How to become a Buddhist Monk
June 3, 2009 9:44 PM Subscribe
I want to become a Buddhist monk at some point in my life and live out my days in a authentic monastery, preferably in a traditionally Buddhist country. Please advise.
posted by DetonatedManiac to Religion & Philosophy (18 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
I have studied Buddhism academically and know the essential premises common to all the Buddhist tradition from a lay person perspective. I know Buddhism teaches, in a nut shell, that we are all living in Samsara and destined to eternal rebirth in suffering and delusion. The origin of this suffering is attachment and craving, but through giving up our attachment and the 8 fold path we can attain liberation. I know there are roughly 3 basic branches Theravada (crudely "lesser vehicle"), Mahayana ("Great Vehicle", including zen), and Vajrayana (Tibetan etc).
The more I live and experience the more a path of renunciation and abandoning the home life seems the correct path (even if I may be too frail and inculcated in materialism to ultimately follow that path). The Buddhist Dharma appears from my (admittedly limited) understanding to be ultimately true and I want to deepen my understanding of that truth.
I know this will be a years / decades long journey simply to find the correct teacher, let alone be accepted, let alone travel to another country/learn another language and become a monk etc.
And I also know that more than likely this amorphous dream will remain just that. But even still I would like to have a plan in place that can move me closer to that ultimate goal in a reasonable way. Perhaps I will not abandon my life such as it is now, but perhaps I will and I want to be prepared so that I can make that jump. And even if I don't, perhaps I can find an authentic Buddhist Sangha here that can deepen my insights and perhaps put me on the path to liberation despite the material culture we are surrounded by.
What I don't know is how to decide which tradition to join, and how to become a part of a legitimate lineage in the Buddhist Tradition. All of the so called Buddhist "temples" I have seen in the US (admittedly not that many due to a scarcity of options) seem at best watered down "New Agey" and at worst borderline cult of personality or profit motivated. Not the places where the essence of the Buddhist texts I have read is taught, practiced and nourished, at least not in a very effective way.
So I guess my immediate question is where can I find a Buddhist temple linked to a legitimate traditional lineage, preferably one that would be open to admitting a Mid 20's Anglo like myself and be within driving distance of Raleigh NC, but not be watered down and "Americanized"?
Barring that, where can I find a temple, even without any strong native cultural roots, near said location that will deepen my understanding Buddhism and not lead to new-agey tangents or dead ends, or worse, some sort of cult?
More broadly, which branch should I follow? I see aspects of all 3 that are appealing and seem like effective paths to enlightenment. Theravada is of course the oldest and most venerated, but the Mahayana idea of attaining the selfless bodhisattva ideal, enlightenment for all, seems a much nobler goal and less secluded. Finally, the esoteric teachings and metaphysics of Vajrayana fascinate me, and the expedited path to enlightenment is a plus; as well (as superficial a consideration as this is) I feel a strong pull to Nepal, the foot of the Himalayas (it is silly I know, but motivates me none the less).
I should note, I strongly believe that all three Buddhist traditions, properly practiced, are true teachings and effective paths to enlightenment. But I know the Buddha said "Follow that path that you will get the most out of" (or something to that effect), so that is what I am pondering over.
The real tie breaker is which tradition is likely to accept me, and also which one I can start building inroads to now in my "normal" American life. A final consideration is the political situation. Some of these countries, like Burma and Sri Lanka etc do not have the most stable and western friendly regimes.
But it is not a race or a competition, I lay those out merely as unfortunately practical considerations. I welcome and appreciate any other thoughts or considerations you might be able to add.