Monastic Life

About this section:
The Buddhist community includes monastics and lay people. Both are necessary for the preservation of Buddhism. However, monastics choose a life of vowed simplicity, a life directly related to the preservation and dissemination of the Dharma to benefit others. They are the core of that lifestyle that all Buddhist practitioners are committed to. In the articles here, Venerable Chodron shares with us the joys and difficulties of being a nun and the special challenges of being a Western Buddhist nun. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama notes, all Buddhist nuns have a unique role to play in the evolution of Buddhism where the universal principle of the equality of all human beings takes precedence. If you've ever wondered what it would be like to be a monastic, you'll find these articles intriguing and stimulating.

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Exploring Monastic Life 2007
Conducted by Ven. Thubten Chodron©
Sravasti Abbey, Newport, Washington, USA
7-24 August 2007

Click here to see "Questions for Group Discussion" from the 2007 Exploring Monastic Life teachings.

Session 1
Venerable Chodron explains the five precepts that participants will take during the program. She also talks about the different levels of vows taken by monastics and lay practitioners. The benefits of taking and keeping precepts are explained.
[34 minutes] : Download mp3 file
- I have heard you can take refuge without a formal ceremony can you do the same with the precepts?
- What about not eating meat?
- The purpose of recitation.

[10 minutes] : Download mp3 file

Session 2
Venerable Chodron gives an overview of the Lamrim, the Gradual Path to Enlightenment. She explains the three levels of practitioners, their aspiration, meditations and practices.
[48 minutes] : Download mp3 file
- Who are the initial level practitioners?
- Are the monastic precepts always in the middle level?
- Where is the Lamrim derived from?
- Motivation for monastic ordination.

[17 minutes] : Download mp3 file

Session 3
Ven. Chodron talks about the life of the Buddha and what can be learned from it. She explains the evolution of monasticism and the monastic precepts. She explains how the monastic lifestyle is conducive to spiritual realization. She also talks about the interdependence of the sangha and lay people.
[74 minutes] : Download mp3 file

Session 4
Venerable Chodron tells the story of Ratnapala from the Ratnapala Sutra. She talks about how we can use the sutra to look at motivation for ordaining. She also talks about the history of Buddhist ordination. Ven. Chodron also talks about the four reasons for ordaining as found in the sutra.
[112 minutes] : Download mp3 file

Session 5
Ven. Chodron talks about how the ultimate purpose of taking ordination is to create a community for monastics to practice the Dharma and not to produce a religious hierarchy with a dogma. She talks about the six kinds of harmony in the monastic community and in this talk explains the first three, physical, verbal and mental harmony.
[49 minutes] : Download mp3 file

- How are resources shared in the various monastic traditions?
- How are resources and funds used at the abbey?
- Can the monastics at the Abbey visiting their family?

[25 minutes] : Download mp3 file
Session 6
Venerable Chodron talks about monastic ordination and precepts. She explains the difference between precepts and commandments, how precepts are friends and protection taken voluntarily, not rules that are imposed involuntarily. She talks about the history behind some precepts. She explains the precepts on owning possessions and using money.
[54 minutes] : Download mp3 file

- If a monastic should not handle gold or silver how does that apply to altar items?
- What if someone comes to the Abbey, donates items, decides to leave and then wants to take them with them?
- Should you take a precept if you enjoy the activity but want to stop?
- Is there a book for studying male ordination?
- Can you learn the monastic precepts before you take them?
- We are told we should not criticize the Sangha but what is the role of lay people when monastics misbehave?

[20 minutes] : Download mp3 file
Session 7
Venerable Chodron talks about keeping the monastic precepts in present day culture compared to the time of the Buddha. She explains how the obligations and responsibilities of the householder's life and being a parent can make it difficult to practice.
[48 minutes] : Download mp3 file

- How do you relate to others who see life in a different way and view the householder life as the meaning and purpose of their lives?
- How do you relate to and bear seeing what others' lives are about and the karma they are creating?
- What is a healthy way to relate to sex and emotional intimacy?
- How do Tibetans feel about fully ordained nuns?
- How do you have compassion for people who have life experiences that you haven't experienced?

[34 minutes] : Download mp3 file
Session 8
Part 1
Ven. Chodron finishes the explanation of the six harmonies of living in a monastic community. She talks about the harmonies of precepts, views and welfare and their benefits for the individual and community.

[17 minutes] : Download mp3 file

Part 1 Q+A
- Have you written the rules for Sravasti Abbey?
- What about the precepts that are difficult to keep in this day and age?
- Do you confess those at the time of sojong?
- If you are open minded and have a different interpretation of
something does that mean there is disharmony of views?
- If someone isn't sure if they believe in god or rebirth or karma and
wants to have those discussions is that beneficial?
- Can monastics from different traditions with different Buddhist
interpretations or practice live in a community in mental harmony?
- In the different vinayas are there different sets of precepts or are
there different interpretations of the same precepts?

[21 minutes] : Download mp3 file

Part 2
Ven. Chodron talks about the advantages of monastic precepts and explains the ten reasons the Buddha established precepts. She talks about the general and detailed explanation of the benefits of the precepts.

[25 minutes] : Download mp3 file

Part 2 Q+A
- When you are in robes, how do you hold it in your mind that lay people should support me?
- Is the ultimate purpose of ordination enlightenment?
- You can have a monastery where everyone is busy doing a lot of activities but don't practice the Dharma and don't achieve the
realizations of the Dharma.
- Confessing vows that were not completely broken.
- How will you handle monastic confession when the abbey is a mixed community?

[18 minutes] : Download mp3 file
Session 9
Ven. Chodron talks about the qualifications of people who ordain and the hindrances to ordaining. She talks about the 13 major and 16 minor hindrances to ordaining. She also talks about the the nine specific hindrances to ordaining for women. Ven. Chodron talks about how one's motivation to ordain should be sincere. She discusses questions that those considering ordination should think about and answer for themselves to check their motivation. She explains the importance of looking at long term aspirations regarding ordination.
[59 minutes] : Download mp3 file

- Can you explain the eight precepts (pratimoksha vows)?
- Do you have advice in taking the eight mahayana precepts out in the world?
- Is the pratimoksha ordination part of the Chinese or Tibetan tradition?
- Does a monastic take the eight precepts for life?
- Are the eight mahayana precepts and the eight pratimoksha precepts different?

[8 minutes] : Download mp3 file
Session 10
Ven. Chodron talks about the qualities of the monastic preceptor. She also explains what constitutes a valid, legal ordination. She talks about the ceremony of ordination and sangha-karma, the formal action of the sangha. She explains the levels of ordination.
[28 minutes] : Download mp3 file

- What does "take dependence" mean?
- Could you explain the 10 precepts of the novice?
- In the monastic gatherings is the situation of taking dependence of the western sangha in the Tibetan tradition discussed?
- Considering the state of things when you ordained, how did you learn the Vinaya?
- I've heard that sometimes that western senior monastics don't have an inclination to train junior monastics. Is there a skillful way for junior monastics to encourage them to do that?
- In all the Buddhist traditions aren't the senior monastics respected
and have the responsibility to guide junior monastics?
- There is a lack of a strong relationship between the lay people and the sangha. What can be done to correct that?

[32 minutes] : Download mp3 file

Refuge and Precepts Explained

August 23, 2007
Sravasti Abbey

These teachings are preparing three separate groups of participants for taking the 5 lay precepts, the 5 lay precepts with celibacy, and the 8 precepts with celibacy. It explains the individual and worldwide benefits of refuge and precepts, where happiness comes from, how the precepts keep us on the path to enlightenment, and how the precepts and refuge are connected. Lastly is explanation of each precept and what is needed to break each at the root. Ven. Chodron then performs the three ceremonies.
[59 minutes]: Download mp3 file
Download transcript in pdf format

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