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The mental training of a monk

KeromeKerome Love, love is mysteryThe Continent Veteran

Dear friends,

Lately it has occurred to me that Buddhist monks seem to have undergone a series of practices which have altered the way they think about a number of things. As Western lay practitioners seeking to progress towards enlightenment, perhaps it might be worth disentangling these, and seeing what we should be aiming at doing in our own practice to perhaps mimic these steps.

A first step I would say is freedom from fear. I’ve never yet met a monk in whom fear was a strong emotion, and I think part of their training is releasing those fears as a step towards compassion and true openness. A classic example of what they do is the charnel ground practice — by meditating amongst dead and partially decomposed bodies they gain familiarity with death. Now this isn’t practical for a lot of us in the West, so instead we can work with the imagination to familiarise ourselves with the objects of our fears. But without releasing our fears there are always going to be significant barriers towards compassion and loving-kindness.

A second step might be realising that we are all part of one whole. The teachings on interconnectedness, Buddha nature and metta all help to do this, but it takes time. You end up breaking down barriers of ego-centricity, ill-will, and some parts of self, which is basically a process of deconditioning ourselves away from the habits our body-identity has installed.

I’m sure there are more topics we need to address, perhaps you would care to suggest?

With warm greetings,
Kerome

Shoshinelcra1go

Comments

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited November 8

    I guess one could say that we as 'lay practitioners' have somewhat of an advantage when it comes to training the mind under fire so to speak...as we go about our daily lives ...daily interaction with the ebb & flow of Samsaric life eg family, working with others, deadlines etc etc...

    Sharpening self disciplined amidst the daily grind of dealing with 'at times' not so like- minded people...

    We have many tools at our disposal as well as many teachers...

    However this is not to say that some monastics don't also have a hard time coming to terms with the so-called self ( this psycho-physical phenomenon)...up close and personal...warts & all...

    Vastmindlobster
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited November 9

    I think one of the most important things to focus on is that we are dying.
    We are all going to die.
    Every breath is one breath less.
    We have no idea when, no guarantee of a long and lengthy life.
    Everything is temporary and ephemeral, nothing is permanent and solid.
    Today could be the last time you ever < insert activity here > because you might not get tomorrow.

    These aren't just words, this is real.
    It's very real.

    Get your mind round the fact that at some point, you'll be looking at a moment later on, when you won't be alive to experience it.
    I don't want to die.
    I really, really don't want to.

    As Woody Allen famously said, "I'm not afraid of dying, I just don't want to be there when it happens".

    Well tough shit.
    It doesn't matter what I want, I can't avoid it.

    Hitler couldn't.
    Napoleon couldn't.
    Mother Teresa couldn't.
    Osama Bin laden couldn't.
    Pretty sure Trump won;t avoid it, and nor will HHDL.

    Don't matter who, you're gonna get yours someday too.

    So Live before you die.
    Because trust me, every moment you're breathing, is good.

    lobsterVastmindelcra1go
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @Shoshin said:
    I guess one could say that we as 'lay practitioners' have somewhat of an advantage when it comes to training the mind under fire so to speak...

    An advantage in some ways, because of the everyday, but a disadvantage in others, because we don’t get to train in concentration so easily.

    However this is not to say that some monastics don't also have a hard time coming to terms with the so-called self (this psycho-physical phenomenon)...up close and personal...warts & all...

    Yes indeed, I am sure there are numerous barriers to monastic practice. The question is, what are they and what forms of training do they do to overcome them?

    I’m sure that the Western Buddhist community can learn something from the practices monks undertake, and can use that to inform the sequence of things we should train in as lay people.

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited November 9

    @Kerome said:

    An advantage in some ways, because of the everyday, but a disadvantage in others, because we don’t get to train in concentration so easily.

    Even though monastics have (due to the environment they choose to live in...hmm or karmically inclined ) the opportunity to sit for many hours each day 'uninterrupted' AKA a life in retreat so to speak... we lay practitioners also have the opportunity to train in concentration....but as lay practitioners, "self discipline" seems to be the sticking point, especially when the mind is often charmed by its own thoughts, and in the lay world in which we live, there's plenty to think about...

    Which can be seen as advantageous, because we are (for all sense and purposes) being _trained on the job, when attending (in one form or another) Dharma talks _ AKA learning to row the raft "whilst crossing the ocean"...

    But as I mentioned earlier, for some lay practitioners it's the lack of self discipline which is the spanner in the works...And from what I gather lack of self discipline can also be a sticking point for some monastics, who might end up disrobing...

    Yes indeed, I am sure there are numerous barriers to monastic practice. The question is, what are they and what forms of training do they do to overcome them?

    Patience, thoughts charming the mind, clinging, grasping, craving etc etc... different environment, but same mental barriers as their lay counterparts ....

    Which I guess by Just sitting....will eventually help to develop 'Right View' which encompasses the other Seven... In other words what they do to "overcome these barriers" is to train their minds, just what we lay practitioners are also trying to do...

    I’m sure that the Western Buddhist community can learn something from the practices monks undertake, and can use that to inform the sequence of things we should train in as lay people.

    All that we as lay practitioners have come to understand (experiential understanding) comes from the "Thus have I heard" seeds planted by monastics (either from in the flesh Dharma talks, in books, videos etc etc) and whose own experiential understanding comes from down the line "Thus have I heard" which eventually leads to the source, the lips of the Buddha that "sowed the seeds"...

    And from what I gather the vast majority of monastics who teach us lay practitioners, emphasize the importance of meditation...which leads to a more wholesome and harmonious relationship between one's thoughts words and deeds....

    The mental training of a monk

    I guess the real difference between monastics and lay practitioners is when it comes to "Renunciation" ....
    Where the monastic is training to become free from lust, craving and desires...by giving up the world and leads an holy life

    Whereas we lay practitioners are aiming for the former...and the seeds sown by Dharma talks are aimed at training the minds of lay practitioners in ways to become free from lust craving and desires
    Well from what I gather...that's the plan :)

    lobsteradamcrossley
  • lobsterlobster Veteran Veteran

    That is the plan @Shoshin 💗

    🦧 Monk Key Meditation in or out of the None-array ... 🧘🏻‍♀️🧘🏿‍♀️🧘🏼‍♀️🤽🏻🏵

    Retreat (to go back inward) is the Advance

    Shoshin
  • LionduckLionduck Veteran Veteran

    Heh heh... Az the monks goes through their "trainin", some does and some fakes it (at least a bit). B) B)
    Back to the chocolate and coffee!! <3

    Peace to all

    lobster
  • adamcrossleyadamcrossley Veteran Veteran

    @Shoshin, fantastic post, thank you!

    Shoshin
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