Ordination in Mahayana

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Ordination in Mahayana

Postby Rokushu » Thu May 15, 2014 3:48 am

What is the process for ordination in the Mahayana tradition? I live in a Theravada country and grew up in the Theravada tradition, where ordination as a monk is very straightforward, just go to the monastery, tell the abbot you want to ordain, and ordain. Is it quite so easy in Mahayana? If I went to a monastery in Japan, say, and went to the abbot and expressed a desire to ordain, would it be so simple? Also, what precepts do Mahayana monks take, not vinaya? Or do some keep vinaya precepts?
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Re: Ordination in Mahayana

Postby rory » Thu May 15, 2014 6:36 am

Rokushu wrote:What is the process for ordination in the Mahayana tradition? I live in a Theravada country and grew up in the Theravada tradition, where ordination as a monk is very straightforward, just go to the monastery, tell the abbot you want to ordain, and ordain. Is it quite so easy in Mahayana? If I went to a monastery in Japan, say, and went to the abbot and expressed a desire to ordain, would it be so simple? Also, what precepts do Mahayana monks take, not vinaya? Or do some keep vinaya precepts?


Rokoshu; it's very different in Japan, I suggest you ask Ven. Indrajala, a Canadian monk, who studied in Japan. Japanese tradition clergy are ordained with the Bodhisattva vows, again Ven. Indrajala, who is a scholar is the person to answer you. Rev. Dodatsu is from Singapore and ordained in Jodo Shinshu and studyign in Kyoto. There are also Australian, US, Tendai priests here at DW and they can give you insight into the way Mt. Hiei is helping ordain outside of Japan.
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Re: Ordination in Mahayana

Postby Indrajala » Thu May 15, 2014 7:37 am

Rokushu wrote:What is the process for ordination in the Mahayana tradition? I live in a Theravada country and grew up in the Theravada tradition, where ordination as a monk is very straightforward, just go to the monastery, tell the abbot you want to ordain, and ordain. Is it quite so easy in Mahayana? If I went to a monastery in Japan, say, and went to the abbot and expressed a desire to ordain, would it be so simple?


If you find a certified preceptor willing to ordain you, then it is pretty straightforward. You go through a ceremony, get the robes and kesa, and receive a hōmyō 法名 (dharma name). If this is done officially within the context of a given school, I believe there should be paperwork and perhaps a registration fee. It depends on the tradition.

I think Zen Buddhist institutions that accommodate foreigners would be the easiest of places in Japan to get ordained. That being said, Shingon and Tendai institutions would require that you receive extensive training, all of which normally costs a lot of money. A Shingon seminary, for example, requires a guarantor plus you need to know Japanese very well.

Also, what precepts do Mahayana monks take, not vinaya? Or do some keep vinaya precepts?


The Vinaya traditions went extinct in Japan a long time ago. Again, it depends on the tradition. Sōtō Zen has Dogen's set of precepts. Tendai uses the Brahma Net Sūtra to ordain a "bodhisattva renunciate". If you want the details of the latter, see here:

https://sites.google.com/site/dharmadep ... os-reforms
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Re: Ordination in Mahayana

Postby Huifeng » Thu May 15, 2014 8:01 am

Rokushu wrote:What is the process for ordination in the Mahayana tradition? I live in a Theravada country and grew up in the Theravada tradition, where ordination as a monk is very straightforward, just go to the monastery, tell the abbot you want to ordain, and ordain. Is it quite so easy in Mahayana? If I went to a monastery in Japan, say, and went to the abbot and expressed a desire to ordain, would it be so simple? Also, what precepts do Mahayana monks take, not vinaya? Or do some keep vinaya precepts?


Hi,

While you mention "... in Japan, say...", the Mahayana tradition also covers China. So, maybe I can add a comment about ordination in Taiwan as a good example of that.

See: viewtopic.php?f=69&t=11532&p=150880&hilit=+Taiwan+ordination+preceptor#p150880

If one has a shifu and otherwise is qualified to ordained, then they are usually accepted.

But, I am not sure if a shifu is what you mean by a sponsor or reference. While there are few if any ways to enforce such a principle, there is a basic notion that on ordination, one stays with one's shifu / preceptor for the first five years at least. It was considered (by Taixu and others) that people ordaining but then immediately going independent without proper training was a cause for the degradation of Buddhism in China in the late Qing.

So, in general, one needs a shifu, not just a letter saying that one is a good person and would make a nice bhiksu/ni. And in general, if they had the scruples, the monastery hosting the ordination would check to see if that is bona fide.

For the monastery that is hosting the ordination, then they obviously can do a very full and complete job of screening. But usually, the screening starts with tonsure, not with the triple platform. And tonsure doesn't (necessarily) involve sramaner/ika ordination. At FGS, we have pretty much three levels of screening for applicants from our own college (or internally wherever). The first level is the real test, which is the teachers and dean(s) of the buddhist college, who see the applicants on a daily basis, living, studying and working together.

By the way, Dharma Drum do not do their own triple platform ordination, though FGS and Chung Tai do. It requires some really large scale work to do this. Though, incidentally, the present abbot of DDM, Ven. Guo Dong, was one of the acaryas for the FGS ordination held a little over a year ago.


And: viewtopic.php?f=77&t=14348&p=190240&hilit=+ordination+shifu#p190240

China or Taiwan: What country is best or possible easy to become a buddhist monk?

Assuming, of course, that you are not referring to people who are either PRoC citizens or RoC (Taiwan) citizens, then the answer is very obvious: Taiwan.

As I recently posted on another similar thread, it is -- I believe -- technically illegal for non-citizens to ordain and receive training as a Buddhist monk or nun in the PRoC. Sure, one could probably find some dodgy jia heshang and send them a red envelope -- they may do the deed, but one is highly unlikely to end up with a proper jiedie at the end of it. But, from what I know, if the SARA gets whiff of it, some deep doodee is going to go down...

This is not to say that the situation in Taiwan is "easy". One could maybe try same red envelope technique -- but again, not jiedie worthy of the term is going to result. So long as one has the proper recommendation from their shifu -- who wouldn't necessarily have to be in / from Taiwan, then could attend a triple platform ordination (not that these happen every week...) But, better still, train at a good monastery with a Buddhist college, and then go to such an ordination from there.


If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.

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Re: Ordination in Mahayana

Postby Indrajala » Thu May 15, 2014 8:09 am

Just bear in mind that a good number of westerners who ordain in Taiwan inevitably run away and/or disrobe.

A lot of westerners who ordain as Japanese clergy remain as such for life. Few remain celibate, but nevertheless they have long careers as practitioners, scholars or community leaders of some sort or another.
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Re: Ordination in Mahayana

Postby Rokushu » Thu May 15, 2014 8:44 am

Oh, so many informed and interesting responses! Rory, yes, very helpful, and just curious, "willing to ordain", so in the Mahayana tradition a temple can refuse you?
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Re: Ordination in Mahayana

Postby Indrajala » Thu May 15, 2014 10:35 am

Rokushu wrote:Oh, so many informed and interesting responses! Rory, yes, very helpful, and just curious, "willing to ordain", so in the Mahayana tradition a temple can refuse you?


Although the manual says you're supposed to be able to renounce provided you're healthy and haven't committed any huge misdeeds in the past, in practice the clerics reserve the right to decide who does and doesn't ordain.

A lot of Japanese temples are not open to the public. They're private institutions. If you wanted to be a monk you need to find a place willing to accept you first of all. That can be initially difficult.
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Re: Ordination in Mahayana

Postby Malcolm » Thu May 15, 2014 3:35 pm

Huifeng wrote:While you mention "... in Japan, say...", the Mahayana tradition also covers China.


And Tibet.
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Re: Ordination in Mahayana

Postby Huifeng » Fri May 16, 2014 1:07 am

Malcolm wrote:
Huifeng wrote:While you mention "... in Japan, say...", the Mahayana tradition also covers China.


And Tibet.


Yes, of course, sir. :namaste:
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