How are monks ordained

Answer questions


On the general situation of the monks and nuns

1. How many German-speaking Buddhist monks and nuns live in the German-speaking area? Are they networked with each other?

The exact number of Buddhist ordinates is not known. About 30 nuns and 25 monks are known to the DBO. There is a network through the DBO.

2. Are Buddhist monks and nuns adequately covered in terms of health and pension insurance? Who pays if a person, z. B. decides to ordain after a prolonged period of unemployment?

The situation of Buddhist ordinates in Europe is very complex and varies from tradition to tradition and situation to situation. In general, however, it can be said that Buddhist ordinates are not adequately covered in terms of pensions.

3. What would Buddhist monks and nuns do after a traumatic experience in order to continue to live “normally” and to deal with it?

Buddhist methods can be very supportive and helpful for minor psychological difficulties. In the case of more severe mental disorders, it would be advisable for those affected to seek psychotherapeutic and psychiatric help.

4. Can ordained people still work and pay taxes?

Possibly as an emergency solution, because not all ordained are sufficiently supported yet.

5. Does every ordained person have to live in a community or can one also live alone in an apartment and finance one's livelihood (e.g. through self-employed work)?

There is no compulsory monastery, but it is often desired or required by the teacher or ordination master. Living alone in one's apartment and making a living can be seen as a stopgap solution.

Decision and preparation for taking the vows

6. What “stages” of preparation are there before one can become a novice?

In most monasteries there is a preparatory period during which prospective ordination candidates can get to know Buddhist monastic life. The decision as to whether a person is suitable for ordination is ultimately made by the ordination master. Buddhist refuge and a sound basic Buddhist knowledge are basic requirements.

7. Is there a sudden decision for this path, or have you been living without a partner, property, etc. for years before this decision?

As in other areas of life, sudden life decisions are often not very stable. Most ordained people are preceded by long decision-making. The individual paths of life of the ordained are of course very individual.

8. Isn't life as a Buddhist monk or nun a flight from the world, isn't there a particularly large number of people here who are fleeing from problems with family, work, sexuality, etc. and want to relax and withdraw?

One thing is certain, with this motivation one will not remain a monk / nun for long. Therefore it is also important to check your motivation for ordination over a certain period of time. True liberation from worldly attachment should not be confused with an escape from the world. In order to achieve true liberation, it is necessary to free oneself from the spiritual poisons of desire, anger and ignorance (in all their variations), which are precisely our problems and sufferings. Not being caught up in the dualistic thinking of reaching for what seems to make us happy (and then holding onto it) and trying to avoid anything we don't like. How can you relax and withdraw if you have not recognized and eliminated the cause / root of the suffering? That means, even as a monk or nun, one is confronted with it again and again, and has to face the problems - even more so, since the possibilities to evade are getting fewer and fewer. The path to liberation is a path of responsibility (especially self-responsibility), on which one can hide less and less from oneself. When monks / nuns are relaxed and happy, it is the fruit of their intensive practice. However, this can only be achieved through a motivation that is geared towards the well-being of all living beings (including ourselves).

9. Where and how can one become a monk or nun on probation or on a temporary basis?

In Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand, temporary ordination - in addition to ordination for an indefinite period or for life - is widespread. Even children go to the monastery for a certain period of time during the holidays and become “novices”. As adults (over 20 years of age), men can also become bhikkhu for a few weeks or months. In this way, they have “first-hand” experience of life in the monastery and may, under certain circumstances, consciously decide against marriage and for life as an ordained.

Neither the ordination as a Samanera / Samaneri- nor as a Bhikkhu implies a lifelong vow in the Theravada tradition, but of course it makes sense to remain in the robe until the end of your life. The Buddha himself did not resume his previous lifestyle. In the Dhammapada we find the following stanza regarding a person who has left the ordained Sangha:

"Already escaped the jungle of desire,
Do you want to run back now?
My friend, please look at this really carefully:
Already free, do you want to go back to your bonds? "
(Verse 344) ¹

A good way of participating in the life of the Order and making the decision for or against ordination is the role of Anagarikaswhich can be found above all in the Ajahn Chah tradition and often also in general in the western Theravada monasteries. The Anagarikas are a kind of "postulant"; they do not yet have the same number of rules and obligations as samaneras / samaneris or bhikkhus / bhikkhunis; they take the “eight rules”, have already shaved their hair and wear a white robe. They can also still have possessions and handle money. If Anagarikas decide to return to worldly life after all, this step is generally easier. The “Anagarika phase” - usually a year or longer - can be viewed as a kind of probationary period, which can be followed by a further ordination upon request and depending on suitability.

10. Is there a kind of “call” or inner “destiny” for this life as a Buddhist monk or nun?

That certainly differs from person to person. For some, the acceptance of ordained life has evolved from studying and practicing Buddhist teachings. The desire to become a monk or nun can also arise from karmic imprints of earlier lives in which one already lived and practiced as a monk or nun.

11. What is the value and meaning of life as a Buddhist monk or nun?

“A housekeeper, or the son of a housekeeper, or someone born into another family hears that Dhamma. When he hears the Dhamma, he gains confidence in the Tathāgata. In possession of that trust he considers: 'A householder's life is cramped and dusty; homeless life is wide and open. While living at home, it is not easy to live the sacred life that is deeply perfect and pure, like a polished clam. Suppose I shave off my hair and beard, put on the yellow robe, and move away from home life into homelessness. ‘ Later he shaves his hair and beard, puts on the yellow robe and moves away from home life into homelessness, giving up a small or large fortune, a small or large group of relatives. ”- Medium collection (Majjhima Nikāja) ², 27

12. What can a life as a monk or a nun offer a young person?

The ordination as a monk / nun represents a deepening of the refuge vows that one took when one became a Buddhist. Thus, it also means reinforcement and support in the spiritual alignment (the alignment towards the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha) to which one has committed.

If this happens at a young age, one can fully concentrate one's future life on it without great detours - within the monastic structures that promote an introspection and within a community (the Sangha) of spiritual friends who go the same way.

It is good to bring some life experience with you, because the step into ordination should not come from an escape from life. Motivation is very important. Many people feel a calling to the spiritual life, including the desire to be of service to people, and they also find in the life of ordained an answer to their existential questions and the inadequacies of a worldly way of life (which is outwardly directed).

The focus of the tasks and activities and thus also of the training vary within the traditions and schools - be it study, practice, meditation, supervision and teaching of laypeople, leading centers, etc. According to one's own tendencies and abilities one can to devote his entire life to the development on the Buddha-way for the good of all living beings.

13. Isn't it better to have completed a life of housekeeping and not be ordained until you retire?

Apparently, it is often advisable for Westerners to experience the worldly lifestyle for a long time as adults before ordination - especially with regard to a professional activity and relationships with the opposite sex. Otherwise, you may later develop a feeling that you have missed something in this regard that you still want to catch up on. You might then take off your robe again.

But postponing ordination until retirement is not generally advisable. Is it even certain that you will reach retirement age? And how much time will you then have left in which you can practice the practice with the necessary physical energy and mental resilience and also take on tasks in the Sangha? All of this is uncertain. If there is a strong desire to live such a life completely dedicated to the practice and realization of the Buddha-path, which would like to renounce worldly attachments and distractions, one should strive for ordination as soon as possible. Of course, a thorough check of your own motivation is advisable in advance. Then one will experience the blessed life as an ordained for a short time and be able to develop one's efforts in the Dharma well.

14. How do you prepare when you slowly but surely see the desire to take the vows germinate?

Generally speaking, it is advisable, on the one hand, to honestly check your own motivation. Is there really a deep longing, as an ordained, to realize the path of salvation in the best possible way? And does this give the conviction that one can find one's way out of the world of suffering and attain the constant happiness of nirvā ?a? Do you also want to help others? On the other hand, one should, as far as possible, seriously consider and possibly test a little whether one can let go of the attachments to the worldly lifestyle and corresponding pleasures.

Then you can try to test your wishes in a real environment, i.e. as a layman spend a certain amount of time in a monastery in the direction to which you feel drawn. If this does not correspond to your own expectations, you should not give up the wish right away, but maybe try again somewhere else. It would also be advisable to familiarize yourself more closely with the teaching methods and methods of practice in Buddhist schools. In a monastery, if necessary also in a center where ordained people live, you can then learn something specific about the daily routine and the demands that are placed on the residents there. Last but not least, you can check your own willingness to take up the not always easy life in such a community. You also get to know the ordained there better. In the best case one may feel whether and how such a way of life affects them and is encouraged and inspired to choose such a path as well.

Duties, way of life of the monks and nuns

15. What can Buddhist ordinates do for society?

The main task of ordained people is to realize the Buddhist teaching and to pass it on authentically. In the sense of a role model function, they also show an alternative way of life. The Sangha (the community of the ordained) as one of the three jewels is also available to the laity as a field or object to practice generous giving. In addition, social engagement and pastoral support for those seeking help are important tasks of ordained persons.

16. Do Buddhist ordinates proselytize?

No. Do not proselytize in the sense known here, in which one tries to convert people of other faiths to the Buddha-doctrine. Buddhist teaching can help many people, and when they show interest it is appropriate to provide an appropriate response.

17. What does it mean to 'move into homelessness'?

In the original sense, it means leaving the framework of your own family to become a monk or nun. This should be done with the consent of the parents.

In a broader sense, it means renouncing worldly concerns. Here one can speak of the eight worldly dharmas / matters (profit-loss, fame-defamation, praise-criticism, pleasure-pain) which represent the interests of a worldly oriented person.

Furthermore, it means developing an alignment that was taught by the Buddha as follows:

"Refrain from unwholesome
Do wholesome and
Tame your mind. "

How this looks in particular can vary in the various Buddhist traditions. What they all have in common, however, is the striving to overcome attachment to the worldly and to attain liberation.

18. Is a life in the monastic tradition still in keeping with the times?

Let us assume that a new university is being founded in Asia and that there are plans to set up a physics institute. Would the physics professors then discuss whether they should teach Newton's calculus of fluxion or the laws of thermodynamics or Einstein's theory of relativity? Suppose a professor stood up and said, “These laws and theories come from the modern west. They are not part of our cultural heritage and are out of date. We shouldn't be obliged to teach them at our university. They are part of the current cultural baggage in the West, so we have to do without them when we teach physics in Asia. "

The laws of physics are taught not only because they are part of a particular current cultural heritage, but because they explain phenomena that are universally true. That is the purpose of physics. And so the monastic traditions are universal anytime and anywhere.

A monastic environment is like a university or other learning environment. There the focus is on the search for an objective truth. This search is timeless and not tied to any cultural environment. The learners, in our case nuns or monks in a monastic context, endeavor through mind training to understand the essence and task of a human life, the complexity of consciousness from the Buddhist perspective and to deal with the factors of existential suffering in order to go beyond .

And already 2600 years ago monks and nuns freed themselves from suffering ... If these methods were not effective, they would have been lost over the millennia.

19. Do ordained people always have to be available to laypeople and help them, or can they refuse to do so and withdraw?

It depends a lot on where the ordained person lives and how the ordained person's self-image is understood and lived there. In the so-called town monasteries and Buddhist city centers there will be a lot of study and teaching as well as a large part of social work, i.e. approachability, advice and help for lay people with all their different problems, including very secular ones. In the so-called forest monasteries, people are more attuned to meditation and retreat and therefore avoid or limit social contacts and tasks, e.g. through strict visiting and telephone times and an isolated location of the monastery. In this respect, those willing to ordain should check the monastery to see whether it corresponds to their ideas and desired priorities as well as their temperament.

Requests for help are usually not directly rejected, but rather the layperson seeking help is passed on according to the problem at hand.So there will probably be better advisors and helpers for problems with family, partnership or finances than ordained ones who have renounced these areas of life. If the laity do not feel for themselves which questions are appropriate for the ordained and which are not, it can be difficult for monks and nuns. Reacting with compassion and patience and viewing the situation as a training ground is certainly better than rejecting what is often perceived by laypeople as cold and arrogant, but you also have to know and respect your own limits. Ultimately, it is always a balancing act whether and to what extent the ordained is available to the laity.

20. Do I have to meditate in the forest or in a cave?

No, but it can be useful. In the West, people usually meditate together in a monastery or meditation center or alone in a room. Many people would have a problem here in terms of climate and health if they had to meditate outside. But there are also here - albeit more in Asia - hermit natures, whether ordained or not, who like to meditate alone and in nature. The Buddha often recommended that his monks practice in the forest, in a lovely, secluded place. For example, it says in the well-known Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta (M10 and D22): "Here, o monks, the monk went into the forest, to the foot of a tree or into an empty dwelling."

And especially in the verses of the elders (Theragāthā) there are true hymns of praise to nature and the forest, e.g. in the verses of the Arahant Tālapuṭa Thera:

"In a cave or on a rock height,
sought out by wild boars and antelopes,
in deep forest, finely sprinkled with cool rain:
Lingering there in a cool grotto I feel bliss. "
(Thag. 1135)

Forest, mountains or caves are often special places of energy to which some ordained people like to withdraw temporarily in order to practice intensively without much distraction. For fully ordained people (bhikkhus and bhikkhunīs), however, there is a need for daily alms-giving, as they are not allowed to cook or store food themselves. That means they have to go back to the crowd, or lay supporters bring them their meal at their retreat place in the forest or even live with them there. For fully ordained nuns (bhikkhunīs) there is also the rule that they are not allowed to go into the forest alone, let alone stay there longer. In Asia, too, there are very few ordained people who actually live and meditate in the forest or inhabit a cave, but they still exist.

On the one hand, meditation in the forest or in a quiet, dark cave is very beneficial and can lead to great depths, on the other hand one should not believe that the external environment, its calm and peacefulness, also creates a calm, clear and peaceful mind. The unfamiliar noises of the forest, the weather and some animals can be a great challenge. Not to mention your own mind with its weaknesses and problems, which you have taken with you.

21. Why do Buddhist monks and nuns have shaved heads?

Buddhist monks and nuns follow the Buddha himself, who cut off his hair after leaving his family and the palace - even if many Buddha images and Buddha statues seem to refute this (based on legends or as an expression of "artistic freedom" ). Hair and beard shaving was a tradition among the many spiritual seekers who were already in existence in India at that time. It is a visible sign of renunciation, the determination to forego sensual pleasures, to become free for constant happiness that can only be found in the spiritual way.

By shaving their hair, monks and nuns signal that they want to forego good looks and erotic charisma and that they want to practice sexual abstinence. You live as simply as possible so that you can devote yourself entirely to the development of the spirit. While a lot of time and money is normally spent on hairstyle, all that is needed for monks and nuns is some soap and the occasional new razor blade. In hot climates, head protection against the sun's rays is required, and in cooler regions such as Germany, Buddhist monks and nuns often wear a simple hat in the color of the robe to protect themselves from the cold.

22. What happens if a monk or a nun breaks the rules of Vinaya? Can a vow break be cleansed?

The Vinaya contains several categories of rules, and breaking them has different consequences depending on the type of rule.

Breaking the promise of celibacy, for example, is a so-called one Pārājika and leads - if all decisive factors are met - to lifelong exclusion from the Sangha. That is, the bhikkhu or bhikkhuni must take off the robe and cannot regain full ordination for the rest of life.

Other rules are much less severe. Most of the rules belong to the category of Pācittiyas; they can be cleared up by simply confessing to another bhikkhu (in the case of bhikkhus) or another bhikkhuni (in the case of bhikkhunis). Of course, this also requires a sincere determination to make an effort not to commit this transgression again. In this way, continuous improvement can take place, bearing in mind that the rules that are considered to be less serious are nonetheless important as they help to prevent serious transgressions - e.g. in which bhikkhus / bhikkhunis are not frivolous - or intentional - situations that could lead to the breach of the promise of celibacy.

The Buddha only issued a Vinaya rule if it was based on corresponding misconduct by monks or nuns. They encompass a whole spectrum of situations that are relevant in the life of bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, e.g. also the correct use of the props of food, robes, accommodation and medicine as well as dealing with the lay people who provide them with these props. In the event of improper receipt or improper handling of such props, a robe or alms bowl may have to be handed in.

The Vinaya rules serve the continuation of the Sangha, the community of ordained in the succession of the Buddha, and at the same time they support the individual bhikkhu or individual bhikkhuni on their way to awakening, which is a continuous process of cleansing from the defilements in the mind - a process of letting go of all forms of greed, hatred and delusion. In addition, they are a basis for the most conflict-free coexistence of the ordained among one another and are intended to support harmonious and mutually beneficial relationships with the laity.

23. Is it true that without ordained the Dharma would perish or dilute?

According to the teachings of the Buddha, one must say yes! answer.

The full continuation of the teaching depends on actualized practitioners within the Quadruple Gathering (see Abstract: The Four Assemblies and the Foundation of the Order of Nuns). The Quadruple Congregation and the Three Baskets (Tripitaka) with the corresponding practice would no longer be fully available without ordained. Above all, the Vinaya, the basket of ethical discipline for restraining physical, linguistic and mental behavior, would be extinguished. Without fully ordained there is no Vinaya. The Buddha said of the Vinaya:

“Just as the earth is the basis for all life and allows everything to grow, so the good Vinaya is the basis for those who seek restraint; and also increases merit.

Discipline is understood as the source of all that is excellent, and this is what the Vinaya embodies. As long as the full Vinaya, the supreme treasure, is present, the lamp of Dharma will be there. "

(from praise of Vinaya, Tib: 'dul ba la bstod, Skt: Vinaya Stotra)

Analyzed in a differentiated manner, one can determine:

It is undeniable that numerous lay people in the West today have more favorable opportunities to devote themselves to the Buddha-path than can be observed in the countries of Asia in general. Many Western teachers have well-founded teaching skills and a great deal of experience in meditative training of the mind. They also do an impressive job of translating important writings or oral lectures; In addition, there is the edition of books that testify to a profound examination of the teachings. Such a broader horizon for teaching teaching by western laypeople can certainly be seen as characteristic of the creative, dynamic appropriation and communication of the Dharma, which is disseminated in a culture with comparatively open communicative possibilities.

But what about the dilution of the doctrine mentioned in the question? This can occur - unnoticed by many - if the fashion trends typical of the time are followed all too willingly and the profound aspects of the liberating path are not sufficiently included. Opportunities to influence broader social fields, personal recognition and, last but not least, financial repercussions can easily come into focus in such a way that the clarity of what is crucial on the Buddha-path is left out, but also, as the Buddha put it, "against the stream ”is running.

The historical continuity in which members of the order experience themselves stands for the preservation of the teaching in its direct connection with the practice that includes the basis of the Vinaya (the order's discipline). Religious are more closely involved in their teaching tradition than individual individuals and lay communities, and see it as their task to protect the essence of teaching and practice. Through the training as a monk or nun, they are in a different way permeated by the way of life that has renounced worldly "advantages" and experience has shown that they will want to take less account of time-related expectations. The imprinting of a way of life that is based on the Dharma and the Vinaya, if possible also on the experiences in an ordained community, leads in the best case to the fact that teaching can be done from a different experience background. This aspect, which should not be underestimated, is subtly noticeable for many people; if it were missing, the teaching would be a lot poorer and, in the spirit of the Buddha, not fully passed on.

Let's not forget: the Buddha established his fellowship with the Quadruple Assembly. In addition to the male and female lay followers, there are also monks and nuns. He knew that the interaction of these four groups enables a whole range of important experiences, including those that produce specific noble actions and gestures of the human being. They express trust in the Sangha, generosity, service to the Sangha and gratitude on both sides. This aspect may also include some form of teaching - possibly even in a non-verbal manner. Last but not least, the laypeople use the order as the best source of income for performing wholesome acts. This sphere of promoting a form of life that is consistently oriented towards the Dharma can thus be experienced as a field of blessing.

24. What is the daily routine of a Buddhist ordained?

Of course, there are variations in the daily routine of ordained people depending on whether they live in a monastery, in a secluded, more contemplative monastery or in a Buddhist center in the city, what more specific tasks they have, etc. In general, however, Buddhist monks and Nuns get up early, because the early morning hours are particularly suitable for meditation.

In the Bhikkhuni monastery of Aneñja-Vihara, for example, the morning group meditation begins at 4 a.m. and ends shortly before 6 a.m. with recitations. At 6:30 am there is a fortifying drink, after which the work in the house or outside is done. In this monastery, which follows the Theravada tradition, the “Dāna”, the midday meal, is already eaten together at 10:30 am.

The afternoon hours are devoted to studying the Buddha's teachings and meditation. In the evening from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., the ordained - mostly together with lay guests - come back for chanting and meditation in the meditation hall; then you can continue to practice individually.

The daily routine in a Tibetan center in Germany looks like this, for example:
The first joint practice sessions take place at 7:00 or 7:30; afterwards we have breakfast together at 8:30 am. This can be followed by another practical session. Until lunch, which takes place between 12 and 1 p.m., everyone goes about their business at the center. The work in the center continues after the meal. There is also some individual time before the evening session begins either at 6 p.m. or at 7 p.m., which lasts 1 or 2 hours. This daily routine can change depending on the day of the week or whether a retreat is taking place or not.

25. Why are Buddhist ordinates not allowed to eat anything after noon?

In a discourse in Majjhima Nikāya² (MN 70) we read that the Buddha spoke to a large group of monks in the Kasi country as follows:

“Bhikkhus, I abstain from eating at night. By doing so, I am free from illness and suffering, and I enjoy health, strength, and an easy life. Come bhikkhus, abstain from eating at night. In doing so, you too will be free from sickness and discomfort, and you will enjoy health, strength and an easy life. "

Another discourse (MN 66) shows that the bhikkhus also ate in the evening in the early days of the Sangha. It has happened that monks on their alms round in the dark "Ran into a septic tank, fell into a sewer, walked into a thorn bush and fell over a sleeping cow ..." and much more: A woman was very frightened because she thought the monk on alms round in the dark was a demon.

Further reasons for restricting food to the time between sunrise and the highest point of the sun are as follows: The necessary food intake is done in the morning, the rest of the day is then available for meditation. There is no longer any need to think about food. The supporters who donate the food also have time to devote themselves to their other tasks and their own families.

When we think about the frequency of in-between and casual eating in lay life, it becomes clear that the restriction in meal times teaches ordained to say “no” to cravings and distractions, and that they eat their food in a framework that allows it enables them to be mindful when eating: when they eat, they do nothing else - not even speak.

In many monasteries the following reflection (according to Pāli Kanon, MN 2) precedes the meal:

“Looking wisely, I use alms food, neither for fun, nor for intoxication, nor for adornment, nor for beautification, but only to keep this body alive, to nourish it, to end discomfort and to support the holy life by I consider, 'So I will end old feelings without evoking new feelings, and I will be healthy and blameless, and I will have an easy life.' "

However, the Buddha allowed certain substances such as sugar, honey, butter and oil for the time after sunset, which can be taken during special stress in order to avoid states of weakness. In some monasteries, for example, there is black chocolate in the afternoon as a tonic. The range of such tonics varies to a certain extent from monastery to monastery.

There are also differences in terms of food between the Buddhist traditions. In the Mahayana tradition, for example, it is often common to have a simple health meal in the early evening. Also, people don't eat in silence everywhere and all the time.

26. Do ordained people still form friendships (with laypeople) or do they prefer to keep to one another?

It's not primarily about friendship. Rather, it is a sincere expression of mutual respect that occurs naturally.

Ordained leave the laity the freedom to express the respect they feel in their own way. They always try to interpret the gestures and friendly words that lay people use correctly and unequivocally. Above all, it is important for the ordained not to create any obstacles that could hinder the laity in their spiritual training.

Long-term friendships will continue to exist to a certain extent.

27How do ordained people deal with their sexuality? Are there exercises to transform sexuality?

It is well known that monks and nuns have taken the vow to refrain from sexual activity altogether. Of course, this does not mean that such desires will no longer appear in them immediately and permanently.

Should this happen, however, ordained ones can first remind themselves that they ultimately know exactly why they are practicing renunciation here. In order to achieve liberation from all psychological-social dependencies that ultimately bring suffering, in order to finally achieve holiness or Buddhahood on the path of purity, it is also important to let go of desire and all attachments. Reflecting on the fluctuations in feelings that cannot be relied on can also be helpful here. One should also be aware of the consequences of losing one's ordained status.

If the mind has been cleared again in this way, various meditation methods³ are available to re-establish the inner attitude on this question. So the insight / observation method is to be called, the concentrated look inwards, whereby the unrest that has arisen, the loss of a balanced inner state can be clearly grasped and appropriate conclusions can be drawn from it. Above all in Theravada there is also meditation on the impurity of the desired body - especially with regard to its hidden, inner substances - and its impermanence, which must be visualized - up to the inevitable decomposition process, the becoming to dust.

Finally, in the highest tantra class there are methods of converting desire into positive energies, complex visualization processes, which can only be mastered in connection with initiations under the guidance of a suitable teacher.


28. Can Buddhist monks and nuns switch from one Buddhist tradition to another (e.g. first being ordained in Theravada and then being ordained in Mahayana)?

A change of tradition is quite possible. However, the handling is different.

It depends on the traditions and monasteries whether the ordination must or can be taken again or whether only the robes are changed.

29. Why and how is such a great blessing associated with Buddhist ordination (many high-ranking teachers are ordained)?

During ordination we enter into various obligations, e.g. to adhere to certain basic ethical rules, to benefit our fellow human beings, to avoid unwholesome acts, which is certainly a blessing for society.

As an ordained there is also the mandate to pass on the teachings of the Buddha, which is why many ordained teachers have become.

30. Are mentally ill people allowed to be ordained?

There are always people who come to Buddhism out of the feeling of existential suffering, a difficult, traumatizing fate or a fundamental lack and also want to be ordained. These people, tormented by existential suffering, are looking for what is known as “radical therapy”.

Radical therapy, a method with which a mental illness can be changed in a concrete, tangible and immediate way, does not exist in the Buddhist context. For this reason, it is recommended to seek medical treatment beforehand if there is a desire for ordination. Only after recovery can the desire for ordination be expressed, which is then carefully examined.

In ancient Tibet, the mentally ill and handicapped did not have a chance to be ordained. Geshe Lhundup Sopa, one of the first Lharampa Geshes to come to America, writes in his book entitled Tibetan Religious Culture, Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1983, Lesson one on page 18 the following: “According to monastic custom, it is not permitted for a severely physically handicapped person, a blind person, a deaf person or a mentally ill person, etc. to become a monk. For this purpose the ordination master examines him by watching him make three long prostrations and asking him whether he can provide information about his origin. ”⁴

31. Who gives the vows if there is no permanent teacher? How long does it take to be with a teacher before he or she gives the vows?

If you don't have a permanent teacher, you can get vows from someone who has been vows and keeps them for at least ten years.

Someone who has kept the vows for so long knows the difficulties that come with them. That is why he would like to test whoever he gives this to. It can be different from person to person.

Monastery stay and admission to the monastery

32. Where can I live in a monastery or become a monk or nun there?

There are currently only a few monasteries in Germany. It should be noted, however, that numerous monasteries have sprung up in other European countries, especially in France. This must be distinguished from the numerous Buddhist centers about which the website of the German Buddhist Union can provide information. However, the capacity to take someone there is limited.

If you want to live in a monastery, you should know that there are different Buddhist traditions - four main traditions. The exercise practices and the expectations of the roommates, even of monks or nuns, are accordingly different. So it would be good to know in which tradition one would like to practice. A personal contact and possibly a little search would be recommended.

It is usually customary in the monasteries to initially spend a shorter or longer period of time, during which one can check step by step whether life there is suitable for someone. It would also be good to first clarify the motivation for such a significant step. The texts to be read on this website can be helpful.

We ask for your understanding that we do not want to recommend a particular monastery.

¹ Dhammapada verse in translation from Munisch B. Schiekel "Dhammapada - the wisdom teachings of the Buddha", Herder spectrum Volume 5305, Herder-Verlag Freiburg, 1998 - with the kind permission of the publisher.

² All quotations are from the German translation of the Majjhima Nikaya - "The Buddha's Discourses from the Middle Collection" by Kai Zumwinkel, Jhāna Verlag Uttenbühl 2001.

³ Other methods: see "Overcoming attachment to the body." (PDF)

⁴ For more information on those who cannot ordain, see The Mahavagga of the Vinayapitika, Verlag Beyerlein and Steinschulte, pages 44–49. (Download: RTF file.)


Compiled by Buddhist nuns and monks from the DBO.