Ordaining as a monk or nun in the west

Discuss your personal experience with the Dharma here. How has it enriched your life? What challenges does it present?

Re: Ordaining as a monk or nun in the west

Postby Indrajala » Sat Apr 12, 2014 4:28 am

Huifeng wrote:Plenty of support from the Taiwanese / Chinese community over here. :smile:

I also feel that very good progress has been made on a lifestyle for celibate clergy living in the 21st century, based on Vinaya and classic Chinese monastic systems, but also quite modern at the same time.


However, Chinese/Taiwanese Buddhist monasticism doesn't work out with most people outside that cultural fold. That's why the vast majority of western monks/nuns who ordain in a Chinese tradition inevitably drop out due to the soul crushing levels of conformity and obedience required.

Regardless of whatever progress you state might have occurred in recent times, it still isn't viable for an international community.
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Re: Ordaining as a monk or nun in the west

Postby JKhedrup » Sat Apr 12, 2014 5:28 am

Agreed, it is a difficult cultural negotiation. Taiwanese monasteries wpuld be more successful with foreigners if they wete willing to be a little flexible.

Tibetans, though not generally abke to financially support Western Sangha, are far more willing to make cultural allowances.

Theravadan countries can generally provide basic requisite support as well as a measure of cultural accomodation. But there are more barriers for women.
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
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Re: Ordaining as a monk or nun in the west

Postby Indrajala » Sat Apr 12, 2014 6:34 am

JKhedrup wrote:Agreed, it is a difficult cultural negotiation. Taiwanese monasteries wpuld be more successful with foreigners if they wete willing to be a little flexible.


I think they would have more Chinese men signing up and sticking around, too.

Tibetans, though not generally abke to financially support Western Sangha, are far more willing to make cultural allowances.


I think many of them could if they wanted to (like paying for visas and airfare if need be), but they don't want to as western sangha is problematic for them on multiple levels, both culturally and socially.

What often strikes me as odd is that they have huge issues with getting visas for monks to go to the west or East Asia from South Asia (Tibetan monks abroad have a tendency of running away and claiming asylum), yet they never seem to consider just getting monks/nuns from the destination country to fill those jobs. You could easily train them to do sand mandalas or elaborate pujas. It would be easier logistically for example to have American monks accompanying some eminent teacher to America.

Again it just suggests to me that Tibetan Buddhism in general neither wants nor needs monastics from outside their fold, and such sentiments are only reproduced amongst western Tibetan Buddhists who wouldn't spit on you if you were burning on the side of the road.
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Re: Ordaining as a monk or nun in the west

Postby Huifeng » Sat Apr 12, 2014 6:51 am

Never mind, lads, I'm sure someone will look after you one day... :consoling:
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Re: Ordaining as a monk or nun in the west

Postby JKhedrup » Sat Apr 12, 2014 6:56 am

The asylum issue as well as the benefits of someone having the target language as their mother tongue, led to FPMT's founding of their translation school.

As long as I can keep working as an interpreter, which I love, I am all good, I even can take care if my teachers in that role through cooking etc.

Old age is a little scary, but I can be frugal. Taiwanese Buddhism in terms of caring for aged Sangha is leagues ahead of other traditions.
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
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Re: Ordaining as a monk or nun in the west

Postby Indrajala » Sat Apr 12, 2014 7:34 am

Huifeng wrote:Never mind, lads, I'm sure someone will look after you one day... :consoling:


How condescending of you, Huifeng.
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Re: Ordaining as a monk or nun in the west

Postby Indrajala » Sat Apr 12, 2014 7:35 am

JKhedrup wrote:The asylum issue as well as the benefits of someone having the target language as their mother tongue, led to FPMT's founding of their translation school.

As long as I can keep working as an interpreter, which I love, I am all good, I even can take care if my teachers in that role through cooking etc.

Old age is a little scary, but I can be frugal. Taiwanese Buddhism in terms of caring for aged Sangha is leagues ahead of other traditions.


If your welfare rests squarely on the ability to provide translation services which generate income for Dharma centers, then you might consider charging these ungrateful people a professional fee for your services.
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Re: Ordaining as a monk or nun in the west

Postby rory » Sat Apr 12, 2014 7:39 am

Indrajala wrote:
JKhedrup wrote:The asylum issue as well as the benefits of someone having the target language as their mother tongue, led to FPMT's founding of their translation school.

As long as I can keep working as an interpreter, which I love, I am all good, I even can take care if my teachers in that role through cooking etc.

Old age is a little scary, but I can be frugal. Taiwanese Buddhism in terms of caring for aged Sangha is leagues ahead of other traditions.


If your welfare rests squarely on the ability to provide translation services which generate income for Dharma centers, then you might consider charging these ungrateful people a professional fee for your services.


Absolutely!
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Re: Ordaining as a monk or nun in the west

Postby Huifeng » Sat Apr 12, 2014 8:19 am

Indrajala wrote:
Huifeng wrote:I'm sure that because you're walking the right path, due to the unerring power of karma, by doing good deed, sooner or later, the good result will come in. If you think that's condescending, that too will have its result. :consoling:


I've unfortunately really come to expect nothing else from you.


Nothing else than what? A confirmation that you're on the right path, and that you'll get a good result in the end?

~~Huifeng
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Re: Ordaining as a monk or nun in the west

Postby Malcolm » Sat Apr 12, 2014 1:05 pm

Indrajala wrote:You could easily train them to do sand mandalas or elaborate pumas.

It would be easier logistically for example to have American monks accompanying some eminent teacher to America.



It would seem so. However, it takes many years of training to be a ritual attendant, as well as fluency in both spoken and literary Tibetan. Creating sand mandalas is not easy. It is a craft that takes a long time to perfect.


Again it just suggests to me that Tibetan Buddhism in general neither wants nor needs monastics from outside their fold, and such sentiments are only reproduced amongst western Tibetan Buddhists who wouldn't spit on you if you were burning on the side of the road.


Tibetans monasteries are quite happy to take in Westerners in general. What you don't understand is that Tibetan Monasteries in general do not really provide everything for their monks, who depend on families and benefactors for much of their needs. This is one of the sociological reasons for having monks do prayers on one's behalf, etc.
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Re: Ordaining as a monk or nun in the west

Postby JKhedrup » Sat Apr 12, 2014 1:21 pm

Exactly, it is different from the Taiwanese monasteties where the institution as a whole takes care of Sangha ( this is a fairer system IMO). However, from what I have seen you live a much more labour intensive lifestyle with little personal tine for study or meditation. Those who the Chinese monasteries sponsor to study at university are the lucky few, not the majority. The level of scholarship is not very high at the onsite colleges, one really needs to go to a university. Work hours at the various jobs are very long.

The exception to this is CTTB whete work hours are comparably shorter and there is emphasis on group cultivation.

At a place like Sera or Namdroling, one has to seek out sponsors for anything but the most bare necessities. However, one's primary duty in both places is to attend the Geshe/ shedra program, and go to puja. Kitchen duty is based on a rota of 3 days a month.One's 'job' is to study and attend prayers. Namdroling offers a ritual colkege for those more interested in that aspect, for Gelug monks they can choose to enter the tantric college instead of geshe program as a junior monk if they are more ritually inclined.

Things are better than they were historically. For example Lama Zopa Rinpiche and other sponsors take care of all the mesls at Sera, it is not up to each individual to take care of several of those meals as it used to be.

Of course, in old Tibet parents were thrilled when a child ordained so even if poor were inclined to send support
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
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Re: Ordaining as a monk or nun in the west

Postby JKhedrup » Sun Apr 13, 2014 3:53 pm

In my opinion the Chinese origin monks and nuns :stirthepot: of Tibetan Buddhism living in Taiwan, Singapore etc. Generally have good situations.

While the main teachers are usually Tibetan masyers, the local sangha is supported in language study, retreat , study and to travel to attend teachings. It would be unheatd of to charge monks and nuns to attend a teaching event at Tibetan dharma centres in that part of the world.
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
JKhedrup
 
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Re: Ordaining as a monk or nun in the west

Postby Zhen Li » Sun Apr 13, 2014 10:41 pm

You get what you put in. If you expect a sangha to support you for life, you should be expected to do everything they require of you. But if you want to be free to do what you want and be supported for life, that's just living on dole - may be possible in Theravada cultures, but everywhere else, it's frowned upon and more or less unrealistic.
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Re: Ordaining as a monk or nun in the west

Postby smcj » Sun Apr 13, 2014 10:54 pm

Vajrayana may very well become the domain of the retired, the trust-funded, and the destitute. Either that or the working stiff that has no personal life and devotes his spare time to dharma practice. Only time will tell.
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Re: Ordaining as a monk or nun in the west

Postby JKhedrup » Mon Apr 14, 2014 4:35 am

You get what you put in. If you expect a sangha to support you for life, you should be expected to do everything they require of you. But if you want to be free to do what you want and be supported for life, that's just living on dole - may be possible in Theravada cultures, but everywhere else, it's frowned upon and more or less unrealistic.



If monks and nuns are sincerely offering service to their Buddhist communities, or engaging in serious study or retreat, I see no reason why they should not be assisted with at least the minimum requisites of life. Indeed, the Buddha indicated this was something very desireable.

I don't understand how supporting people who teach, study and offer service in a dharma context could in any way be compared to people who go on the dole because they'd rather not work.

In terms of offering one's life to an organization- you are right, for guaranteed security it is logical the organization demands guaranteed loyalty in return. The unfortunate side of this is that, from what I have seen, is that the organization becomes more important than the dharma itself. And the individual monk or nun must often sacrifice their own spiritual development in favour of the organization. If there is no spiritual development, which leads to an increase in mental qualities that benefit others, why ordain at all? Why not serve the organization in a lay capacity, if one will be given no facility for spiritual growth? Greater autonomy means greater uncertainty, but one is free to leave if an environment becomes unfavourable for spiritual developlment or makes it impossible to truly benefit others. It is up to the individual to decide which road to take.

Unfortunately, doing "everything an organization requires of you" means that often Sangha members end up unhappy, burnt out and more stressed out than the laypeople they are supposed to inspire with their cultivation. Hence why several of the larger organizations had to hire psychologists for monks and nuns that were having breakdowns due to high levels of work-related stress.

A monks' or nuns' primary responsibility should be to the dharma. Doing "everything an organization requires of you" sounds a little bit like working for a corporation to me. Doing "everything an organization requires, within reason, as long as it does not compromise ones' study, practice or dharma service" would be a more suitable outlook. After all we are talking about monks and nuns, not corporate executives. Hearing the teachings, contemplating them,and meditating on them should be the foundation of one's monastic life.
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
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Re: Ordaining as a monk or nun in the west

Postby Indrajala » Mon Apr 14, 2014 5:12 am

Zhen Li wrote:You get what you put in. If you expect a sangha to support you for life, you should be expected to do everything they require of you.


And who gets to decide the requirements?
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Re: Ordaining as a monk or nun in the west

Postby JKhedrup » Mon Apr 14, 2014 5:17 am

And who gets to decide the requirements?


Unfortunately, often administrative types rather than qualified spiritual masters. Which means that they are not always taking into account the welfare of the individual monastic.

In large organizations, the qualified teaching masters are often not able to monitor the spiritual progress of the individual monks and nuns, so such a situation presents unique challenges.

Large organizations can also provide more stability, a greater variety of opportunities (and greater variety of difficult positions), and a chance to meet all sorts of different people. So I am not saying they are all bad, just that when one makes a decision about joining a spiritual community as a monk or nun there are many factors one should take into consideration.
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
JKhedrup
 
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Joined: Wed May 30, 2012 8:28 am
Location: the Netherlands and India

Re: Ordaining as a monk or nun in the west

Postby Indrajala » Mon Apr 14, 2014 5:43 am

JKhedrup wrote:
And who gets to decide the requirements?


Unfortunately, often administrative types rather than qualified spiritual masters. Which means that they are not always taking into account the welfare of the individual monastic.


And seldom are administrators in Buddhism elected democratically (which, incidentally, would be more in line with the Vinaya, but almost nobody cares about the Vinaya when it starts infringing on power structures). You might have to spend decades of your life before you have a voice in an organization you've committed yourself to. Don't tow the party line and everything you gained could be lost.

Honestly I believe small scale establishments are better than larger organizations. In the old days of East Asia you usually had a master and his/her apprentices. This meant living as a family more or less rather than in a small town.

I think this is a far more viable in western countries, too.
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Re: Ordaining as a monk or nun in the west

Postby JKhedrup » Mon Apr 14, 2014 5:57 am

Agreed, there aren't resources for monolithic organizations in the West really anyways
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
JKhedrup
 
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Joined: Wed May 30, 2012 8:28 am
Location: the Netherlands and India

Re: Ordaining as a monk or nun in the west

Postby Zhen Li » Mon Apr 14, 2014 6:00 am

JKhedrup wrote:If monks and nuns are sincerely offering service to their Buddhist communities, or engaging in serious study or retreat, I see no reason why they should not be assisted with at least the minimum requisites of life. Indeed, the Buddha indicated this was something very desireable.

It's just not going to happen in all circumstances, but that one can practice the Dharma and serve the Dharma at all, that is admirable regardless.
JKhedrup wrote:A monks' or nuns' primary responsibility should be to the dharma. Doing "everything an organization requires of you" sounds a little bit like working for a corporation to me. Doing "everything an organization requires, within reason, as long as it does not compromise ones' study, practice or dharma service" would be a more suitable outlook. After all we are talking about monks and nuns, not corporate executives. Hearing the teachings, contemplating them,and meditating on them should be the foundation of one's monastic life.

It all depends upon how one views the organisation and it's goals at large, and the individual tasks in question. Whether they are dharma practice or not depends on the mind. Everyone has different karma, and isn't suited to the same approach. One approach that some find helpful can only be a hindrance to others, and some more still may be incapable of seeing any benefit at all in the approach of another.
Indrajala wrote:And seldom are administrators in Buddhism elected democratically (which, incidentally, would be more in line with the Vinaya, but almost nobody cares about the Vinaya when it starts infringing on power structures). You might have to spend decades of your life before you have a voice in an organization you've committed yourself to. Don't tow the party line and everything you gained could be lost.

Honestly I believe small scale establishments are better than larger organizations. In the old days of East Asia you usually had a master and his/her apprentices. This meant living as a family more or less rather than in a small town.

I think this is a far more viable in western countries, too.

There is much truth in what you say. But in the end it depends both upon what one is bringing to the table in the first place, and what one's expectations are. But I wouldn't necessarily discount that one may end up in a low-density situation, be close to one's guru, or what have you. Also, I'm not sure about administrators in the Vinaya... :thinking:
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