Monastic Discipline | Thubten Chodron http://thubtenchodron.org The Thubten Chodron Teaching Archive Tue, 17 Oct 2017 01:32:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The benefits of living in a monastic community http://thubtenchodron.org/2017/06/bhikshuni-community/ Tue, 06 Jun 2017 05:35:26 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=79460

  • You receive a lot of support, even if sometimes you don’t feel you need it. In the end, you realize it’s beneficial for you. For example, somebody might give a suggestion on how to make something better. You might think at first, “This person is criticizing me.” Later, you might realize that her idea is quite good and that it will improve your practice.

  • Ven. Jampa giving a gift to Ven. Chodron.

    You have the support of your preceptor who is guiding you in the Vinaya. (Photo by Sravasti Abbey)

  • You have the support of your preceptor who is guiding you in the Vinaya. This is very important. I have learned so much just by observing how Venerable Chodron is guiding us and leading this community. She is an excellent Vinaya holder to learn from.
  • Living in a monastic community enables you to uphold the Vinaya and the Dharma. For example, doing the posadha makes it possible for you to review the precepts and to amend your negative deeds, with sangha members listening to you and supporting you.
  • When doing the pravarana you can request feedback and so have the opportunity to improve your practice and protect your precepts. There are more rituals that bring benefit to the individual and the sangha so they can practice the Dharma. 
  • Ethical conduct is the foundation for concentration and concentration is the foundation for wisdom. If we live alone, it’s possible to slip into some of our old habits, as nobody is watching over us. Also, we don’t have role models that show us how to live properly, how to practice the Dharma. This can become a hindrance on the path.
  • In community we have the collective power to create a conducive environment for studying and practicing the Dharma. Alone it’s very difficult to create such places, to have the right living conditions that will support your precepts, your practice, and your study of the Dharma. 

  • Living in community protects you as you accumulate merit and purify negative deeds because you are serving powerful objects of respect such as your teacher, the abbess, the bhiksunis and the Dharma. You are less inclined to follow egoistical trips that might propel you to do negative deeds.
  • The focus of your practice is not only on yourself. Just living in community motivates you to think of others. Then, even if your motivation or ability to think help others is weak, you will start to see the benefits of helping others. You will learn to see the necessity and the beauty of it and you will increase your ability and willingness to help over time. That will benefit your practice as you purify and gain merit in this process. 

  • All members work together, so as a community we are stronger in benefiting others by offering teachings, retreats, and counseling. In a community, there are different skills that are beneficial to promote the Dharma, to create a supportive environment, to engage in social activities, to train new monastics, and so on. One person can often only focus on one thing at a time, but a community can multitask.

  • A community of monastics can leave a huge impression on society. A lone monastic and his or her practices of the Buddha’s teachings might not get recognized. However, a community of monastics that lives, studies, practices, and promotes the Dharma together can have a huge impact on the society. They are strong role models. As Venerable Chodron has said: When we hold our ethical values closely, we are the “conscience of society.”
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Questions and answers with monastics http://thubtenchodron.org/2017/04/sangha-discussion/ Fri, 21 Apr 2017 19:20:54 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=80307

  • Caring for aged or ill residents in a monastery
  • The benefits of diversity in the sangha community
  • The different roles of residents in the community
  • Conflict resolution in the community according to the vinaya
  • Teaching secular ethics to lay people
  • Pindapata and obtaining food for the community
  • Getting personal matters settled before ordaining
  • The difference in creating a monastery in the West and in Asia
  • Screening applicants for ordination
  • Becoming clear about one’s family role and responsibilities before ordaining

Questions and answers with monastics (download)

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The six harmonies of the sangha: Part 2 http://thubtenchodron.org/2017/04/sangha-unity/ Thu, 20 Apr 2017 20:56:09 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=80255

  • Harmony in the precepts—observing the same precepts
  • Harmony in views—sharing the Buddhist world view
  • Harmony in welfare—sharing resources equally
  • How monks and nuns live together at Sravasti Abbey
  • How decisions are made by the community at Sravasti Abbey
  • The relationship between senior and junior monastics at Sravasti Abbey

The six harmonies of the sangha part 2 (download)

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The six harmonies of the sangha: Part 1 http://thubtenchodron.org/2017/04/monastic-harmony/ Wed, 19 Apr 2017 20:39:35 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=80248

  • Physical harmony—creating a sense of physical safety
  • Verbal harmony—being aware of how our speech influences others
  • Harmony of the mind—appreciating and supporting others
  • Conflict resolution at Sravasti Abbey
  • Being faithful to the tradition while living in Western culture

The six harmonies of the sangha part 1 (download)

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The ten benefits of monastic precepts http://thubtenchodron.org/2017/04/vinaya-objectives/ Tue, 18 Apr 2017 19:00:13 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=79455

  • The nine conventional benefits of setting up the precepts
    • Three that promote harmony in the sangha
    • Two that help transform society
    • The four advantages that bring about individual liberation
  • The ultimate benefit of setting up the precepts
  • Questions and answers
    • The importance of monastic Dharma teachers
    • Advice for helping others with problems
    • Figuring out what is the essence of the Dharma and what is culture
    • The monastic community at Sravasti Abbey and the daily schedule

The ten benefits of monastic precepts (download)

YouTube Video

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The practice of generosity http://thubtenchodron.org/2016/08/dana/ Thu, 18 Aug 2016 19:59:43 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=74053

Dana is a Sanskrit and Pali word that means “generosity” or “giving.” It refers specifically to taking delight in giving—that is, getting in touch with the natural generosity and wish to share inside of us. The mind of generosity is a joyful mind; it does not suffer from regret or a feeling of poverty. Rather, the act of giving itself is pleasurable and seeing others’ using our offering is an extra bonus.

Those of us who are monastics have chosen not to work for a living because want to be able to serve others without thinking of the teachings and service we give in terms of monetary repayment. We are stepping into the unknown and trusting that others will support us because they see value in our lifestyle of simplicity, ethical discipline, and service. We trust that people will want to support our Dharma study and practice so that we can in turn share the Dharma with them through teaching, leading meditations, and spiritual counseling.

In accordance with the Buddhist tradition, Dharma teachings should be given free of charge, thus making them available to anyone who wishes. Making it known at the end of Dharma teachings that dana will be happily received is not a clever way of charging for teachings while looking like we’re not.

Ven. Tarpa holding a gift and smiling.

Dana is an expression of our love and compassion for all beings and of our eagerness to put the Buddha’s teachings into practice. (Photo by Sravasti Abbey)

The donations people give should be a gift freely and joyfully given. Dana is not given out of obligation or in order to avoid looking cheap. It is an expression of our love and compassion for all beings and of our eagerness to put the Buddha’s teachings into practice. It shows that we want the teachers and practitioners who benefit us to have the four requisites of life—food, shelter, clothing, and medicines. We give because we want these people to have what they need—which nowadays includes computers and email!—so that they can continue to share the Dharma with us and all others.

An Essential Part of Practice

As the Buddha taught, generosity is an essential part of our practice. The first of the six far-reaching attitudes of the bodhisattvas, generosity frees us from attachment and miserliness. It also directly benefits others. Thus, in the Buddhist tradition, practitioners happily support Buddhist abbeys, temples, centers, teachers, monastics, practitioners, and activities that benefit the society.

Some people may wonder, “I am a lay practitioner. Why should I support monastics when they can work to support themselves?” As a monastic who has been teaching the Dharma internationally for 30 years, I must say that I never could have done that without others’ dana. If I had had a job, I couldn’t have taken time off to travel to other cities and countries to teach. I couldn’t have put as much time into Dharma practice, so the teachings I gave would not have been very comprehensive. I couldn’t have prepared as much before teaching, so the teachings would have been vague, disorganized, or even incorrect. I would not have had the time to write Dharma books and articles or to reply to the multitudes of email students send requesting advice.

The fact that I’ve been able to serve others all these years is due to the kindness of the people who have given dana over the years. Those who supported me when I was a new nun and not yet qualified to teach enabled me to study with great Tibetan masters and to meditate. Those who offer dana now enable me to stay alive so I can continue studying, practicing, teaching, and writing books. When we understand dependent arising, or “inter-being,” we see that we all depend on each other for help, and we all receive so much from each other.

Having access to Buddhist monasteries, centers, teachers, and teachings depends on our having created the causes. As students, it is important for us personally to create these causes, not to expect others to work or supply the material resources. We must create the karma in order to experience the results we wish.

Whenever we offer our time, energy and financial help in ways that enable others to receive teachings and practice, we create the cause to receive teachings and to practice ourselves. This cause brings results quickly—creating and supporting monasteries and Dharma centers for us to visit now—and in the future, by creating the karmic causes to meet the Dharma again.

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El valor de la comunidad monástica http://thubtenchodron.org/2015/11/importancia-sangha/ Sun, 01 Nov 2015 22:57:34 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=71384

En la tradición sánscrita, la Joya de la Sangha en la que tomamos refugio, puede ser cualquier persona, monástica o laica, que ha realizado directamente la vacuidad. Sangha también se refiere a una comunidad de al menos cuatro monásticos completamente ordenados. La sangha monástica representa a la Joya de la Sangha, aunque no todos los que son monásticos han realizado directamente la vacuidad. Para ser una sangha en pleno funcionamiento, se deben hacer las tres prácticas monásticas principales: la confesión quincenal, el retiro de la temporada de lluvias y la invitación para recibir retroalimentación.

El Buda también habló de la “asamblea cuádruple” (catuparisā, caturparṣadāh), es decir, la comunidad extendida de sus seguidores compuesta por monjes y monjas con ordenación completa y por laicos y laicas que han tomado refugio y los cinco preceptos. Llamar “sangha” a un grupo de seguidores laicos en un centro de Dharma es confuso, especialmente si la gente piensa equivocadamente que este grupo es la Joya de la Sangha que es un objeto de refugio. Por esta razón, el uso de la palabra sangha en el sentido tradicional, para referirse a la comunidad monástica, es más claro y evita malentendidos.

La razón por la que la sangha ha sido importante, respetada y valorada a lo largo de la historia, es que sus miembros practican el entrenamiento superior de la conducta ética a través de la toma y observación de los preceptos bhiksu y bhiksuni (monjes y monjas con ordenación completa). Debido a que los miembros de la sangha tienen un estilo de vida sencillo y están libres de preocupaciones familiares y de la necesidad de trabajar para proveer a una familia, tienen más tiempo para el estudio y la práctica del Dharma. Por ello, la sangha ha sido la principal responsable de la preservación de las enseñanzas del Buda a lo largo de los milenios, memorizando, estudiando, contemplando y meditando en ellas, así como enseñándolas a los demás.

Los practicantes laicos también pueden hacer esto; sin embargo, la casa de una familia laica cumple una función diferente a la de un monasterio. Los monasterios fungen como lugares físicos para la práctica de tiempo completo y la preservación de las enseñanzas. Cuando la gente piensa en monásticos viviendo juntos con el propósito de estudiar y practicar el Dharma, se sienten inspirados. Tienen un sentido de optimismo y esperanza y sienten el deseo de ir al monasterio, templo o centro de Dharma para practicar junto con la sangha.

Es importante mantener viva la doctrina para las generaciones futuras. La doctrina transmitida se mantiene cuando las personas estudian y explican el Budadharma. La doctrina realizada se mantiene cuando las personas practican y logran alcanzar el significado de esas enseñanzas en su propia mente. En este sentido, la sangha es importante, porque practica mucho y obtienen el logro del entrenamiento superior de la conducta ética, que es la base para el cultivo de la concentración y la sabiduría.

De acuerdo con las Escrituras, que la doctrina budista florezca en un lugar está determinado por la presencia de la asamblea cuádruple, lo que convierte a ese lugar en una “tierra central.” La existencia de la comunidad monástica practicando el vinaya, específicamente llevando a cabo la práctica de las tres principales prácticas monásticas, es crucial para hacer que el budismo sea una tradición viva en una sociedad. Aunque una persona puede practicar bien y ser muy realizada, esto no constituye el florecimiento de la doctrina en un lugar.

Un interés estable por convertirse en un monástico se desarrolla naturalmente como consecuencia de una profunda reflexión en las enseñanzas budistas básicas. Como resultado de contemplar la compasión y el surgimiento dependiente, uno se interesa en la naturaleza de la mente, lo que conduce a una apreciación de la vacuidad, el renacimiento y el karma. Esto lleva a la comprensión de la posibilidad de alcanzar la liberación. Cuando uno está convencido de esta posibilidad, naturalmente se sentirá atraído por vivir una vida que esté de acuerdo con los preceptos éticos, lo que podría conducir a tomar la ordenación monástica. El Buda explicó cuál es la motivación adecuada para ordenarse (MN 29: 2):

Algunos miembros del clan se van a consecuencia de la fe, dejan la vida familiar por una vida sin hogar pensando: “Soy una víctima del nacimiento, la vejez y la muerte, de la tristeza, llanto, dolor, pena y desesperación. Soy una víctima de dukkha, una presa de dukkha. Sin duda debe haber un final para toda esta aglomeración de dukkha”.

El Buda estableció la comunidad monástica con un propósito. Para superar las aflicciones, necesitamos sabiduría correcta, y para mantener esa visión, es esencial la unipuntualidad de la mente. Para concentrarse, se requieren atención plena y conciencia introspectiva, y éstas se cultivan a través del entrenamiento en la conducta ética. La conducta ética de los monásticos es más estricta que la de los seguidores laicos y por ello es más eficaz para domar a la mente. Mientras que una vida hogareña puede ser más colorida, la vida monástica es más estable. Aunque es difícil y requiere renunciar a las relaciones sexuales, etc., hay beneficios incluso en esta misma vida. La vida monástica es elogiada porque tiene relevancia directa en el desarrollo de los tres entrenamientos superiores.

Este último punto es importante, para las personas que piensan que la vida monástica es obsoleta o irrelevante en los tiempos modernos. Nuestro Maestro Buda Sakyamuni era un monje. El Buda vivió como monje desde que abandonó el palacio hasta su muerte, más de cincuenta años. Su restricción ética y estilo de vida monástico eran expresiones naturales de la pureza de su mente. Y muchos grandes maestros budistas también vivieron de esta manera, y los ejemplos de sus vidas nos transmiten la importancia y el beneficio de la vida monástica.

Sin embargo, la vida monástica no es apropiada para todos. La gente tiene que elegir el estilo de vida más adecuado para sí mismo y tener confianza en su capacidad para practicar. Un practicante laico que practica con diligencia puede alcanzar realizaciones elevadas. Marpa y su discípulo Milarepa fueron practicantes laicos, yoguis y maestros con realizaciones muy elevadas.

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The call of monasticism http://thubtenchodron.org/2015/05/contemplating-ordination/ Sun, 31 May 2015 22:08:34 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=56584

Newspaper article preview.

Click here to download.

Growing up, Ms Ruby Pan wanted to be a writer. In her teens, she fell in love with the theater and dreamt of being a playwright.

She won a Public Service Commission teaching scholarship to study English literature at Princeton University in the United States, where she bagged prizes for a play and a collection of short stories she wrote.

She even got to perform a monologue she wrote at a show produced by the famous Royal Shakespeare Company in England.

She thought she had done everything that was artistically fulfilling, but when she graduated in 2006, she felt no joy.

She says: “Instead, I felt burnt out, like I had run a very long race for no reason.”

Ms Pan, 31, who now goes by her ordained name, Thubten Damcho, was speaking over the telephone from Sravasti Abbey, a Tibetan Buddhist monastry in a forested area in Washington in the United States, where she now lives.

In 2007, after returning to Singapore, she started teaching English language and literature at a secondary school here and was in charge of its drama club.

She dated, partied and ran arts workshops for volunteer welfare organisations. And yet, she still felt dissatisfied with life in general. At a friend’s suggestion, she signed up for Buddhism classes at Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery.

The teacher, Venerable Chuan Guan, 42, “exploded” her notion of what a monastic should be.

She recalls: “He was well-educated, humorous and explained Buddhist concepts in a logical and practical manner.”

One day in class, she learnt what “true happiness” was.

The venerable drew a picture of the six realms of existence in Buddhist cosmology, and showed how the Buddha had gotten out of the cycle of rebirth.

She says: “By transforming his mind through moral conduct and meditation, he was no longer subject to an uncontrolled cycle of mental and physical suffering, and was able to benefit others.

“And I thought, ‘That’s what I want to do with my life! I wanted to follow in the Buddha’s footsteps.'”

For the next three years, she started to seriously consider being ordained as a nun. She attended a novice retreat, where she shaved her head and wore robes. She simplified her lifestyle and gave away things she did not need, including her books.

When she told her parents, both freethinkers, and sister, a Christian, about her intention, they were sad.

She says: “My mother cried and asked if she had done anything wrong. I told her, it’s because she has raised me well that I wanted to live a virtuous life.”

However, a two-week visit to Sravasti Abbey in 2010 to check out monastic life put her plans on hold.

She was shocked to find that in between meditation sessions, the monastics’ life was grounded in the menial work of unplugging toilets, moving logs and doing dishes as part of serving the community.

She explains: “I realised that monastic life was not about having time for your own spiritual practice. Instead, you learn to put the community first, and do things you may not enjoy because they benefit others.

“This was a real challenge to my self-centred mind that’s used to doing whatever I want, whenever I want to.”

Confused about her aspiration, she returned to Singapore and buried herself in work.

She had been transferred to a policy- making division, which was more competitive and she found her drive to achieve resurfacing. Then in 2012, while serving as an assistant to Venerable Chodron, the abbess of Sravasti Abbey, at a retreat in Indonesia, she saw again how her mind was overwhelmed with negativity.

For instance, she was jealous of her then boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend, whom she did not even know.

Conversely, she saw how the abbess was always joyous and equanimous regardless of the situation, the “fruit of decades of spiritual practice as a monastic.”

She quit her job two years ago and moved to the abbey in Washington, where, with her family’s blessings, she got ordained.

Her parents visited her once and she chats with them over Skype once every two weeks. Dad, 62, is a lecturer in mechanical engineering while mum, also 62, is a retired administrative executive. Her sister, 28, is a chemical engineer.

Among her main duties at the abbey are to edit and upload daily video teachings on YouTube.

She also spends a few afternoons in the forest every week doing fire prevention work and cutting down dead trees and branches, an activity that took her “a while to get used to” but which she now enjoys.

She feels her degree in English has not gone to waste.

She says: “It helps me communicate my ideas clearly so that people understand and benefit from them.”

“Yes, there are days when my mind gets dissatisfied or doubtful, but I know that’s just the monkey mind at work and there are Dharma antidotes to apply.”

She has no regrets about her chosen path: “People think monastic life is difficult because you have to give up your freedom and creature comforts.

“On the contrary, it can be liberating because I do not have to figure out how to do my hair, what to wear, eat or buy.

“This frees up time for me to focus on transforming my mind and learning to be of benefit to others.”

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Heart advice for practitioners http://thubtenchodron.org/2015/05/dharma-life/ Fri, 01 May 2015 20:15:41 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=53289

  • Listening to and learning from others, but thinking for ourselves
  • Being transparent, and not defensive when hearing feedback
  • Rejoicing in others’ good qualities
  • Importance of study and having a long-term view and good motivation
  • Being aware of the kindness of others

Heart advice for practitioners (download)

YouTube Video

One thing that we had started on the other day was learning to think for yourself, which I think is quite important when you’re in the Dharma.

Learning from others, thinking for ourselves

You really learn from and listen to your teachers, but you think for yourself. Because, especially if it’s a Dharma point, you have to really think “is this true?” or “Is this not true?” Like in the teachings last night, if I’m talking about emptiness don’t just say “oh well, somebody said everything’s empty of inherent existence, so it must be,” but really think about that and understand it, and then in that way it becomes your own and you get it on a really deep internal level.

And then in terms also of other things that go on, not only specific Dharma points, learning from others but thinking for yourself. Also the way the community does things, or the way social issues are regarded, things like that. Then learn and listen from your teachers and others but think for yourself.

I remember one of my teachers, who is wonderful—I mean I just had so much amazing respect for him and learned so much from him—but he thought George Bush was a great President. So I don’t just listen and “my teacher said so, so I believe it.” It’s like, that one…. No, I wasn’t going to…. [laughter] I wasn’t going to buy that one.

And also, we go to our teachers to learn the Dharma, not to learn politics, not to learn social economics, or any of these kinds of topics. So to really take Dharma principles and apply them to things, but do that in our own creative way. Because I think … becoming a monastic does not mean that we’re all coming out of the same cookie cutter. That doesn’t work because we all come into this world with different talents, different dispositions, different interests, and so I think we have to recognize that and work with what we have and use what we have for the benefit of all beings instead of trying to make all fit into the same square hole—especially if you’re round, or star-shaped, or triangular-shaped, or whatever. Use the beauty of your own shape to benefit sentient beings instead of like squeezing yourself trying to be something you’re not.

I learned that trying to be a Tibetan nun, and there was no way I could fit into how they were supposed to act.

Transparency

And also be transparent, and don’t be defensive, because everybody knows our faults anyway, so when somebody gives you some feedback listen. If what they say is right, say thank you very much, I’m working on it. There’s no need to try and paint a pretty picture of how, “Well, I really didn’t mean this, and this got … blah blah blah….” Instead of just saying, “You’re right, I didn’t tell the complete truth.” Just say what is and don’t feel ashamed about it, rather than trying to justify and get defensive, when everybody knows what happened anyway.

I mean if people have gross misunderstanding, of course, correct that and give them the proper information. But transparency, I think, works very well for us psychologically. Rather than covering things up, just … if we broke a precept, there it is. And then we stop all this self-recrimination and guilt and shame and junk like that that really gets in the way of practice.

So the importance of confession and just saying it, here it is, instead of, “Well, you know, I did that but it’s really that person’s fault….” You know? Own our own responsibility in things. But don’t own what isn’t our responsibility.

Rejoicing

Then also very important is rejoicing at other people’s good qualities, and not comparing yourself to others. Because comparing ourselves to others just gets us…. It digs us into a ditch, especially when you’re trying to do Dharma practice. “Oh that person sits better than I do…. That person looks better than I do…. That person has more faith than I do…. That person’s smarter…. That person’s heard more teachings…. That person’s done more retreat….” You know, comparing ourselves to others and competing with others, it’s useless in Dharma practice. Just do your practice. And when you see good qualities in others be happy about it, because it’s nice that other people have good qualities and are better than we are. And when you’re better than they are, so what, don’t make a big deal about it. Again, just get out of this whole thing of comparing. Because we’re not having a race to see who gets enlightened faster. That’s not our motive. Our motivation is to benefit sentient beings. So everybody does that in their own way. We don’t need to compete.

A long-term view

Have a long-term view. Be content to create the causes in your practice by following the teachings, and stop waiting for grandiose flashes of insight to occur, and instances of samadhi that then you can go tell everybody you’ve had. But just be content to do your practice.

Study

Study. Because study is important. If we don’t study we don’t know how to meditate. If we don’t study we don’t know what the Dharma is and we wind up making up our own path. And that’s dangerous. So it’s really important to study from not only the sutras but from the great commentators and the learned masters.

Motivation

Have a good motivation for our practice. Really make cultivating motivation a really chief focus. Because if we have a good motivation of wanting to attain liberation, wanting to work for sentient beings, and thus wanting to attain full awakening, then that long-term motivation will sustain us through the ups and downs of practice. If our motivation in the back of our mind is to have some kind of peak experience, or to become a Dharma teacher, or something like that, that motivation will not sustain our practice, and it also contaminates our practice with worldly gain and wanting to be somebody. “I’m practicing so I can be a Dharma teacher. Then I have a career.” Yes? Dharma’s not a career. Dharma is our life.

The kindness of others

Remember the kindness of others all the time and really make that a chief meditation. I find, personally, that that helps the mind so much, is reflecting on the kindness of others, because it just makes relationships with other people easier, it reduces anger, it reduces competition, it reduces jealousy. It just, for me anyway, thinking of the kindness of others just brings much more contentment to the mind. So not only the kindness of parents and teachers and friends, but the kindness of strangers, and the kindness of people who harm us as well.

And then when you ask others for guidance really listen to the guidance they give you, but like I said, think for yourself. And when others ask you for help in the Dharma really listen to them before saying something. Try to hear when people ask you questions what their real question is, what their real concern is, and address that.

Dharma and institutions

I mentioned this before, differentiate between what is Dharma and what is “religious institutions.” Because they’re completely different. The Dharma is our refuge, with the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, direct access. A religious institution is something formed by human beings and, of course, not all Buddhists are buddhas, so religious institutions are going to have difficulties, and so on. So I see our job as going deep in our refuge and deep in our practice, and to have as much of a religious institution as is necessary to encourage practice, but not one bit more. In other words, our purpose is not to create and reinforce and be a “team member” of a religious institution, our aim is inner transformation. So not to confuse the two things.

Because institutions have problems. And if your refuge is in the institution, when the institution has a problem then your refuge gets shaky. But if your refuge is in the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, then you know that even when institutions have problems you can bring compassion and wisdom to those problems without letting those problems make you discouraged or cause you to lose faith in anything.

So that’s what I thought of so far. Anybody have questions or comments?

A balancing act

[In response to audience] Right, it’s a balancing act between learning from others and thinking for ourselves. And especially at the beginning you really want to learn and listen. But again, even as you’re learning and listening you have to think about the teachings yourself. If somebody says you have a precious human life, do you just go, “Yeah, I do, because you said so?” That’s not going to bring stability in your practice. Whereas if you really think for yourself about what the qualities of a precious human life are then it really comes home in your heart what you have.

So in saying this I’m not saying don’t accept any guidance, definitely accept guidance, but try and understand the reason for the guidance, and then see if the guidance is in the Dharma or if the guidance has to do with cultural choices, or politics, or something like that. Because we and our teachers can have different political views, like I said. We can have different views on social issues. We have to think for ourselves about all those things.

[In response to audience] Yes, it’s a balance thing. You don’t want to be so opinionated that you can’t learn from anybody, because that’s useless. Then you become very unhappy as a monastic because you think that you’re very close to enlightenment and nobody’s listening to your wonderful opinions that you’ve had all your life about what everybody should do. So those things have to be given up (in order) to be a happy monastic. Actually, just to be a happy person, period. If we have too many opinions, and we grasp onto our own ideas and opinions too strongly, we’re going to be quite miserable.

Even my sister, who’s not a Buddhist, she said that in a recent email. She has two teenaged kids and her kids are really good, they’re not the rebellious type, but she said, “I’m really learning not to have too many opinions because they just get you into trouble.”

[In response to audience] So you’re saying that when your mind’s very confused then it’s better to err towards the side of listening to somebody who has more wisdom and compassion than you do, who can give you solid advice and guidance. Yes, for sure. For sure. But then you definitely have to work it out with your own mind so that you understand that guidance that you’ve received and then can apply it to your own mind in the future. So you internalize that advice.

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The importance of monastic training http://thubtenchodron.org/2014/12/benefit-of-ordination/ Thu, 11 Dec 2014 21:27:10 +0000 http://thubtenchodron.org/?p=30814

  • The importance of a clear, long term motivation when becoming a monastic
  • The benefits of a renunciate life
  • Comparing the life of a lay practitioner to monastic life
  • Three things you are not going to like about living in a monastic community
  • What it means to train the mind in a monastic community

The importance of monastic training (download)

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