Theravada Monasticism

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Theravada Monasticism

Postby Dhammakid » Mon Jan 12, 2009 5:22 am

Greetings everyone.
Most of my questions concerning monasticism were answered on E-Sangha, but I figured since I'm always coming up with more, I might as well start a thread so I and others can ask and answer questions.

My lastest question: sleep. I know sleep can be an attachment, as it often is the reason why I choose not to practice at night. What about monastics - how much sleep does a forest monk normally get? When do monks settle down for the night? Where do they sleep - outside, in kutis or somewhere else?

Any feedback is appreciated.

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Re: Theravada Monasticism

Postby Element » Mon Jan 12, 2009 5:45 am

Dhammakid wrote:What about monastics - how much sleep does a forest monk normally get? When do monks settle down for the night? Where do they sleep - outside, in kutis or somewhere else?

A monk can sleep outside or in their kuti. The amount of sleep depends on the monastery. When I lived in the monastery, it was lights out at 10:00 pm and wake up bell at 4:00am.
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Re: Theravada Monasticism

Postby jcsuperstar » Mon Jan 12, 2009 8:18 am

i dont want to seem disrespectful here but there are monks that really just do nothing. well thats not true, they eat and sleep and i've seen a monk who added to that by reading comics all day.
there are also monks that never meditate. monks that seem to know nothing about buddhism, many many different kinds of monks.

the only real time constraints put on a monk are when he can eat, so he'll get up for food, after that everything pretty much depends on his self discipline (or lack of).
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Theravada Monasticism

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Jan 12, 2009 8:50 am

Greetings JC,

That's pretty sad. Do you know the motivations of those monks... the reasons they went forth?

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Theravada Monasticism

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Jan 12, 2009 9:32 am

jcsuperstar wrote:i dont want to seem disrespectful here but there are monks that really just do nothing. well thats not true, they eat and sleep and i've seen a monk who added to that by reading comics all day.
there are also monks that never meditate. monks that seem to know nothing about buddhism, many many different kinds of monks.

the only real time constraints put on a monk are when he can eat, so he'll get up for food, after that everything pretty much depends on his self discipline (or lack of).



here is a article I read yesterday on a similar topic http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php ... 16,0,0,1,0

if you go to http://www.forestsangha.org/index.html it has links to different branch monestaries and many have a timetable which gives an idea of their routine
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Re: Theravada Monasticism

Postby jcsuperstar » Mon Jan 12, 2009 10:01 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings JC,

That's pretty sad. Do you know the motivations of those monks... the reasons they went forth?

Metta,
Retro. :)

it was in thailand, im sure the monks we have on here could tell you a million stories of thai monks like these. many thai men become monks not to practice the dhamma but to fulfill cultural duties, to make merit for their familes etc. it can also be a good way to get an education etc.

it's not limited to theravada though, when my former zen master was at his training monestary in japan he saw many zen priest who were only their because they were going to inherit a family temple, they had no real desire to meditate or learn anything other than funeral rites to make a living.
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Theravada Monasticism

Postby Dhammanando » Mon Jan 12, 2009 10:25 am

Hi Dhammakid,

Dhammakid wrote:My lastest question: sleep. I know sleep can be an attachment, as it often is the reason why I choose not to practice at night. What about monastics - how much sleep does a forest monk normally get?


This varies a lot, but one might broadly distinguish three kinds of forest monastery:

1. Dhammayutt/Ajahn Mun-style forest wats where monks spends most of their day alone, communal activities are kept to a bare minimum, and so each monk is fairly free to set his own schedule. For example, at Ajahn Maha Boowa's wat the only required group activities are the morning almsround and meal, the cleaning of the sala, and afternoon sweeping and pumping water at the well. The rest of the time you're by yourself in your kuti or on your walking meditation path. In this kind of monastery there will typically be a handful of highly motivated monks who practise diligently and sleep only when exhaustion forces them to. Some of them may also undertake the sitter's practice (i.e., making an adhiṭṭhāna never to lie down). But most of the monks will be like the sluggard of the Sigalovāda Sutta:

    'Thinking: “It’s too cold”, he does not work; thinking: “It’s too hot”, he does not work; thinking: “It’s too early”, he does not work; thinking: “It’s too late”, he does not work; thinking: “I’m too hungry”, he does not work; thinking: “I’m too full”, he does not work.' Thus spoke the Blessed One.

In the hot season they'll sleep most of the day because the heat is exhausting; in the cold season, when it's freezing at night and unpleasant to get out from under the blankets, they'll sleep from the evening bathing time (6:00 pm) until the very last moment when they have to get up for the cleaning of the sala (5:00 am). Then they'll have another sleep after their morning meal (8:00 am) until the mid-day teabreak. Then after the teabreak it's back to bed again until the afternoon sweeping (4:00 pm).

2. Highly regimented forest monasteries. The chief example would be those of Ajahn Chah. Here the monks will typically have far less time to themselves, for group activities like meditation, chanting, and manual work take up much of the day and are not optional. So, in this sort of monastery the monks won't be able to get away with all the daytime sleeping that the more sluggardly Dhammayutt forest monks indulge in. But how much they can sleep will depend on what sort of daily routine the abbot decides to set, which will vary greatly from one wat to another. One abbot, for example, might insist on a killer routine, resembling a Japanese POW camp: evening meetings that go on late into the night, followed by rising at 3:00 am, manual work most of the day, and compulsory all-night sittings four times a month. Another might set a much gentler schedule, more like that of Ajahn Buddhadasa's wats.

3. Forest meditation centres following an intensive Burmese-style of practice. These places are also highly regimented, but differ from #2 in that there is no manual work, usually no chanting or other rituals, and almost all a monk's waking hours will be spent in formal walking and sitting meditation. The abbot will usually set some maximum number of hours that residents may sleep, with 6 hours being a fairly common standard. But as their practice progresses most meditators will find themselves needing less sleep, typically reducing it to about 4 hours a night. In the case of more accomplished meditators who spend part of each day in jhānic states, the sleep-time may even drop to just an hour or two.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
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Re: Theravada Monasticism

Postby Dhammakid » Mon Jan 12, 2009 9:47 pm

Element wrote:
Dhammakid wrote:What about monastics - how much sleep does a forest monk normally get? When do monks settle down for the night? Where do they sleep - outside, in kutis or somewhere else?

A monk can sleep outside or in their kuti. The amount of sleep depends on the monastery. When I lived in the monastery, it was lights out at 10:00 pm and wake up bell at 4:00am.


Thank you Element. Your info seems to be backed up by Dhammanando.

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Re: Theravada Monasticism

Postby Dhammakid » Mon Jan 12, 2009 9:49 pm

jcsuperstar wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:Greetings JC,

That's pretty sad. Do you know the motivations of those monks... the reasons they went forth?

Metta,
Retro. :)

it was in thailand, im sure the monks we have on here could tell you a million stories of thai monks like these. many thai men become monks not to practice the dhamma but to fulfill cultural duties, to make merit for their familes etc. it can also be a good way to get an education etc.

it's not limited to theravada though, when my former zen master was at his training monestary in japan he saw many zen priest who were only their because they were going to inherit a family temple, they had no real desire to meditate or learn anything other than funeral rites to make a living.


Hello JC,
This is very very good to know. Thanks for providing this information. I think I have a romanticized vision of all monks, no matter who they are, but I must remember everyone is different, even monks, and some have greater aspiration than others. So I know what to expect depending on what kind of monastery I plan to join.

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Re: Theravada Monasticism

Postby Dhammakid » Mon Jan 12, 2009 10:05 pm

Manapa wrote:
jcsuperstar wrote:i dont want to seem disrespectful here but there are monks that really just do nothing. well thats not true, they eat and sleep and i've seen a monk who added to that by reading comics all day.
there are also monks that never meditate. monks that seem to know nothing about buddhism, many many different kinds of monks.

the only real time constraints put on a monk are when he can eat, so he'll get up for food, after that everything pretty much depends on his self discipline (or lack of).



here is a article I read yesterday on a similar topic http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php ... 16,0,0,1,0

if you go to http://www.forestsangha.org/index.html it has links to different branch monestaries and many have a timetable which gives an idea of their routine


Hey Manapa, thanks so much for the great article and link to other monasteries. It was very helpful.

:namaste:
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Re: Theravada Monasticism

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Jan 12, 2009 10:14 pm

retrofuturist wrote:That's pretty sad. Do you know the motivations of those monks... the reasons they went forth?

For some it is out of poverty and having a place to stay with meals. For others it is a way toward getting a visa to a Western nation, where they disrobe after getting their papers. For some it is just laziness.

Ven. Dhammika discussed some of this in his controversial book, Broken Buddha.

But as Ven. Dhammika states in the book, this does not mean that all monks are like that. We are obviously very fortunate to have several serious, well-knowledgeable bhikkhus here at Dhamma Wheel. Kourtney, yes I would definitely study very well which monastery to go to before asking for ordination. You won't go wrong with Bhavana or Abhyagiri, that's for sure (if you want to stay in the U.S.).
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Re: Theravada Monasticism

Postby Dhammakid » Mon Jan 12, 2009 10:24 pm

Dhammanando wrote:1. Dhammayutt/Ajahn Mun-style forest wats where monks spends most of their day alone, communal activities are kept to a bare minimum, and so each monk is fairly free to set his own schedule. For example, at Ajahn Maha Boowa's wat the only required group activities are the morning almsround and meal, the cleaning of the sala, and afternoon sweeping and pumping water at the well. The rest of the time you're by yourself in your kuti or on your walking meditation path. In this kind of monastery there will typically be a handful of highly motivated monks who practise diligently and sleep only when exhaustion forces them to. Some of them may also undertake the sitter's practice (i.e., making an adhiṭṭhāna never to lie down). But most of the monks will be like the sluggard of the Sigalovāda Sutta:

    'Thinking: “It’s too cold”, he does not work; thinking: “It’s too hot”, he does not work; thinking: “It’s too early”, he does not work; thinking: “It’s too late”, he does not work; thinking: “I’m too hungry”, he does not work; thinking: “I’m too full”, he does not work.' Thus spoke the Blessed One.

In the hot season they'll sleep most of the day because the heat is exhausting; in the cold season, when it's freezing at night and unpleasant to get out from under the blankets, they'll sleep from the evening bathing time (6:00 pm) until the very last moment when they have to get up for the cleaning of the sala (5:00 am). Then they'll have another sleep after their morning meal (8:00 am) until the mid-day teabreak. Then after the teabreak it's back to bed again until the afternoon sweeping (4:00 pm).


Hahaha, this is rather amusing, especially when imagining a monk doing so. You know, you can only sleep so much before sleeping becomes tiring! :lol: I can only sleep 8 or 9 hours before I have to get up and do something, if for no other reason but to make myself tired so I can sleep again, lol. I think if I were in this type of forest wat, I would probably have more motivation than I have now, but would frequently succumb to laziness as well. Maybe the idea of the robes would be enough to motivate me, but I think this next type is a good idea for me...

2. Highly regimented forest monasteries. The chief example would be those of Ajahn Chah. Here the monks will typically have far less time to themselves, for group activities like meditation, chanting, and manual work take up much of the day and are not optional. So, in this sort of monastery the monks won't be able to get away with all the daytime sleeping that the more sluggardly Dhammayutt forest monks indulge in. But how much they can sleep will depend on what sort of daily routine the abbot decides to set, which will vary greatly from one wat to another. One abbot, for example, might insist on a killer routine, resembling a Japanese POW camp: evening meetings that go on late into the night, followed by rising at 3:00 am, manual work most of the day, and compulsory all-night sittings four times a month. Another might set a much gentler schedule, more like that of Ajahn Buddhadasa's wats.


Wow, this seems darn hard, although it might be just what I need to break my habitual tendencies. Maybe not the POW style, haha. But the Buddhadasa style seems balanced enough. I believe I need a style which doesn't allow for extreme laziness but also doesn't leave me sleep-deprived and in shock.

3. Forest meditation centres following an intensive Burmese-style of practice. These places are also highly regimented, but differ from #2 in that there is no manual work, usually no chanting or other rituals, and almost all a monk's waking hours will be spent in formal walking and sitting meditation. The abbot will usually set some maximum number of hours that residents may sleep, with 6 hours being a fairly common standard. But as their practice progresses most meditators will find themselves needing less sleep, typically reducing it to about 4 hours a night. In the case of more accomplished meditators who spend part of each day in jhānic states, the sleep-time may even drop to just an hour or two.


This sounds pretty nice too, although I think I could benefit from manual work and chanting. But the great emphasis on pure meditation seems to foster achieving jhanas more specifically than the others. But I think I need a wat which allows me the freedom to develop discipline and practice on my own, but with periodic support and encouragement as well. Not that I can't develop discipline on my own, but it's nice to get some reminders every once in a while.

Bhikkhu, how did you go about choosing your current residence? What factors were important to you? Why did you rule out the others? Are you comfortable there, or are you considering leaving for another eventually?

Thanks so much for the detailed response. It is tremendously helpful.

:namaste:
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Re: Theravada Monasticism

Postby Dhammakid » Mon Jan 12, 2009 10:29 pm

TheDhamma wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:That's pretty sad. Do you know the motivations of those monks... the reasons they went forth?

For some it is out of poverty and having a place to stay with meals. For others it is a way toward getting a visa to a Western nation, where they disrobe after getting their papers. For some it is just laziness.

Ven. Dhammika discussed some of this in his controversial book, Broken Buddha.

But as Ven. Dhammika states in the book, this does not mean that all monks are like that. We are obviously very fortunate to have several serious, well-knowledgeable bhikkhus here at Dhamma Wheel. Kourtney, yes I would definitely study very well which monastery to go to before asking for ordination. You won't go wrong with Bhavana or Abhyagiri, that's for sure (if you want to stay in the U.S.).


Hello TD,
Yes indeed, Abhyagiri and Bhavana both sound pretty nice. I'm not totally positive I will stay in the States, because I think it would be nice to be in a real Buddhist country and learn a new language and culture. But I also find it exciting to support the growth of Buddhism here in America. So we'll see. I plan to make visits to Abhyagiri and Bhavana sometime in the future and get a feel for how they operate. That should help make an informed decision.

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Re: Theravada Monasticism

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Jan 12, 2009 11:20 pm

Hi Dhammakid
Dhammakid wrote:
Hey Manapa, thanks so much for the great article and link to other monasteries. It was very helpful.

:namaste:
Dhammakid



your welcome Dhammanando mentioned some things about this group in the Ajahn Chah part of his post and I do follow one of the monestaries in the UK (Forest hermitage) although I don't consider them my main teacher/s but see Sayadaw U NYanissara and Ajahn Chah as My Teachers as the teaching I recieved from Nyanissara was essentially the same as one of the books or all of the books of Ajahn Chah.
he showed me something to be not want but aspire too
not being nice or expected but true
I love him more than can be said even by the word Metta
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With Metta
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Re: Theravada Monasticism

Postby jcsuperstar » Tue Jan 13, 2009 5:21 am

Dhammakid wrote:
Dhammanando wrote:

This sounds pretty nice too, although I think I could benefit from manual work and chanting. But the great emphasis on pure meditation seems to foster achieving jhanas more specifically than the others. But I think I need a wat which allows me the freedom to develop discipline and practice on my own, but with periodic support and encouragement as well. Not that I can't develop discipline on my own, but it's nice to get some reminders every once in a while.

Bhikkhu, how did you go about choosing your current residence? What factors were important to you? Why did you rule out the others? Are you comfortable there, or are you considering leaving for another eventually?

Thanks so much for the detailed response. It is tremendously helpful.

:namaste:
Dhammakid

the burmese styles i've experienced dont talk at all about jhanas, they have a sorta zen attitude to them ( that they hinder insight and progress on the path, theyre an attachment). i've even had monks tell to just forget about jhanic experiences i've had while sitting....
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Re: Theravada Monasticism

Postby halwilson » Tue Jan 13, 2009 10:48 am

Dhammanando wrote:Hi Dhammakid,

Dhammakid wrote:My lastest question: sleep. I know sleep can be an attachment, as it often is the reason why I choose not to practice at night. What about monastics - how much sleep does a forest monk normally get?


This varies a lot, but one might broadly distinguish three kinds of forest monastery:

1. Dhammayutt/Ajahn Mun-style forest wats where monks spends most of their day alone, communal activities are kept to a bare minimum, and so each monk is fairly free to set his own schedule. For example, at Ajahn Maha Boowa's wat the only required group activities are the morning almsround and meal, the cleaning of the sala, and afternoon sweeping and pumping water at the well. The rest of the time you're by yourself in your kuti or on your walking meditation path. In this kind of monastery there will typically be a handful of highly motivated monks who practise diligently and sleep only when exhaustion forces them to. Some of them may also undertake the sitter's practice (i.e., making an adhiṭṭhāna never to lie down). But most of the monks will be like the sluggard of the Sigalovāda Sutta:

    'Thinking: “It’s too cold”, he does not work; thinking: “It’s too hot”, he does not work; thinking: “It’s too early”, he does not work; thinking: “It’s too late”, he does not work; thinking: “I’m too hungry”, he does not work; thinking: “I’m too full”, he does not work.' Thus spoke the Blessed One.

In the hot season they'll sleep most of the day because the heat is exhausting; in the cold season, when it's freezing at night and unpleasant to get out from under the blankets, they'll sleep from the evening bathing time (6:00 pm) until the very last moment when they have to get up for the cleaning of the sala (5:00 am). Then they'll have another sleep after their morning meal (8:00 am) until the mid-day teabreak. Then after the teabreak it's back to bed again until the afternoon sweeping (4:00 pm).


Interesting comments that give new meaning to what J. L. Taylor calls the "terminal phase" of the forest tradition. Very terminal indeed....

Cheers, Hal
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Re: Theravada Monasticism

Postby Dhammanando » Fri Jan 16, 2009 10:15 pm

Hi Dhammakid,

Dhammakid wrote:Bhikkhu, how did you go about choosing your current residence?


When I was a monk the first time around, after spending some years in the north of Thailand, I wanted to come to Bangkok to study. Wat Benjama was the natural choice because it's one of the two main temples in Bangkok whose residents consist mainly of northern monks. Also, several of the senior monks here were disciples of Khrubar Brahmajak, my teacher's teacher, so when I came to visit the first time there was an immediate rapport between us. I ended up living here from '91 to '94, before departing for Iceland.

When I came back to Thailand to re-ordain in 2004, I returned to Wat Benjama because the monks here know me, so I wouldn't need to jump through a lot of hoops.

What factors were important to you?


The factors that make me stay are that the monks here are mostly northerners (these are the Thais I seem to get on best with), the temple is much cleaner, quieter and more orderly than the average Bangkok wat, and there are always lots of interesting teachers passing through. In particular, whenever some Thai monk has been to study in Burma and mastered some subject that's not generally taught in Thailand, when he returns home, Wat Benjama College will always be the most eager to provide him with a venue to teach whatever it is he's learned. Another factor is that the monks here don't try to impede me when I wish to get away from Bangkok for a few months, like during the rains retreat.

Why did you rule out the others?


I didn't rule them out; they just didn't cross my mind.

Are you comfortable there, or are you considering leaving for another eventually?


I'm very content here. I may return to my monastery in Iceland one day, but probably not for some years.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
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    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

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Re: Theravada Monasticism

Postby Dhammakid » Sat Jan 17, 2009 6:46 am

Hello Bhante,
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with me, I really do appreciate it. It gives me a better idea of what I can look for when I'm ready to ordain. I hope I can find a monastery that fits as well as Benjama fits for you. I guess I'll just have to do a lot of searching around and seeing what's comfortable.

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