Buddhist Monks Aim for NirvanaBuddhism states that there is a path to happiness and the Buddha canlead you there. Buddhist monks of all different orders are trying to reachhappiness, or Nirvana. There may be some differences between the sects butthe core beliefs surround the Buddha’s teachings and practices. An ordainedmonk or nun lives a special life. Some last a lifetime while others onlyfor a brief time, however both experiences are moving.
Tibetan Buddhist monks take there vows for life. When becoming aBuddhist monk it is very important that you do not rush into taking yourvows. Time must be taken to fully understand the advantages anddisadvantages of becoming a Buddhist monk. Currently there are monasteriesthat allow you to live the life of a Buddhist monk for a few days, weeks ormonths in order to make the correct decision.
The Tibetan tradition doesnot encourage those who take the vows to give them back and return to asecular lifestyle. As long as a monk asks permission he is able to freelyleave the order. Theravadin Buddhist countries, like Thailand, believe that every manmust have served as a monk at one point in his life. These monks arereferred to as “short-term” monks. The period that they are actually monksmay range from a few days to as long as a few months.Order now
This short-termservice is seen as primarily a teaching tool. Living even a short periodof time as a monk is believed to prepare the individual for life as alayman, householder and family head. Also this practice helps theindividual earn merit with his family and especially his parents. Manypeople in these countries still chose to remain a monk for their lifetime. Before making any final decisions on becoming either a short-termmonk or a lifetime monk the fundamental teachings of the Buddha must bethoroughly understood. These teachings include the Four Noble Truths, theEightfold Path, and the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment.
Normally thisinvolves a number of years of study and practice with the help of ateacher. This teacher will be your guide and sponsor. With your teacheryou will learn how to live your everyday life according to the Buddhistteachings and practices. During this time you may live in a monastery tofully understand and appreciate this lifestyle. Once you have made the decision to lead a monk’s life, you mustapproach the abbot or his secretary for an interview. You are thenaccepted as a naga.
Then are given training in the rules, daily chanting,and the ordination procedure. The length of training before ordination canbe one month or less, the abbot might expect an applicant to spend at least9 months as a layman and novice before higher ordination. During thisperiod the layman wears a white robe and learns eight precepts. Novicemonks wear the orange robes and are given ten precepts to follow along withseventy-five training rules.
There are certain requirements that must bemet in order to be ordained. The novice must be at least twenty years old,free of debt, free of any government or military duties and they must havethe consent of their immediate family. The ordination ceremony uses thePali language and the novice must memorize the lines. The novice must alsomemorize the 227 rules of discipline, called the Patimokkha, that the monksfollow. Originally the Buddha did not allow woman to become nuns.
ThenBuddha received many requests from woman to allow them to become nuns. Hereconsidered his position and decided to allow woman in to the order. Thefirst woman accepted as a nun was Paccabadi Gotami, the Buddha’sstepmother, who was ordained by the Buddha himself. In establishing theBhikkhuni Sangha, or nuns, the Buddha added that any other ordinationsshould be held with a fully ordained bhikkhuni present as a witness. Since the time of Buddha there have always been nuns ordained intothe order.
In more recent years the number of woman becoming nuns becamesmaller and smaller. There came a point were there were no longer any fullyordained nuns in the world. Without these fully ordained nuns there cannotbe any present at the ordination of new nuns, this prohibits any new nunsfrom becoming fully ordained themselves. Buddhist woman today can live inthe order as an eight or ten precept novice but can never be fullyordained. Monks fall into two categories, the forest monk and the temple monk. The least common is the forest monk, he lives a solitary, hermetic stateremoved from monastic or lay society.
Most Buddhist monks are templemonks. The temple monks live in a monastic community on temple grounds. Each monk regardless of lifestyle is in continuous pursuit of enlightenmentand nirvana. The temple monks are more involved in some lay community affairs thanthe forest monks are. Temple monks will participate in Buddhist holy dayceremonies, blessing new homes and businesses as well as funeral andcremation rites.
Temple monks are also the teachers of novice monks, short-term monks and lay persons. Temple monks live in small huts called akhuti. The huts are plainly furnished with a table and a chair. The monksleeps on a low, narrow bed, with a hard mattress. The monks are alsoallowed to keep books and texts.
The forest monk can be found sleepingunder a tent on a mat with no other material comforts. Buddhist monks are truly extraordinary individuals. Not only havethey left their families and careers but they live a purely ascetic life. Monks live a chaste, poor life with few possessions.
Monks possessions arecollected from offerings that are given to them by their family orcommunity. People can only offer the monks items that are consideredessential for the monk’s life. There are a total of eight necessary itemsincluded in a Buddhist monk’s garments and utensils, as passed down fromLord Buddha. The first garment piece is the Jeeworn or Mantle Robe. In ancientdays monks would collect pieces of cloth from graveyards.
Severaldifferent pieces had to be sewn together in one piece to form the robe. These dyes would turn the fabric into a brownish-yellow color. As more andmore men became followers, Lord Buddha rejected any patched-togetherJeeworn because it was not neat. The Buddha asked his cousin Ananda tocreate a neat design for the Jeeworn. Monks today still follow this neatdesign of the single piece Jeeworn.
Their Jeeworn must cover their entirebody when outside of the temple. However, when the monks are in theirtemple they leave the right shoulder uncovered. The second piece is the Sabong or skirt. This is a simple, unadornedskirt. The size of this Sabong is much smaller than the size of theJeeworn.
The Sabong is regarded as the most important garment of Buddhistmonks because it must be worn 24 hours a day. The third piece is thePrakod or cotton belt. This is a wide and thick belt. The primary purposeof the Prakod is to secure the Sabong. The fourth item completes thenecessary items of the monks’ garments.
The Sangkati or shoulder scarf isa long thick piece of fabric. The scarf is worn simply draped over theshoulder. The scarf is meant to serve the monks as a multipurpose cloth. Some of the uses for the scarf range from a blanket or a pillow to a washcloth and napkin.
The monks’ next four necessary items are there only otherpossessions. The first item is a Bart or an alms bowl and its lid. TheBart is used when the monk goes collecting offerings of food to eat. Monksalso need to keep a Meedgoan or razor with them. In order to show theirrejection of ego and vanity monks are supposed to shave their head, andsometimes eyebrows, once a month.
The shaving must be done one day beforethe middle of the lunar month. The Khem and Dai or needle and thread are also essential to a monk. Having these two items allow the monks to patch any tears or holes that maydamage their garments. Lastly, monks must have a Grabog Grong-Naam orwater strainer.
Monks believe that they must refrain from killing orhurting any animals and human beings. Therefore, the water-strainerassures that the drinking water is freed of all dirt and insects. Todaythere are several modern items that can be included here. These items are ablanket, a pillow, a hat, an umbrella, sandals, a palm fan, a bag andeating utensils.
A day in the life of a monk is simple and beautiful. Monks wake upwhen the temple gongs are sounded in the early hours of the morning. Afterthey wash and dress they meditate until it is light enough to go around andcollect the alms offering. When a monk goes on his rounds he acceptswhatever foods are placed in his alms bowl.
He never asks for anything,accepting what is offered, standing silently, with eyes lowered, untilafter the offering is made, when he may chant a brief blessing for thedonor. When they return to their huts they can eat their meal. This meal isusually their only one for the day. Some monks eat a second meal but nomonks are allowed to eat after noon. The rest of their day is spentmeditating, reading, studying, and can sometimes include a nap.
In theevening they attend the twilight ceremonial chanting. At night the monkssleeps for six sometimes four hours. Meditation is a conscious effort to change how the mind works. ThePali word for meditation is bhavana, meaning to grow or to develop. Meditation is very important because although we may want to make changesin our lives, it is not easy to have control of our thoughts and actions.
Meditation develops awareness and the energy needed to change our old waysand prepare for the right path. There are many types of meditation, theBuddha taught a number of ways to meditate and particular ways to deal withspecific problems. The most common are Mindfulness or Insight Meditation,called Vipassana, and Loving-kindness Meditation, called Samatha. The Pali word Nibbana is formed of Ni and Vana. Ni is a negativearticle and vana means desire.
The ultimate goal of all Buddhists is to endthe cycle of life and death, of reincarnation, by enlightenment andreaching nirvana or nibbana. Nirvana is not a place where we go; it is astate of mind and being. Nirvana can be reached here on earth as the Buddhahas. The Buddha said that “Nirvana is the highest happiness”.
All Buddhist are living for Nirvana. The simple life facilitates theprocess. Meditations and ascetic living allow the mind to focus on its pathand state of being. The Buddha ordained woman and there were many nuns foryears, the teachings of the Buddha however prevents any future woman frombeing ordained. Buddhism may be all over the world and have differentpractices, but the Buddha is always the center and happiness is alwayseveryone ultimate goal.
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