I have known and been friends with a few Thai monks and a few Lamas. I don't think either one has a particularly easy life, or that either one is on an easier or more difficult path than the other. We create these options of easy and hard in our own minds. One of my Thai monks friends had been a forest monk. He definitely lived a more austere life. He used to meditate in the woods with wild elephants and tigers coming up and checking him out. Can you imagine, sitting there, meditating, and a giant carnivorous cat is suddenly sniffing at your neck to see if you would be a tasty meal or not? At the same time, his strict vows prohibit him from having any physical contact with women. So, at a casual public gathering, if a woman happens to sit down next to him, he panics and jumps up. My closest lama friend has students all over the world, but mostly in Taiwan and India. His wealthier Chinese students pay for his plane fare and other needs. But he needs nothing, owns nothing, and any cash given to him is quickly used to help others. But he is responsible for so many people, many of whom have a lot of problems, and he has vowed to help them, and he does, constantly, and they call him night and day with their suffering, and he really does a lot to help a lot of people. And if you are a close student and are having a very distressing problem, you might suddenly get a phone call from him wanting to know what is wrong! That is a lot of responsibility.
Monks and nuns live at the mercy of others. None of the ones I know think of their own path as hard or easy. They just do it.
Few, I think, regret it.
Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth. Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.