The modern world can be full of temptations that lure us into chasing after materialistic desires. Yet, some people leave behind everything and dedicate their time on Earth to seek the Buddhist enlightenment journey. If you ever feel inspired by becoming a Buddhist monastic, devoting yourself to meditation, and helping others, here is the basic guide on how to become a Buddhist monk or nun that you need!
Table of Contents
What Is A Buddhist Monk/Nun?
Monks and nuns honor the legacy of Gautama Buddha by seeking enlightenment through leaving the material life behind, living in the monastery, and ordinate into the Buddhist priesthood.
All Buddhist monastics follow a set of principles called the prātimokṣa or pātimokkha (which is binding). They are meant to support their spiritual practice: to live a minimal and meditative life and realize nirvana (or liberation – to be harmonious with the infinite state of oneness with everything).
While monks or bhikkhu are male monastics, nuns are female monastics that are also known as bhikkhuni.
What Do Monks/Nuns Do?
The Buddhist monks or nuns pray and meditate on behalf of the lay community (all non-ordained members), assisting them in the goal of realizing The Four Noble Truths (Life is suffering – Desire is the cause of suffering – Cause of desire must be overcome – Suffering is over after getting rid of desire).
They also guide the lay practitioner on ritual construction, meditation, and which Buddhist deity to focus on as each practitioner has their own obstacles to Enlightenment. The lay friends, in return, support the monastics with donations of food and other essential items. This is a mutually beneficial relationship.
What Are The Benefits Of Becoming A Buhhdist Monk Or Nun?
To maintain power, money, and relationships, we have to rush the pace of our lives. Gradually, we will become so exhausted both physically and mentally that we blindly live under the control of material forces.
Meanwhile, living a Buddhist life means embracing minimalism, you will learn to let go of the pursuit of power, wealth, and sensual pleasures. Practicing as a monk or nun gives you the chance and a safe environment to find the root of your happiness, freedom, and solidity.
When you ordain and wear the brown or orange robe, you learn to cut your detachment, your illusions, and your tragedies. You practice transforming your deepest pain and live with inner peace.
Like Plum Village said: ‘As we discover the root of virtue in our own life, we will also be able to help other people stop creating suffering for themselves and the world’.
During the transforming process, you will discover more about yourself and face your challenges. That is the foundation for a compassionate and understanding society.
What Are The Requirements To Become A Buddhist Monk Or Nun?
A basic life of Buddhist monastics is a life of no physical burden and desire. When someone enters the monastery, they will be taken care of and work with other monastic members. Therefore, there are specific requirements they need to meet to get acceptance.
Your Age: If you are under the age of 18, you must have the permission of your parents or guardians.
Marital Status: To become a monastic, you should be single or divorced, as celibacy is a requirement. Your relationships with ex-partners should be settled, and there is no conflict between your decision and theirs. This ensures that there is no obstacle to your training as a monastic.
Medical conditions: You can only live in the monastery if you have no incurable or contagious diseases. Your mental stability and physical health should be good enough not to be an obstacle to your training and the community’s safety. Therefore, you will be asked to have a medical and blood check before joining a monastery.
No debt or financial burden: The monastery or the Sangha is responsible for providing all your basic needs (shelter, clothes, food, medicine). The monastics do not owe debts or hold bank accounts and credit cards. Thus, you might want to freeze any bank accounts you have and close credit card accounts.
In case you consider resigning from your current job and become a monk, this article can help you:
Commitment to study, practice, and serve: As a monastic, you commit to follow the guidance of the Sangha schedule and learn how to practice as a community.
Let go of possessions: The less you have, the greater your focus and clarity. As part of your training, you have to cut away physical detachment. You will let go of items such as laptops, cellphones, etc., and come into the community with your hands empty.
Do you meet all of the requirements above? If yes, then let’s dive into how to become a Buddhist Monk or Nun.
What are the requirements to become a Buddhist monk/nun? Source: Sarbajit Sen
How To Become A Buddhist Monk or Nun?
From possessing the basic religious knowledge, having faith in the religion, and beginning life in the monastery, Buddhist monks take somewhat the same path just like other religions, such as the path to becoming a Catholic monk.
Knowing the Basics of Buddhist Teachings
Before deciding to take ordination, you should at least have a foundational knowledge of Buddhist Teachings, for example, the Eightfold Path, the Four Noble Truths, The Three Universal Truths, and the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment (lam-rim).
You can either learn them by yourself or receive lessons from a qualified teacher from a local Buddhist school or study group. Besides learning the basic knowledge, you should also learn from them the foundation for the monastic life and what it is like to commit yourself to the monastic vows of the ordination.
(Just a little interesting fact, if you ever wonder ‘why do monks wear orange?’. Orange was chosen because of the dye available at the time and has now become the color of choice for Theravada Buddhist followers in Southeast Asia. The robes symbolize simplicity and detachment from materialism.)
How to become a Buddhist monk? Source: Sadaham Yathra
Taking Refuge: Entering the Buddhist Path
Take the time you need to reflect on your decision to ordination and develop your spiritual practice. After grasping the value of the Buddhist teachings and pursuing this spiritual life, it is time to think about taking ‘refuge’ in the Three Jewels (the Buddha, his teachings, and the community of Buddhists). ‘Taking refuge’ means relying on these Three Jewels so that they become the main focus of our lives.
Becoming a monastic is a big decision that can be easy to imagine but very difficult to practice. Therefore, you should request to stay in a monastery for at least 3 months to experience life in the Sangha and evaluate your seriousness.
If you find that this lifestyle is harmonious with your deepest aspiration and you find joy in the daily practice, formally express your monastic aspiration to the Sangha. Once they approve, you will become an aspirant. You will be assigned a monastic mentor who will guide you in your training.
Start The Novice Life
After living as an aspirant, the Sangha will decide whether you are ready to receive ordination as a novice monk or nun. Once you get accepted, you will begin a three-year novitiate as a monk or nun (bhikshu or bhikshuni). Your life will be in the embrace of the Sangha family.
This is an excellent chance for you to learn how to live your life meaningfully, cultivate compassion and contribute to social change.
Watch Video: My Path To Becoming A Buddhist | Emma Slade | TEDxSevenoaksSchool – YouTube
The Final Thoughts
One last thing to keep in mind is that monastic training is fundamentally different from academic pursuits at a college.
Rather than just sharpening knowledge and developing certain professions, as a Buddhist monk/nun, you are constantly reminded of the basic practices of mindfulness – to your breath, walk, eat, pray and listen to the bell even when you have practiced for 5, 10, 20 years.
Many people would find this way of life so difficult and monotonous. However, if you truly find meaning, ease and happiness, we are so happy for you and appreciate your path!
May you fulfill your noble journey for the happiness of all living beings!