Written by Majbritt Timmermans.
Want to learn the age and wisdom in a foreign land? Wear the orange robe? And live in a monastery? This is how. Oh and sorry ladies, this article is only for men. Officially, only men can become monks and novices in Thailand under a Buddhist order that since 1928 has forbidden the ordination of women.
It’s the mystery and the lifestyle that draw men from around the world to Thailand to train themselves to become a monk. To make this sacrifice one should be ready to lose his own identity and bow according to 227 precepts. The rules guide the monks in what they can do, what they cannot do and what they should do. The precepts include topics like manners, etiquettes, behaviors, cleanliness and more. Monks see the struggles of the world but know that the real battle is within. To overcome this battle they train, fight, struggle and endure. Every day bowing to overcome themselves by sacrifice. This is all for the hope and faith in humanity. Buddhism believes true happiness is achieved independently of natural possessions. It is free from suffering. Ordination is an alternative path to find true happiness. Being a Monk is probably one of the most difficult things to do. However, the most rewarding. Purifying once mind, cultivating new habits, making a conscious decision to let go of attachments and training yourself to be better for the world takes courage. It takes discipline, endurance and humility.
As a monk you live by the main 8 precepts:
-Not committing adultery
-Not engaging in false speech
-Not consuming intoxicants
-Not eating after noontime
-Not sleeping on luxurious places
Why would you isolate and seclude yourself from the world? Why give up the pleasures from this life? Though the journeys to this point are different. At the heart of them is the desire and commitment to develop a spiritual life and inner world. With the hectic and chaotic pace of the world, many men from around the world are seeking a different path. A path that leads to peace, mindfulness and liberation. This path provides the opportunity to learn how to see yourself, a situation, an event and the world as it really is. This path is Monkhood in Theravada Buddhist tradition in Thailand. In Thailand there is a program called IDOP: International Dhammadayadas Ordination Program. IDOP gives foreigners an opportunity to ordain and live as a Buddhist monk. At the program the teachers speak English, Chinese and Thai. The program resides in one of the largest Buddhist temples in the world: Wat Phra Dhammakaya. The Program takes 45 days. The program consists of tradition that dates back to more than 2500 years. Ordaining to become a monk is about living fearless and letting go.
Buddhist Temple What Pra Dhammakaya
The trainings consist of discipline, meditation and wisdom. “With good discipline, good meditation can arise. With good meditation, good wisdom can arise.” In the first step of the program the men are introduced to the first concept of Buddhism: detachment. The men will be separated from all their stuff: electronics, grooming essentials, finances etc. The men consist to the 5 steps of cleanliness, orderliness, politeness, punctuality and concentration. They take on this habit of purifying the outside world. Which in turn purifies their inner world. The program takes 2 weeks of meditation training. Meditation is the step monks take to discipline the mind. It is the practice of keeping their mind in themselves. Because when the mind is out of the body, it becomes more vulnerable. To learn meditation, you must learn the real nature of the mind called the monkey mind. Once you understand the mind, monks use meditation as a tool to keep it still. When the mind is in a state of stillness, an inner light begins to shine. Generating a feeling of inner peace, happiness and joy.
Once the meditation training is completed, the men will be trained a monastic life for 2 more weeks. Buddhist teachings tell us there are three levels of wisdom to be developed: study by exposing ourselves to teaching of others, reflection and intuition. Intuition is the highest form of wisdom that Buddhism teaches, which comes from stillness of the mind. The training builds skills in generosity, morality and patience. This makes the monks masters in observation. With which you see the reality of life.
What can you expect from the training?
- You will learn the art of meditation
- You will experience life as a Buddhist monk
- The wisdom gained is not only useful to yourself, but also to those around you
Taking part in the traditional hair clipping ceremony is part of the program. The ceremony is symbolic of letting go of attachments. Then finally the big day: ordination day arrives. On this day the new monks are supported by the locals, family, friends and the monastic community. The day proceeds with the forgiveness ceremony and the official offering of the robes. Once in the robes the men make the official transition by taking a bow to follow the monastic code in 227 precepts.
Then their new life as a Buddhist monk can begin. As new monks they learn how to engage in a new way of life. A life of simplicity, discipline and mindfulness. One of the most beautiful experiences as a new monk is partaking in the ancient tradition of Bintabaht. The offering of food in the local village. The new monks walk on their foot in a single line to get offered food. In exchange the monks provide a sacred blessing.
Living a Monk’s life is not easy. Self-development is not easy and making a commitment to a disciplined practice is not easy. Each day the monks continue to make a choice to pursue their path.
How do you improve the world? You improve yourself.
If you are interested you can reserve your spot online on: www.ordinationthai.org
2019, Tanakesempat P, Reuters: Thailand’s rebel female Buddhist monks defy tradition. retrieved from: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-thailand-buddhism-women-idUSKCN1OX1YP