A Humble Yarn of a Novice Monk at the Indiana Buddhist Temple
Submitted to Living Fort Wayne by the Indiana Buddhist Temple
Have you ever thought of dedicating your life towards enlightenment? In this part of the world, this is not a concept that most of us are raised with. For many of us, there comes a point where the only solution to our spiritual dilemma is to ordain as a monastic. For those who are unfamiliar with many of the spiritual paths that are currently available to us, Buddhism is one path that is neatly laid out so that if you walk on the noble eight fold path, you may see the benefits of this spiritual path in this very lifetime.
Buddhism is definitely not the only path that can lead to enlightenment but it is one of the most organized spiritual paths that is open to anyone who is interested. There are many other systems available; although some require the assistance of a master, Guru or some sort of esoteric practice that is only available to those who are accepted into that particular system.
With Buddhism today, one can learn a technique of meditation from a meditation teacher and practice at home. Even with limited experience, one can still make some progress and develop a more balanced mind when it comes to dealing with the day to day turmoil that all of us face. At a certain point, we will need further instruction. Some will continue doing long retreats of several weeks to several months. There are even many individuals today who go on long retreats of several years without ordaining as a monastic. So why would someone decide to become a monastic and give up the householder life?
When ordaining as a monk or nun, you are basically giving yourself over to the Buddha (The teachings that the Buddha left us), Dharma and the Sangha (Holy order of monks and nuns). Dharma is a Pali (a language that was spoken during the time of the Buddha) word that basically means the order of the universe. You can also say that the Dharma means the natural laws of the universe.
By taking the robes of a monastic, you are dedicating your life to enlightenment. As a monastic, you are taking the vow to follow the precepts which are given to you during ordination. As a lay Buddhist, it is very common to already follow the five precepts which are: non-harm towards all living beings; not taking anything that isn’t given to you; not having illegal (harmful) sexual relations; not lying (which on a higher level could also be interpreted to not slandering, gossiping or speaking harshly towards others) and not using any form of intoxicants like drugs or alcohol. This life of morality brings about a strong foundation of the mind. It is this peaceful state of mind that when one is in meditation that concentration can be developed. Through concentration wisdom will arise on its own to see the true nature of the world around us.
As a Samanera (Novice monk) you would follow more precepts than the five precepts that lay Buddhists follow. Different traditions have different rules. For example, in Sri Lanka a novice monk would take ten precepts while, in Burma, a novice monk would take 75 precepts. The ten precepst are 1. to refrain from destroying living creatures; 2. to refrain from taking that which is not given; 3 to refrain from sexual activity; 4. to refrain from incorrect speech; 5. to refrain from intoxicating drinks and drugs which lead to carelessness; 6. to refrain from eating at the forbidden time (i.e., after noon); 7. to refrain from dancing, singing, music, going to see entertainments; 8. to refrain from wearing garlands, using perfumes, and beautifying the body with cosmetics; 9. to refrain from lying on a high or luxurious sleeping place; 10. to refrain from accepting gold and silver (money).
These precepts are there to help you have a balanced mind and are not empty rules devoid of meaning. If one were to ordain as a Bhikkhu (monk) then there are significantly more precepts totaling 227. For a nun, there are 311 precepts.
Last year I ordained as a Samanera under Bhante Devananda at the Indiana Buddhist Temple. It was a short ordination of less than 1 year although it was one of the best experiences of my life. Living at the temple for a few months allowed me to continue studying Buddhism and closely observing a senior monk to get a better understanding of monastic life.
In 2014, I did a long intensive retreat for about 6 months before heading back to lay life. I hope that others will consider walking this spiritual path so that they can see for themselves the benefits that await them. If this interests you, perhaps you can contact the temple to check out some books from the temple library and get an idea of what Buddhism is really about. If you think you are ready for monastic life, I also highly recommend taking small steps such as attending the weekly meditation, meditation retreats and Dharma discussion available at Indiana Buddhist Temple. You can check their website for event information.
Written by Samanera Sevali (C. Goldblatt)