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Letter to those considering monastic ordination

Letter to those considering monastic ordination

Venerable Damcho during her head-shaving ceremony.
It is very important to set a firm foundation for practice before receiving the precepts. (Photo by Sravasti Abbey)

Dear Friend,

Having an interest in Buddhism and living as a monastic is wonderful. It is very important to set a firm foundation for practice before receiving the precepts rather than rush into things and run into difficulties later. Along this line, I would recommend:

    1. Reflect on and write out your thoughts on the questions in Preparing for Ordination. This booklet may be found on the Thubten Chodron website. We would be happy to mail you a copy if you send your address and a donation to cover postage. We would be happy to review and comment on your reflections, if you wish.
  1. Read Blossoms of the Dharma: Living as a Buddhist Nun, edited by Thubten Chodron. Although the book is out of print, it is available on this website.
  2. Read Choosing Simplicity: A Commentary on the Bhikshuni Pratimoksa, by Venerable Wu Yin, published by Snow Lion (2001).
  3. Read Bhikkhu, Thanissaro. The Buddhist Monastic Code. 1994. For free distribution, write to: The Abbot, Metta Forest Monastery, P.O. Box 1409, Valley Center, CA 92082, USA. Alternatively, it can be downloaded from Internet Archive: Part 1 and Part 2
  4. Do strong and continuous meditation on the four noble truths, the 12 links, and the disadvantages of samsara in order to generate a firm determination to be free from samsara and attain nirvana, which is the motivation with which we receive ordination. Also do strong purification to eliminate hindrances to keeping the precepts and make strong prayers to be able to keep the precepts for the duration of your life.
  5. Establish a strong daily meditation practice and be under the guidance of a qualified teacher who will lead you on the path.
  6. Simplify your life as much as possible.
  7. Attend the “Exploring Monastic Life” program at Sravasti Abbey, held annually during August.
  8. Attend the preparing for ordination course at Tushita Meditation Centre in Dharamsala, India. It is usually held in January or February each year. For info, e-mail Tushita and visit the Pre-Ordination Course webpage.
  9. See the material about ordination and monastic life at, Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery, and the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition.

    It’s important to discuss ordination with your Buddhist teacher and to follow his or her guidance. It’s also important to have a strong daily practice and to live in a monastic setting after ordination. Take the time to prepare yourself well and to build a solid foundation. Also be sure you have the proper external circumstances to keep the precepts.

In the Dharma,

Venerable Thubten Chodron

If you are interested in monastic ordination, but you are currently in school…

We recommend that you continue with your education until graduation. Attending college can help you prepare for ordination. It just depends on your motivation and how you use your experience at school. What are advantages of your attending university before ordination?

    1. You get more life experience.
    2. You have a great opportunity to meet and listen to people who are different from you, who have different ways of thinking and a variety of values. This helps you think more deeply about what you really believe and what’s important to you. It also helps you learn about the varieties of people and the varieties of how people look at things. This is very important for the development of compassion and tolerance, two essential traits to develop on the Dharma path.
    3. You will learn to think more clearly, to organize and express your thoughts better. These abilities will help in your Dharma studies too.
    1. You will learn about the world, which is helpful for developing wisdom and compassion.
      You are welcome to visit Sravasti Abbey during your school vacation times and to attend Venerable Chodron’s teachings here and elsewhere.
Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.

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