Metta or Abhayagiri monastery?

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

Postby EmptyCittas1by1 » Wed Jan 01, 2014 8:47 pm

A few months ago, after reading about Buddhism and practicing, I made the decision to ordain (when I'm ready to). I spent a little time looking for some good monasteries, with a preference towards the forest traditions, and found Abhayagiri monastery and Metta monastery to be the most appealing. So I’m going to list the pros and cons that I have seen in each, so people can clarify some misunderstandings of mine, etc.

Abhayagiri
Pros:
-Nice environment
-Nice climate
-Pacific Hermitage branch which looks nice and secluded

Cons:
-Lots of monks
-Lots of guests (evident in pictures)
-Lots of guests + lots of monks = a lot of community interaction. This is a good thing, but I've heard/read it can also lead to overwhelming and distraction (this is my biggest concern, but I’ve heard that one mustn't also get attached to seclusion and community interaction is good for abandoning certain things).

——

Metta
Pros:
-Seems more calm due to smaller amount of guests

Cons:
-Heat waves don’t sound good for concentration, although they are good for self-discipline
-Trees seem more scarce than abhayagiri — less shade, etc

So my main question: Who here has experience at one or both of these two monasteries? How did the monks behave? What was daily life like at the monastery? Calm? Fast-paced? Did it seem like a monastic community more focused on a simple life, or a monastic community focused on liberation? If the monastery was flooded with guests, were there any monks that secluded themselves from them? How’s the discipline? What is the emphasis placed on? What other additional information on the monasteries do you think would be essential to somebody who visits or wishes to ordain there?

Edit: Post revision, more questions
Last edited by EmptyCittas1by1 on Mon Jan 06, 2014 8:08 pm, edited 6 times in total.
"Eat little! Sleep little! Speak little! Whatever it may be of worldly habit, lessen them, go against their power. Don't just do as you like, don't indulge in your thought. Stop this slavish following. You must constantly go against the stream of ignorance. This is called "Discipline." When you discipline your heart, it becomes very dissatisfied and begins to struggle. It becomes restricted and oppressed. When the heart is prevented from doing what it wants to do, it starts wandering and struggling. Suffering becomes apparent to us."

— Ajahn Chah

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Re: Metta or Abhayagiri monastery?

Postby Mkoll » Wed Jan 01, 2014 9:20 pm

Dear EmptyCittas1by1,

I've been up to Abhayagiri once for one day. It was the day after Kathina celebrations so there was no morning meditation. The monks behaved just fine. Daily life was a work period in the morning, a "do as you will" period in the afternoon, then meditation and chanting in the evening. I helped others move a lot of lumber and metal from one place to another in a pickup. They are building a big reception hall. This was a Saturday and a Thai family came up and brought a giant meal, or so I heard. It was very nice. There were quite a few guests/residents there, I'd say about 20. I think some monks secluded themselves but I didn't pay much attention as I spent most of the afternoon walking the trails and meditating in the forest.

They are on winter retreat now, but they may allow underage people to visit. Contact them and try to arrange a visit to see for yourself.

I'm curious and if you don't mind me asking: why do you want to ordain?

:anjali:
Peace,
James

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Re: Metta or Abhayagiri monastery?

Postby EmptyCittas1by1 » Wed Jan 01, 2014 9:44 pm

Mkoll wrote:They are on winter retreat now, but they may allow underage people to visit. Contact them and try to arrange a visit to see for yourself.

That's okay, my birthday is coming up very soon.

Mkoll wrote:I'm curious and if you don't mind me asking: why do you want to ordain?
:anjali:


I've been interested in Buddhism for about a year, and I've been practicing for that time as well. My martial arts teacher played a role in this because he's all about discipline, and I like that. Buddhism goes even further. Buddhism is tough and definitely not meant to be a mere religion or philosophy or way of life. It's clear that it actually goes "somewhere".

Thanks for your reply :thanks:
"Eat little! Sleep little! Speak little! Whatever it may be of worldly habit, lessen them, go against their power. Don't just do as you like, don't indulge in your thought. Stop this slavish following. You must constantly go against the stream of ignorance. This is called "Discipline." When you discipline your heart, it becomes very dissatisfied and begins to struggle. It becomes restricted and oppressed. When the heart is prevented from doing what it wants to do, it starts wandering and struggling. Suffering becomes apparent to us."

— Ajahn Chah

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Re: Metta or Abhayagiri monastery?

Postby BlackBird » Wed Jan 01, 2014 9:57 pm

You remind me of myself. I discovered Dhamma at 15 and by 16 I was set on ordaining. I too was very earnest, and carried a degree of unwarranted certainty that I too see in you. Many people told me to just take my time, not burn any bridges and not make any snap decisions, of course I didn't listen to a word they said I flung everything into one monastery, and when it didn't work out, I found some teacher I thought was an Ariyan and decided I would travel to Sri Lanka and ordain there but again I was dissappointed and disillusioned. I don't expect you to listen to me, but on the off chance you do:

Be aware of your own limitations, don't allow yourself to get arrogant based soley on the amount of Buddhist texts you have read, it is so very important to remain humble if one has any chance of making it in the monk hood. Just take your time making these decisions, don't put all your eggs in one basket, i.e. You really can't decide upon one monastery without having spent a good deal of time there. If you're going to ordain, you're committing to at least 6 or so years at that place. Also, you really need to meter your expectations, things are not like they were in the days the Vism was composed.

There are some great institutions these days where one can ordain and practice the Buddha's Dhamma without too many distractions, but you need to get some foot on the ground experience with these places before you make any definite decisions.

I too am looking once again to ordain, but I have a timeframe of several years to pick out the right spot, I think the importance of this cannot be understated.

Metta and good luck.
Jack
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta

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Re: Metta or Abhayagiri monastery?

Postby EmptyCittas1by1 » Wed Jan 01, 2014 10:47 pm

BlackBird wrote:You remind me of myself... Metta and good luck.
Jack


Thanks for your input (and your wishes). I can't deny that I'm ignorant to the many hardships and such of the monastic life. I think it's useful to remind myself of the uncertainty as to whether or not the monastic life may be better/worse/easier/harder than the home life. It helps me calm down a little bit, prevents wrong-expectations, and makes me more motivated to practice here and now rather than put it off until I visit a monastery and ordain. Practice is, after all, the essence of the path... not monasticism. I also blame those pesky Buddhist movies...

Why did you become disillusioned? Do you think it's all down to self-discipline? The problem I see most is that people tend to think that Buddhism comes with an obligatory flute-track.

I think the reason why I'm so eager is because I fear that if I spend too much time as a lay person, I may get myself stuck in a big rut which will distract me and prevent me from ordaining as soon as possible and getting to the end of the path. The suttas warn about being heedless, and unfortunately I know too many people, including those of my own family, that tell me I should have fun, enjoy the pleasures of life, and so on so forth. Yet those are the same people that get angry, sad, and depressed then resort to drugs, repression, or the infamous "let it all out" technique. It all seems very dangerous.

And yes, the Visuddhimagga is quite old and therefore out of date in certain areas. But keep in mind, there are still those monasteries which are conducive to concentration, and those that are not.
"Eat little! Sleep little! Speak little! Whatever it may be of worldly habit, lessen them, go against their power. Don't just do as you like, don't indulge in your thought. Stop this slavish following. You must constantly go against the stream of ignorance. This is called "Discipline." When you discipline your heart, it becomes very dissatisfied and begins to struggle. It becomes restricted and oppressed. When the heart is prevented from doing what it wants to do, it starts wandering and struggling. Suffering becomes apparent to us."

— Ajahn Chah

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Re: Metta or Abhayagiri monastery?

Postby Mkoll » Wed Jan 01, 2014 11:18 pm

Dear EmptyCittas1by1,

I think the reason why I'm so eager is because I fear that if I spend too much time as a lay person, I may get myself stuck in a big rut which will distract me and prevent me from ordaining as soon as possible and getting to the end of the path.


Your exuberance is admirable. But do remember: it's impermanent, conditioned, and subject to change. Likewise with your fear and everything else for that matter.

There's nothing wrong with being a devout lay-person, even one who enjoys sensual pleasures. And "getting to the end of the path" can't be rushed.

If you've already trained yourself to wake up from 3-4am every morning, avoid all sensual pleasures like the plague, meditate in all the spare time you have, and are 100% committed to realizing Nibbana in this life, then you're probably ready for monastic life. But if you haven't, try living as a monastic as far as possible in your current situation to get a taste of what's in store.

And, not to knock you or anything, but you are seventeen years old. Give it a few years and I can virtually guarantee you that your perspectives will change, whether you ordain or not.

I'm not trying to discourage you here - I hope you've trained yourself already! But it's important to remember: "The map is not the territory."

:anjali:
Peace,
James

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Re: Metta or Abhayagiri monastery?

Postby EmptyCittas1by1 » Wed Jan 01, 2014 11:35 pm

Mkoll wrote:Dear EmptyCittas1by1,If you've already trained yourself to wake up from 3-4am every morning, avoid all sensual pleasures like the plague


I think I should start that first part tonight then...

Mkoll wrote:And, not to knock you or anything, but you are seventeen years old. Give it a few years and I can virtually guarantee you that your perspectives will change, whether you ordain or not.


I've had many say that to me. Although it definitely is something that's possible, I feel like I'm locked into this by my own will. I've been through many phases (like many people have in their teens), and I feel like this is the "phaseless phase" if you will. Phases are additions to life, the Buddhist path is a subtraction. It works the same way as the eightfold path does. Views cause suffering, but you need right view to follow the eightfold path. So, right view is the view that leads to the end of views. So too is this "phase" the phase that leads to the end of phases.

Mkoll wrote:"The map is not the territory."


Indeed, friend, I would come from far away to learn from the Venerable Mkoll the meaning of this statement. It would be good if the Venerable Mkoll would explain the meaning of this statement. Having heard it from him, I will remember it.
"Eat little! Sleep little! Speak little! Whatever it may be of worldly habit, lessen them, go against their power. Don't just do as you like, don't indulge in your thought. Stop this slavish following. You must constantly go against the stream of ignorance. This is called "Discipline." When you discipline your heart, it becomes very dissatisfied and begins to struggle. It becomes restricted and oppressed. When the heart is prevented from doing what it wants to do, it starts wandering and struggling. Suffering becomes apparent to us."

— Ajahn Chah

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Re: Metta or Abhayagiri monastery?

Postby Mkoll » Thu Jan 02, 2014 12:12 am

Dear EmptyCittas1by1,

Please, no need for that.

It's a quote from Alfred Korzybski, the developer of general semantics. From wikipedia:

The map–territory relation describes the relationship between an object and a representation of that object, as in the relation between a geographical territory and a map of it. Polish-American scientist and philosopher Alfred Korzybski remarked that "the map is not the territory", encapsulating his view that an abstraction derived from something, or a reaction to it, is not the thing itself. Korzybski held that many people do confuse maps with territories, that is, confuse models of reality with reality itself.


Essentially, what I'm saying is that all you have are maps right now: models of reality. Whatever you think will happen when you get your boots on the ground, it won't happen that way. NB that this is conditioned upon my assumption that you haven't trained yourself to live like a monastic as far as possible; if you have trained yourself, then you "know the territory" and thus know what you're getting in to.

Here's another one for you:

Experience is a comb that a man gets when he has lost his hair.

:anjali:
Peace,
James

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Re: Metta or Abhayagiri monastery?

Postby James the Giant » Thu Jan 02, 2014 12:21 am

Go stay at both of them, a month at each one.
You don't have to pick one now and immediately commit forever, do you?
I stayed at five monasteries before I decided on the right one for me.
Don't forget the several good monasteries in Canada too, Birken and Tisarana are worth checking out.
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
SN 9.11

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Re: Metta or Abhayagiri monastery?

Postby EmptyCittas1by1 » Thu Jan 02, 2014 12:36 am

James the Giant wrote:Go stay at both of them, a month at each one.
You don't have to pick one now and immediately commit forever, do you?
I stayed at five monasteries before I decided on the right one for me.
Don't forget the several good monasteries in Canada too, Birken and Tisarana are worth checking out.


I would if I had the money! I'm looking for a job to get enough money for a visit (I live in Illinois). When I get back, I'll save up my money again for another visit, which will hopefully end with my ordination as a novice.

I messaged Abhayagiri a few months back, and I believe it was the guest monk who told me that the process goes like this: you visit once for about 10 days to see how you fit in with the community, then later you visit for 3 or more months. During that time it "usually becomes pretty apparent if someone is fitting in well". If, however, I do get enough money to visit both, I'll do it. But money's tight, so I have to limit it to one.
"Eat little! Sleep little! Speak little! Whatever it may be of worldly habit, lessen them, go against their power. Don't just do as you like, don't indulge in your thought. Stop this slavish following. You must constantly go against the stream of ignorance. This is called "Discipline." When you discipline your heart, it becomes very dissatisfied and begins to struggle. It becomes restricted and oppressed. When the heart is prevented from doing what it wants to do, it starts wandering and struggling. Suffering becomes apparent to us."

— Ajahn Chah

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Re: Metta or Abhayagiri monastery?

Postby James the Giant » Thu Jan 02, 2014 1:38 am

What will your expenses be during your Anagarika year? Do you have to pay for medical insurance during that year, before you become a novice? I seem to remember something about that from a guy I met who was starting at Abhayagiri.
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
SN 9.11

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Re: Metta or Abhayagiri monastery?

Postby Mkoll » Thu Jan 02, 2014 1:48 am

Dear EmptyCittas1by1,

Also, it would be good to get the blessing of your parents if you haven't already. Even some older people who want to ordain will obtain their parents' blessing before doing so.

:anjali:
Peace,
James

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Re: Metta or Abhayagiri monastery?

Postby EmptyCittas1by1 » Thu Jan 02, 2014 3:03 am

James the Giant wrote:What will your expenses be during your Anagarika year? Do you have to pay for medical insurance during that year, before you become a novice? I seem to remember something about that from a guy I met who was starting at Abhayagiri.


You have to pay for pretty much everything before you become a novice, if that's what you mean. As a resident, you only follow the 8 precepts — not 10. When you're a novice, you follow the 10 so there's no way to pay off anything. So before you become a novice, all debts must be payed off.

Mkoll wrote:Dear EmptyCittas1by1,
Also, it would be good to get the blessing of your parents if you haven't already. Even some older people who want to ordain will obtain their parents' blessing before doing so.
:anjali:


I've never heard of this kind of thing. What is it? My parents are not Buddhist (especially my dad).
"Eat little! Sleep little! Speak little! Whatever it may be of worldly habit, lessen them, go against their power. Don't just do as you like, don't indulge in your thought. Stop this slavish following. You must constantly go against the stream of ignorance. This is called "Discipline." When you discipline your heart, it becomes very dissatisfied and begins to struggle. It becomes restricted and oppressed. When the heart is prevented from doing what it wants to do, it starts wandering and struggling. Suffering becomes apparent to us."

— Ajahn Chah

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Re: Metta or Abhayagiri monastery?

Postby Mkoll » Thu Jan 02, 2014 3:33 am

EmptyCittas1by1 wrote:I've never heard of this kind of thing. What is it? My parents are not Buddhist (especially my dad).

Dear EmptyCittas1by1,

However, anyone wishing to become a bhikkhu must fulfill certain conditions about which he will be questioned during the actual ordination procedure. The candidate must be male and at least twenty years old. He must never have committed any grievous crimes and, if previously ordained, he must not have been guilty of any Defeater (Paaraajika) offences or have entered some other religion without disrobing first. (See BMC pp.88-89) He should also be of good reputation; fit and healthy enough to carry out the duties of a bhikkhu; not in debt; not subject to government service; and have permission from parents or guardian.
-source

Your parents don't have to be Buddhists to give you permission. If they sincerely want to see you happy (which most parents do) and you can show them that this will make you happy, you should be able to convince them.

:anjali:
Peace,
James

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Re: Metta or Abhayagiri monastery?

Postby Buckwheat » Thu Jan 02, 2014 6:44 am

You really need to visit both monasteries for about 1 week each and discuss the matter with monks at the monastery. The monasteries don't accept online application or anything like that. You will have to get to know them and they will have to get to know you to make sure everybody is a good fit for each other. I spent a week at each and really love them both.
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.

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Re: Metta or Abhayagiri monastery?

Postby appicchato » Thu Jan 02, 2014 6:57 am

EmptyCittas1by1 wrote:I've never heard of this kind of thing. What is it?


The tone of your posts indicates (from this angle) that you are heavy into ordaining although light on the basics...to not know about attaining parental permission says volumes...as others have suggested, a lengthy stay in a temple as a lay person (and boning up on the basics) would be good advice...

All the best...

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Re: Metta or Abhayagiri monastery?

Postby Buckwheat » Thu Jan 02, 2014 7:01 am

EmptyCittas1by1 wrote:You have to pay for pretty much everything before you become a novice, if that's what you mean. As a resident, you only follow the 8 precepts — not 10. When you're a novice, you follow the 10 so there's no way to pay off anything. So before you become a novice, all debts must be payed off.

I almost hate to say this, but I don't think expenses are really an issue at either monatery. You do have to be debt-free and they make the newcomers work pretty hard, but meals and loding are "free". In monastic life, there's not many other expenses except medical insurance, which at your age should be pretty easy, especially if you are already on a parent's plan.

I just read the post that you are considering two separate trips from Illinois. Why not make it one trip? You can proabably get a bus from the one to the other for a reasonable fair, and the 101 is a beautiful drive. I know when I reached my time limit at each monastery I would have loved to have jumped right into another one. I have a hard time with the adjustment from monastic life back to the real world.
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.

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Re: Metta or Abhayagiri monastery?

Postby EmptyCittas1by1 » Thu Jan 02, 2014 10:28 am

appicchato wrote:
EmptyCittas1by1 wrote:I've never heard of this kind of thing. What is it?


The tone of your posts indicates (from this angle) that you are heavy into ordaining although light on the basics...to not know about attaining parental permission says volumes...as others have suggested, a lengthy stay in a temple as a lay person (and boning up on the basics) would be good advice...

All the best...


I knew about parent permission, I just thought you were talking about something different when you said "blessings".

Buckwheat wrote:I almost hate to say this, but I don't think expenses are really an issue at either monatery. You do have to be debt-free and they make the newcomers work pretty hard, but meals and loding are "free". In monastic life, there's not many other expenses except medical insurance, which at your age should be pretty easy, especially if you are already on a parent's plan.


I'm mostly worried about my prescription medication which I need to take every day. A refill is needed about every 30.

Buckwheat wrote:I just read the post that you are considering two separate trips from Illinois. Why not make it one trip? You can proabably get a bus from the one to the other for a reasonable fair, and the 101 is a beautiful drive. I know when I reached my time limit at each monastery I would have loved to have jumped right into another one. I have a hard time with the adjustment from monastic life back to the real world.


That sounds like a good idea, I'll try that if I make my first visit during the summer, but I won't be able to do so if I make the reservation in april because of school.
"Eat little! Sleep little! Speak little! Whatever it may be of worldly habit, lessen them, go against their power. Don't just do as you like, don't indulge in your thought. Stop this slavish following. You must constantly go against the stream of ignorance. This is called "Discipline." When you discipline your heart, it becomes very dissatisfied and begins to struggle. It becomes restricted and oppressed. When the heart is prevented from doing what it wants to do, it starts wandering and struggling. Suffering becomes apparent to us."

— Ajahn Chah

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Re: Metta or Abhayagiri monastery?

Postby happylotus1 » Thu Jan 02, 2014 9:49 pm

It is quite praiseworthy to see your interest of ordination while you are still a teenager. In my personal opinion, it is wise to join monastic environment as soon as possible with proper understanding and strong determination for practice. I would suggest you to visit any monastery ( Metta or Abhayagiri) and try to live life according to that monastic environment. After spending some time with that particular monastic environment, you will clearly see yourself the monastic environment. I am sure either of the monastic environment is much better than what we live on the outside world full of bombardment of sensory objects and relentless craving. I, myself, was looking to enter monastic life since the age of 24 but could not realize it upto now at my current age of 34 years due to various circumstances :juggling: . Unfortunately, these circumstances keep on piling up as the time passes and i am still a layperson.
With Best wishes,
A householder or householder's son, hearing the Dhamma, gains conviction in the Tathāgata and reflects: 'Household life is confining, a dusty path. The life gone forth is like the open air. It is not easy living at home to practice the holy life totally perfect, totally pure, like a polished shell. What if I were to shave off my hair & beard, put on the ochre robes, and go forth from the household life into homelessness?

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Re: Metta or Abhayagiri monastery?

Postby PsychedelicSunSet » Fri Jan 03, 2014 12:52 am

It should be noted that they're both from different Nikayas. Abhayagiri is in the Maha Nikaya (Specifically the Ajahn Chah lineage), where as Wat Metta is in the Dhammayut and is in the Ajaan Lee lineage. The Ajahn Chah lineage has much more strict rules in terms of staying with a teacher for five years, and keeps very strict Vinaya compared to others in the Maha Nikaya. If you end up deciding you wish to ordain in the Ajahn Chah lineage and Abhayagiri is full (which is very likely, as they only have room for two Anagarikas at a time to my knowledge) you may also wish to look into Wat Pah Nanachat.




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