study rather than weave your own teachings together. It is all part of the respect aspect of taking a teacher or tradition.

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I find the advice in that article to be a bit biased/extreme, so it might be good to read in the context of his other writings.

The much older article by Ven. Nyanatusita that reviews various monasteries in Sri Lanka is much more even handed, but now perhaps out of date.

If I may, two bits of advice:

  • Give thanks that as a western male you have options, and try to help those who do not have them!
  • Don’t overthink it. Spiritual life is full of weird happenstances. My suggestion? Go to Bodhgaya, hand around and talk to people. Everyone goes there sooner or later!

Yes , the article is very biased against EBT which might not go well here, and it does not speak about the monasteries he might be interested in, but it does have some useful information. The main takeaway from that article is to choose a place that matches the philosophy to where he wants to ordain. Actual countries and monasteries and the facilities are secondary to matching the philosophy of the teacher.

As Ven. @sujato said, be thankful you have choices. Often monks simply ordained at their local temple. Ordaining at a “good” temple was soley based on parami and proximity to a good temple which was very rare.

As for Myanmar, and swe oo min. That area should be safe from fighting since it is near yangon. ( I cannot confirm your safety) However, swe oo min does not really support long term monks well. It is a great place for temporary ordination though. You have to be there when Sayadaw U Tejaniya is there. The place sort of shuts down to foreigners when he is gone. However, vinaya practice, like not using money, is not practiced by the majority there. The Czech monk is from that monastery but he is unique.

Most people don’t like meetreegala long term. The reviews are mixed. Either they like it when the main teacher is there , or they like it when the main teacher is gone, but rarely both. Whatever the case is, it dramatically changes with the teacher’s presence or absence. I’m not sure what the issues are, but that is probably why it is not desired long term.

Nyanatusita’s Book:
Maybe you can post ven Nyanatusita’s information?
Was that the Sri Lanka forest monastery book? If so, I think that is more for monks who already ordained and the book is limited to Sri Lanka. That book is outdated and old .

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Yeah, this is a common theme. And monasteries can change over time, even short periods of time.

I can’t find the page on, but Google gives a direct link to the pdf:

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You might wish to consider ordaining in a group which allows bhikkhunis.


Honestly, for me that would be the number one thing, but I was trying to be subtle!


Do you mean checking out the monasteries in Bodh Gaya or asking people there where to go? I presume the monasteries will be quite noisy there and less suited for long term meditation.

And thanks for the subtle hint and thanks to @Suvira for clarifying :slight_smile:. I will give precedence to groups that allow bhikkhunis. :pray:

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Just go there and hang out. See what’s what. People come through all the time, you will have a random encounter that sets you on your path! Or else you won’t!

There’s the added benefit that if you die there, you go to heaven.