Hi my Name is Tobias and I am 31 years old. Of course there is a personal story behind my question and a lot of causes and conditions that led to my current situation but in brief the question goes somewhat like this:

What advice could you give someone who after a long period of looking deeply into buddhhism comes to the conclusion that there is actually nothing else to do in this life apart from practicing the dhamma (most preferably as a monk) but due to decisions earlier in his life this person is bound to live a worldly life (having two children to care for)?

The obvious answer would probably be to practise as a layperson and become a monk maybe in the next life :)

This sounds good in theory but I have come to realize that this is actually not easy to be done when you have no real interest in social interaction, seeing that most of the things people spend their time with are utterly useless.

So it is like being caught between two things where you can´t really focus on either one completely!

Thanks very much for your advice and opinion.


5 Answers 5


There is a lot you can do to make the best of your situation. I can tell you what's been helpful for me.

Social interaction regarding worldly things can seem like a ridiculous waste of time; but social interaction regarding the Buddha's teachings can be energizing. Reducing your old ways of social interaction and time spent on entertainment can give you time to find others, both online and locally, who share your interest in the Buddha's teachings.

A job can seem very dreary when the old ambitions you had no longer motivate you. But you can keep in mind that your job gives you the opportunity to give dana and support the Dhamma and that is really an honor, I think. Learning to live frugally so that you can give dana can be rewarding.

You can set a quiet, good example for everyone in your world by keeping the five precepts, following the noble 8 fold path, and letting it drop in casual conversation that you are Buddhist or that you meditate. You don't ever have to try to convince anyone about your beliefs. Just let your actions and demeanor speak for itself. Seeing positive changes in you may create interest in Buddhism or meditation in those around you.

You can join in a sort of spiritual solidarity with monastics by keeping the 8 precepts as often as possible. That's good for focusing on your practice too.

When monastics depend on laypeople for support and laypeople depend on monastics for spiritual support and teachings, a wonderful synergy is created. And both sides of the coin are important. I recommend a book called The Buddha's Teachings on Prosperity at Home, at Work, and in the World. http://www.amazon.com/The-Buddhas-Teachings-Prosperity-World/dp/0861715470# It has many teachings directed at laypeople that you don't often hear and can help you understand the important of laypeople in Buddhism.

Best wishes in your journey.


What exactly are you practicing the dharma for? What exactly is the difference between your so called layman world and the "monk's world"?

The layman world which you speak of require you to "participate in social interaction", seeing and spending time on activities that are "utterly useless". But who defined that world?

Remember the Buddhist dharma is not bounded by the physical world, the boundary only exist in your mind. So do the worlds you speak of.

This first step I will say is to just start practicing. When you are eating, practice. When you are walking, practice. When you are working practice.

Just practice.Leave the the worldly problems aside.

  • "Remember the Buddhist dharma is not bounded by the physical world, the boundary only exists in your mind." Beautifully put!
    – R. Barzell
    Commented Dec 24, 2014 at 14:05
  • 1
    But be careful not to practice when you are practicing.
    – user2341
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 0:51

My advice is to use your life to practice dharma; after all, dharma can be practiced in any circumstances and its fruits are available now. The challenges you face become fuel for practice. Your actions become the expression of practice. Life's annoyances and pains (such as dealing with others) are a chance to explore self and attachment. Your interactions are a chance to practice path elements such as mindfulness and especially right speech and compassion.

One need not be a monk to practice and benefit from Dharma. Further, wanting to be a monk can be an attachment and thus a source of dukkha. Now, in addition to the usual challenges of the lay life, there's also the dukkha that comes from one more case of wanting things to be other than they are (e.g.: wanting to be a monk). Dukkha doesn't change because the cause is "spiritual".

Also, monks have their own challenges. Not all monks are spiritual or care about the Dharma. Often, monks at the monastery are there for ulterior motives, and hence have no interest in dharma. Further, being a monk, it's all too easy to hide behind the orange robes and begging bowl; is one really practicing then? Sure one is isolated, but what challenges is one facing? Challenges are the fuel for practice.

Just because you are not a monk doesn't mean you're living a worldly life. What makes your life worldly is how you live in the world. There are many worldly monks and many spiritual laypeople.

Those who practice Dharma for a better rebirth as a monk (or anything else) are not fully practicing dharma because implicit in the practice is their clinging to monk-hood (or anything else) and a holding back, a belief that they really cannot reap the full fruits now. Such practice strikes me as half-hearted. Practice should be done with the intent of liberation in the circumstances one is in. If one practices whole-heartedly and the rebirth doctrine is true, one enjoys a better life now and a better rebirth will occur. If the rebirth doctrine is false, one still enjoys a better life now.


The first thing you need to do is to recognize that this is a weakness in yourself. You do not have the strength to confront the emotions involved in abandoning your family. Recognizing the situation in this way puts the scales into balance. You do not blame Buddhism for not being able to magically get you out of this situation, and you do not blame others for getting you into it. This is just 'where you are.' Seeing it that way you will get rid of unhelpful mental states like bashing yourself for not making the sort of progress you think you should be making.

Then confront the reality. You have a job to do. This is your kamma. There is nothing to do about that but knuckle down and do the best job of managing the situation that you can. This is your concentration object at this point. You make your life situation into your practice.

In this context you can take what free time you can manage to scrape up to meditate and study the Dhamma with the idea of using the benefits to better handle your situation. This situation. Not some, for you, abstract idea of ending rebirth completely.

Then I have a practical suggestion that I have given to a number of 'husbands' to good effect: If it is at all possible, get yourself a 'den'. This room you go to to restore your strength. No one may enter except in an emergency. It will make all the difference in the world.

I can also suggest that you do not make any efforts to bend your family to your higher purpose. Accept them as they are. This is the task of every Buddhist in the end anyway. You just have it in an intensified form.

Remember: nothing lasts.


There are many factors keeping you bound to the lay life. Having children is only one of them. Prince Siddhartha had a son when he left. It's just that your Nekkhamma thoughts are still not strong enough to break the bonds of lay life. You don't really have any special problem apart from being subjected to the 1st noble truth. Keep doing good and cultivating the mind through meditation. When Nekkhamma Sankhappa overpowers clinging, you will leave the lay life.

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