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A series of articles published as Preparing for Ordination, a booklet prepared by Venerable Thubten Chodron and available for free distribution.

Many of the Buddha’s discourses and treatises by subsequent scholars clearly state that the single innermost treasure of the Buddha’s doctrine is the Vinaya, the teaching on moral conduct of ordained monks and nuns. Therefore, it is said that wherever there is a monk or nun observing the vows of full ordination, the Buddha’s doctrine exists there. Indeed, the Buddha is present in that place. However, merely taking the vows is not sufficient by itself. It is also extremely important to maintain pure moral discipline by correctly observing those activities that are to be cultivated and those that are to be given up. Therefore, it is very helpful to reflect over and again how moral discipline is the root of all excellence and to consider the benefits of guarding such discipline and the shortcomings of not doing so. Numerous scriptures explain these issues and several of them are available in English translation.

These days, interest in Buddhism is spreading beyond its traditional boundaries in Asia. More and more people from non-Buddhist backgrounds are expressing a wish to become ordained as Buddhist monks and nuns. Sometimes they face unexpected problems. These may occur because they did not properly understand what ordination entailed or because they lack the social and spiritual support that is taken for granted in traditional Buddhist societies. With a heartfelt wish to ease some of these problems, Venerable Thubten Chodron and other like-minded friends have prepared this booklet of advice, based on their own experience, for people, particularly Westerners, who are considering ordination as Buddhist monks and nuns.

This is a work of true spiritual friendship. Ordination is not something to be taken lightly. In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, it is intended to be a lifelong commitment. The Buddhist tradition itself will not be strengthened merely by increasing the numbers of people who become ordained. That will depend rather on the quality of our monks and nuns. Therefore, those who sincerely seek ordination deserve proper guidance, encouragement and support.

Having taken ordination we must constantly remember that the primary reason for holding vows as a nun or a monk is to be able to dedicate ourselves to the practice of the Dharma and the welfare of sentient beings. Part of Buddhist practice involves training our minds through meditation. But if our training in calming our minds, developing qualities like love, compassion, generosity and patience, is to be effective, we must put them into practice in our day to day life. Even if only a few individuals try to create mental peace and happiness within themselves and act responsibly and kindheartedly towards others, they will have a positive influence in their community. If we can do that we will fulfill the Buddha’s fundamental instruction not only to avoid harming others, but actually to do them some good.

German version: Vorwort

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