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g¢ Becoming a Monk? - Page |1 



So, let’s chat a bit. Becoming a monk means 
that you will enter what is known in the Pali texts 
as becoming an anagarika'. This means that you 
are willingly asking to become a homeless one. 
This does not mean that you will live on the street. 
You will likely reside in a monastery or a temple 
residence for monks. Before getting into the nitty- 
gritty of becoming a monk, let’s visit some other, 
equally important aspects. 

Why do People Seek the Contemplative Life? 

Initially, aside from being drawn to monastic 
life, usually, and particularly in the West, one hears 
the Dhamma (the truth of the Buddha’s 
teachings), and develops what is known as 
saddha?. Saddha is the Pali word for having 
conviction; being convinced. This conviction 
develops from hearing the words of the Buddha, 
the Tathagata, which means “the one thus gone.” 
One who possesses (samannagata?) this saddha 
(conviction), begins to consider, reflect and 
contemplate (patisaficikkhati#) that the world and 
life as a householder is inconvenient and an 
obstruction (sambadho®) to completely practicing 
the Dhamma. Thus, the desire to renounce the 
householder’s life gains strength and importance. 

The more the Dhamma and contemplation of the 
monastic life increases the more one desires 
pabbaja® (going forth and taking up the monastic 

Everyone has different reasons for seeking 
the contemplative life. Why is the life of a monk 
called “contemplative?” Shedding your 
attachments to the world as a monk means that 
you will live a life of contemplation. This 
contemplation is mostly grounded in meditation 
and learning the teachings of the Buddha. You will 
learn how to meditate skillfully and in doing so 
you will learn how to fully understand the 
meaning of the Four Noble Truths” and how they 
apply to your own life. 

Your contemplative experience will allow you 
to one day, not only live the Dhamma, but teach it 
to others as well. The more you contemplate and 
meditate, the more you will learn and understand 
from personal experience, the same as the Buddha 
did. It was from his direct experience, and his 
intense contemplation that the Buddha was able to 
experience complete liberation from suffering 
becoming an enlightened being (Nibbana). 

1 Anagarika: homeless | 

2 Saddha: meaning Uc& ; convinced ; believing 

3 Samannagatta: meaning THAMTC ; endowed with ; possessed of 

4 Patisaficikkhati: meaning Ufeasrratct ; To agree with oneself , to consider , revolve a matter in the mind 

5 Sambadho : meaning areal ; Pressure , crowding , difficulty , obstruction 

6 Pabbaja,from pabbajanta: meaning UST ; (pr .p . of pabbajati) going forth; becoming a monk; leaving household life 
7 Four Noble Truths, A Study Guide: 

Considering Becoming a Monk? - Page |2 

My Own Experience Becoming 

Before this happens, you must examine your 
reasons for seeking the contemplative life. I, of 
course, cannot address others’ reasons for seeking 
the monastic life, but I can tell you what my 
reasons were. Now, before I do so, I must explain 
that I am not as yet an ordained monk. I have 
however, taken the first ten precepts in a Zen 
monastery with a teacher, who was also my 

But, I feel it is necessary to start at the 
beginning. For in this way, you will be able to 
realize the facets of my life and how they led me 
to the realization that the Buddha’s teachings are 
the most important teachings any human being 
could pursue, and should pursue. 

From childhood, my background was 
steeped in the teachings of several branches of the 
Christian church. I began with Congregationalism 
in a small New England town. I then decided on 
undertaking Catholicism. I entered my first 
Catholic seminary when I was quite young and 
switched Catholic Orders several times. 
Eventually, as a young man, I decided that the 
Protestant Baptist ministry was my so-called 
calling. Throughout many years I attended a 


Pentecostal church and finally, in my early 30’s, I 
became a baptized Jehovah’s Witness. 

There are several ways of considering why I 
seemed to be searching, as was the case, but at the 
seat of it all, the fulcrum point, the center, was my 
longing to understand myself and the World. I 
could not reason to myself that there was a 
purpose to life. Regardless of all of the various 
World religions that I had become a part of, none 
were able to satisfy my most basic questions: Why 
do people get sick and die? Why is there so much 
suffering in the World? What is the purpose of 
life? How can one be truly happy? 

Leaving out the specifics, one day I happen 
to be receiving treatment in a Physical Therapist’s 
office. There was something playing in the 
background; a woman talking about something. At 
first, I didn’t pay any attention. Then, something 
she said resonated with me and I began to pay 
attention. I thought that the things this woman 
was talking about made perfect sense. When the 
doctor returned, I asked what it was that I was 
listening to. He replied that the woman was an 
American Buddhist nun by the name of Pema 

Being the person that I am, I was not about 
to let this moment slip away. I could not help 
feeling energized. My curiosity, as it is said, got 
hold of me. After leaving the doctor’s office, I 
stopped at a Border’s Book store and sought out 
anything written by Pema Chodron. Her books 
and audio tapes, particularly the one titled, 
“Getting Unstuck®,” were real eye-openers for me. 
I could not learn enough. The more I learned the 
more intense the idea kept tugging at my thinking: 
“What have I been doing all this time? Why hadn’t 
I discovered the teachings of the Buddha before 
now?” Needless to say, there were many reasons 
why I had never contemplated the teachings of 
the Buddha. Most of the Christian World religions 
I had immersed myself in, convinced me that 
Buddhism was idol worship, and this was the 
devil’s work”. 

§ Pema Chodron: 
° Getting Unstuck, by Pema Chodron: 
10 Christianity and Buddhism: Opinion: 

Considering Becoming a Monk? - Page |3 

I must divert a bit at this point. My formal 
educational background, aside from Christianity, 
was in ancient history and law. Upon approaching 
the history of the Buddha and his teachings, I was 
able to piece together certain historical facts of 
time periods and cultures that had likely been 
instrumental in forming the Christian doctrines. 
The most influential, by far, was the culture of 
ancient Egypt. I discovered that the elements of 
the Christian Ten Commandments were in fact 
already written down by the ancient Egyptians 
some 3,000 years before the biblical version was 
written; nearly word for word". Also, that the 
Christian immaculate conception was modeled 
after the Egyptian immaculate conception of 

Aside from these things, the teachings of the 
Buddha made sense. | initially found them to be 
clear, simple and logical. I discovered that most, if 
not all, of the things I had been taught about 
religions like Buddhism, were completely false. In 
my estimation, there were no elements of the 
teachings of the Buddha that, in a strict 
ontological sense, qualified the teachings of the 

Buddha to be a religion in the worldview meaning. 

Moreover, the teachings answered my most 
basic and fervent questions. I realized that the 
man, Siddhartha Gautama (sid-har-tha gow-tah- 
mah) entertained the very same questions that I 
myself sought answers to. I also learned that what 
the Buddha taught was not some dogma or 
doctrine passed down from previous generations 
of aesthetics or clergy, but were derived from his 
own direct experience. I learned that he was not a 
god nor did his followers consider him to be such. 
There was no deity worship and moreover, the 
purpose of his teachings were squarely focused on 
the individual person; the individual practitioner; 
me! There were no commandments to which I 
must adhere, and if I did not, I would live in fear 
of being judged by an Omniscient being as 
undeserving of happiness. 


Of immense importance and consequence 
for me, was the Buddha’s teaching of kamma" and 
how I could, right here, right now, affect the 
nature of, not only my present life, but a future 
existence; another human life following the one I 
was living. Knowing as I do the results of decades 
of research in Quantum Physics, it was logical that 
the energy contained within the human stream of 
consciousness, the same as any other type of 
energy in the Universe, was impervious to 
destruction’. That my own continuous stream of 
consciousness is created by my own actions and 
intentions (kamma), made perfect scientific sense. 

As time marched on, immersing in to study 
of the Dhamma (teachings of the Buddha), I 
began to truly understand myself. I began to 
realize that there was a reason why I found no real 
joy or happiness in the trappings of the World. 
Material possessions did not provide me with the 
happiness that the World believes it does. I found 
that much of my life was insignificant with regard 
to pursuing the things the World considers to be 

In my early fifties, I had already pursued 
several different careers, such as becoming the 
CEO of a California Corporation; a next as senior 
software engineer at a tech company in San 
Mateo, California, then as the Director of Internet 
Technology for a branch of Lawrence Livermore 
Labs in Sacramento, California; next after this as 
the Chief Technology Officer for a manufacturing 
company in Los Angeles, California; in between all 
of this becoming the owner of an Italian 
restaurant in San Francisco, California. Most 
people were shocked and absolutely aghast at my 
desire to simply chuck it all and seek the 
contemplative life as a Zen monk. 

4 Egyptian Origin of the Ten Commandments: | https://jamaica- 

2 Gerald Massey, “Ancient Egypt-The Light of the World”: 

https:/ / 
3 Kamma, A Study Guide: https: // 

4 Law of Thermodynamics: 

Considering Becoming a Monk? - Page |4 

Yet, at the age of fifty-six years old, I had 
gained enough knowledge of the Dhamma and 
decided to pursue the contemplative life. Upon 
doing so, I have never before experienced such 
relief, zeal, determination and peace of mind. 

Was my decision based on my desire to 
escape the responsibilities of the World? In part, 
being honest, yes. The World had been distasteful 
to me for a very, very long time. However, 
becoming a monk would not absolve me of 
responsibility. There were 227 new responsibilities 
that I would have to observe and practice. 

I understood what I would be giving up; my 
home, many, many material possessions, and my 
own privacy. I understood that I would have to 
live in a communal setting with other monks. I 
understood that there were particular habits that I 
would have to end, and not only stop doing them, 
but stop thinking about them. Becoming a monk 
means not only a change of lifestyle but a change 
of thinking. 

Overall, whenever I examined the reasons 
for seeking the monastic life, I could only find that 
there were no reasons why I shouldn’t. The World 
certainly held no value to me with regard to 
personal gain. I truly felt as though there was 
nothing to leave behind. All of my hard-earned 
accomplishments did nothing to quell the desire 
to know the questions I had considered in my 

Learning the Dhamma indicated to me that 
there was nothing in this world that could provide 
me with the most precious of all gifts; peace of 
mind; having a feeling of wholesomeness; of an 
accomplishment that would go far-far beyond 
anything I could receive from the World. For me, 
the reasons “for” seeking a contemplative life, far 
outweigh the reasons not to. Aside from all the 
logical reasons, the one tantamount reason was 
that I would avail myself for the helping of others 
to find happiness, purpose, and understanding of 
their own lives. 


As it happened, before formally committing 
myself, my elderly mother became quite ill. She 
was alone, without any support. She had suffered 
a stroke, and lost much of her faculties, such as 
normal speech, and continence issues. At the time, 
I could not abandon my mother without any care. 
Buddha taught that one must respect their 
parents, particularly when a parent is in physical 
distress. I moved my mother into my home and 
took are of her daily needs, which were many. 
This prevented me from fulfilling my desire for 
seeking the contemplative life at that time. Some 
might disagree, but I could not leave my mother 
to the isolation of a nursing home. I knew my 
mother would likely pass away soon, but while I 
still had the capacity, I wanted to help her to live 
her remaining time with some dignity. Of course, 
my mother eventually passed away in September 
of 2020. 

However, I still face one large and looming 
problem for entering a monastery. I was born with 
a genetic spinal disorder known as Ankylosing 
Spondylitis's, which is a severe musculoskeletal 
disease that effects walking, sitting, and 
movement, along with vision and repercussions 
regarding the heart. 

Although receiving medical attention for this 
condition, there is no cure, and the prognosis is 
not good. Recently (August 2021), after having a 
series of MRI scans of my cervical vertebra, a 
serious condition was discovered. Several of the 
cervical vertebra have developed what is known as 
foraminal stenosis. A radiologist’s report stated 
that the foraminal stenosis'® in several of the 
cetvical discs is severe, others were labeled as 
moderate. This means that the foramen openings, 
located beside the spinal processes, where nerves 
are distributed throughout the limbs, are in danger 
of being occluded or obstructed. A cutting off or 
pinching of these nerves, at these locations, causes 
severe limbic limitations of movement, and 
eventually, if untreated, complete paralysis. 

5 Ankylosing Spondylitis: 

‘6 Cervical Foraminal Stenosis: /cetvical-stenosis/ 

Considering Becoming a Monk? - Page |5 

Knowing that I have such a severe medical 
condition that will only worsen as time passes, I 
have a great concern of being a complete burden 
on any monastic community. Considering that I 
am sixty-five years old at present, and that my 
medical condition has worsened with age, I don’t 
consider that making such a decision is prudent 
nor thoughtful to place such a burden on a 
monastic community. It would be one thing to 
enter a monastery while still young and gradually 
deteriorate whilst there, but to enter a monastery 
at my age, and in my worsened medical condition, 
is not a burden that I wish to hand off to any 
monastery. There is always my next life, and how I 
live my life now, in accordance with the teachings 
of the Buddha, I have no doubt whatsoever that I 
will have a favorable rebirth. So, for now, I must 
practice patience and equanimity and do what I 
can to teach others my own direct experiences 
with practicing the Dhamma. 

However, if you are young, and in relatively 
good health, and are seriously considering the 
contemplative life, then by all means, waste no 
time with formalizing your desire to become a 
monk. Go and talk to a teacher at a monastery or 
temple. If there is no monastery or temple in your 
atea, do some research and find one that is 
accepting new monastics. Making the decision 
now, while you are still able, will be the most 
important decision you have ever made in your 

The First Step - Making Your Decision 

Approaching your decision to become a 
monk, as it was in my own case, I did not have 
this feeling of intense holiness that I experienced 
when pursuing Christian monastic life. There was 
no sense that I would be pleasing to the Buddha if 
I became a monk. There was no one to impress. 
This was a decision based on knowledge, and a 
feeling of compassion for those who know 
nothing of the Buddha’s teachings. With regard to 
giving up the World; renouncing life in this World, 
I understood that I would still have to live in this 
World and be aware of all of its events of 
suffering, but I could look at the World in a 
dispassionate way with knowledge and 
understanding of the Dhamma as my guide. 


Following are some of the reasons ordained 
monks have given for the reason they sought 
contemplative life of a monk. 

“You're asking about reasons (for deciding to become 
a monk)? You say that like I had some kind of choice in 
the matter. I could no more have avoided becoming a 
Buddbist monk than I could stop myself from breathing. 
Sure, I can hold my breath for a while, but at a certain 
point, my body overrides my brain and says ‘We're done 
with this silly exercise, time to breathe again! -Anonymous 

But if you insist on some type of reason, I'd have to 
say it was because of claustrophobia. I looked around at the 
world, and felt hemmed in by three dimensions and the 
Limited possibilities I was aware of: When somebody showed 
me an alternative, I was irrevocably committed, before I had 
the slightest idea what I was committed to.” -Anonymous 

From Ajahn Brahmali: 

“It is only now, after being a monk for almost 25 years, 
that I can say that I truly do believe that these teachings are 
the answer to the meaning of life. The Dhamma is the 
answer to our deepest yearnings for fulfilment and 
completion. It all comes together in the teachings of the 
Buddha. Now I really do think, ‘What else would I want 
to do with my life?” But that’s now, after 25 years! If I'm 
going to be honest with myself, it wasn’t like that when I 
started out. Sometimes, we project the present into the past; 
we think that the way things are now is the way they were 
then. But actually, they weren't like that at all. So, I 
started to think a bit more deeply about how it all started 

It was in Japan that I read my first book on 

Buddhism. It was one of those missionary books, the kind 
you find on the bedside table in your hotel room. Usually 
it’s the Bible, but this was Japan, so there was a Buddhist 
book instead. The book included some of the fundamental 
teachings of Buddhism, such as the Four Noble Truths and 
the Noble Eightfold Path. Somehow these teachings seemed 
familiar to me; they interested me somehow. 

I don’t know when or where, I don’t know what 
gender, but I'm quite sure I was a Buddhist monastic 
somewhere. If this is indeed the case, the consequences are 
quite interesting. It means that rather than freely choosing 
to become a Buddhist monk, I was just following a habit 
from the past. It’s not that I was special or smart or 
particularly wise; instead I was just carrying on, doing the 

Considering Becoming a Monk? - Page |6 

same that I had in the past. This takes away so much of 
the ego. It takes so much of the “me” out of the picture. It 
stops me from thinking that I am special or unusual for 
becoming a monk in this life. Instead, we are all just 
following ancient predispositions. 

But let’s come back to the main point of this little 
essay. The most interesting result of contemplating why I 
became a monk was realizing how little of our lives is 
determined by us. What matters most is not how we steer 
our lives, but our conditioning from the past, a past often 
deeply buried in lives that are no longer accessible to us. 

We are acting out our ancient habits, ike a program 
written long ago but being played out again and again. In 
fact, this is nothing other than the process of moving on in 
samsara, that seemingly endless cycle of birth and death. 

You compare the Buddba’s teachings with your own 
experience of life. On that basis you gain a degree of 
confidence in the Buddba’s words. You then look at the 
teachings in greater detail and combine that with further 
practice. Gradually you start to see that these teachings are 
actually the escape from the trap. All this running around, 
getting nowhere, until eventually you come across the 
marvelous teachings of the Buddha. There is no need to 
look any further. The word of the Buddha contains the 
answer to the very meaning of life. That’s why I am a 
Buddbist monk.” 

Your Decision is made: What You Can Expect 

In general, what can be expected is that you 
will approach a monastery and most likely arrange 
to speak with the head monk, teacher, or 
monastery abbot. If such agrees, the senior monk 
will then likely explain that the decision to 
renounce the world in order to become a 
monastic, is a serious decision. A senior monk 
knows that monastic life does not suit everyone. 
Monastic life means that you are not only isolated 
from the world with regard to those things you 
have become accustomed to in your life, but you 
will live communally with other monks, some fully 
ordained with a lot of experience, and other 
students (samaneras), such as yourself. 


Novice monks are bound by many precepts, 
known as the Patimokkha'* (pah-tee-mohk-kah) 
rules. Full ordination as a monk means the taking 
and accepting of a total of 227 vows". Initially, a 
novice monk will take the first ten precepts, 
known as the dasa sila (dah-sah see-lah), which are 
directly taken from the original Pali texts as set out 
by the Buddha, and these are: 

1. Panatipata veramani sikkhapadam 
samadiyami: I undertake the precept to refrain 
from destroying living creatures. 

2. Adinnadana veramani sikkhapadam 
samadiyami: I undertake the precept to refrain 
from taking that which is not given. 

3. Abrahmacariya veramani sikkhapadam 
samadiyami: I undertake the precept to refrain 
from sexual activity. 

4. Musavada veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami: 
I undertake the precept to refrain from 
incorrect speech. 

5. Suramerayamajja pamadatthana veramani 
sikkhapadam samadiyami: I undertake the 
precept to refrain from intoxicating drinks 
and drugs which lead to carelessness. 

6. Vikalabhojana veramani sikkhapadam 
samadiyami: I undertake the precept to refrain 
from eating at the forbidden time (Le., after 

7. Nacca-gita-vadita-visuka-dassana veramani 
sikkhapadam samadiyami:I undertake the 
precept to refrain from dancing, singing, 
music, going to see entertainments. 

8. Mala-gandha-vilepana-dharana-mandana- 
vibhusanatthana veramani sikkhapadam 
samadiyami: I undertake the precept to refrain 
from wearing garlands, using perfumes, and 
beautifying the body with cosmetics. 

7 Ajahn Bramali: Fad] Text: “Why I am a Buddhist Monk: How a young Norwegian engineer became a renunciant 
18 Introduction to the Patimokkha: 

19 Pull 227 vows of Theravada monk: 

Considering Becoming a Monk? - Page |7 

9. Uccasayana-mahasayana veramani 
sikkhapadam samadiyami: I undertake the 
precept to refrain from lying on a high or 
luxurious sleeping place. 

10. Jatarupa-rajata-patiggahana veramani 
sikkhapadam samadiyami: I undertake the 
precept to refrain from accepting gold and 
silver (money), which renounces the pleasures 
and activities of worldly life. 

Ordination as a monk is accomplished 
through a series of steps. At each point, either the 
monastery or the person aspiring to ordination 
may decide that the process should go no further. 
Due to this, it is important for those who have 
decided to begin the process, not to cut-off all of 
their worldly ties. Do not sell off all of your 
belongings, at least until you are close to the step 
of novice ordination. Sometimes a monastery may 
have an age requirement, some have none. But 
those monasteries that do, the age range is 
generally between 25 to 35 years. 

Initially, some common steps you can expect 
to follow are: 

After your application for residency and 
being accepted, you will need to complete a 
minimum six months to one-year as a novice 
(samanera). In the Theravada tradition, an aspirant 
for ordination presents themselves at a monastety, 
have their head shaved, and take the Eight 
Precepts, sometimes referred to as the Anagaraka 
precepts. Then you will spend about a year as an 
anagarika (homeless one) wearing white robes and 
assisting the monks whilst also learning the basics 
of the monastic life. After these initial steps you 
can then request what is called the pabbaja. 

Second Step — Going Forth (Pabbaja) 

The significance of the “Going Forth” 
(pabbaja) step is the same as the Buddha. This is 
why the Buddha is called the “Tathagata,” which 
means “one who has gone forth” and has through 
his own efforts awakened to the truth of reality. 


The Buddha described these truths in his 
very first teaching, known as the 
Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta”*, which is the 
sutta setting the wheel of truth in motion. 
Everything the Buddha would teach for the forty- 
five years of his teaching career was taught in the 
context of this first teaching. 

One who has gone forth is one who has left 
the sense-pleasures and sense-distractions of the 
world behind. When the Buddha left his father’s 
palace, leaving behind his wife and infant son, he 
had thus “gone forth” in a very literal physical 
sense. In doing so, he left behind any political 
power he may have had, all of his possessions, and 
all of his responsibilities of family in order to seek 
understanding, knowing that all of these things 
were distractions to learning the truth of the 
nature of reality. 

Going forth, was a common, socially 
acceptable and practical occurrence among 
spiritual seekers during the time of the Buddha, 
who lived among other spiritual seekers in the 
Jain, Brahmin and Hindu traditions. Wandering 
and seeking was a tradition that was supported by 
those who remained “attached” to the world, and 
its responsibilities and distractions. Wandering 
ascetics and spiritual teachers, exchanged their 
teaching and knowledge for food and clothing. 
Knowledge that was gained from these teachers 
was considered of great benefit. 

This is less practical and socially accepted 
today. Support of the monastic communities, 
particularly in the West today, is lacking in many 
respects. This is due to the fact that there is not as 
much value placed on developing one’s spiritual 
life than developing one’s economic life. Many 
people do not understand the needs of monastic 

However, just as it was in the Buddha’s time, 
the desire to develop understanding of the 
Buddha’s teachings has endured, intact for 2,600 
years. The Dhamma, the teachings of the Buddha 
are still available in the same form when the 
Buddha first presented it. Many people, although 
desiring the monastic life, are not able to leave the 
householder life behind. 

20 Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta: 

Considering Becoming a Monk? - Page |8 

But, for those that embrace the authentic 
Dhamma, as taught by monastics, develop an 
insight that signals in them a whole-hearted desire 
to practice as a monastic. 

The Pabbaja Sutta?! describes going forth. 
Dhamma practice on the monastic level develops 
the experience of leaving the world behind while 
continuing to live in this mental/physical world. 
As a monastic you will lose attachment to the 
world and go forth into the open air of 
dispassionate mindfulness known as equanimity. 

If, after a period of residency your desire to 
ordain continues to be strong, and your teacher 
agrees, you can request to take the Anagaraka 
precepts, which is the first stage toward monastic 
life. At this stage the student will wear the white 
robe. The Anagarika precepts are the same as 
those followed by all residents when they stay at 
the monastery. 

If your teacher agrees, and is willing to 
consider you as a candidate for ordination, he will 
specify a waiting period before you may take 
novice vows. This period varies from person to 
person and in some instances the monastery, but 
is usually six months to a year. During this time 
period you must remain in residence at the 
monastery, participating fully in the life of the 
monastery including full work responsibilities, 
retreats, and Pali and sutta studies. When the head 
monk determines that you are ready, you will be 
given the novice ordination. 

At the end of a year you can choose to take 
the Going Forth (Pabbaja) as a novice monk 
(samanera). In this ceremony you will take Ten 
Precepts, which are your novice monastic vows. 
After a year as a novice you will have the 
opportunity to partake in the Higher Ordination 
(Upasampada) of a fully ordained monk. While 
this series of events entails a minimum of a few 
years, it can take longer, depending on your own 
progress and efforts. Upon successful completion 
of your time as a novice (usually one year) you will 
be eligible for full ordination. 

Preparing for Monastic Life 

In Western countries, where Buddhist 
monasteries and monasticism are relatively new, 
you may have to arrange for a family member to 
make some purchases for you while you are in the 
monastery. This is not always the case as most 
monasteries accepting novices are established. 
However, small or new monasteries may not have 
all of the necessary items you will need, such as 
personal items such as shavers, soap, deodorant, 
toothpaste, and certain clothing items such as 

If your income, savings or other financial 
holdings are substantial or substantial enough to 
provide yourself with necessities, you may want to 
discuss this with a senior monk. In my own case, I 
would have been able to give money to my 
monastery abbot to hold and use for my own 
necessities if there is no family member or other 
person who could do this for you. 

If you have no such financial means, and you 
currently work for your income, you may want to 
arrange to decrease yout living expenditures in 
order to save some money for basic necessities 
while you are in the monastery. Of course, this 
may not be necessary as I mentioned, some 
monasteries are already prepared for this and have 
good support from the lay community. 

Monks generally rise early in the morning 
and begin their monastic duties before breakfast. 
Each monastery has different schedules. But, it is 
a good idea before entering the monastery that 
you begin practicing a monk’s schedule. This 
means that you rise early in the morning, eat your 
breakfast and lunch. Most Theravada monasteries 
follow the Vinaya rules, therefore you will not eat 
anything after noon-time, until the following day’s 

It is also a good idea to immerse yourself in a 
regular meditation schedule. This means 
meditating a few times a day, and if possible, 
reading vatious Dhamma texts. This can be done 
easily on the Internet. You will not have to 
purchase books. 

21 Pabbaja Sutta: 

Considering Becoming a Monk? - Page |9 
fo) oO oO 

One of the best resources on the Internet is a 
Theravada site known as Access to Insight”. 
There are others, but in my own experience, I 
have found this to be a nearly inexhaustible source 
for learning the original Pali texts of the Buddha’s 
teachings in the English language. 

Also, it is a good practice to prepare by 
thinking about giving up your worldly possessions. 
Not right away. If you have advanced to the point 
of taking your novice vows, this is a good time to 
consider this. Monks live as mendicants, meaning 
they possess only what is required for a very 
simple quality of life, nothing more. You'll be 
provided with clothing, sundries, and other items 
you need to stay comfortable from day to day. 
However, generally, electronic devices, computers, 
laptops, cell phones, as-well-as expensive clothes 
ot shoes, and anything that could be considered a 
luxury item is not allowed. Monks are not allowed 
to possess items that could inspire emotions like 
greed, envy or possessiveness. 

Contemplation of the fact that your monastic 
and lay community will become your new family. 
Once you join a monastery, your life will be 
devoted to your community, known as a sangha. 
Your days will be spent in service of others, and 
your focus will be on those who need yout help. 
You will have little contact with your family, and 
will be encouraged to think of your new sangha 
community as your new family. 

Before pursuing ordination, you may want to 
discuss this with your family and let them know 
what is to come. Some monasteries don't accept 
candidates who are married or have other strong 
relationship ties. Single people are more able to 
devote themselves to the teachings of the Buddha, 
since they don't have outside forces pulling their 
attention away. 

It is VERY important that you make yourself 
ready to take a vow of chastity. Monks do not 
engage in sexual behavior of any kind. In some 
cases, male and female monks (or nuns) are not 
allowed to communicate with one another about 
matters that aren't related to the Dhamma. It is 
wise to practice chastity before becoming 
ordained so that you can find out whether you're 


suited to a chaste life. The idea is that the energy 
you'd normally put into sex is directed to matters 
greater than the self. 

Decide what kind of commitment you want 
to make. In some traditions, ordination is meant 
to be a lifelong commitment. However, there are 
other traditions in which it's perfectly fine to 
pursue ordination for a limited number of months 
or years. In Tibet, for example, many men 
complete two or three-month ordinations to 
develop their spiritual identities before eventually 
getting married or pursuing careers. So, make sure 
the monastery you're interested in joining offers 
the level of commitment you want. If you're not 
sure, it's possible to do a two or three-month 
ordination, then pursue a longer-term ordination 
later. In the Theravada tradition, there are no 
temporary ordinations. One either commits ot 
they do not. 

One of the suttas that I studied before taking 
my vows was the Samafifaphala Sutta: The Fruits 
of the Contemplative Life3. However, prior to 
taking my vows in the Mahayana Zen tradition, I 
was instructed by my teacher to study the 
autobiography of Xu Yun, a Chinese Zen Master, 
known as “The Empty Cloud.” Additionally, I was 
instructed to study the following: the Surangama 
Sutra, the Brahma Net Sutra; the Great Stages of 
the Path to Enlightenment, known as the Lam 
Rim Chen Mo; the Abhidharma Kosa Bhasyam; 
the Mahaparinirvana Sutra; the Avatamsaka Sutra; 
the Treasury of Knowledge of Buddhist Ethics; 
Nagatjuna’s Perfection of Wisdom; the 
Visuddhimagega by Bhikkhu Nanamoli, the Lucid 
Exposition of the Middle Way; and lastly 
Nargarjuna’s Six Perfections by Arya Nargarjuna. 
These will not be required study in the Theravada 

After completing my initial monastic vows, I 
was given a Dharma name by the senior monk. In 
the Mahayana traditions, dharma names are given 
to both monastics and lay persons. However, in 
the Theravada tradition, dhamma names are only 
given to monastics. 

22 Access to Insight: https://www.accesstoinsight.ore/index.html 
g P g g 

23 Samannaphala Sutta: 

Considering Becoming a Monk? - Page | 10 

Dhamma names are considered aspirational, 
rather than descriptive. In the Theravada tradition, 
Dhamma names are given in the Pali language, 
and is chosen by the monastic’s teacher or 
monasteries senior monk in which one is 
otdained. A monastic does not select their own 

In my own case, my original Dharma name 
that I received by the senior monk is Thich Minh 
Dang. According to the seminal work: "Buddhist 
Literature: A Proposed Scheme of Classification 
and Cataloguing of Works on Buddhism-Modeled 
on The Buddhist Collection at Van Hanh 
University Library, 1964-1999, written by the 
Venerable Dr. Thich Nhu Minh, its chief 
librarian, Sanskrit scholar and current abbot of the 
oldest Vietnamese temple in the United States, 

"Regarding Buddhist names in Vietnamese 
tradition; because all monastics take the word 
“Thich”, a shorten form of “Thich Ca” which 
means “Sakya’’, as their surname to indicate that 
they are “sons of Sakyamuni the Buddha”, and 
belong to the same family clan named “Thich”, we 
have to honor this practice. That is to accept 
“Thich” as a surname and record as such in the 
cataloguing process." The meaning of my Zen 
Dharma name is “illuminate lamp.” 

Eventually, after I switched traditions from 
Zen (Mahayana) to the Theravada tradition, I was 
assigned a Pali Dhamma name by a fully ordained 
Theravada monk, which essentially has the same 
meaning as my Zen Dharma name, which is 
Dipobhasadhamma or Depabhasadhamma. In the 
Pali language this refers to a lamp cau ; dipa), a 
light (STMT ; obhasa); light, (UA) ; illuminating 
the Dhamma (truth). This Pali name has 
essentially the same meaning as the Zen 
Vietnamese (Mahayana) name Thich Minh Dang. 

Where Do You Stand? 

It is not necessary that you are completely 
educated in the Dhamma; the teachings of the 
Buddha. However, upon approaching a 
monastery, you must have at least a cursory 
knowledge and understanding of the Buddha’s 
teachings. Also, you must be able to express a 


clear reason why you seek the contemplative life 
of a monk. 

Before making this commitment, realize that 
your days of going to rock concerts or dance clubs 
is over. No more Louis Vuitton, no more bank 
accounts or credit cards. Seriously consider giving 
away or selling all of your possessions; your car, 
that great euitar or keyboard you wanted so badly. 
How about all those mementos, such as gifts from 
friends and family. No more sex, of any kind. 
And, from the moment you take your novice 
vows toward finalizing your intention to take the 
vows of full ordination, all you will need are the 
very basics; a bowl from which to beg, a few 
robes, shoes or sandals, personal items such as 
shavers, deodorants or soap, and so on. 

Still you are wanting nothing more than to 
commit the rest of your life to being a monk. 
Then what is it that you are waiting for. Go and 
find a monastery! Talk to monks who have some 
experience and who are ordained. Talk to an 
experienced teacher. If it is your heartfelt 
intention to pursue this life, then you will find a 

J wish you the very best!