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Many non-Buddhists do not understand the appeal or the benefits of becoming a monk. They may not be able to understand why one would want to live such a simple life, and they may not take the decision seriously.

What are some of the "selling points" for ordination (particularly as a young person just over 18) that a non-Buddhist would understand? Are there any organizations or resources for non-Buddhist families or friends of Buddhist monks (aspiring or otherwise)? How can one help a non-Buddhist loved one understand one's desire to be ordained?

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Selling Points

According to the Buddha's teaching in the Samaññaphala Sutta (DN 2), there are a whole host of benefits to the life of a samana (i.e. a monk). In brief:

  1. Freedom from requirement to engage in secular society (social engagements, civic duties, etc.)

  2. Freedom from requirement to engage in secular employment (living as a mendicant means no need for money, etc.)

  3. A blissful state in the here and now (through a moral code, sense restraint, and tranquility meditation)

  4. Wisdom and understanding about reality (through insight meditation)

  5. Supernatural mental abilities (astral travel, reading minds, remembering past lives, etc.)

  6. Freedom from mental defilements of greed, anger, and delusion (through the attainment of nirvana)

I think that about sums it up better than I ever could :)

Resources

Normally a monastery would be the best source; often for Westerners intending to traverse the globe to ordain, that isn't as easy as it should be.

The Internet has some resources on monkhood for lay people, at least in the Theravada tradition. Here's a couple:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/ariyesako/layguide.html

http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/buddhistworld/layguide.htm

Coming To Terms

For my parents, actually practicing the teachings themselves helped somewhat; once they understood the benefit of meditation, they were better able to accept what I was doing. Of course, it was only once I'd ordained and they saw how it wasn't really a brainwashing cult that they really opened up and actually appreciate it.

  • Thanks a lot for your help! I will try this for my parents, but I'm afraid they are not open to that since my dad at least is an almost fanatic materialist. May you progress on your path!:) – Jakob Jun 19 '14 at 22:37
  • You're welcome :) I feel for you. Materialists can be terribly obtuse when it comes to the mind. Ask him about the "hard problem" :) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_problem_of_consciousness – yuttadhammo Jun 20 '14 at 1:13
  • Thanks again. I've just had a discussion with my parents and now things got even worse. They say by being a monk one just gives away responsibility and lives a life which is easy and comfortable. Instead I should serve society and play my part in the world. Doing otherwise would be very egoistic, only relying on others (and their donations). Sadly, they now think that I am part of a sect, which makes them even more averse to learning some meditation. They don't believe that I know what "is good" for me and say that I would be wasting my potential. I still have some time to talk with them, but – Jakob Jun 20 '14 at 11:45
  • this is very likely not to lead to anything. Is it better to ordain without permission of the parents than not doing it at all? I appreciate your support!:) – Jakob Jun 20 '14 at 11:47
  • Check out: bps.lk/olib/wh/wh110-p.html It took me two years to get my parents grudging permission. Good luck :) – yuttadhammo Jun 20 '14 at 12:41
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(Just finished the translation of a talk on respect, confidence and patient, for today, my person came accross this question here)

To those seeing the danger in the world, and those who might possible develop deep regard for them, going to strive to get beyond that:

Such as to find understandig, that one prefers to be just a alms-beggar, at least, is not easy to understand, especially if coming from a fortunate seeming sociaty, but it's not different in traditional countries, when it goes to really leaving home, and not just from home to a certain known monastery.

One, if serious, must be clear, that he might no more have any relative support but needs at least relay totally on his actions and cause and effect, trust the existence of goodness and a still present supportive reputation of the three juwels.

It's merely seldom that even friends, relatives incl. parents will easily have understanding or tolerance in regard of going forth, since one/you is/are regarded as a part of their own, a source of "food" for the sense, an object for identification for them, which gets of it's nature lost by 'changing' the family, or inspire such.

My person guesses, that the most proper comparison, for others to understand, might be with a warrior, going out into battle for a good for himself and all his kind. The case that in this case the battle is not fought outwardly, without weapons, and the death rate in battle is merely very small, might be a picture for reasoning for others who possible would understand why someone becomes a soldier, for example.

It's how ever not really possible to make others understand clear and it's a bliss to be possible surounded by people who actually understand a strive for deathlessness, it is a bliss if one even grows up in a family where the three juwels are regarded and the going forth and renouncing the world is praised.

In circumstances of even slight appearence of the luck and fortune of avaliable condition for such, outwardly like inwardly, it is wise to take upon this seldom appearence, which will be faster gone as the most think, even generally in this world.

Is worthy to point out again, that it is not a matter of ones relatives or parents birth, culture, raw believe and it's totally independend of geography but a matter of faith, not only in such a way, but also in you as person or better your tendency, to make and follow aspirations serious and eager, while not losing an eye on virtue and harmlessness for those around you.

So if not having developed and shown certain attidutes of a warrier, even a noble one, in your sphere till today, such to start on, would be possible the best way to gain the, or more fearless leave from those your are related for now. To progress it lesser in a merely argumental way can never be that effective like a presenting by deeds.

In this way, those words might be not only an encouragement for those with merely open doors for now, but also for does, not having the conditions yet, not to search for the enemy of ones aspirations outwardly and in the cultur and sociaty, but in ones own qualities and the need to cause ones supportive gained effects by oneself and work on it.

Once leaded a soon heading discussion about the matter of condition (Nissaya), strong condition (upanissaya) and strong condition cause (upanissayapaccaya), it maybe gives additional food for wise thought: Why it is important to value our Conditions?

[Note: This is a gift of Dhamma, not meant for commercial purposes or other low wordily gains in trade or exchange.]

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