In Buddhist countries, young or teenage boys, and sometime girls, sometimes (or often, depending on the country) become monks temporarily. Do any Buddhist children from other countries (e.g., Western countries) ever do this? Is there anywhere (e.g. a monastery) where this would happen?

3 Answers 3


In my country (Belgium) and I presume in most Western countries, children are of course allowed to follow programs like these. However, a child joining a monastic order is considered controversial as it collides with laws regarding the protection of minors. Also, consider that many other Western religious orders impose minimum age requirements themselves.

There was a case a few years ago of a 15-year old boy who wanted to join a Tibetan monastery. He was stopped by police on his way to a flight to India. After a court appeal was he permitted to depart a month later.

Though not exactly the same thing, court cases will take into consideration the legal age required to choose/change one's religion without parental consent. The minimum age varies somewhat in European countries.

  • In Austria and Germany, children can change their religion without parental consent from the age of 14 years;
  • in Estonia and Slovenia, from the age of 15 years;
  • in Cyprus, Portugal and Romania, from the age of 16 years.
  • In Bulgaria, Denmark and Finland, the minimum age for changing religion without parental consent is 18 years.

Well besides the various rules that puthujjanas create and destroy each day, and try to make other puthujjanas follow under various threats, to become a bikkhu is matter of being called a bikkhu by a buddha.

However, the buddha allowed a novice to become a bikkhu, without the buddha being involved directly. Since becoming a bikkhu is a formal event, it is defined by lots of requisite conditions and it is easy to fail to become a bikkhu: as soon as a requisite condition is not met, the novice does not become a bikkhu, even when all the others conditions are met.

So first a little introduction on the event https://www.dhammatalks.org/vinaya/bmc/Section0054.html

Ordination falls into two parts: Going-forth (pabbajjā) and Acceptance (upasampadā). The first has traditionally been treated as a prerequisite for the second, but nothing in the Canon indicates that it need be so. The transaction for Acceptance was first formulated when there was no ceremony for Going-forth; and even after the Going-forth ceremony was instituted, no directives required that it form a prelude for Acceptance. However, the pattern of giving the Going-forth prior to Acceptance is ancient—the standard short description of a full ordination in Mv.I is, “x obtained the Going-forth; he obtained Acceptance”—so that is the pattern discussed here.

To become a bikkhu without a buddha being present, as the buddha allows it, requires 3 parties, each party has a lot of constrains:

  • the first party is of course the novice. The requirements for the novice are numerous. THe most famous requirement is that the novice is at least 20 years old

  • the second party is the witnessing party: the witnesses are other bikkhus. They must be at least 10 in numbers.

  • the third party is the party which has the heaviest constrained. This party is the bikkhu who ordains the novice as a bikkhu. The most famous constrain of the bikkhu who ordains a novice is that this bikkhu must be ''beyond training'', which is the english phrase of ''asekha'', which means the bikkhu who ordains the novice must be an arhant .

THe buddha does not allow a bikkhu who is not beyond training to ordain a novice. Plain and simple. The buddha claims that A bikkhu who is not beyond training and still carries the ordination makes a mistake and that the novice is not a bikkhu.

SO to be clear, a few instances where a novice does not become a bikkhu:

  • the novice is 12 yo, the ordaining bikkhu is an arhant , there are 23 bikkhus witnessing => the novice does not become a bikkhu at the end of the ceremony

  • the novice is 20 yo, the ordaining bikkhu is an arhant , there are 12 bikkhus witnessing, but 6 witnessing bikkhus leave during the ceremony => the novice does not become a bikkhu at the end of the ceremony

  • the novice is 32 yo, the ordaining bikkhu is not beyond training, there are 49 witnessing bikkhus => the novice does not become a bikkhu at the end of the ceremony

  • the novice is 20 yo, the ordaining bikkhu is an arhant , there are 12 bikkhus witnessing, but the novice changes 1 word among all the words he has to say during the ceremony => the novice does not become a bikkhu at the end of the ceremony

But, there is a twist. THe puthujjanas love to intellectualize what they hear about the dhamma, they love to create new words, to philosophize, to create new concepts, to create new links between concepts, new categories, new hierarchies of concepts and son.

It turns out that a puthujjana did just that about the ordination of a novice as a bikkhu. THis puthujjana could not help himself form commenting the vinaya, creating his little views and communicating them to other puthujjana. [puthujjanas love to claim it is a good idea to create opinions, views, systems and to share them]/ Of course, puthujjanas who cannot resist to rewrite the dhamma always fear that their speculations are seen as speculations, as fairy tales, so they strive really hard to build an equivalence between their various speculations and explicit statements in the whatever dhamma texts they read.

So this puhtujjana has created 2 new words : https://www.dhammatalks.org/vinaya/bmc/Section0008.html

  • the ideal qualification of the bikkhu who ordains a novice

  • the minimal qualification of the bikkhu who ordains a novice

Then the puthujjana create a hierarchy between his latest two fantasies:

  • the ideal qualification is better than the minimal qualification

then the puthujjana tries really hard to, what he calls, ''justify'' or ''prove'' his new categories by what he calls ''fact'':

the fact that one of a pupil’s duties is to try to allay any dissatisfaction that may arise in his preceptor. If all preceptors were arahants, no case of this sort would ever arise and there would be no need to mention it.

Of course, puthujjanas create rules and categories in order to see themselves as not belonging to their bad categories, without needing to strive to reach the original good categories of the buddha. THe categories that this puthujjana created permits to ordain novices with bikkhu who are not arhants and thus fulfill the goal of the puthujjanas to still become bikkhus when there are no buddha nor arhants. Of course, those puthujajnas love to claim that their fantasies are smart and righteous, full of wisdom and for the good of the people.

There you have it: a new way, created by the puthujjanas themselves, for the puthujjanas, to become bikkhus with the ordaining bikkhus who are puthujjanas.


Householder, interested,

my person "fears" no. First of all it's hard to even trace the Sangha in western countries and in accordance of general wrong view and not seeing that wise praise the going forth, there might be even strong social hindrances for acceptance.

It happens that certain groups organize "children hugging" and use affection to do their livelihood and increase worldly fame and gain. Such is not different if monks would look after the cattle of people for rewards. Some popular western "forest"-branches give currently into such market-strategies.

If having a child desiring after a life with the monks, a monks life, it's of great merits to support such and look after ways. Sure it would be hard to find, not at least because Monks in traditional countries would not easy take on responsibilities for a "prince" and fear wrong reactions of western minded parents. How ever, if there is Upanissaya (strong condition from the past) and if one really desires the going forth, Devas will open doors which are closed on the way.

As for what is the best time to ordain: Now! One should not wait since kusala intentions do not often arise.


Possible extended and revised answer can be found here, as well as space for discussion and further questions: [Q&A] Do Buddhist children outside of Buddhist countries ever become monks? incl. related topic [Q&A] Can someone explain about children monks? How to regard young Samaneras?

(Note that this is not given for trade, exchange, stacks, entertainment and akusala deeds, but as a share of merits and continue such for release)

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