To Marry or Ordain -Which resources should I consult first?

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

To Marry or Ordain -Which resources should I consult first?

Postby brandwach » Sun Jan 27, 2013 4:49 am

To Marry or Ordain -Which resources should I consult before making a decision?
I have a very serious Girlfriend. I love her. I also have a business that produces nearly passive income in quantities to afford a comfortable lifestyle (The business thing is, of course, in Samsara, and of course subject to decline.)
However, I do want to make the thrust of my life spiritual practice/study/meditation etc.
I guess I need to figure out if I will make it the only or just the principal thrust of my life.
I would greatly appreciate suggestions for resources to consult: books, and even lay and monastic masters who might offer telephone consultations about this matter.
Thanks and best to you all.

PS: I study Dharma about 1 hr per day, and meditate 2 hrs per day, seated and do about 1 hr walking meditation. I go to a retreat frequently, about three or four per year. I have been a buddhist for about 7 years, and am 32 years old. I have had a principally Theravada focus for about 6 months.
Last edited by brandwach on Mon Jan 28, 2013 3:36 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: To Marry or Ordain -Which resources should I consult first?

Postby brandwach » Sun Jan 27, 2013 4:50 am

PS: I should say I am not yet a Stream Enterer.
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Re: To Marry or Ordain -Which resources should I consult first?

Postby James the Giant » Sun Jan 27, 2013 6:18 am

Oh my, what a nice quandary! Comfortable family life, or monk's life! You have been reborn in a minor heaven, it seems.
Here is a nice play-list of short youtube videos from monks, talking about their decision to ordain, etc. http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLBA0427AD1924263A
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Re: To Marry or Ordain -Which resources should I consult fir

Postby polarbuddha101 » Sun Jan 27, 2013 7:11 am

Maybe you should write a list of pros and cons, wait a day and review them. Then wait another day and spend that time thinking about whether you want to spend the rest of your life with the woman you love or if you want to give up everything you have and embark on a quest for total peace. They both sound enticing in their own ways. Anyway, it's certainly something to think long and hard about.

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"I don't envision a single thing that, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about such suffering & stress as the mind. The mind, when undeveloped & uncultivated, brings about suffering & stress."
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Re: To Marry or Ordain -Which resources should I consult first?

Postby Goofaholix » Sun Jan 27, 2013 8:34 am

You need to experience the monastic life for a few months to see if you are really up for it.

You've been regularly doing retreats but have they been in monastic settings or more secular retreat centres? If the latter then time to give the former a go, if the former then i don't really understand why you mention telephone consultations because you should have access to monks who you can talk to about what's involved in the life.

Sounds like you are very fortunate and can afford to do this indefinately as a layman, you might find the monastic life a cause of restlessness as you contemplate what you gave up and could easily get back.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: To Marry or Ordain -Which resources should I consult first?

Postby Mr Man » Sun Jan 27, 2013 8:38 am

It sounds to me like you should do neither - Who knows?
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Re: To Marry or Ordain -Which resources should I consult first?

Postby James the Giant » Sun Jan 27, 2013 8:59 am

Yeah, best thing to do is take a 2 or 3 month holiday from work and stay at a monastery as a layperson. That way you can get a feeling for the lifestyle without committing to anything.
During your stay at the monastery you would also meet a lot of committed laypeople, who are (probably) managing to combine a normal family life with Buddhism. I met lots of successful and fairly wealthy doctors, architects, and business-owners, etc, during the time I was staying at a monastery, and they were really quite serious about the dhamma while still committed to their family lives.
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
SN 9.11
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Re: To Marry or Ordain -Which resources should I consult first?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun Jan 27, 2013 11:00 am

A collection of articles by westerners about Going Forth
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Re: To Marry or Ordain -Which resources should I consult first?

Postby brandwach » Mon Jan 28, 2013 3:51 am

Thank you all. I appreciate the community support. The retreats I have done are mostly in Mahayana Lay centers. I am doing a 10 day Goenka Retreat later this week. Certainly these days I feel a strong draw to renunciation. Matter-of-factly, I know that sensual/worldly pleasures are fleeting, and set up addictive cycles that tear down mental health. When reflecting on the whole secular/householder thing, I feel that I am more drawn to it out of a sense of what I would miss were I not to do it. Like, I think to myself that I would regret not having children. Also, my GF is a gem of a human, and I would hate to throw her to the side. It saddens me to think of such a thing. She would make an outstanding mother. But she is not a Buddhist or otherwise spiritual practitioner. This is a problem as she wants to watch TV/Movies, and eat tasty meals for pleasure in stead of practicing with me or discussing the Dharma. I don't fault her for this, but simply note that this is a difficulty for us and for my practice.
Anyway, If somehow I knew I wouldn't have those regrets about letting her go and letting go the possibility of having children I think I would take the dive. The business though successful by worldly standards, is clear to me for what it is: suffering, suffering, suffering.
On a different note, my draw to the Dharma is strong. I think about it all day long. I practice a lot. On a side note I have been doing Mahasi style noting recently. That has been great and of much greater value than Zen-style breath counting.
Anyway, I will look at the links you all posted.
Best to you all.
With Metta,
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Re: To Marry or Ordain -Which resources should I consult first?

Postby brandwach » Mon Jan 28, 2013 3:52 am

About going to a monastery for a few months. Yes, that's a good idea. I will send a letter to Wat Metta tomorrow about a visit.
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Re: To Marry or Ordain -Which resources should I consult first?

Postby brandwach » Mon Jan 28, 2013 4:01 am

Regarding the issue of living a life without access to the pleasure of sex (ordaining), I think I could be ok with celibacy. But, the whole not having a family thing seems like it might be a regret. Here I should mention that this assessment is made with an unenlightened mind. Once, meditating more, and away from stressful householder concerns my mind might straighten and no longer have this fear.
I guess I would appreciate the input especially regard to the whole issue of having children. I know that most people that have children never regret it. But, then these opinion samples are taken from Unenlightened lay people.
Anyway, may you all be well.
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Re: To Marry or Ordain -Which resources should I consult first?

Postby Goofaholix » Mon Jan 28, 2013 6:59 pm

brandwach wrote:I guess I would appreciate the input especially regard to the whole issue of having children. I know that most people that have children never regret it. But, then these opinion samples are taken from Unenlightened lay people.
Anyway, may you all be well.


When you have children you'll have much much less time for retreat practise, maybe none, other than that no regrets. So make the most of your opportunities now.

If your draw to the Dhamma is strong now then that may well be a feeling that is subject to impermanence, a few months in the monastery and you may find that changes so I wouldn't recommend basing life decisions on a feeling.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: To Marry or Ordain -Which resources should I consult first?

Postby manas » Mon Jan 28, 2013 8:29 pm

Hi brandwach,

I would agree with others, that you might consider taking a few months away from everything, and staying in a monastery to see if that lifestyle appeals to you, or not. Best to try it before tying the knot rather than after, right?

Bringing up children is both challenging, and rewarding, but I must inform you that, the affection one has for one's children can weigh on one's mind, especially when they go through pain or distress themselves, or occasionally inflict distress on their parents. Personally, if I know that my kids are in distress, I cannot get my mind to calm properly. (They live mostly at their mother's house, and I cannot control what happens over there, obviously). There is a tie of affection that links their welfare to mine. In short: you might find that some aspects of the Path, such as jhana, are very difficult for persons in family life.

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Re: To Marry or Ordain -Which resources should I consult first?

Postby reflection » Mon Jan 28, 2013 9:08 pm

Consult your heart. Nobody can tell you what is best for you. Some people may be better practitioners as a lay person than as a monk/nun.

I would, however, recommend you to share your feelings and ideas with your girlfriend - if you don't already do. Of all the people in the world -yourself aside- she might give the best insights.


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Re: To Marry or Ordain -Which resources should I consult first?

Postby jonno » Wed Jan 30, 2013 7:17 am

Hi. I recall that when someone said to the DL that the life of a monk must be very hard, he replied with his customary laugh,"oh no! Now marriage is really hard". Perhaps you should be thinking about what you can Give to other beings in either role rather than what you can gain. Personally I have found that married life has taught me things which I never would have learned in a monastery. Sure marriage and raising a family is hard at times, but adversity is a great teacher and adds to your development and practice. Also in living in the outside world you can use your understanding ,love and compassion for the benefit of others. Whether in a monastery or within a family life, both can be of great benefit to yourself and others. The choice is yours alone of course, but let love ,compassion and the Buddhas teachings be your guiding light. Just a final thought, if his mother and father had never conceived him, the Buddha would have never been born and we would never have had the benefit of his teachings. Love jonno
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Re: To Marry or Ordain -Which resources should I consult first?

Postby reflection » Wed Jan 30, 2013 9:48 am

Nice reply jonno.

And brandwach, I'm sort of contemplating the same thing. It is not marry vs ordination, because I don't have a girlfriend, but the general pleasures of lay life vs ordination. I like my music, opportunities to travel, visiting friends, etc, and yes - even work. In short, I love meditation and 'acting like a Buddhist', but just to do something totally unrelated to dhamma (read: attachments..), I must admit, I like as well. These things are all given way when ordaining. The lifestyle change is quite big and not everybody may cope well. It's not just about being married and having children or not.

But yes, the advice to visit a monastery and practice in a real monk-like way is the best. This is also what I'll soon be doing, I'll join 6 weeks of the winter retreat in a western monastery. Depending on that, I'll decide if I would like to take further steps towards ordaining. Taking it one step at a time I think is best. One day you might have to make a decision, but only when the choice is clear. Before that, there is no real need - although you will probably want to keep your options open until that day.

Although.. deep inside I may know what's best, but it may need some more time..

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Re: To Marry or Ordain -Which resources should I consult first?

Postby jeanai » Wed Jan 30, 2013 11:28 am

brandwach wrote:To Marry or Ordain -Which resources should I consult before making a decision?
I have a very serious Girlfriend. I love her. I also have a business that produces nearly passive income in quantities to afford a comfortable lifestyle (The business thing is, of course, in Samsara, and of course subject to decline.)
However, I do want to make the thrust of my life spiritual practice/study/meditation etc.
I guess I need to figure out if I will make it the only or just the principal thrust of my life.
I would greatly appreciate suggestions for resources to consult: books, and even lay and monastic masters who might offer telephone consultations about this matter.
Thanks and best to you all.

PS: I study Dharma about 1 hr per day, and meditate 2 hrs per day, seated and do about 1 hr walking meditation. I go to a retreat frequently, about three or four per year. I have been a buddhist for about 7 years, and am 32 years old. I have had a principally Theravada focus for about 6 months.


My first time here so I'm probably stepping over the line in commenting, but I just wanted to share my personal experience and recent realisations with you, as the same thoughts had been running through my mind. Hopefully it'll help you a little :)

A lot of people around me have recently been having relationship dramas. I myself have been happily single for four years, and as I watch my friends spend a lot of time, energy and effort maintaining their relationships, I wonder what all their work is for. Don't get me wrong, I am not looking down on them and there ARE loving relationships I admire but even those take time and effort to maintain. Then at the end of our lives, death removes these pleasures from us...so why invest so much energy into something that just ends? Whilst each of my friends love their partners deeply, at the time of death what is there to show for their relationships?

I also thought about what I considered the most important in my life - do I want a relationship or do I want attainments such as renunciation and bodhicitta, which are attainments that I can take with me at the time of death? Do I want the temporary pleasures of companionship, intimacy, sex, etc or do I want to know that in my next life, I will meet the Dharma again and continue on my path to ultimate happines? Then this extract really drove home what I wanted and summed it all up:-

Lama Yeshe on Bodhicitta: “Bodhicitta is extremely precious, like a diamond mine. In order to have space for it, you have first to equalize your feelings towards all universal living beings. You need to generate a deep, sincere feeling of equanimity, from the bottom of your heart. Without extending this feeling of equanimity to all living beings, it is not possible to say that you want to dedicate your life to others.

“When you understand your own disastrous situation–with your problems of egotism, craving, desire, anger, and so forth–you see yourself as an object of compassion. You then remember that you are not the only one in this situation. In society, some people are high class, some are middle class, and others are low class, but everybody is the same as you, in wanting happiness and not wanting to be miserable.

“Consider your relationship to friends, enemies and strangers. Your craving over-estimation of one person, your hatred of another, and your ignorant indifference to yet another come from your own three poisonous minds of desire, hatred and ignorance. They are objects of your own mind. They do not exist externally. Like renunciation, equanimity has to do with inner experience.

“In your daily life, you should practice equanimity as much as you can, by trying not to have enemies and not to have exaggerated grasping towards people. In the space of equanimity, you can then nurture your Bodhicitta. Bodhicitta is an extremely high realization that is the complete opposite of the self-cherishing attitude. Self-cherishing thought is like a sword you put through your heart; Bodhicitta is like medicine. Once you begin to open your heart to others, you gain tremendous peace, tremendous pleasure, and inexhaustible energy. When you work for yourself, you are in the iron grip of ego.

“What really matters is your attitude. The dedicated attitude of opening your heart to all universal living beings brings relaxation. In our lives, we don’t have time for meditation, and even when we try to meditate, our minds are sluggish. However, I really believe that making a strong determination that today, and for the rest of your life, you will dedicate yourself to others, as much as possible, is very powerful. In my opinion, this Bodhicitta attitude is much more powerful and much more practical in the Western environment, than doing meditations in which you squeeze yourself.”

Source: Excerpt from a Lama Yeshe talk given in France at Institute VajraYogini in October 1982


So as long as I am in a relationship (an exaggerated grasping towards one person) and I do not have equanimity, I will never gain bodhicitta. That was quite shocking to me. I thought about it a bit more deeply...if I were in a relationship, my boyfriend will only be my boyfriend in this life. In my next life, I might come back as a dog and him as a beetle - what good did I do then to be with him? So should I stay with him to further deepen our attachments and desires, or should I do us both a favour and end it, and not create more karma together?

I KNOW it sounds cruel and cold-hearted, but believe me that if I did break up it would not be because I didn't love them. And I'm certainly not encouraging you to break up with anyone. I guess what I am trying to say is, consider what you find the most important in your life. If you find spirituality the most important in your life, go all the way with it and don't be half-hearted. It doesn't necessarily mean you have to become ordained (although it would be wonderful if you did!) but I think sitting on the fence will lead to no results because you haven't committed either way (to your gf / to your Dharma practice). It's like someone training for a marathon...if you are totally committed to your training and don't cheat at all with your diet, then you have a greater chance of completing the marathon. But if you cheat once in a while here and there, and sneak a chocolate bar every so often, perhaps the result will be less fruitful.

Having said ALL of that, if your objective is to be a good Buddhist or a better Buddhist, I don't think you have to become a monk anyway in order to accomplish that since the whole object of our practice is to do as little harm as possible, until we do no harm at all :)
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Re: To Marry or Ordain -Which resources should I consult fir

Postby Dennenappelmoes » Sun Apr 28, 2013 9:12 pm

The reason why I am going to ordain is exactly because I am free from relationships. I cannot get it back even if I wanted to, and I do want that sometimes. But had I been in one, it would never have been possible for me to leave that behind. Bear in mind that life isn't decisions, it's cause and effect. You cannot just "decide" that you will become a monk instead of living a laylife. It doesn't end by choosing a path, it begins there. Also, it isn't a "new" life, it is a continuation of your day to day but in a new set of rules. Ask yourself in all honesty: Can I really bear sitting by myself for hours, days, weeks on end, with the possibility of having all kinds of thoughts running through my mind about whether this was the right choice, where prince/princess charming currently is, whether he/she has kids yet? Of course, all of this is impermanent, all of this can be overcome. But you wouldn't be the first to disrobe because a feeling of having unfinished business crept up on them till the point it got unbearable. You cannot force something to happen if the causes for it aren't in place yet. "Decisions" are overrated I'd say.

I definitely don't want to discourage anyone but it would be really sad to see someone fall between the dock and the ship as that's called in my language. The decision to become a monk is a noble decision, but so is being content with what you already have.

Just my thoughts anyway :anjali:
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Re: To Marry or Ordain -Which resources should I consult fir

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Apr 28, 2013 10:34 pm

For anyone considering ordaining, I always recommend that they read The Broken Buddha, by Ven. Dhammika. It is not to discourage anyone but just so that one does not go in with high expectations, thinking things such as that all monks have perfect sila, all monks meditate, all monks are nice, etc. Here is the link to the pdf:

http://www.theravada-dhamma.org/pdf/Dha ... Buddha.pdf
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Re: To Marry or Ordain -Which resources should I consult fir

Postby Kamran » Mon Apr 29, 2013 4:02 am

Personally, I would not attempt celibacy without first being proficient in Samadhi. I think the meditation has to really come together for someone in order to prevent them from disrobing. Beliefs and will-power is not enough. There should be a skill in creating a strong unworldly pleasure, and not everyone can do it to that degree.
When this concentration is thus developed, thus well developed by you, then wherever you go, you will go in comfort. Wherever you stand, you will stand in comfort. Wherever you sit, you will sit in comfort. Wherever you lie down, you will lie down in comfort.
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