How to become a Buddhist Monk

Life in a Monastery is not so easy, there are plenty of rules and you have to get up every day around 4am. The pictures here will give you a visual idea what’s going on.

About the Order of the Sangha or Bhikkhu (monks) and the Order of Bilkkuni (nuns) for men and women wishing to renounce the world and live a life of purity, austerity, perseverance and self-discipline. To achieve one’s goal although one’s spiritual

progress is expedited by this process. A lay follower can also become an Arahat (Saint) and proceed to his or her final destination.

Community of Monks

is the Sangha. After his enlightenment the Buddha founded an order of monks, who under his training were to attain to Arahants or Enlightened Ones and then spread his gospel to men. His first disciples were five ascetic wanderers with whom he had lived for a time in his earlier search for truth.

These were converted as a result of his first sermon at Benares, the sutta of turning the wheel of the doctrine. Later two Brahman ascetics, Sariputta and Mogallana, joined him and attained the status of arahants.

He made these two his main disciples, perhaps the best known of the early disciples is Ananda, who became his personal attendant, and by his faithfulness and affection earned the title of the ‘beloved disciple’. He was spiritually the most immature of all the disciples and in the scriptures is constantly asking questions which however result in the clarifying of the teaching in monastery.

He did not attain to complete enlightenment until after the Buddha’s death in 483 B.C., but such was the reverence in which he was held that at the council which followed his death the version of the Dhamina which he recited (Sutta-Pitaka) was accepted as the standard.

Become a Monk   Monks in Thailand   Tripitaka / Scriptures    In a monastery     Sangha     Nun

Besides a ‘beloved disciple’, there si a Judas ; this was Devadatta, a powerful disciple who when the Buddha became advanced in age suggested that lie should resign and that the leadership of the Order should be vested in himself.

Become a Buddhist Monk

Monastery in Mandalay

Buddhist Monastery at Sale at Bagan
Become a Monk
Become a Monk teaching

This was refused and from that time the enmity of Devadatta increased until finally he was expelled from the Order.

Even then he plotted with a hostile rajah to kill the Buddha. At the time of his death there was already a large amount of monks and this continued to grow.

Become a monk

and join many other. Alone in Myanmar are over 200.000 of them.

These must not be thought of as priests in the Christian sense of the word.

They are primarily concerned with their own quest for enlightenment and Nirvana, though many of them expound the law for the benefit of the laity, and. all of them afford a means of gaining merit to their dayakas or supporters.

The original name of the was Bhikkhu, meaning mendicant or homeless one. But in Burma he is known as Pongyi meaning ‘Great Glory’, thus showing the great reverence in which he is held by the people, who in speaking to him use a whole set of honorific words to describe his daily actions:

Thus he does not ‘walk’, he `processes’, he does not ‘speak’ but ‘pronounces’, he does not ‘sleep’ but ‘reposes’, become a monk.

 

Buddhist Monk

Bago Myanmar monk
Buddhist Monastery Mandalay
Monastery in Mandalay
Novice
Novice getting food

 

Monks in Thailand

Buddhist Monks Thailand

Monks in Thailand at Khao Lak

in Thailand

at Trang Thailand

at Trang and at Phnom Penh Cambodia

Cambodia Monks

 

They follow the Tripitaka.

The Brotherhood consists of two classes the novices (Koyin) and the fully ordained monks (Utazin). The novice observes the five great commands binding on all Buddhists and in addition five more of a disciplinary and ascetic nature :

1. Not to take food after noon.
2. Not to sit on high seats or couches (this indicating pride and luxury)
3. Not to use personal adornments, unguents, etc.
4. To abstain from witnessing dancing, shows and plays (now-a-days more honored in the breach than in the observance).
5. Not to accept or use money in any form.

Tripitaka

Tripitaka scriptures in an old chest in a Bagan monastery

Buddhist monastery teaching

Buddhist monastery teachingBuddhism.

More teaching.

Any male of over seven years of age may be ordained as a novice and in practice almost every boy enters the monastery for a period, it may be for a lent, or a year or several years, or even for as short a period as a fortnight.

Any fully ordained novice may leave the order at will at any time means there is no pressure etc. this is one of the strength.

Until he becomes a novice a Myanmar is not looked upon as having come to maturity either in religion or in membership of the nation.

Novice at Bago

Novice at Bago

Become a Buddhist monk, Novitiation procession

 

near Sittwe
Near Sittwe
moving
Moving
Novice Mandalay
Novice Mandalay

During and after becoming a monk the place to stay is one of the monasteries.

Most monasteries in countries such as Myanmar, Thailand, and Cambodia etc. also function as school, that’s the places where the knowledge of reading and writing was passed to the population for hundreds of years.

These monasteries have often been masterpieces of wooden architecture; large wooden buildings were widespread until the 19th century, after brick buildings took over.

By the end of the 19th century there were more than twenty such monastery complexes in Mandalay alone with hundreds of monks and novices, they formed an entire street, which stretched from the Mandalay hill almost four kilometers to the southeast, even today are still more than a dozen monasteries in the city plying an important role in the community.

The people come to seek advice from the monks, both in religious question and non religious. The children are sent as novices sent to the monastery, it is normal that every young boy spend at least around a week in the monastery, some become regular monks afterward.

In the monastery

the novice acts as attendant to the monks, studies his religion from the sacred books, and joins in the morning and evening religious exercises of the Order.

Monastery Meditation
Meditation
Monks Meal
Monastery Meal

Novice at Myeik

Novice at Myeik

 

Decline In The Burmese Sangha

In recent years the Brotherhood of Monks has suffered a decline, both in the reputation and respect in which it is held by the laity and also in its influence on the moral and spiritual life of the country. This is not entirely due to internal causes. For in the days of the Burmese Kings the Sangha was strictly controlled through an archbishop or Thathanabaing appointed by the King and responsible for the monastic discipline throughout the country.

With the annexation in 1886, the British Government with its recognized principle of neutrality in religious affairs, allowed this important office to lapse and so since that time there has been no coordinating or controlling the nucleus in Buddhism. The result has been that the discipline in individual monasteries has depended entirely on the presiding abbot : in some cases strict standards of moral life and monastic discipline have been preserved, in others there has been sad laxity in both those spheres.

In recent years monks have involved themselves in politics, especially some of the younger ones and have helped to stir up violent nationalistic feeling. The monastery too

has often been looked upon as a sanctuary for Burmese criminals and the ease with which a man may become a novice has encouraged this. In Rangoon for example a big block of monasteries in Godwin Road was often a source of anxiety and trouble. There is obviously a need of some official register of monks and a stricter scrutiny of those who present themselves for this life. It has been suggested that in the reconstruction of Burma after the war the ancient office of Thathanabaing should be revived and that he should be assisted by advisory bodies of trusted monks and devout laymen. It is possible that something more far-reaching than this is necessary and that Buddhism should be made the state religion of Burma with an annual grant for furthering truly religious objects. In Siam the King is regarded as the sole defender of the faith and many of the monasteries are under his direct control and in these a stricter rule of life is observed.

It must not be thought that this unhappy state is completely acquiesced in, for many monks and leading laymen deplore it and there have been efforts to remedy it. Only a year or two ago a bill was to have been pre­sented to the Legislative Council by a leading Buddhist to provide some control of the Sangha but was withdrawn at the last moment as the mover was violently threatened while on the way to the Council Chamber. And in every generation there have been monks of outstanding piety and learning. Twenty-five years ago the saintly Ledi

Sayadaw became a great spiritual force in the life of the people, and in many a town in Lower Burma his teaching is still remembered and practiced. In recent years there has been the Monyin Sayadaw who has organized a powerful Buddhist centre near Monywa wherever he goes, crowds flock to hear him for he speaks simply and directly to the moral needs of the people, and where this is so there will always be plenty of people eager to listen and learn. After the Burma Rebellion in 1931 many Buddhist monks toured the affected areas preaching peace and goodwill, and in the rehabilitation of Burma after this war the monks will have a still greater part to play.

But it must be admitted that there is a real doubt as to whether or not a country like Myanmar or Burma can support as many as 100,000 monks. Economically such a large number is a serious drain on the country, and it is to be questioned whether it is morally healthy for so many men in the prime of life not to be doing some really creative work. In the Christian monasteries of the Middle Ages, under the influence of S. Benedict and his order, the twin principles of work and prayer were accepted, and from the monasteries there came out not only religion and learning but much practical inspiration for the develop­ment of agriculture and industry. If the Buddhist rule could be modified to include manual labor what a differ­ence it would make to the thinking and life of the people generally ; possibly with the spiritual aristocracy doing manual work the rising generation would come to see that manual work was at least as praiseworthy and valuable as a routine job in a government office, which seems to be the extent of ambition at present.

To pursue the high moral life laid down by the Buddha, to point men ever to the rooting out of all selfish­ness, to live worthy of the great reverence in which they are held by the people and their achievement in any degree would augur a spiritual and moral revival among the people of Burma, already one of the most friendly and loveable races in the world.

We may close our study with words taken from the Buddha’s charge when he sent them out on their mission : ‘Go ye, 0 Bhikkhus, and wander forth for the gain of the many, for the welfare of the many, in compassion for the world, for the good, for the gain, for the welfare of gods and men. Proclaim, 0 Bhikkhus, the Doctrine glorious, preach ye a life of holiness, perfect and pure.

Buddha Monastery

Monastery and monks

To become a full member a man must be at least twenty years old, must be free from debt, government service, and certain diseases and deformities. He can only be ordained by a senior of at least ten years’ standing in the presence of a chapter of at least ten fully-ordained monks.

The office of ordination handed down from earliest times is read out by the senior in Pali, and sometimes in Burmese as well, as an understanding of the classical religious language of Buddhism is not likely to be an accomplishment of the new monk so early in his career. For five years after ordination the new one remains under the instruction of an Achariya, and when he has acquired ten years of seniority in the Order he becomes a Them or Elder and can then confer ordination on others and act as the abbot of a community of monks.

At monastery schools,

the boys of the village were taught reading, writing, some elementary arithmetic and the principles of their religion. The teaching methods in most of these schools were primitive and the boys learnt most of what they did, by heart, shouting out the lesson after the teacher. Yet the result was that almost all boys learnt to read, making it the most literate country in the East.

In addition they received a good deal of instruction in the religion at an impressionable age and this combined with the custom of every boy becoming a novice for a shorter or longer period helps to explain the hold which religion has on it. Here it is assumed that to carry out the eightfold path and extinguish all the fires of craving and desire, it is essential to abandon ordinary life in the world and become a monk.

Thus it is not uncommon for an elderly, who has retired from public service and whose family is grown up or otherwise sufficiently provided for, to forsake the world, take the monk’s robe and spend his declining years in that religious self-culture which advances him on the road to Arahantship and Nirvana.

A Buddhist nun

is the women version.

This insistence on the necessity of leaving the world and join the monastery is not seen in the teaching of the Buddha, although he undoubtedly held that the monk was freer to pursue the goal. One day he was asked by a layman : ‘Must I give up my wealth, my home and my business enterprises and, like you, go into homelessness in order to attain the bliss of the religious life”