I Took The Plunge
In order to learn more about Buddhism and Buddhist culture, I became a novice monk. A novice monk is not a fully ordained monk, and can back out at any time.
Normally, I would not think about becoming a Buddhist monk … not even as a novice. I mean, if I have no intention of fully ordaining, why would I take the first steps? This was my logic anyway. However, the abbot, Ajaan Charlie has been trying to get me to try it out since I first arrived at Wat Baanpa.
Last Saturday a monk of 30+ years disrobed in order to live a normal life. He is meant to return to Thailand in three years, and wishes to work as a cook in a Thai restaurant to save money before he does. Ajaan Charlie set him up with a job here in Desert Hot Springs, CA to get used to working.
As a monk, he has been expected to move at a very slow speed to show his patience and humility. Working in the US, he will now be expected to “light a fire under his ass”. Ajaan Charlie is going to get him a job in San Fransisco where he can earn much better money, but not until he has adjusted to the faster pace.
Ajaan has been telling me I should try out being a novice monk for a month, so I figured I would. Of course I made it clear to him that I am more interested in learning to walk the Dhamma path as a layperson, but these Thai monks are really hung up on rituals. As long as he knows not to get his hopes up of me staying, I will use this opportunity to show what it is like becoming a Buddhist monk.
Shaving My Head
This was the biggest shock for me. Not really shaving my head, but in the Thai tradition they shave their eyebrows as well. Having no eyebrows makes me look like a freak show from some sci-fi movie. Thankfully I only have to shave my head once a month, meaning that they will be grown back by the time I leave.
The reason for this is to make us look less attractive seeing as Buddhist monks are a celibate lot. If you are trying to become less attractive, shaving your eyebrows definitely does the trick. I have to say that the Tibetan monks are a little bit less ridiculous looking, but if one were to become a Tibetan monk simply because they look better then they would be missing the point.
Taking This Seriously
I don’t want anyone to think that this is some sort of joke. I certainly can appreciate serious journalism presented in a lighthearted way, however I really don’t want to make a joke out of other people’s religious practices. I am very interested in learning the Dhamma as well as the cultural differences of it’s practitioners.
Even though I believe there is a difference between what the Buddha taught vs. Buddhism, and that Buddha basically said that Buddhism would be missing his point entirely … I don’t want to insult those that feel otherwise. That wouldn’t be very skillful speech, now would it?
That being said … even though it will be hard for me to get constantly corrected on the most insignificant things like the exact way I tie the belt on my robes that will never even be seen, I will attempt to get it correct for all the people who really like the “letter of the law”.
The good news is all of you get to see what it is like becoming a Buddhist monk vicariously through me. If it inspires you, then you will have some idea how to become a Buddhist monk for yourself. As for the rest of you; be grateful I took the leap for you, and continue to pursue enlightenment as a layperson.
Note: My experiment is over. Check out what I learned …
How Far Are You willing To Go To Pursue Your Goals?
Would you shave your eyebrows to learn the Dhamma? Are you glad you don’t have to? Do you think I’m an ass for ordaining as a novice when I don’t plan on staying a monk? Are you more of a journalist, and excited about what I’m doing? When they offer me money at bin tha bat and other functions should I refuse it?
Leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts on the subject.