Young man considering ordination, advice please?

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

Young man considering ordination, advice please?

Postby tilakkhana » Mon Jun 07, 2010 11:33 pm

Hi everyone,

I'm 21 and live in London.
For a long time, I felt dissatisfaction with experiences that seemed to satisfy shortly and yet never fulfill. My studies into philosophy, sociology and psychology bred in me a vision of the delusion and control in modern society. It was by sheer coincidence that I stumbled across the Dhamma, and I knew that I had seen the beginnings of it through my own realisation, but now I had a structure and a tradition to guide that dissatisfaction and those spontaneous observations into genuine insights.

I feel like ordination is the answer for me. It fulfills all the questions I have had about what to do with my future, my livelihood - feeling like I had to go along with society's norms and my parents' desires for worldly success for me. It's not what I want. I always wanted to find a way of life that had spirituality at it's center (and even now, the closest I've got is my job at an occult bookstore/learning center in London - and while I have studied that stuff on and off for a decade, it's no longer the direction I want to go in spiritually as it's selfish, ego-driven and leads to nothing helpful for anyone else but yourself).

I have been attending Amaravati Monastery in Hemel Hempstead, UK, which I'm sure you guys know is a Thai Forest monastery. There are western monks there and it would be a decent place to ordain - however what I am wondering is whether there is much emphasis on studying actual Buddhist doctrine, because Ajahn Chah seems to me to be less about Theravada doctrine and more about generic meditation practice which may eventually inspire people into looking into the doctrine. Is this right, or what?

Part of me moreso wants to ordain in one of the Theravadin countries, away from western culture but not necessarily away from western monks (I'd feel a bit alienated at first otherwise) - perhaps Wat Pa Nanachat, but again I'm concerned about the possible lack of study in that particular place, I'm not sure. I am very interested in Pali and the Canon. I really enjoy what Bhikkhu Bodhi does and of sorts I would like to follow in his footsteps in that regard.

I've read some of the posts here but I'm still somewhat confused as to how to go about ordaining in a foreign country, let alone picking which one.

Can anybody help me out? Here's hoping that I've given you enough information to get a good idea of how to advise me. I'm saving up money, I'm preparing for the time I go forth. I just need to work out the whats and wheres.

Thanks everyone. Metta. :anjali:
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Re: Young man considering ordination, advice please?

Postby Goofaholix » Tue Jun 08, 2010 12:15 am

Yes the Ajahn Chah lineage de-emphasizes study but that doesn't mean you won't have a lot of opportunity to do so, many of the western monks in that lineage are quite academic and I think are well supported in their studies. It's probably not so encouraged in the first few years of ordination though.

Wat Pah Nanachat would be the same as Amaravati if not more so as it does emphasis ascetic practices more. Thanissaro in San Diego might be a good option for you.

If you really want to be a book worm rather than a meditator then maybe Sri Lanka is a better bet, but I think then why bother being a monk at all why not just be an academic.
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Re: Young man considering ordination, advice please?

Postby tilakkhana » Tue Jun 08, 2010 12:36 am

It's less about being a bookworm and more of a concern about not getting enough instruction in more than just rudimentary Dhamma.
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Re: Young man considering ordination, advice please?

Postby Sobeh » Tue Jun 08, 2010 3:37 am

My experience so far has been that Santi Forest Monastery in Australia is very involved in text-critical analysis alongside a hearty meditation infrastructure, and it might be a good fit for your aspirations. I have not visited yet, although I am going there this November as my first step in ordaining as a monk, so I'm biased.
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Re: Young man considering ordination, advice please?

Postby Paññāsikhara » Tue Jun 08, 2010 3:48 am

Sobeh wrote:My experience so far has been that Santi Forest Monastery in Australia is very involved in text-critical analysis alongside a hearty meditation infrastructure, and it might be a good fit for your aspirations. I have not visited yet, although I am going there this November as my first step in ordaining as a monk, so I'm biased.


Yes, Bhante Sujato at Santi holds regular but rather informal classes over a range of Dhamma / Buddhism issues, over a broad "course" that runs for a couple of months, but not year- round. They have a smallish, but quite complete, little library / collection of books / texts, too. The focus is still on meditation, however.
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Re: Young man considering ordination, advice please?

Postby tilakkhana » Tue Jun 08, 2010 9:50 am

Thanks for that. I'd have to think about that place too. I am a native Australian and hold a passport so it would be less complicated, although I'm slightly more keen on going somewhere in the East where the sasana is strong culturally. Although, saying that, reading their website, I like the sound of the abbot and his style...
Last edited by tilakkhana on Tue Jun 08, 2010 10:34 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Young man considering ordination, advice please?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Tue Jun 08, 2010 10:27 am

There are places in Thailand where you can ordain and study. Try to contact Ajahn Dhammanando who is one of the members here. He has studied at Wat Tamao in Lampang, North-west Thailand.

My knowledge about monasteries in Asia is out of date now — I was last in Burma from 1998-1999 to practise at Mahasi Yeiktha and Chanmyay Yeiktha. I was last at Wat Tamao in 1982 or thereabouts, but I did not stay long. You would need to speak Thai or Burmese I think to study there — since I could speak neither, I left to go to Wat Pah Nanachat.
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Re: Young man considering ordination, advice please?

Postby gavesako » Tue Jun 08, 2010 11:29 am

I am coming to Amaravati in a week from now (just until end of June) and then I will stay in Chithurst forest monastery for the rest of the year. You can visit and I can explain to you what you need to know before taking the big step of ordaining. Because if you pick the wrong place in the beginning, it may be difficult to change in the first 3-5 years. They usually expect you to stay with your original teacher or monastery. In Chithurst, by the way, there is more emphasis on study (mainly Vinaya but also Suttas and now they have a Pali study group which I am going to help with). It is true that Ajahn Chah did not stress too much study, but you have to bear in mind the whole context: his monks were brought up in the Buddhist culture, whereas for the Westerners, it may be necessary to re-condition their whole way of thinking so that it fits in with the monastic way of life in a Buddhist context. If one fails to do that, one can see people being "lost" in the robes after a few years and looking for all kinds of alternative spiritual teachings to supplement their monastic life, before they eventually disrobe. So i also believe there needs to be a more structured approach to monastic education in the West. (I have done it mainly through self-study, thanks to the internet in recent years.)

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Re: Young man considering ordination, advice please?

Postby PeterB » Tue Jun 08, 2010 12:00 pm

One of the qualities among others that was obvious about Ajahn Chah was that his discouraging too much of a scholarly approach should be set against his ability and willingness to quote whole passages from the Canon that he had by heart...It was horses for courses.
One person would be encouraged to devote more time to things experiential. Others would be encouraged to gain a more sure footing in Buddhist studies.
Reading edited accounts of his discourses and Q and A sessions it is easy to forget that they were tailor made, not off the peg, one size fits all. The result can be an apparent contradiction of himself. In fact it was no such thing..it depended on whom he was addressing.
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Re: Young man considering ordination, advice please?

Postby Guy » Wed Jun 09, 2010 1:08 am

If you are an Aussie you might also consider Bodhinyana near Perth and Wat Buddha Dhamma near Sydney.
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