Monastic Life

“You’re going to become a What?

“You are going to do everything, on purpose, that everyone else is trying hard to avoid? Like Discipline, Commitments, Sitting on the Floor, Noble Silence, Wearing a bed sheet  in public and Waking up early?

“All this, so that you can renounce everything everyone else thinks makes life worth living? Like Entertainment, Parties, Lavish food, Singing and dancing, Wine, women and song, Fast cars and fast women, Gossip, Strong opinions, Being right, Self-promotion, Self-adornment, Revenge, Late nights, a Vacation house in Belize, Tacquilla sunrises on the beach, Spiffy clothes and Hair?

“What are you thinking?”

These were questions of my own mind, raised for the umpteenth time.

“You see,” it replied to itself, “We are born into a Looking-Glass World, a world of Misperceptions in which Forward is really Backward, Outside is really Inside, and what seems Soothing is really Too Hot to Handle. A monk or a nun is someone who, generally even before understanding it completely, at least acknowledges that these Misperceptions exist and lives accordingly, who passes out through the Looking Glass to inhabit, as a matter of Vow, Bodily, Verbally and Mentally, the World as it Actually Is.”

Perplexing to many, the life of the monk or nun is actually one of ease, one of detachment from the petty concerns of the world that keep most people so fired up, in order to turn one’s energy, time and interest to more pressing matters. The Sangha, consisting of monks and/or nuns, has been an integral part of Buddhism in every Buddhist country in Asia since the time of the Buddha, in in fact is a consistent factor running throughout Buddhism, the cord that keeps the beads of the mala in line. The voluminous Vinaya, the founding charter of the Sangha, is perhaps  geographically the most widely respected Buddhist scripture, outside of a handful of individual original suttas/sutras.

The pages listed here discuss various aspects of the monastic Way of Life as defined in the Buddhist scriptures and as it exists in Asia and the West today and of the social role the monastic Sangha plays in the Buddhist project. I think the greatest adaptation of the monastic tradition that American Buddhism will require will be in equalizing the roles of monks and nuns. Some of the links below will lead to abundant discussion of gender issues.

Bhikkhu Citita’s Essays.

  • Ordination as a Bhikkhu. A personal account of Bhikkhu Cintita’s ordination in Burma and what it means.
  • Bhikkhu’s Robes. The experience and significance of the monk’s attire.
  • Feeding the Monks. Alms rounds and the rituals around monastic meals.
  • Science and Vinaya.  Monastic discipline has its counterpart in the structure, obligations and ethics of the scientific community, and plays a similar role int the perpetuation of the integrity of the tradition.

External Links for Monasticism and Vinaya.


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