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Becoming a monk; money/assets

edited December 2010 in Sanghas
Hi,

I'm interested in becoming a monk at some stage in the future, and i'm not sure what you're expected to do with regards to your money and assets before you join a monastery. Is the idea to donate and give away everything you own before you can become a monk, or can you leave money in an account indefinitely?

My concern is that if I give away all my money and assets what happens if I decide to become a lay person again. I would have get a job, etc and get 'caught up in the world' again. Whereas if I didn't give away all my money and assets I would be able to spend much more of my time on practicing dhamma, because I would have enough to support myself.

I'm also thinking perhaps given my circumstances it would be best if I just focus on joining a monastery as an anagarika, and then see how I feel about all this in the future.

Thanks in advance for your responses!

Cheers
Pete

Comments

  • edited August 2010
    Magga wrote: »
    Hi,

    I'm interested in becoming a monk at some stage in the future, and i'm not sure what you're expected to do with regards to your money and assets before you join a monastery. Is the idea to donate and give away everything you own before you can become a monk, or can you leave money in an account indefinitely?

    I have no idea, but imagine it would depend on the school you wish to become a monk with. You would have to ask them. I would caution you though that any school that says 'give us all your money' is one you should run from.
    My concern is that if I give away all my money and assets what happens if I decide to become a lay person again. I would have get a job, etc and get 'caught up in the world' again.
    Please do some 'soul searching' and make triple sure you wouldn't be trying to escape the 'real world' by becoming a monk. You can't find enlightenment by running away from reality. I am not in any way suggesting you would be. I am cautioning you to examine your motives for yourself.
    Whereas if I didn't give away all my money and assets I would be able to spend much more of my time on practicing dhamma, because I would have enough to support myself.
    Don't give away your money and assets. Only cults insist upon that and it is to make you helpless. It is designed to make it as difficult as possible to leave. If the school you are considering has this requirement, run. If they have no such requirement, but they hold this idea out as something for the 'more serious' students, run. Don't think, run.
    I'm also thinking perhaps given my circumstances it would be best if I just focus on joining a monastery as an anagarika, and then see how I feel about all this in the future.
    Have you ever been on a long meditation retreat? If not go on one. Do one that lasts a couple weeks. It will be a small taste of monastic life. Use that as a test drive.

    What follows is purely my private opinion based upon my ignorance:

    The monastic life needs to die. 1,000 years ago it was the only real way for truth seekers to get teaching from the 'old masters'. Today the teaching is freely available. There is no need to join a monastic order to get it. If you want solitude, go into the wilderness and meditate for days. If you want a wise old sage, find one and remain a lay person.

    Question for you: What do you think you will gain from becoming a monk that you won't gain from remaining a lay person?
  • edited August 2010
    Thanks for your help.

    I have an affinity for the Thai forest tradition. There's actually a forest monastery not far from where I live (www.wbd.org.au and I do plan on going there in December for a 3 day retreat with Ajahn Tiradhammo; this would be my first retreat. I'll enquire about the whole process of becoming a monk when I'm there. I honestly don't think i'm in any real danger of them trying to convince me of what I should do with my money, but I will heed your advice. I like your idea of going on a longer meditation retreat, it would definitely give me much better idea of what it's like.

    The reason I would like to become a monk is because I think the conditions of monastic life are ideal to practice dhamma; but at the same time I don't believe it's necessary.
  • edited August 2010
    Magga wrote: »
    The reason I would like to become a monk is because I think the conditions of monastic life are ideal to practice dhamma; but at the same time I don't believe it's necessary.

    The conditions of monastic life probably are very conducive to dhamma practice. It's a very simple life where you have next to nothing to pull your attention away from your goal compared to the normal day to day life in a post industrial society with it's endless distractions.

    Still, consider it's downside.

    You may develop a profound peace of mind, achieve incredible depths of concentration, see yourself clearly right down to the bone marrow and then guess what?

    You leave the monastery and run smack into 'reality'. Just a few minutes before switching over to this forum I was reading about a once greatly respected teacher who now lives in disgrace. He is an 'easterner' where the monastic life is more common than it is in the west. He had very little exposure to women given that his monastic life kept men and women separate to avoid the inevitable distractions that a coed system would involve.

    He came to the west to teach. I am sure he was very accomplished in his own right and I am sure he had the best of intentions. Ultimately though he was not prepared for the coed nature predominant in the west. He ended up succumbing to lust that he hadn't had to confront previously as his conditions removed that distraction.

    The moral here is that monastic life = sheltered life. It removes a lot of the distractions that can hinder our spiritual development and that can be a very good thing for taking our development to 'the next level'. However I think it is quite honest to ask ourselves this question: "How robust is my development if it occurred only in a sheltered environment?" "What will happen once I leave this shelter and enter 'the real world' with it's endless distractions and temptations?

    In many ways I think we are blessed to live in the culture we do. Yes, it is endlessly distracting, but at the same time, any progress we make is pretty much bullet proof. I can't say the same about monastic life in the 21st century.

    I am not trying to discourage you from it, rather I am hoping that I can help you see the advantages and pitfalls of it. It some ways it will help greatly, in other ways it is kind of a cop out. It's sort of a 'I will develop profound skill in concentration, but only if every possible distraction has been removed' kind of thing. I can see how it could be useful for a time, but not forever.

    Anyway, be well.
    FoibleFullOneLifeForm
  • edited August 2010
    Hi Magga,
    There are many different kinds of Buddhist monasteries. The Buddha had no possessions so i do not think that giving up everything is such a terrible idea. It all depends on want you want. I do not think that is a requirement for all monasteries, and usually there is a trial period, of maybe a year or two.
    Another idea is look for or start an intentional Buddhist community. That is what I am involved in. We are organized as a not-for -profit. So there are many options for you. There is a web site devoted to intentional communities. It is located at ...http://www.ic.org, and has hundreds if not thousands of communities.
    Good Luck!
  • GuyCGuyC Veteran
    edited August 2010
    username_5 wrote: »
    What follows is purely my private opinion based upon my ignorance:

    The monastic life needs to die.

    I don't know if you have ever had the good fortune to meet any Bhikkhu's or Bhikkhuni's, but based on what you have said I am guessing you haven't. If you have met a real Bhikkhu/Bhikkhuni (one who practices well) then you would have no doubt at all about the value of the monastic path.

    The monastics serve as living examples of what is possible in this lifetime.
    FoibleFull
  • GuyCGuyC Veteran
    edited August 2010
    Magga wrote: »
    There's actually a forest monastery not far from where I live (www.wbd.org.au and I do plan on going there in December for a 3 day retreat with Ajahn Tiradhammo

    Hopefully you will meet Ajahn Khemavaro at WBD, he's a very friendly Bhikkhu.
  • GuyCGuyC Veteran
    edited August 2010
    Magga wrote: »
    The reason I would like to become a monk is because I think the conditions of monastic life are ideal to practice dhamma; but at the same time I don't believe it's necessary.

    This is very much my opinion also.
  • edited August 2010
    Magga wrote: »
    Hi,
    My concern is that if I give away all my money and assets what happens if I decide to become a lay person again.

    If you have those kinds of thoughts, I think its better not to ordain.
    Ordaining is also called "going forth into homelessness" and is usually done with the mindset that your vows are for life.
    That doesn't mean that there is something wrong with disrobing, but if you consider disrobing before you even get the robes, I think its better to stay as a devout lay practitioner.
    Its better to be a good lay practitioner, than a bad monk.

    Much love

    Samten
    FoibleFullPatr
  • edited August 2010
    GuyC wrote: »
    I don't know if you have ever had the good fortune to meet any Bhikkhu's or Bhikkhuni's, but based on what you have said I am guessing you haven't. If you have met a real Bhikkhu/Bhikkhuni (one who practices well) then you would have no doubt at all about the value of the monastic path.

    The monastics serve as living examples of what is possible in this lifetime.

    Yes, my 'must die' comment was clearly over the top. My apologies.
  • edited August 2010
    Thanks everyone for your input. It seems like I might be getting a little ahead of myself. It's nice to know my options aren't as limited as I thought.

    Yeah I do hope to meet Ajahn Khemavaro. I've seem some of his Dhamma talks on Youtube. I think if I could stay at WBD and practice under him for a few weeks or so it would be of great benefit.

    For now I'll keep practicing as a lay person; if I become more involved in various buddhist communities I'm sure I'll be in a better position to know what's best for my practice. I'll leave these issues about ordaining for later, dwelling on them doesn't seem to help. One step at a time!
  • edited August 2010
    Magga wrote: »
    For now I'll keep practicing as a lay person; if I become more involved in various buddhist communities I'm sure I'll be in a better position to know what's best for my practice. I'll leave these issues about ordaining for later, dwelling on them doesn't seem to help. One step at a time!

    BTW - I think most of us have been in your situation. I even catch myself going back to thoughts about ordaining, but I always seem to find that my motivation is very egoistic, when I analyse it.
    Its either because I am dissatisfied with my life, and wants to run away, or because I deep down have a desire to be venerated. It usually ends up with me laughing from the bottom of my heart, at my own foolishness, and then I go back to my practice :crazy:
  • edited August 2010
    magga,

    i had/have exactly the same thought about ordaining myself. but as a householder with a family, my obligation(no other word?) is to that for now. in a post i started, there is a reply about the eight precepts. i could make the joke that since i'm married, celibacy shouldn't be a pose any problems, but i won't.
  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Veteran
    edited December 2010
    Actually the monastic environment is not really different from the regular world. You still have to get out of your bed in the morning and go to "work", and you have all these annoying people you have to live with. I laugh when my teacher, a monk, talks about life in the monastery. Human nature is human nature, whether in or outside of the monastery.

    Life is not as fast-paced, but if you go into a monastery in Thailand, I can guarantee you that the climate and insects will drive you up the wall just as surely as being stuck in a traffic jam.

    Nonetheless, wherever you are, that is the perfect place to practice.

    In some schools of Buddhism, you cannot become a monk until you are ordained by another monk, and since it is there bad karma if they ordain someone who will not keep the vows, they want to see long-term commitment before they ordain you ... often 5 years under their teaching. Furthermore, sometimes even after you have entered a monastery, you must continue to pay your own way financially.

    Don't even think about your assets if you decide to renounce your vows .. they are VOWS ... you're supposed to keep them. Vows are not like getting married ... vows really ARE supposed to be for life. If you are already thinking of the back door, you may not wish to understand how serious the karmas are supposed to be for those who take vows and later drop them.
  • The Sangha...consisting of Monks, Novices, Nuns and lay-followers is called 'an incomparable field of merit for the world...' so they not only provide the example and teaching, but also an opportunity to make much merit.
  • edited January 2011
    I think that if you ordain, you should keep the bulk of your assets in an account. Donate what you wish, but keep a safety net. In the Tibetan tradition, a former monk-friend of mine tells me, one is allowed to give back one's robes up to 3 times per lifetime, and return to the monastery afterward. Vows aren't always for life, but it probably depends on the tradition. I just thought I'd offer an alternate view.
  • A Couple long retreats may change your mind. I find them very difficult. If I had to give up all my assets I would just say ok. Then put them in a account and keep that back up plan.

    I have always found the real world is much harder to deal with after a long retreat. Like someone was commenting, you will progress far in that enviroment but you probably have to stay there.
  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Veteran
    edited August 2011
    "My concern is that if I give away all my money and assets what happens if I decide to become a lay person again."

    Hon, you don't ordain if you think you might change your mind. This is why monks who have the ability to ordain people usually want to know them for some years before they ordain them. It is considered extraordinatily-bad karma to drop your vows.

    There are only three things in life you can't undo:
    1. Being a parent
    2. Death
    3. Having taken vows
  • Magga said:

    My concern is that if I give away all my money and assets what happens if I decide to become a lay person again.

    I understand that in the Theravadan tradition, people become monks as a short-term part of their life, before they go out into the world to make their living and their life.
    However, in other traditions, becoming a monk is a life-long thing.

    In Tibetan Buddhism, you do not become a monk if there is any possible consideration of returning to a lay life.
    TB's have some focus on the merit/karma you acquire. Earned merit gets you another human rebirth, so that you can continue to do your Buddhist practices, and is viewed as a very desirable thing.
    And this IS the reason (in their eyes) to ordain: to resist the urge to kill a mosquito is to set positive imprints in your mind (merit, good karma). However, if you have taken a vow to resist that urge, then following that vow imprints countless times more merit. At the same time, if you swat that mosquito on your arm you imprint a minor killing karma. But if you have vowed to never take a like, then swatting that mosquito imprints a major killing. Even if you have become a monk, but then leave to become a lay person again, the imprints and results of your vows follow you.
    You are just not supposed to become a lay person once you have taken vows.

    For that reason, no Tibetan monk or nun (who is qualified to ordain) will ordain anyone who has not been a student of theirs for a minimum of 3 years. Nor will they automatically ordain even long-term students who ask, if they feel that student cannot or might not maintain and keep the vows.

    There is a Buddhist saying: "Practice like your hair is on fire", meaning be very committed to doing the practices. Becoming ordained is, I suppose, like pouring gasoline on that fire. It is supposed to accelerate your growth and progress, but it is not a revolving door. It's supposed to be a permanent commitment for this lifetime.

    It is important to note that one can progress very quickly without going into a monastery, without taking vows. Everything you do in Buddhism, you do inside yourself. And the greater the outer challenges are, the more opportunity you have to master your practices. Even in the monasteries, there are cliques and bickering ... my teacher (a TB monk) laughs at Westerner's misconceptions about monastery life. But he DOES say you have more time for meditation when you are not working 40 hours a week at a job and when you are free from raising children and other family commitments.
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran
    From what I have gathered from my teacher (Tibetan) once you take the vows of a monk, you should not be considering going back. I realize other traditions are different, but as he said at a treat just today "When I took my vows as a monk, I studied until I gained enough capacity to teach, and then I was told by my master, to teach. It wasn't even what I wanted at the time, but he told me it was time. Once you commit to teaching, your students are your responsibility for life. I live in Minneapolis and I will remain there, as the teacher of my students, until the day I die." You have to start with the foundation of refuge vows, and work your way up, so to speak, and you enter into it from the start with a motivation to help others. If that is not your motivation, you should not be a monk. It is meant to be a life long thing, and it is meant that you will act as a guide and teachers to others. If you are not prepared to commit to that, then you aren't ready to be a monk, IMO. Also, many traditions require you to live in a monastic setting before they will consider you to be a monk. You will have to talk to those in your tradition.

    You said you have at least one center near to you, yet you have never been on a retreat and are still considering being a monk? I think it is a decision to not be taken lightly, and the decision should be made because you desire to help free others from samsara, not just yourself. But like I said, I am not familiar with other traditions, and even within traditions, teachers vary in their opinions on such matters.

    That said, I can still see value in a monastic life. The monk that is my teacher spends 6 months a year living in an apartment in Minnesota, and 6 months at his monastery in Nepal (he also visits Tibet where his family still lives). He told us over the weekend that he has suffered very little in his life due to his training from a young age, and I think that it is very difficult to attain (not impossible, just more difficult) what is needed to be a great teacher to students, without the removal of all the temptations and such that the "real world" offers. Those of us who live in it find value in it, but I increasingly find less and less value in it.
    FoibleFull
  • jlljll Veteran
    if you have a trusted relative eg parents you can give it to them for safekeeping
    for a few years until you are sure you wanna be a monk forever.
    Magga said:

    Hi,

    I'm interested in becoming a monk at some stage in the future, and i'm not sure what you're expected to do with regards to your money and assets before you join a monastery. Is the idea to donate and give away everything you own before you can become a monk, or can you leave money in an account indefinitely?

    My concern is that if I give away all my money and assets what happens if I decide to become a lay person again. I would have get a job, etc and get 'caught up in the world' again. Whereas if I didn't give away all my money and assets I would be able to spend much more of my time on practicing dhamma, because I would have enough to support myself.

    I'm also thinking perhaps given my circumstances it would be best if I just focus on joining a monastery as an anagarika, and then see how I feel about all this in the future.

    Thanks in advance for your responses!

    Cheers
    Pete

  • jlljll Veteran
    try keeping 8 precepts, that should prepare you somewhat.
  • Try this website; www.forestdhamma.org

    Some autobiographical work of a few leading Forest monks from Thailand.

    Good read.
  • SabreSabre Veteran
    edited November 2012
    Hi!

    As others said: go on long a retreat first. It's not really imaginable to see what a monk's life is like without it. You may not like it at all. It'll be quite though especially in an environment like Wat Buddha Dhamma. If you've never been on a retreat you surely can't know how you'll handle. And after that, stay as a guest outside of retreat periods. Most Western monasteries won't allow you to ordain or become a postulant without having been there as a guest for a while anyway. The process of ordaining takes some years.

    If you then decide to go on, you can put your money away, give it to someone your trust, freeze your account or something. In most monasteries, you can't access it while you are a monk, but if you quit, it'll be there. I know a monk of 20 years who still have this money somewhere, they'll probably never use it. But it can also be family wants it there for you.

    About Wat Buddha Dhamma, I'd like to visit it myself too as it seems like a monastery that would suit me - and I'm thinking about ordaining too. Perhaps we'll meet one day! But I live in Europe so travel costs are more than I can currently afford - so it'll take a while. I'll first do some long stays in the UK probably.

    With metta,
    Sabre
  • RebeccaSRebeccaS Veteran
    edited November 2012
    You can just sign them all over to me :p

    If you change your mind I'll just charge you interest :p
  • BhanteLuckyBhanteLucky Monk since 2014 A Forest Monastery Veteran
    The Original Poster hasn't been online here since 2011, January.
    But no doubt the info will be useful for others thinking about ordaining.
    Just don't expect an answer from Magga! hehe
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran
    Haha!! I'm glad you noticed that, usually I check and instead just jumped right in!
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    RebeccaS said:

    You can just sign them all over to me :p
    If you change your mind I'll just charge you interest :p

    My rates are more competitive though...

    :p
    tmottesRebeccaS
  • @GuyC said:
    username_5;125072 said:

    What follows is purely my private opinion based upon my ignorance:

    The monastic life needs to die.


    I don't know if you have ever had the good fortune to meet any Bhikkhu's or Bhikkhuni's, but based on what you have said I am guessing you haven't. If you have met a real Bhikkhu/Bhikkhuni (one who practices well) then you would have no doubt at all about the value of the monastic path.

    The monastics serve as living examples of what is possible in this lifetime.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator
    edited June 2015

    The thread is very old. As far as I can see there was absolutely no need to revive a 5-year-old comment...particularly as a quick glance at the members' profiles will tell you they last posted ages ago....

    @FoibleFull I thought you knew the policy on reviving old threads....?

This discussion has been closed.