Ever thought about leaving everything behind and become a Buddhist monk?
Have you, at some stage in your life, felt inspired by devoting yourself to meditation and helping others?
I’m always happy when I hear that someone is considering to walk that path. It can be a unique way to deepen one’s understanding and to help people.
However, let me share a few things I learned on the way (I was a Tibetan buddhist monk for 10 years). I summarized them in 4 tips that you might want to consider before making a decision.
Here are 4 important aspects of a monk’s life, I’ll start with the rough ones. If you are a woman considering to become a nun, the very same applies.
Personal tranquility? Just forget it.
The mass media has fed us pictures of serene meditators, facing gorgeous Himalayan landscapes.
You’ll probably have moments like that if you chose to become a monk, but that’s the icing on the cake.
No, seriously, you’re going to be busy. Very busy. Probably busier than you’ve ever been:
– Taking care of people (a lot of lost souls end up in Buddhist environments)
– Organizing everything (teachings, religious events, accounting, I even worked on computers)
– Washing the dishes
– Cleaning the monastery
And that’s on a 24/7 basis, no vacation (or hardly ever), no WE. Your retreat will be limited to a small room in which you’ll probably be solicited at anytime.
So, it’s advisable to forget about personal tranquility…And intimacy along with it.
Girls, girls, girls….
As a Buddhist monk, you’ll take the vow of chastity (unless you become a Zen monk). It means you’ll renounce having sex. No sex, not even on your own.
For guys, that’s usually a challenge (and for girls too, when they become nuns).
Why would someone choose not to have sex?
Because all the time you don’t spend doing it is reinvested in your meditation and yoga practice. That’s often well worth it.
It also changes your perception of desire, you generally discover that it’s not what you think. Many people learn a lot about themselves through chastity, they get very intimate with their true identity.
Most westerners decide to switch back to a lay life after a while, but it’s usually an experience that makes them more mature and self reliable.
In Thailand, a lot of women will refuse to date a guy if he hasn’t been a monk for at least three months (that’s a tradition there). They would be scared to be with a guy that can’t get a hold of himself.
I’ll probably get some hate mail on this topic, but I can take it, I am talking out of my experience, here, and sexuality has never been a problem for me.
Right environment + right guidance
If you’d like to become a monk, you need to choose your community well, because that’s all you’re going to have. You will officially renounce having a family.
You’ll live in a monastery or at least among your peers, THEY’ll be your family.
Needless to say that since you can choose them, it’s wise to investigate before jumping into a spiritual community.
A Buddhist monk also needs to rely on some spiritual guidance, often incarnated by a master.
That guide had better be good, otherwise he might mislead you. If the guy (or gal) is wacked out or in a power trip, you’re in bad trouble. This part is critical.
All the more critical as there are lots of psychopaths that choose to be Gurus, they’re often successful at that and hard to identify (this might be helpful if you have doubts).
At this point, if you’re still not discouraged, the below is within your reach.
Moments of grace
As a monk, as a guy that has abandoned worldly concerns, you’ll have peaceful moments, some will stretch endlessly.
You’ll build areas of inner peace, and they will be yours for the long run.
You’ll meet outstanding persons, accomplished masters.
You’ll gain something inside that nobody will steal from you.
As for many other things: personal experience is probably the best way to know if that choice is right for you.
If you’re inspired by the monk path and you’d like to try, you can experience a sample of it. Some Buddhist schools offer to give vows for a very limited time (a day, for instance).
See how it works with your personality, whatever choice you make in your life: lay person or monk, walking the monastic path for a while will help you know yourself much better.
A few books that I recommend if you want to dig into Buddhism and meditation: