Why Ordain?

Discussion of ordination, the Vinaya and monastic life. How and where to ordain? Bhikkhuni ordination etc.
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Alex123
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Why Ordain?

Post by Alex123 » Sun Apr 12, 2015 7:19 pm

Hello all,

This is not a critique. I respect monks and all. :anjali:

In ancient and medieval times, some people would ordain to study. Not everybody had access to books and many people were too busy making a living to study the religion.

Considering how lay people can attain even Arhatship (but in that case one would have to ordain), what is the purpose of monasticism?
It seems like just in lay life, monks are expected and do lots of construction work. But in the case of monks, they also do a lot of rituals for the laity.
"If he should say, 'My mind is raised above the Brahma worlds and is brought to the cessation of self-identity,' then, I tell you, Mahanama, there is no difference — in terms of release — between the release of that lay follower whose mind is released and the release of a monk whose mind is released."SN55.54
Following Vinaya? Well, even more people became Arhats prior to Vinaya rules being set by the Buddha than with all its 227 rules. I think that 5, 8 or 10 precepts cover main points of sila well enough. At least for the first path. A lay follower can follow Pārājika, most saṅghādisesa, and maybe some other lesser rules.


Any comments?
Last edited by Alex123 on Sun Apr 12, 2015 8:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

Feathers
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Re: Why Ordain?

Post by Feathers » Sun Apr 12, 2015 8:18 pm

I sometimes wonder this, and then I think how much I would dislike becoming a nun, and that shows me the value of it - the massive act of renunciation, of severing as many sources of attachment as possible . . . I think that would be much, much harder to do in lay life, and I think it must take enormous courage and commitment. And once you've done that, it must really focus you on the path.

There's the sheer amount of time many monks and nuns get to devote to practice and study - yes, they may have to work on their monastery and serve the laity, but still, I imagine most still get several hours a day for meditation/study etc. And that seems unlikely in lay life.

And I am glad there are people who commit themselves so completely, and pass on what they learn :smile:
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Sam Vara
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Re: Why Ordain?

Post by Sam Vara » Sun Apr 12, 2015 9:08 pm

I hope a monastic will answer this, but my understanding from talking to monks and nuns is that they ordained because ordination represented the best path for them out of suffering. People might have the presence of mind to escape from a blazing building, but their best chances lie in following the fire evacuation procedure and listening to the instructions of trained and designated fire marshals.

It's about doing what works, as opposed to doing what you think works.

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Dhammanando
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Re: Why Ordain?

Post by Dhammanando » Sun Apr 12, 2015 9:20 pm

Though it’s true that some monks choose to spend (or in some monasteries are required to spend) much of their time in construction work, this is not obligatory — you’re free to ordain in a monastery where the abbot isn’t obsessed with building things.

One reason for choosing monasticism is the sort of companionship available to you. As a householder, unless you have an independent source of income, you have to go out to work each day, which means that many hours of each day have to be spent in the company of people who are not kalyāṇamittas. As a monk, by being choosy with whom one associates, one can engineer it so that one enjoys either kalyāṇamittatā or solitude 24/7.

A second reason is that the practice of “carrying the meditation subject” (i.e. keeping it in mind throughout one’s waking hours — essential for jhānic deveopment) is only realistically possible for a monk or a householder who doesn’t need to work. But most householders do need to work.

A third reason (though one concerned more with the benefit of others than one’s own) is to participate in the stewardship of the Sāsanā in order to ensure its continuance.

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Alex123
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Re: Why Ordain?

Post by Alex123 » Mon Apr 13, 2015 12:04 am

Thank you very much Bhante for good points,
:anjali:

With metta,

Alex
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

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Sati1
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Re: Why Ordain?

Post by Sati1 » Mon Apr 13, 2015 8:05 am

Dhammanando wrote: A second reason is that the practice of “carrying the meditation subject” (i.e. keeping it in mind throughout one’s waking hours — essential for jhānic deveopment) is only realistically possible for a monk or a householder who doesn’t need to work. But most householders do need to work.
Dear Ven Dhammanando,

Could you please elaborate on this point? Do you refer to the maintenance of sati sampajañña throughout the day, or to frequent dedicated meditation (eg sitting meditation)?

With metta,
Sati1
London, UK

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"I do not perceive even one other thing, o monks, that when developed and cultivated entails such great happiness as the mind" (AN 1.10, transl. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi)
"So this spiritual life, monks, does not have gain, honor, and renown for its benefit, or the attainment of moral discipline for its benefit, or the attainment of concentration for its benefit, or knowledge and vision for its benefit. But it is this unshakable liberation of mind that is the goal of this spiritual life, its heartwood, and its end," (MN 29, transl. Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi)

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Mr Man
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Re: Why Ordain?

Post by Mr Man » Mon Apr 13, 2015 8:25 am

Alex123 wrote:
Following Vinaya? Well, even more people became Arhats prior to Vinaya rules being set by the Buddha than with all its 227 rules. I think that 5, 8 or 10 precepts cover main points of sila well enough. Any comments?
I'm my opinion vinaya is not just about morality.

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Dhammanando
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Re: Why Ordain?

Post by Dhammanando » Mon Apr 13, 2015 8:28 am

Sati1 wrote:Could you please elaborate on this point? Do you refer to the maintenance of sati sampajañña throughout the day, or to frequent dedicated meditation (eg sitting meditation)?
What is called "carrying the meditation subject" depends upon the maintenance of mindfulness throughout the day, but it's a little more specific than that. It is the manner of jhāna-oriented practice described in detail the commentary to the Sāmaññaphala Sutta, in which the yogāvacara intent on jhāna "carries" his meditation subject all day long, from the moment of waking up until the moment of going to sleep. "Carrying the meditation subject" means the uninterrupted application of his attention to it. In the event that the yogāvacara has to do some other duty that will require his full attention (and thus prevent the carrying of the meditation subject), he makes a formal resolve to lay the meditation subject down and then pick it up again when the task is completed. Ideally, however, he should try to live in the sort of place where there won't be anything that will require him to put the meditation subject down.

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mikenz66
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Re: Why Ordain?

Post by mikenz66 » Mon Apr 13, 2015 9:17 am

Bhante, is this the same sort of advice as in Visuddhimagga Chapters III and IV?

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... index.html
IV.34 [Guarding the Sign]
34. The arousing of the counterpart sign, which arises together with access
concentration, is very difficult. Therefore if he is able to arrive at absorption
in that same session by extending the sign, it is good. If not, then he must
guard the sign diligently as if it were the foetus of a Wheel-turning Monarch
(World-ruler)

So guard the sign, nor count the cost,
And what is gained will not be lost;
Who fails to have this guard maintained
Will lose each time what he has gained.

35. Herein, the way of guarding it is this:
(1) Abode, (2) resort, (3) and speech, (4) and person,
(5) The food, (6) the climate, (7) and the posture—
Eschew these seven different kinds

Whenever found unsuitable.
But cultivate the suitable;
For one perchance so doing finds
He need not wait too long until
Absorption shall his wish fulfil.

6. 1. Herein, an abode is unsuitable if, while he lives in it, the unarisen sign
does not arise in him or is lost when it arises, and where unestablished
mindfulness fails to become established and the unconcentrated mind fails to
become concentrated. That is suitable in which the sign arises and becomes
confirmed, in which mindfulness becomes established and the mind becomes
concentrated, as in the Elder Padhániya-Tissa, resident at Nágapabbata. So if a
monastery has many abodes he can try them one by one, living in each for three
days, and stay on where his mind becomes unified. For it was due to suitability
of abode that five hundred bhikkhus reached Arahantship while still dwelling
in the Lesser Nága Cave (Cúla-nága-lena) in Tambapanni Island (Sri Lanka) after
apprehending their meditation subject there. There is no counting the stream-
enterers who have reached Arahantship there after reaching the noble plane
elsewhere; so too in the monastery of Cittalapabbata, and others.
... [continues for the other six ways of guarding] ...
:anjali:
Mike

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Dhammanando
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Re: Why Ordain?

Post by Dhammanando » Mon Apr 13, 2015 10:11 am

mikenz66 wrote:Bhante, is this the same sort of advice as in Visuddhimagga Chapters III and IV?
The commentary to the Sāmaññaphala Sutta has the most detailed account of carrying the meditation subject. Then there are greatly abridged parallel passages in the Sammohavinodanī / Dispeller of Delusion and in the Papañcasūdanī’s commentary to the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta. But in the Visuddhimagga it seems to be alluded to in only one paragraph:

  • “... in order to avoid the delay of foot washing, a pair of single-soled sandals and a walking stick are desirable. Then if the new concentration vanishes through some unsuitable encounter, he can put his sandals on, take his walking stick, and go back to the place to re-apprehend the sign there. When he returns he should seat himself comfortably and develop it by reiterated reaction to it and by striking at it with thought and applied thought.”

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Dhammanando
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Re: Why Ordain?

Post by Dhammanando » Mon Apr 13, 2015 12:04 pm

Dhammanando wrote:Then there are greatly abridged parallel passages in the Sammohavinodanī / Dispeller of Delusion and in the Papañcasūdanī’s commentary to the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta.

It turns out that the latter is more detailed than I remembered it as being. Here's the translation of Soma Thera:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... wayof.html

The relevant section begins with the words:
  • Who is spoken of with the words "This one carries forth and carries back" must be known just through the means of the observance of carrying forth and carrying back (the subject of meditation from the beginning to the end of the journey to and from the village).
and ends with:
  • Amongst these four that form the set, he who carries forth and carries back the subject of meditation reaches the crest of the clear comprehension of resort.

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Re: Why Ordain?

Post by kilanta » Mon Apr 13, 2015 3:35 pm

Dhammanando wrote: One reason for choosing monasticism is the sort of companionship available to you.
For what it is worth, I think this is one of the most important reasons to ordain. Even if one has an independent source of income and can be picky with one's relationships with others, it might be quite a bit easier to find like-minded people in a monastery than in lay life if one is interested in things like quiet and simple life, yet not capable of living alone in the woods.

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Sati1
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Re: Why Ordain?

Post by Sati1 » Mon Apr 13, 2015 6:51 pm

Dear Ven Dhammanando,

Thank you very much for your response. This makes perfect sense, and I have noticed that on days with more moment-to-moment mindfulness concentration indeed tends to be more refined (as per the bojjhanga sequence, probably). I plan to take that book out on loan from the Amaravati library this Saturday to study the Samaññaphala Sutta commentary further.

With metta,
Sati1
London, UK

----
"I do not perceive even one other thing, o monks, that when developed and cultivated entails such great happiness as the mind" (AN 1.10, transl. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi)
"So this spiritual life, monks, does not have gain, honor, and renown for its benefit, or the attainment of moral discipline for its benefit, or the attainment of concentration for its benefit, or knowledge and vision for its benefit. But it is this unshakable liberation of mind that is the goal of this spiritual life, its heartwood, and its end," (MN 29, transl. Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi)

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Alex123
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Re: Why Ordain?

Post by Alex123 » Mon Apr 13, 2015 7:50 pm

Dear Ven. Dhammanando, (and all)
Dhammanando wrote:Though it’s true that some monks choose to spend (or in some monasteries are required to spend) much of their time in construction work, this is not obligatory — you’re free to ordain in a monastery where the abbot isn’t obsessed with building things.
Construction work is tolerable (though not ideal, of course), what is worse are my knees. I can't sit crosslegged. I can only sit (in inappropriate posture) where I spread strait legs in "v". On meditation retreats I sat in a chair.

except for wattamaoh that you recommended someone,
a) Any monasteries in Canada/USA that allow monks to sit in a chair?
b) Any monasteries in Canada/USA that have little duties (unlikely. I suspect all of them are construction intensive)
c) Any general comments about monasteries in Canada/US?


Thanks,

With metta,

Alex :anjali:
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

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seeker242
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Re: Why Ordain?

Post by seeker242 » Mon Apr 13, 2015 9:46 pm

Seems to me some people become monks because they lose interest in doing wordly activities, like spending most of your days just getting money. If you no longer have any interest in doing some activity, then there's no reason to continue doing it. When the only thing that is actually worth doing is practicing the dhamma, then there's no real reason not to become a monk. :)

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