Monk Life Thailand
By LP John Paramai
In 2022, I taught for five ordination programs in The Monk Life Project. Well, this will become six when including another pilot program that happened in November 2021. There were 48 ordinands from 33 countries who came to be ordained at iMonastery in Pa Pae, Chiang Mai, Thailand. The ordination ceremonies took place in Wat Baan Khun and Chiang Mai. But commuting between two places also takes about four and a half hours. Let me tell you a bit more here if you never know what the Buddhist monk ordination is about.
The Monk Life Training program
A Buddhist ordination is when a person renounces his layperson life and join a monastic community to observe monastic training that includes letting go of their belonging, wearing robes, begging for alms, meditating, learning the Buddha’s teachings, and walking pilgrimage. In some countries, this renunciation must be life-long, while in others, including Thailand, it can be a training that people can temporarily undergo and quit later.
My role in the Monk Life Project
I have been an instructor responsible for teaching ordinands how to meditate. I will have to travel to Pa Pae, Chiang Mai, every other month and mentor the newly ordained monks before and during their ordination. Teaching in an ordination program is slightly different than me teaching in regular meditation retreats. But it feels fantastic when there are only monks at the retreat site.
An ordination requires a preceptor and a group of the monastic community to accept a qualified person to join them. This requires an ordination ceremony. Thus, a scholar cannot purchase monk robes online, wear them and call himself a Buddhist monk even though he can remember all the Buddha’s teaching. Through ordination, an ordinand will become a novice monk, observing ten precepts first. Then a full ordination will occur either on the same day or the next. A fully ordained Theravada Buddhist monk will observe 227 precepts.
Living by alms
Dhutanga is a group of thirteen austerities or ascetic practices most commonly observed by the practitioners of the Theravada Buddhism. This monastic austerity practice helps remove defilements of the mind, one of which is attachment to things. Embarking on this pilgrimage, it is essential to travel light with the least amount of things.
Meditation as the core of ordination
Practicing meditation is the heart of monk life training. Ordinands do not require any prior knowledge or skills. The teaching monks will teach an authentic meditation method that has been lived since the Buddha’s era and will provide four meditation-guided sessions daily. Therefore, it’s not only the theoretical part; the training will also emphasize finding the balance between maintaining consciousness and comfort. Throughout the program, ordinands will receive daily meditation coaching and walk through a process of finding more profound and prolonged stillness within. In addition, the ordinands will learn various mindfulness practices, including walking meditation and keeping awareness in diverse daily activities. They will learn to master their meditation with their eyes open and closed.
The possibility of staying longer as a monk
Although staying as a monk for 30 days is long, especially for those who need to take leave from work, it’s only possible to fit some things about monk life in a month. From the previous groups of participants, many said the same thing: they felt time flies rapidly. While some decide to come back on subsequent occasions, some choose to stay on for an extended period. Therefore, we also provide an extension to the 30-day Monk Life should the participants decide to stay longer as a monk.
The extension allows more extended meditation in a secluded environment with proper weekly meditation coaching support. Lectures about the secret of the mind, habit development, life purpose, the law of Karma, and selected Buddhist texts by fully qualified teaching monks are also available weekly. In addition, participants will also get a long-term monkhood development. There will be additional training programs to become mentors, teaching monks, and certified meditation instructors who can share meditation knowledge with people from all walks of life.