Pure Land Monastics, Part Two

Question: Is monastic life sponsored or does the individual have to financially support themselves?

Response: In Asia, it is traditional that monastics dedicate themselves to practice and teaching while the laypeople provide financially and materially for the monastics support. This system, which has existed since the time of the Buddha, enabled both the monastics and the laypeople to focus on what they were already doing.

The responsibility of the monastics is to provide teachings and that of the laypeople is to provide support, or dana. Since monastics live simply, providing for them is relatively easy.

In the West, most people are not familiar with this tradition. Monastics who remain within Asian-based sanghas receive support as the ethnic practitioners provide support and newer non-ethnic practitioners quickly learn how things work.

A problem often develops, however, when the monastic lives in a western culture. If there are people who have attended monasteries and Buddhist centers, they will understand the system and teach others. But often, the tradition of dana is unknown or there is not a large enough group to support the monastic. As a result, we see monastics having to take jobs, live on welfare, or find other means to support themselves.

When I started teaching in Elkhart, Indiana, where I had come to help my mother, I mentioned one day how I was going to Indonesia to attend a conference with my Teacher. In what could have been a study on how to ask a question without raising any possibility of offending the one being questioned, one of the ladies in the group asked how I supported myself. How did I have the means to fly halfway around the world. (I explained that since the request had come from my Teacher, my ticket and accommodations were provided through him.)

She quickly added that if the question was offensive, she was very sorry and there was no need for me to answer. I was glad she asked because it’s the only way to know an individual monastic's situation.

So the answer is that support in the form of the four requisites of food, shelter, clothing, and medical care is usually provided. But with monastics now traveling farther afield to teach, individual's situations can vary a great deal.



Appearing and Disappearing

Clouds panarama

All things appear and disappear

because of the concurrence of causes and conditions.

Nothing ever exists entirely alone;

everything is in relation to everything else.

~ Buddha 



Pure Land Monastics, Part One

Question: How does one ordain in the Pure Land tradition?

Response: I can only speak for how I became a nun but I believe it is fairly representative. After deciding that everyday life was becoming less important while dedicating myself full-time to Buddhism had become very important to me, I asked my Teacher, Ven. Master Chin Kung, if he would accept me as a nun. This was done through a translator who was at the Dallas Buddhist Association (DBA), where I was practicing and studying. She faxed Teacher, and he faxed back that I should "get ready."

It was arranged that I would spend the next year dividing my time between living at my home and living at the DBA. As the year was ending, I gave away all my possessions and prepared to move into a nun's dormitory at the DBA. I and nine others were shaved by Teacher who had come in from Taiwan for the tonsure and related ceremonies.

In 1997, the ten of us and some other monastics who had been shaved by Teacher but not yet been ordained went to Kaohsiung in Taiwan for the ordination training and ensuing ceremonies. About 600 monks and nuns studied and practiced for thirty-two days and at the end of the time were ordained in a ceremony that lasted many hours.

As you can see, becoming a monastic was a two-step process: first the tonsure and then the period of training that culminates in the Ordination Ceremony. 



Emotions That Create Trouble

956849-771562-thumbnail.jpg"The more we generate an attitude of contentment in our lives, the happier we will be and the more open we will be to engage in genuine Dharma practice. Letting go of the eight worldly concerns brings mental peace right now.

The defining characteristic of a thought or action being Dharma is whether or not we're attached to the happiness of this life. The eight worldly concerns are completely involved with attachment to the happiness of this life. How can we practice genuine Dharma when our self-centered mind is fixated on getting our own way and making everyone and everything around us suit our preferences and needs?

That doesn't mean the happiness of this life is bad or wrong. The Buddha did not say that we should suffer in this life so that we'll get our reward in heaven. The objects we're attached to and have aversion for aren't the problem; there's nothing wrong with experiencing pleasure and happiness. Those aren't the issue. Rather, attachment to pleasant feelings and to the people, objects, and situations that cause them, and aversion to unpleasant ones--it is these emotions that create trouble. They make us unhappy and propel us to harm others in order to get what we want. The troublemakers of attachment and hostility are what we want to abandon, not people and things. There is nothing wrong with being happy. But when we're attached to it, we actually create more unhappiness for ourselves."

~ Venerable Thubten Chodron 



Loving Wisely

We usually think of love in terms of a particular person. Such love is born of emotions, gives rise to expectations, and often results in disappointment. Wanting others to conform to our ideals, we often smother the recipient of our “love” and destroy the person we care for. If, however, love comes from wisdom, such love will be unconditional and nonjudgmental. We will accept the other as he or she is and will wish only for that person’s happiness. In this way, we will discover happiness for ourselves as well.