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Standard Ordination Procedure: What are the steps to ordain as a monastic?

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#1

Questions:

  1. What are early Buddhist instructions for ordaining as a female/male monastic?
  2. What are the clear list of steps to ordaining as a female/male monastic in today’s world?
  3. What can one do to better prepare themselves to become a monastic now ahead of time?
  4. Are there any monasteries that emphasize early Buddhism as opposed to a certain sect?

Background:
I have a seed of a wish in my mind somewhere to leave the household life and become a monastic in the future at the most suitable time and place for me, whatever and wherever that may be.

However, the process of ordaining as a monastic is not exactly clear to me. The monastic life seem difficult enough to live as it is, and this lack of clarity makes the process even more intimidating for me.

I find that I take quite a long time to think things through and carefully consider. Or maybe I’m just slow :upside_down_face:. Because of this, if I am able to get a better idea of a clear list of steps of the ordination process from start to end, I would like to begin carefully considering that option soon, so that if and when the opportunity to leave the household life arises, I am significantly more mentally prepared and ready for it.

Even for those who are interested in living the lay-life, being aware of the ordination procedure, the monastic life, and what these entail, it could help “keep that option open” just in case they are more interested in it later on. Why reflexively reject and close that option off without even considering it? Careful consideration does not oblige one to commit to it - rather it seems to help reject it if it is not suitable for oneself and accept it if it is.

In any case, I think that carefully and thoroughly considering both/all possible options (lay and monastic) can help each person come to a conclusion regarding what is most suitable for them as an individual as per their own wish, inclination, and aspiration.


#2

Sādhu for your faith and interest! Becoming a monk is a wonderful thing.

In my library I have a folder on monasticism which contains this book on the (Thai) Theravada ordination procedure. This book should answer any technical questions on the (modern, male, Theravada) ordination procedure itself.

Of course there’s a lot more to becoming a monk than chanting the right Pāli phrases, which hopefully the rest of the material in that folder should help introduce. In particular, of course, are the rules you’ll be expected to follow as a (Theravada) monk (there are a few more rules for nuns to consider).

But the best way to get a feel for monasticism is to spend time at a monastery or two or three or fourteen :joy: Stay for a few days, or a few weeks as you’re able to. You’ll slowly get the feel for what the life is like.

In the end, knowing the procedural details doesn’t matter nearly as much as having faith in the community.

Hope that helps! And, again, happy to hear you’re keeping the option open! :slightly_smiling_face:


#3

The steps I know of, are:

  1. Start attending a temple as a lay person
  2. Get to know the teachers and monks/nuns there
  3. Spend some extended time residing at that monastery, to see what life is like, and so they see what life is like with you
  4. Talk to the teachers about ordaining, to get the remaining steps

#4

Just an excellent discussion of a pathway to monastic life:


#5

Abhinav, your question is a really good one. I posted here recently on a similar subject, thinking to perhaps start a website that might have content that would answer some of your questions, as well as maybe inspire some people naturally inclined and drawn to Forest (by way of example) monastic life.

The answers above were excellent, so I won’t add much. One path I’ve taken is to invest myself through the years in some study and practice, and SC has been instrumental in this. I have also taken time to visit monasteries, both in the US and in Thailand, to get a feeling for the “vibe” of the wat, and the quality of the leadership at the wat, as well as the practice conditions. I spent part of a rains as a temporary samanera, and lived in a wat and went on almsrounds. That was a great experience, in so many ways, and gave some some firsthand experience with the ups and the downs of being in robes and living in a Thai wat. Finally, as part of a practice path for the future, I have kept for three years eight precepts, so as to distance myself from lay life. My meditation during that three years vastly improved, as did my studies and overall immersion into the possibilities of a monastic life in the future.

The website that I mentioned might highlight certain wats that provide an exceptional training experience. I can highly recommend https://www.abhayagiri.org/ for a visit and stay, if you’re in the US, or willing to travel here. As for Thailand, I lived at http://vipassanameditation.asia/ (excellent, at the Thai-Burma border)), and have visited many wats for periods of practice in northern Thailand, all of which have residential meditation programs. I can recommend https://www.wattamwua.com/ and watumong.org . Wat Tam’s abbot is very kind, and English is easily spoken there. Both Wat Tam and Wat Umong are scenically beautiful, with great walking meditation areas, as well.


#6
  1. During the Early Saṅgha, the Buddha would merely say “ehi, bhikkhu” and that was enough for one to be ordained. When being ordained by bhikkhu’s you would need a saṅgha (4 bhikkhus minimum) and an upajjhāya (preceptor). Making 5 in total. The preceptor has to be ordained as a bhikkhu for 10 years, have the virtue of an arahant, and be knowledgeable in the Dhamma-Vinaya. This procedure is legal according to the Vinaya and can be used even today.

  2. To ordain as a bhikkhu in the modern Saṅgha varies. Different communities have different standards and are also regulated by the government institutions within each Buddhist country. Some require you to pay (evaṁ me sutaṁ), most require you to stay as a layperson for a period of time, usually a year. Then become a samanera for a year. And then finally receive the higher ordination. However, if you find a monastery interested in early Buddhism and adhering to the procedures as detailed in the Vinaya, you can receive the higher ordination in a much shorter time.

  3. To prepare, take refugee in the Buddha, Dhamma, Saṅgha. Undertake the precepts, ideally the 8. Read the Buddhist Monastic Code and practice as many of those rules as possible (most we already do). Begin to meditate at least one hour a day, developing momentum in the practice (more is better depending on your lifestyle). And read the suttas - this can’t be stressed enough as they are the earliest sources of Buddhist thought.

Also within BMC you will find a lot of the answers you seek on the ordination procedure and what it entails. Particularly in the “nissaya” chapter.

Following the preparation in response 3 you will be more than well prepared for a monastic life. A large portion of the Saṅgha has not read the early suttas in full, are not learned in the Vinaya, and do not spend their time meditating.