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The joy of living as a monk or nun

In these interviews, recorded by a team from studybuddhism.com, Venerable Thubten Chodron answers questions about her life and what it means to be a Buddhist in the 21st century.

The joy is just the joy of practicing the Dharma, the joy of having a long-term goal in your life, and knowing you’re going in that direction.

There are going to be ups and downs, but because you have that long-term goal of full awakening, there’s something firm in your heart and you don’t go through so many ups and downs. It’s like, “I’m going to enlightenment!”

It doesn’t matter how long it takes, it doesn’t matter what I encounter, but I’m so fortunate because I’ve met an incredible path, taught by an enlightened being, practiced by many people historically who have attained the same goal, and how fortunate I am to have met this path and met teachers and people who support me in practicing.

Now I’m just going in that direction and I don’t have to worry about my reputation, I don’t have to worry about what people think of me, I don’t have to worry about if my clothes match and if people have seen me wearing the same outfit before—because they have! You know, you just have so much more freedom in your life.

And especially, I feel as a monastic, I only go to teach if I’m invited, but if people invite me. I can choose where to go to teach. I do that without thinking who gives a lot of donations for the teachings. I don’t charge for teachings, and I don’t choose where I go based on who gives a lot of dana.

I think that’s something that is much more difficult for lay teachers, especially those who have a family. You have to send your kids to summer camp, your kids have all sorts of expenses, and then you have to think, “Where do I go to teach where the donations will come in so I can provide for my family?”

So I feel very free in that way. All the donations I get come back to the monastery, but I don’t worry about whether the monastery has enough money or whatever because we live very simply here. And it works out quite nicely!

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.