Ordination in Thailand

Discussion of ordination, the Vinaya and monastic life. How and where to ordain? Bhikkhuni ordination etc.
5Khandas
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Re: Ordination in Thailand

Post by 5Khandas » Tue Mar 02, 2010 10:36 am

Greetings,

I found an interesting quote in the thaivisa forum. It's from the late E-Sangha, written by Dhammanando Bhikkhu about the ordination possibilities in Thailand.
Hello all,

I have lately been getting quite a few PM's enquiring about the practical details of ordaining as a bhikkhu in Thailand. Rather than replying to each separately I will just post to this thread and henceforth direct enquirers to it.

It used to be the case that foreigners could get ordained in Thailand very easily, indeed almost at the drop of a hat, but owing to abuse of the system (e.g., hippies getting ordained just so that they could get a long-term visa) new regulations were introduced that made bhikkhu ordination somewhat more difficult.

A non-Thai who wishes to ordain in Thailand and stay here long-term now needs to enter the country with a special "monk-to-be" visa. Strictly speaking, abbots are prohibited to ordain a foreigner who does not have one of these visas. In practice a lot of abbots outside Bangkok and the larger cities are ignorant of this rule (or else they know about it, but don't give a ######!) and will ordain foreigners who don't have it. However, if you ordain in this way it's likely that you'll run into problems when you apply for a visa extension. Therefore it's best to do things by the book.

To be eligible for a monk-to-be visa you will need to obtain a letter from an abbot in Thailand certifying that he is willing to ordain you. You will also need a letter of sponsorship from a Thai layman. (At some embassies it is sufficient to give the layman's name and address). This person will be making quite a big commitment, for he will be responsible for your behaviour and for repatriating you if you go insane, commit a crime or whatever.

So, given these new regulations, there are two ways that one can proceed. The better course, imo, is to come out to Thailand on a normal visa and spend a few months travelling about, visiting temples, going on retreats, questioning ajahns, making acquaintances etc., until you find some place or teacher that clicks with you. Then notify the abbot of your wish to ordain and follow whatever procedures are in place there. These will vary a lot; some abbots may write you a letter and find a lay sponsor for you straight away; if that happens then you just need to go to Laos or Malaysia, get the special visa, re-enter Thailand and you might be a bhikkhu by the end of the week. Other abbots will expect you to go through some kind of program, e.g., spending so many months as an 8-precept layman, then so many months as a samanera, before being eligible for bhikkhu ordination. If that's the case then you might need to enter and leave the country several times during your training, as the normal visas only last for 2-3 months.

Another way to proceed is to start attending a Thai temple in your home country and befriending the monks there. If they like you and trust that you're sincere they may be willing to arrange for an abbot in Thailand to issue a letter and find you a sponsor. I wouldn't myself recommend this procedure, however, for it has the drawback that you'll be committing yourself in advance to ordaining at a temple and with an abbot that you know nothing about. (Bear in mind that once ordained, your preceptor can insist that you stay with him for five years, so you really ought to select the man with some care). On the other hand, if you are only planning for a temporary ordination this might be the better way to go.

Once you have been ordained as a bhikkhu you will be eligible to apply for a one-year visa. This can be extended every year without needing to leave the country.

Regarding the best place to ordain for foreigners, this is a matter on which opinions will differ (and sometimes heatedly!). Obviously if you already have some faith in one or another of the Theravada sub-traditions (e.g., Mahasi-style vipassana, the forest tradition of Ajahn Mun or its off-shoot, the Ajahn Chah tradition, or Ajahn Buddhadasa, or Ajahn Naeb or whatever) then the choice will be dictated by that. For example, to train with Ajahn Maha Boowa you'll need to be ordained in the Dhammayuttika Nikaya; to be a monk in the Ajahn Chah tradition you'll probably need to start at Wat Pa Nanachat, etc. On the other hand, if you don't have any such prior commitment, then my own suggestion is that you start off at some place where you'll be trained properly in Vinaya. As far as I know this really cuts down the choices to three:

1) A Dhammayuttika Nikaya temple. In general the Vinaya observance is stricter in this Nikaya than in the Mahanikaya. The drawbacks, however, are that as a Dhammayutt monk you'll miss out on much of the richness of Thai Buddhism, you'll only be able to stay at about 5% of the temples in Thailand, Dhammayutt Abhidhamma scholarship is poor, and the one and only practice tradition is that of Ajahn Mun, with its eternalist doctrine of the "citta that lives for ever." Also the Vinaya observance tends in some respects to be pharisaical rather than virtuous; e.g., the Dhammayutts take pride in not using money, but in fact most of them do have bank accounts, even including some of the Ajahn Mun forest monks. They differ from money-using Mahanikaya monks only in that they don't physically handle the money.

2) Wat Pa Nanchat. This is Ajahn Cha's branch wat for training western monks. The Vinaya training in this wat is quite thorough and not so prone to Dhammayutt-style hypocrisy. The drawback is that you're not likely to learn very much Dhamma or to get competent guidance in meditation. Also, I don't think it's very healthy to be living with other western monks during one's formative years of training; too much time gets wasted on gossiping and squabbling.

3) Wat Tha Ma O; this is the Burmese monastery in Lampang of my own Pali teacher Sayadaw Dhammananda. Though the wat is primarily a Pali and Abhidhamma study centre, the sayadaw is also a meditation master and he gives his monks at least as good a Vinaya training as they'd get at Wat Pa Nanachat, but with much else besides. This is nowadays the only place in Thailand that I can wholeheartedly recommend for a western would-be bhikkhu.

Well, that's all I can think of for now. If you have any questions on this matter I'd prefer that they were posted here rather than sent by PM, unless they concern a matter that really needs to be kept private.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
I hope this will be useful for somebody (at least for me it was useful).

Metta :anjali:

Faranglaos
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Re: Ordination in Thailand

Post by Faranglaos » Thu Apr 15, 2010 8:02 pm

On 29th May 2010 i will be ordained at Wat Bhu Kra San, my Thai wifes home village. As with others on this forum this is to make merit for my wife and mother in law, and in line with Thai Culture for all males this will be for a period of approx 1 week only. The temple, being in Isaan, is of the Dhammayut Sect and i am desperately trying to find a copy of the odination ceremony in romanised Pali, english translation not vital but would also be appreciated. I am finding this very difficult as whilst there are several sites with the Mahanikaya version the Dhammayut is proving impossible to find. I am now extremely worried about the ceremony and feel that it will be impossible, even with prompts, to go through with this without first learning the Pali. As you can imagine, this is of great importance not only to myself but to my wife and her family.
I would be greatly appreciative if someone could possibly provide me with what i require or point me towards a website which may help.
Thank You

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Cittasanto
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Re: Ordination in Thailand

Post by Cittasanto » Thu Apr 15, 2010 8:25 pm

Hi & welcome!

I don't know of any resourses for you sorry, the only one that may help in other chanting I know of is http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... nting.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Good Luck :anjali:
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Bankei
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Re: Ordination in Thailand

Post by Bankei » Thu Apr 15, 2010 11:41 pm

Faranglaos wrote:On 29th May 2010 i will be ordained at Wat Bhu Kra San, my Thai wifes home village. As with others on this forum this is to make merit for my wife and mother in law, and in line with Thai Culture for all males this will be for a period of approx 1 week only. The temple, being in Isaan, is of the Dhammayut Sect and i am desperately trying to find a copy of the odination ceremony in romanised Pali, english translation not vital but would also be appreciated. I am finding this very difficult as whilst there are several sites with the Mahanikaya version the Dhammayut is proving impossible to find. I am now extremely worried about the ceremony and feel that it will be impossible, even with prompts, to go through with this without first learning the Pali. As you can imagine, this is of great importance not only to myself but to my wife and her family.
I would be greatly appreciative if someone could possibly provide me with what i require or point me towards a website which may help.
Thank You
You can pick up a hard copy from the bookshop opposite Wat Boworn in Bangkok. The book is called "ordination procedure".

The differences between the two versions are only minor, most of it would be the same I think. BTW, even in Isaan Dhammayut temples are fewer than the Mahanikaya.
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Bankei

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gavesako
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Re: Ordination in Thailand

Post by gavesako » Fri Apr 16, 2010 6:59 am

Here is a video promoting young novice ordination in Thailand for the purpose of study:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Cgp3I0eJg4" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

(There is a Western monk teaching them English, too. The school is in Loei province.)
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Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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gavesako
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Re: Ordination in Thailand

Post by gavesako » Fri Apr 16, 2010 7:05 am

Here is the whole ordination procedure in Pali:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... .app2.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

Access to Insight - Theravada texts
Ancient Buddhist Texts - Translations and history of Pali texts
Dhammatalks.org - Sutta translations

fabianfred
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Re: Ordination in Thailand

Post by fabianfred » Sat Sep 04, 2010 6:19 am

I have been living here in Thailand for the past eighteen years since retirement from the British Army at age 40.
I moved to Fang from Chiangmai 12 years ago after getting married to a local girl and we have two children. Since than I have been on the Non-immigrant 'O' married extension of stay yearly.

I ordained as a novice in Wat SriBunRuang Fang on the 9th May. I have been coming to the temple almost daily to teach the Dhamma and Meditation to foreigners who attend the MonkforaMonth project (Facebook= Monk for a month or my Facebook= Fabian Frederick Blandford).
I ordained as a monk on 21st july just before the start of the three months rains retreat.
Upon being advised that I could get a change to non-Immigrant 'R' one year extension of stay by taking a letter from the abbot to the national Office of Buddhism, Buddhamonthon, Nakorn Phrathom, and getting a letter from them.....which I would show to immigration... I went.

People know where the general area of buddhamonthon is...but not the actual place....so best to get a taxi. The actual office is a long walk from the main road if you take the bus.
My documantation was not complete...so I couldn't get the letter. They advised me as to which forms I needed filled in and signed...by the abbot, head monk of the district, and head monk of the province. I already was in possesion of the 'bai Suttee' which is the passport which all monks and novices carry.
Back to my temple and running around getting the signatures. They had given me an addressed envelope to send back to their office by EMS....which I did.
The wait for it to return....I was getting very close to the deadline when my visa would expire..on the 5th of this month...so they sent it direct to the Chiangmai immigration office.
Yesterday I went early......always a queue anyway. I eventually got my visa changed and a new one year extension of stay. cost 1900 Baht...plus about 3000 Baht more running about and down to BKK etc. (who says monks don't need money!!??)
advice...start a month before your visa expires.... if you enjoy walking, the grounds at buddhamonthon are extensive and have varieties of wildlife which seem very tame and easy to photograph.

from next year I shall be able to do the paperwork at the Religious headquarters in Chiangmai instead of going to BKK.

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pilgrim
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Re: Ordination in Thailand

Post by pilgrim » Sat Sep 04, 2010 7:56 am

Congratulations Fabian...I keep myself updated about MFAM at Facebook. Good job up there. :anjali:

sonictravels
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Re: Ordination in Thailand

Post by sonictravels » Fri Sep 10, 2010 1:15 am

Hello,

Does anyone have any information about Wat Tha Ma O? I cannot locate a website which may suggest it wouldn't be easy to ordain there as an english speaker..

Thanks

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yuttadhammo
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Re: Ordination in Thailand

Post by yuttadhammo » Fri Sep 10, 2010 5:11 am

fabianfred wrote:from next year I shall be able to do the paperwork at the Religious headquarters in Chiangmai instead of going to BKK.
Word to the wise... don't. You will find a world of difference between Chiang Mai and Buddhamonton. Trust me. Stick with Buddhamonton and be happy at spending only 3000 on transportation. I spent a month trying to get an extension to my R visa and on the day my visa was set to expire I went in and asked if they could rush it. They asked me why I waited until the last day. Unless you have powerful friends or lots of "tea money" (เงินชา) expect problems at every turn. When my friend sent her application to Buddhamonton, poof, her problems disappeared. In fact, if you talk to them nicely, you can just send stuff to BM by mail and not have to go yourself.

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yuttadhammo
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Re: Ordination in Thailand

Post by yuttadhammo » Fri Sep 10, 2010 5:16 am

sonictravels wrote:Does anyone have any information about Wat Tha Ma O? I cannot locate a website which may suggest it wouldn't be easy to ordain there as an english speaker..
If you are referring to the Burmese Pali center in the North, Talk to the monks at Section 25 in Wat Mahadhatu, BKK. They are connected. I hear it has a new abbot who is not as disciplined as the last. Just hearsay, though.

sonictravels
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Re: Ordination in Thailand

Post by sonictravels » Fri Sep 10, 2010 4:10 pm

yuttadhammo wrote:
sonictravels wrote:Does anyone have any information about Wat Tha Ma O? I cannot locate a website which may suggest it wouldn't be easy to ordain there as an english speaker..
If you are referring to the Burmese Pali center in the North, Talk to the monks at Section 25 in Wat Mahadhatu, BKK. They are connected. I hear it has a new abbot who is not as disciplined as the last. Just hearsay, though.
Well, earlier in the thread, there was a quote from Ven. Dhammanando Bhikkh suggesting it as a good place. I am trying to find somewhere that would offer a good training in Vinaya, Dhamma, and meditation. Does anyone have any opinions about Wat Pah Nanachat in regards to those criteria? As much as I would like to experience the kind of dedication and support as that of the lay communities in Thailand, I am beginning to think that I might get more out of a relatively quieter monastery back here in England such as Cittaviveka.

Anyway, thank you Yuttadhammo.

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yuttadhammo
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Re: Ordination in Thailand

Post by yuttadhammo » Fri Sep 10, 2010 4:49 pm

sonictravels wrote:Well, earlier in the thread, there was a quote from Ven. Dhammanando Bhikkh suggesting it as a good place.
Sorry, I'd not read the entire thread, but that makes it certain to be the same place. Ven Dhammanando is wise in these things, but I imagine most foreigners would prefer an easy place like Wat Pa Nanachat over an exotic experience like Wat Tam Ma Oh. They are mostly well known for their Pali studies, I think. A better place from what I've seen would be Wat Jaak Dang in Samutprakan; they teach vinaya from the pitaka and recite pieces of the patimokkha during evening chanting. They also teach abhidhamma and Pali - the vice abbot is a very well-known Pali scholar and the abbot well-known for abhidhamma. For meditation teaching you might have to look elsewhere, though.
I am trying to find somewhere that would offer a good training in Vinaya, Dhamma, and meditation. Does anyone have any opinions about Wat Pah Nanachat in regards to those criteria? As much as I would like to experience the kind of dedication and support as that of the lay communities in Thailand, I am beginning to think that I might get more out of a relatively quieter monastery back here in England such as Cittaviveka.

Anyway, thank you Yuttadhammo.
You're welcome; personally, I would recommend a place in England over moving to Thailand, unless you have a Thai passport.

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appicchato
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Re: Ordination in Thailand

Post by appicchato » Sat Sep 11, 2010 12:15 am

...unless you have a Thai passport.
Not to contradict, or dispute, but a Thai passport is not necessary…for a foreign national any will suffice...

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yuttadhammo
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Re: Ordination in Thailand

Post by yuttadhammo » Sat Sep 11, 2010 3:35 pm

appicchato wrote:
...unless you have a Thai passport.
Not to contradict, or dispute, but a Thai passport is not necessary…for a foreign national any will suffice...
Maybe my situation was unique, then :) On the other hand, Dhammanando himself has been forced to leave the country, as I understand... maybe he agrees with me.

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