I disrobed and returned to "normal" life

Discussion of ordination, the Vinaya and monastic life. How and where to ordain? Bhikkhuni ordination etc.
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JamesTheGiant
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I disrobed and returned to "normal" life

Post by JamesTheGiant » Sat Dec 02, 2017 9:33 pm

One week ago I disrobed and returned to "normal" life.
I have been at monasteries and meditation centres for a total of 6 years, at Bodhinyana monastery for 4 years 6 months, two years as a full bhikkhu, a year and a half as a novice, and a year-and-a-bit as an anagarika. I've spent more than a year and six months in intensive silent retreat. And now it's time to go!

Why? Three main reasons:
(ONE:) After 6 years living in various monasteries and meditation centres, I have decided that I am Buddhist, I am a meditator, but I am NOT an ascetic, or renunciant.
I just don't like asceticism, renouncing the worldly world. I like the occasional beer. I like music and films and poetry, and great books. I like the company of women. I enjoy hiking up rugged mountains, riding bikes, exploring new places, swimming on a hot summer's day, and growing vegetables in the garden. I would like to go sailing with my father, while he is still alive and healthy enough. And I want to go hiking with my mother, who has just turned 70.

(TWO) I used to love coming to the monastery and staying for a few months each year, when I was a layperson. Now it seems like a bit of a chore. I used to love meditating, but now that it is my job I don't like it so much. I want to go back to that time when I liked being at the monastery and meditating without pressure or outside expectation. I want to get away from this feeling of obligation and the "duty of a bhikkhu" to be like this or that. It's not possible to chill out and act natural. I have to be so composed and artifical all the time. No burping around laypeople, no loud laughter, no humming a happy tune. No running from place to place from simple exuberance and energy, or having a normal innocent conversation with a woman.
I have to pretend to be "nice", when most of the time I don't feel like being "nice" at all. I'm a "real" person, not a "nice" person.
I'm tired of playing the role of "Restrained Ascetic Theravada Bhikkhu", and just want to be myself.
I know Ajahn says "Don't try to be the perfect monk, just be yourself", but when you actually do that, people raise eyebrows, frown and tut-tut.

(THREE) Back in my home town I had a really great group of friends. We cared about each other. At the commune if someone was having a hard time, or got into trouble, my friends would be concerned and there would always be someone to help out. We were connected. There was compassion. There was always someone to have a yarn with, deep into the night... either talking enjoyable nonsense for hours about nothing, or talking about deep stuff like spirituality or emotions or relationships. We really cared, and wanted to help each other.
At monasteries each of us have a few genuine friends, but most of the people are just like workmates or colleagues. People who are nice, but you only spend time with them because you work with them. That's not enough. I want to return to the community I left, and rebuild those friendship connections.

SO WHAT'S THE PLAN?
Go back to New Zealand, get a temporary job, maybe tour-guiding? Then spend a year at university getting a Post-Graduate Diploma in Primary Teaching, then become a schoolteacher.

Buy a sailboat! Live on it, and sail a lot. I would like a huge yacht, but my budget probably extends only to a 8.5m keeler, with one bedroom, a kitchen-lounge, and shower and toilet. It's like living in a big caravan, except it floats.

The monastery said I'd be welcome back any time, and I left them on very good terms. I'm still Buddhist and a meditator, just not a monk. So who knows... maybe in a few years I will be reminded of how meaningless the "real world" is, and will go back... maybe!

I'll end this on a positive note: There are many things I still like about monastic life, even though I have left:
  • > A feeling of brotherhood, of being in community.
    > A sense of purpose, of shared meanings.
    > A longer outlook than just one single life.
    > Lots of time for meditation and just being.
    > The bliss and peace generated by meditation.
    > Sometimes it feels like it's a holiday every day!
    > Good food.
    > Living off the grid.
    > I don't have to work at some pointless job 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, for someone else.
    > The potential of enlightenment in this life.
    > Not buying into the bulls#%t of worldly values = social status, fancy house, nice car, the best toys.
I will ask about changing my username soon, hopefully back to my previous one of James the Giant if that's possible. (My previous username was Bhante Lucky)
Last edited by JamesTheGiant on Sat Dec 02, 2017 11:29 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
SN 9.11

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DNS
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Re: I disrobed and returned to "normal" life

Post by DNS » Sat Dec 02, 2017 9:58 pm

I changed it to JamesTheGiant with no spaces because the system wouldn't let me change it to the one with space in between since that account still exists.

Good luck with the transition back to lay life. Was one of the issues with monasticism, the dealing with pastoral duties?

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Re: I disrobed and returned to "normal" life

Post by Sam Vara » Sat Dec 02, 2017 10:00 pm

I didn't realise that Bhante Lucky and James were one and the same!

Many thanks for this update. It's great that you remain so positive about the whole experience, and can bring such honesty and awareness to it. You have obviously benefitted a great deal. I wish you (and your Mum!) all the best for the next chapter.

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Re: I disrobed and returned to "normal" life

Post by SarathW » Sat Dec 02, 2017 10:01 pm

Hi James
Thank you for your sharing your honest feedback. I am glad you left the monkhood as you could not live up to their standard. I rather bow down to you than to a monk who is trying to deceive the general public. I suggest you keep contact with Bhante Dhammanado.
I am glad you understand that you are going back to this bull S--- lay life again. While you are dreaming to come back to lay life I am dreaming to enter the monkhood.
Buy the way do you have enough fund to get back to normal life?
All the best an see you again in DW.
:group:
Last edited by SarathW on Sat Dec 02, 2017 10:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: I disrobed and returned to "normal" life

Post by Lucas Oliveira » Sat Dec 02, 2017 10:08 pm

Itivuttaka 92 - The Hem of the Robe

“Bhikkhus, even though a bhikkhu might live a hundred leagues away, if he is not covetous for objects of desire, not strongly passionate, not malevolent, uncorrupt in thought, with mindfulness established, clearly comprehending, concentrated, of unified mind and controlled faculties, he is close to me and I am close to him. What is the reason? That bhikkhu sees Dhamma. Seeing Dhamma, he sees me.”

https://suttacentral.net/en/iti92
[1] There was once a Western monk, a student of mine. Whenever he saw monks and Thai novices abandon the robe, he would say, "Oh, what a pity! Why do they do that? Why do so many Thai monks and novices give up? "He was shocked. He was saddened by the relinquishment of the Thai monks and novices because he had just come into contact with Buddhism. He was inspired, he was resolute. Moving on as a monk was the only thing to do. I thought he would never leave the cloak. The one who did this was a fool. He saw the Thais picking up their robes at the beginning of the Rain Retreat as monks and novices and then undressing at the end ... "Oh, how sad! I'm sorry for those Thai monks and novices. How could they do such a thing? "

Well, as time went on, some of the monks in the West began to stop being monks, so he came to see it as not so important after all. First, when he had just begun his practice, he was excited about it. He thought this was a very important thing, to become a monk. He thought it would be easy.

When people are inspired everything seems so right and good. There is nothing to measure feelings, so they go ahead and decide for themselves. But they do not really know what practice means. Those who know will have a completely firm foundation in their hearts - but even so they do not need to announce it.

[1] An informal talk given in Ajahn Chah's kuti to some monks and novices at the end of an afternoon in 1980.

https://nalanda.org.br/chah/nao-e-algo- ... dos-nobres
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Re: I disrobed and returned to "normal" life

Post by Goofaholix » Sat Dec 02, 2017 10:21 pm

Welcome back James, here's hoping you'll get to do all the things you hope to do and this board will continue to enjoy the benefit of your experience.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah

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Re: I disrobed and returned to "normal" life

Post by Mkoll » Sat Dec 02, 2017 10:55 pm

Thanks for your honest report. It's heartfelt posts like these that make this forum worth visiting.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Re: I disrobed and returned to "normal" life

Post by pilgrim » Sat Dec 02, 2017 11:14 pm

I'm sorry to hear that James. Wish you all the best in your future and hope you will continue to support the sangha and growth of the Sasana.
As a side point, can you advise how many monastics and anagarikas are currently in training at Bodhinyana, their nationalities, etc? There is no info on the resident community on the Net. I also know of someone who is on the waiting list for "admission" to the monastery. Would you know how long this list is? It may be helpful for those considering training here.

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Re: I disrobed and returned to "normal" life

Post by JamesTheGiant » Sat Dec 02, 2017 11:27 pm

DNS wrote:
Sat Dec 02, 2017 9:58 pm
Was one of the issues with monasticism, the dealing with pastoral duties?
No, there were no pastoral duties because there are so many senior and middle monks there, and I was junior. At Bodhinyana we don't really interact with laypeople in a teaching role until 5 years.
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
SN 9.11

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DooDoot
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Re: I disrobed and returned to "normal" life

Post by DooDoot » Sat Dec 02, 2017 11:36 pm

JamesTheGiant wrote:
Sat Dec 02, 2017 9:33 pm
One week ago I disrobed and returned to "normal" life. I have been at monasteries and meditation centres for a total of 6 years, at Bodhinyana...
Hi James. I recently heard Ajahn Jag (Jaganātha) of Newbury Monastery disrobed. Without transgressing any relevant confidentiality, are you able to offer any explanation about this? Thanks
Last edited by DooDoot on Sat Dec 02, 2017 11:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: I disrobed and returned to "normal" life

Post by JamesTheGiant » Sat Dec 02, 2017 11:38 pm

pilgrim wrote:
Sat Dec 02, 2017 11:14 pm
As a side point, can you advise how many monastics and anagarikas are currently in training at Bodhinyana, their nationalities, etc? There is no info on the resident community on the Net. I also know of someone who is on the waiting list for "admission" to the monastery. Would you know how long this list is? It may be helpful for those considering training here.
As of 2017 there are 25 bhikkhus and novices, 5 anagarikas, and the waiting list for non-Australians is at least two or three years, or even more. If someone can get an Australian PR visa or is a citizen of Australia or New Zealand, they can get in with only 6 months waiting time probably. Due to the visa agreements the monastery has with the Australian government, they have to accept locals before foreigners unfortunately.
If someone overseas wanted to ordain at Bodhinynana, I would suggest they put their name on the waiting list, and then find their second-choice monastery and go stay there until they get to the top of the list. Otherwise they might be waiting for a very long time!
Even for visiting bhikkhus there is hardly any space, with all the kutis full all the time.
Hope that helps clarify things. :namaste:
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
SN 9.11

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JamesTheGiant
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Re: I disrobed and returned to "normal" life

Post by JamesTheGiant » Sat Dec 02, 2017 11:44 pm

DooDoot wrote:
Sat Dec 02, 2017 11:36 pm
Thanks James. I recently heard Ajahn Jag (Jaganātha) of Newbury Monastery disrobed. Without transgressing any relevant confidentiality, are you able to offer any explanation about this? Thanks
He was cool, a real enthusiastic monk. I liked him a lot. I don't know why he disrobed, since he left when he was at Newbury I think, and I was in Perth. There was no scandal or anything though.
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
SN 9.11

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Re: I disrobed and returned to "normal" life

Post by retrofuturist » Sat Dec 02, 2017 11:46 pm

Greetings James,

Thanks for sharing your reflections.

:buddha1:

Metta,
Paul. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

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Re: I disrobed and returned to "normal" life

Post by mikenz66 » Sat Dec 02, 2017 11:51 pm

Welcome back James. Thank you for sharing.

It would be nice to see you in person at sone point.

Best wishes
:heart:
Mike

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JamesTheGiant
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Re: I disrobed and returned to "normal" life

Post by JamesTheGiant » Sun Dec 03, 2017 12:02 am

mikenz66 wrote:
Sat Dec 02, 2017 11:51 pm
Welcome back James. Thank you for sharing.

It would be nice to see you in person at sone point.

Best wishes
:heart:
Mike
Thanks Mike, and yes, I do plan to come up to visit your local monastery/temple at some point. Your temple seems to be the closest Theravada monastery to me. There are a couple of temples and a bunch of monks down here in Dunedin, (Sri Lankan & Cambodian) but they are all just houses in the suburbs, with no space for guests or visitors. There is one Thai temple, but Oh Dear, it's Dhammakaya.
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
SN 9.11

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Re: I disrobed and returned to "normal" life

Post by mikenz66 » Sun Dec 03, 2017 1:49 am

OK, James, pm me when you are settled. I managed to run into Goofaholix last January at a retreat, and it would be nice to meet a few more people in person.

:heart:
Mike

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Mr Man
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Re: I disrobed and returned to "normal" life

Post by Mr Man » Sun Dec 03, 2017 10:22 am

Hi JamesTheGiant
May monastic life's loss be "normal" life's gain.
:anjali:

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Re: I disrobed and returned to "normal" life

Post by Zom » Sun Dec 03, 2017 2:47 pm

Thanks for being sincere, especially with yourself, and of course for sharing this valuable experience with others.

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Re: I disrobed and returned to "normal" life

Post by Stiphan » Sun Dec 03, 2017 3:27 pm

Hope you learned and gained a lot from your monastic life, James, and that it will be a beneficial learning experience in your lay life!

Would you say being a monk was difficult?

Obviously, sensual pleasures have their lure and it is very difficult not to give in to them. If or when I become a monk I plan to remain a monk for life, and I hope to be able to do that, but I understand that for many it's easy to see the sensual enjoyment of lay life vs the strict asceticism of monastic life as a reason to disrobe, and I'm sure it won't be easy for me either. I, however also see the danger in "ordinary" life and the benefits of renunciation. Remember the gratification, danger and escape teaching.

There is gratification in lay life that you enumerate in your post with many examples - sensual pleasures that give much joy and satisfaction, but then there is the danger as well: old age, sickness, death, the impermanence of all acquisitions, pleasures and joys, the inevitable physical and mental pain; and then there is the escape. People say it's wrong to see monastic life as escape as if it's a mistake to become a monk to escape the dangers I enumerated, but if one is serious about escape from saṃsāra, then monastic life is the way to go, and it involves renunciation of sensual pleasures, albeit difficult. But then you have to weigh in the advantages of that renunciant life. But since I've not been a monk yet, I probably am not entitled to judge anyone who disrobes since I haven't seen it from the inside. This is why I can only wish you the best in lay life and hope it was the experience of a lifetime for you!
Call me Stephen, please. May you be well and happy. :heart:

Know right from wrong — and their consequences — and act accordingly, always doing your very best.

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Re: I disrobed and returned to "normal" life

Post by binocular » Sun Dec 03, 2017 5:01 pm

JamesTheGiant wrote:
Sat Dec 02, 2017 9:33 pm
One week ago I disrobed and returned to "normal" life.
I have to say I saw this coming, because in your posts here, you didn't sound like a monk, there was no authoritative impetus in your words. And "Bhante Lucky"? What was up with that?

I, for one, am not happy when a monk disrobes. Obviously, he has his reasons, and in some ways, it is probably better to disrobe than to pretend or try to be something that he strongly feels he isn't.
Nevertheless, disrobing is a form of betrayal that can cause a crisis of faith for lay people who have relied on that monk to teach them the Dhamma.

I think (novice) monks should live in isolation and not teach lays or publicy present themselves as representatives of the Dhamma until they are sure they want to be monks for the rest of their lives.

Take care.

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