In need of advice about going forth

Discussion of ordination, the Vinaya and monastic life. How and where to ordain? Bhikkhuni ordination etc.

In need of advice about going forth

Postby vagrancy » Wed Apr 24, 2013 1:44 pm

Hello dear friends !

My name is Daniel and I'm from Bulgaria, just turned 26 this month and I have decided to ordain in the Theravada tradition.
I will be travelling to Asia very soon and I need your help to find a suitable place for a novice buddhist like me with no previous formal training.
So far I haven't had contact with real life buddhist and I haven't received any instructions from a teacher or anything like that.
All my knowledge I've read in books and researched on the internet and practiced meditation with only my limited understanding of the practice.
But nontheless my determination is strong and I'm really happy I have set firmly on the path now, but there is this last step I need to make and find a suitable community to start my monastic life. So far I've fixed my eyes on places like Wat Pah Nanachat in Thailand and Na Uyana in Sri Lanka, but the more I research online the more confused I get about all the little details and differences in levels of strictness and visas etc. etc.
In all honesty I don't want to stumble around Asia and rediscover the hot water on my own and frankly I don't have the financial capacity to do that even if I wanted to wander around and experiment. I want to if possible find a forest tradition monastery with a friendly monks community that will accept an english speaker. I want to keep away from all the controversy and scandals with monks and money making abbots and all that jazz. If I can use this expression, I would like to get down to bussiness and study of the cannons, meditation and mindfulness and if possible spare myself all the disappointments I've read from some previous generation farang monks. Excuse me if I sound like a primadona, I realise every person should take their risks and learn from mistakes and experiment to gain knowledge, but I simply don't have any idea where to start. I only have my samvega,wchich I experieced during my last year studying in Sweden and my strong faith in the Dhamma of the Buddha. So would you friends please lend me your helping hand and give me some advice? Ask me further if you need some more information about me.
On the other hand, right now I'm having serious drama with my parents. My father stopped communicating with me, my mother is very uspet but alseast she gave me the opportunity to expalin what this is about. Any advice on this ? I've really tried to be as honest and open as possible, but their world view and concept of life is just too different than mine...It breaks my heart really, but I've decided to do this.
Sorry if this is too long and demanding, but as I said I don't have anyone else to turn to for help right now.

Sincerely / Daniel

Metta
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Re: In need of advice about going forth

Postby reflection » Wed Apr 24, 2013 2:02 pm

Hi Daniel,

Following the Buddha's teachings is something I can only support, but since you say you never met a teacher or even other Buddhists I would sincerely suggest you to start off easy. I'd say go on a retreat first, or preferably multiple retreats. Don't dive into the deep for you'll risk getting disappointed in yourself or the teachers. I don't think it is wise to make a decision to ordain like this.. How many people with such ideas end up going back home after a few weeks? I have no number, but I know there are lots. These people have high expectations that aren't met, and won't be. Some even ditch Buddhism altogether because of it. I don't want something like that to happen to you.

Of course, only you can decide what's good for you, but I ask you to please reconsider your approach. At the very least make sure you can easily return back home. Living in a monastery is not easy and if you have not been on a (long) retreat you won't have any idea of what it'll be like.

With metta,
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Re: In need of advice about going forth

Postby vagrancy » Wed Apr 24, 2013 2:38 pm

Hi Reflection

My approach is not as rushed as my writing style may seem. I've thought about going forth for a year now and in my heart I feel ready. I have already taken serious steps towards this goal and reconsidering is out of the question for me at this stage. Right now I really need some opinions about actual places where I could persue my ordination, not discouragement from going forth. Thank you for your opinion !

Metta

Daniel
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Re: In need of advice about going forth

Postby James the Giant » Wed Apr 24, 2013 2:56 pm

Yes, what Reflection said is really good advice.
But, if you are going to go anyway, well, best of luck!
Yes, WPN and Na Uyana are the top two famous ones for westerners. Just go, and when you are there you will hear about the others in the country suitable.

So far I've fixed my eyes on places like Wat Pah Nanachat in Thailand and Na Uyana in Sri Lanka, but the more I research online the more confused I get about all the little details and differences in levels of strictness and visas etc. etc.

Don't worry about the details, that will all become clear later on when you have someone to explain it all to you in person.
The visa thing is simpler than you might think too. As long as you have a regular 30-day tourist visa arranged in advance, for Thailand you can easily extend it multiple times by doing a trip across the border from WPN. "Technically" this should be difficult but in practise the anagarikas at WPN do it constantly. Maybe they know a friendly Buddhist border guard or area manager or something. In any case, it's not a problem.
For Sri Lanka, go on a tourist visa, and you can renew it, for up to three months I think, ( I believe it involves a day or so of sitting around filling out forms and getting papers stamped in hot government buildings in Colombo) by which time you will have chosen a monastery and then they can help change your visa over to a long-term one.

Have you considered Europe? There are several very good Forest Tradition monasteries in Europe, and you wouldn't have visa or cultural problems

Best wishes, and don't take it all too seriously! People who go into it all intense and serious tend to burn out, or so I have experienced in a few cases from laypeople I have met.
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
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Re: In need of advice about going forth

Postby binocular » Wed Apr 24, 2013 3:19 pm

vagrancy wrote:On the other hand, right now I'm having serious drama with my parents. My father stopped communicating with me, my mother is very uspet but alseast she gave me the opportunity to expalin what this is about. Any advice on this ?


On principle, one cannot ordain if there is opposition from one's family.
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Re: In need of advice about going forth

Postby reflection » Wed Apr 24, 2013 3:33 pm

vagrancy wrote:Hi Reflection

My approach is not as rushed as my writing style may seem. I've thought about going forth for a year now and in my heart I feel ready. I have already taken serious steps towards this goal and reconsidering is out of the question for me at this stage. Right now I really need some opinions about actual places where I could persue my ordination, not discouragement from going forth. Thank you for your opinion !

Metta

Daniel

Hiya,

Ok. :twothumbsup: As I said, only you can decide. Perhaps just take what I said with you in the back of your head. It is not meant as a discouragement from ordaining, but as a more gentle road towards it. Not only for yourself, but also for your parents (for their own peace of mind mainly, but you also need their consent). But if your plans are founded upon the right intention and expectations, I think it's a wonderful decision and wish you the best of luck.

As for a specific monastery, it's all very personal. I'm also on the road towards ordaining and almost all monks I spoke to advised me to not go with the first place, but find out what suits me, to find a place that feels good. Even in the Buddha's time people practiced in different settings. There were large groups and small groups, groups close to cities and groups in forests. So my general advise is mirroring the advise I was given and that's to find somewhere you feel home and where you feel inspired.

At first I was also about to rush off, but after talking and reconsidering I decided to take a few years for this. And I don't regret it at all. So that's where the advise is coming from. ;)

:anjali:
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Re: In need of advice about going forth

Postby Coyote » Wed Apr 24, 2013 3:54 pm

If you have never visited a monastary before or have never been on retreat, maybe you could look for somewhere that offers a place as an anagarika before ordination? At least in the western monasteries I know if this is meant be an introduction to the monastic life. However you say you live in Bulgaria so maybe it is easier to go to Thailand for you.

As for the parents situation - I personally would not ordain without permission, even if you are able to. It is a breach of the vinaya and to me seems wrong - same with debt. Ven. Yuttadhammo has mentioned that such things easily play on your mind, the regret. A blameless entrance into the monastic life is better for your practice, I would think.
Good luck.
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Re: In need of advice about going forth

Postby vagrancy » Wed Apr 24, 2013 4:14 pm

Reflection, I appreciate your gentle approach and warning about not rushing. I will have it with me in the back of my mind !

James, thank you for the encouraging words and clarification about the visas situation. About european monasteries, until now I haven't considered this option, but I'm posting this thread with exactly the intention to broaden my knowledge and narrow things down to the best possible choice. Is there actually any significant advantage in living as a monk in southeast Asia as compared to Europe ?

About my parents - actually my mother gave me her permission. My parents are separated and I haven't even seen my father face to face and explain my intentions. He just cut me off on the phone and said to contact him "only if I become succesfull in this life"... Ofcourse I wouldn't want to go into monasticism with regrets, but in the case of my father, as far as I know him even a few more years will not be enough to change his mind. :shrug:

I also wanted to know once you ordain at a certain temple, are there options to travel and visit other places. I mean, how does travelling work...for example you ordain in Switzerland but want to move to Wat Pah Nanachat after some time? As I understand in Thailand it will take somewhere around 2 years for full ordination and during this period I will constantly have to travel for visa renewals. I don't know if I'll be able to cover those expenses actually. In comparison I read that in Sri Lanka the ordination happens very fast and the monastery takes care of the visa arrangements from then on, is that true?

Thank you all for your kindness and responses, I am very happy I am getting some feedback at last.

:namaste:
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Re: In need of advice about going forth

Postby kilanta » Wed Jun 05, 2013 1:23 pm

binocular wrote:
vagrancy wrote:On the other hand, right now I'm having serious drama with my parents. My father stopped communicating with me, my mother is very uspet but alseast she gave me the opportunity to expalin what this is about. Any advice on this ?


On principle, one cannot ordain if there is opposition from one's family.


Except maybe by threatening to burn the monastery down unless one is ordained. I've seen this has been mentioned in various other threads about ordaining as well (wouldn't mind someone who's more knowledgeable to point out if this really is mentioned in the rules).

For Daniel I'd offer the same advice as others have already mentioned: do some reconnaissance missions in form of retreats and maybe staying as a lay guest in monasteries for a while. At least in Europe it doesn't cost arm and leg to stay a few weeks in a couple of monasteries (Amaravati and Cittaviveka for example are both in Britain, accessible with those cheap Ryanair buses).
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Re: In need of advice about going forth

Postby EmptyShadow » Thu Jun 06, 2013 8:44 pm

kilanta wrote:Except maybe by threatening to burn the monastery down unless one is ordained. I've seen this has been mentioned in various other threads about ordaining as well (wouldn't mind someone who's more knowledgeable to point out if this really is mentioned in the rules).


If I understand correct this is from "Samantapāsādikā : Buddhaghosa's Commentary on the Vinaya Piṭaka"
[Threatening behaviour] Someone who has quarrelled with his parents
comes demanding to be ordained. On being told to come back after he
has consulted his parents, he replies, ‘I will not leave unless you ordain
me. I shall set fire to the monastery, I shall attack you with a knife, I shall
harm your relatives or supporters by damaging the hermitage, etc., I
shall jump off a tree and die, I shall join a gang of robbers, I shall emigrate.’
If it is in order to protect life itself, it is permissible to proceed with
his ordination. Now when his parents come and ask, ‘Why have you ordained
our son?’ one should relate the circumstances to them and explain
to them, ‘We ordained him for his own protection – verify this with
your son.’ When someone has climbed up a tree and is threatening to
jump from it, it is only permissible to ordain him once he has released his
hands and feet from the tree.

The translation and quote is from "ONLY IF YOU LET GO OF THAT TREE’ ORDINATION WITHOUT PARENTAL CONSENT
IN THERAVADA VINAYA" by Kate Crosby
There are other examples in this comentaries when parent's consent is not needed like:
[Father abandoned family] Suppose the father has deserted his son and
wife making no provision for them, and the mother gives the son to the
monks saying, ‘Ordain him.’ If in response to the question ‘Where is his
father?’ she says, ‘He has deserted us pursuing his own selfish whims,’
then it is permitted to ordain him.
• [Mother abandoned family] Suppose the mother has run off with some
man, while the father hands over [the son] saying, ‘Ordain him.’ The
same principle applies in this case as in the previous one.
[From another region] Also one who requests ordination after going to a
different region should be ordained if he went there after consulting [his
parents]. If not, he should be ordained after a young monk has been sent
to consult his parents. If it is an extremely long way, it is permissible to establish
consent by sending him off with monks even after ordination. In
the Kurundi Vinaya tradition, by contrast, it is stated: ‘If it is far away and
the road is very difficult, it is permissible to proceed with the ordination
after forming the resolution, ‘We shall go and consult them.’’


However in my opinion the vinaya rules are strict and clear and i wouldnt try to dodge them by following commentaries unless i'm 100% sure that this commentaries are grounded in the suttas.
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Re: In need of advice about going forth

Postby Anagarika » Fri Jun 07, 2013 1:38 pm

Hi Daniel:

If you're still researching options for ordination, please consider www.monkordination.com I ordained as a samanera at Wat Sri BoenRuang, and it was one of the most compelling experiences of my life. Currently, a truly kind and very bright Scotsman (and samanera) is running the program for westerners. The Abbot, Dr. Apisit, is a Ph.D level scholar with good English skills, and he is one of the most interesting and devoted people I've met. The Wat itself is in northern Thailand (Chiang Mai region).

There are many great options in the US and Europe, and Thailand offers a very special experience. I wish you the best. As for your father, I have seen other men ordain with the disdain of their fathers, only for Dad to later see what a success the son had become as a monk. Some people, even parents, have some rather thick dust in their eyes, but some of this dust is washed out over time.

Metta

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Re: In need of advice about going forth

Postby BlackBird » Sat Jun 08, 2013 12:14 am

I've heard good things about Na Uyana.

This might be of use:
http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/Sri-L ... teries.pdf

Stayed at Meetirigala in Sri Lanka myself for a couple of months.

metta
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Re: In need of advice about going forth

Postby vagrancy » Wed Jun 12, 2013 1:39 pm

BlackBird wrote:I've heard good things about Na Uyana.

This might be of use:
http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/Sri-L ... teries.pdf

Stayed at Meetirigala in Sri Lanka myself for a couple of months.

metta
Jack


Jack, I am happy to see your reply ! Actually I have decided to go and ask for ordination in either Meetrigala Vanaya or Na Uyana Aranya ! : )
Can you write a bit about your experience there and whether you think it would be suitable place for a foreigner to stay long-term and practice diligently ?
If you think it is, can you tell me how to proceed ? Should I write first, book a ticket, then apply online for a tourist visa and just show up? Would language be a problem? Would I receive sufficient instruction in english and find buddhist literature in english in there ? Thank you very, very much in advance !

Thank you EVERYBODY for taking the time to write and give your kind advice, it warms my heart and fills me with confidence !

I have now managed to persuade my mother that my decision is not a reckless escapist move and I am happy she is calmer and more ready to send me off. Still no word from my father though, I hope this will not be a major hindrance during my practice...

:thanks: :anjali: :bow:
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Re: In need of advice about going forth

Postby piano piano » Mon Jun 24, 2013 10:12 am


Actually I have decided to go and ask for ordination in either Meetrigala Vanaya or Na Uyana Aranya ! : )
Should I write first, book a ticket, then apply online for a tourist visa and just show up? Would language be a problem? Would I receive sufficient instruction in english and find buddhist literature in english in there ?



Hi vagrancy; I have heard the immigration policy of Sri Lanka for monastics has drastically changed. A monk told me that it is not possible anymore to enter on a regular tourist visa and turn that into a monk's visa, as it was possible before. I don't know what the situation is for lay-people who ordain. It might be similar.

To find out what the processes are, and also about your questions regarding the monasteries, you would best inquire by e-mail with Ven. Nyanatusita of the Buddhist Publication Society in Kandy and the Forest Hermitage before you make your arrangements. About Nissarana Vanaya (Mitirigala) the Australian monk Ven. Nissarano has extensive experience with personal retreats there. I'll send you their e-mail IDs per PM.

I suppose you have seen this thread? viewtopic.php?f=30&t=14357

Na Uyana has a good library. Ven Dhammananda, the meditation teacher there speaks English sufficiently well, imo.

The teacher at Mitirigala is Ven Dhammajiva, a very kind and accessible monk. More info here:

Most Ven. U. Dhammajiva Maha Thero primarily teaches Vipassana meditation. However, he is also trained in Samatha or tranquility meditation. He is one of the very few traditional teachers who could guide a student in either pure Vipassana or Samatha meditation according to the inherent characteristics of that student.
http://damsara.org/dhamma-talks-in-engl ... n-english/


Maybe you want to listen to the Basic instruction to Meditation in the above link to get a picture of how circumspect the Venerable is in his instructions. Maybe this direct link works from here, otherwise select it from the link mentioned. https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/618 ... nglish.mp3

Also, for more detailed discussion, and to get a first understanding of the scope of his teaching, I'd encourage you to listen to the discourses on Sambojjanga: http://www.ceylonoutsourcing.com/dhamma ... HTALKS.htm
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