I saw that many of the western monks like Ajahn Brahm, Ajahn Shumedho, Ajahn Sucitto etc. have an university degree. I'm 24 years old from Switzerland and I only finished secondary school with 15 years old. I tried many times to make an apprenticeship as an information scientist but failed due to my strong depressions. I was a few times in a psychiatric clinic because I tried to kill myself. The last 2 years i was just staying at home with no goals in life.

I started to read about Buddhism and meditation. I really think that this would help me out in my difficult life. I even thought about to join a monastery and become a Theravada Buddhist monk. I just worry about my education level. I saw the youtube videos from the monks mentioned above. They seem very intelligent when they speak due to their education in an university. I feel pretty dumb compared to them.


I went to:

  • 1-6 primary school
  • 7-9 secondary school

Is this enough to become a monk?

  • 1
    Hi Paul, don't feel dumb or compare yourself with anyone.You are fine just the way you are.Okay remember this my friend you are not alone.The rest of the world experiences depression with you .Everybodys suffering.First,I have to address your depression.Depression is an illness just like cancer.You need to seek Professional Medical Help.Talk to your GP like tommorow if you can.This is very serious illness.If you've been diagnosed with depression before there is a higher chance of relapse.So talk to your GP doctor..Get better first.Only a happy mind can see suffering clearly.
    – Orion
    Mar 30, 2015 at 10:24
  • 2
    Hello Orion Thank you very much for your answer and your kind words. I'm visiting a psychiatrist 1 time per week since 3-4 years. It doesn't help that much. I think you should watch this for a better understanding of depression: youtube.com/watch?v=4N_jjY7W_fs&spfreload=10
    – Paul
    Mar 30, 2015 at 10:57
  • Thank you Paul.I will watch this video and hopefully it will educate me more about depression.Please forgive me if I misunderstood you in anyway.May you be free from suffering and may you be happy.
    – Orion
    Mar 30, 2015 at 11:01
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    If you misunderstood me it's because of my bad English. My native language is German. Thank you for your good wishes.
    – Paul
    Mar 30, 2015 at 11:10
  • Good luck, Paul! I am no expert, but I suspect education doesn't help much. You'll be as fine as the next guy.
    – Dan
    Mar 30, 2015 at 21:00

3 Answers 3


The main objective of being a monk is to attain Nibbana as soon as possible. Not to achieve recognition for being knowledgeable or intelligent. Read the story of the novice Culapantaka who couldn't even memorize 1 stanza for 4 months.

I went to: 1-6 primary school 7-9 secondary school Is this enough to become a monk?

Being capable enough to chase away a crow is enough to be ordained as a novice. So, yes!

Keep in mind that you don't have to make youtube videos or preach to large audiences, just because you get ordained. You could simply stay in a forest or monastery, meditating. Wanting to be recognized can cause a lot of depression in a person. Work on giving up that need.

  • 3
    Thank you very much for your answer. This was kind the answer I was looking for. I do think that I am intelligent, I just feel dumb because of the lack of education I had due to my emotional problems. My goal is to find inner peace. I think it's nearly impossible for me to find inner peace in the "normal" environment where I live at the moment. But I have to think a lot more about this. I'm married with a thai woman so if I want to live in a monastery I have to give up that marriage. That would would be a big step. I hope you understand what I mean. My English skills are not the best.
    – Paul
    Mar 30, 2015 at 11:25
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    Yes, you will have to give up your wife, if your become ordained. But you can also stay at monasteries where they conduct short meditation courses, from time to time and work on inner peace without affecting your family life much. Mar 30, 2015 at 11:38

I could suggest you try to make some personal contact with Buddhists. I think that joining a monastery isn't an all-or-nothing, black-or-white things: for example you can visit a monastery, stay for a while, before you ask to become a monk.

To try to answer your question, here are some quotes from Plum Village (which is, apparently, Vietnamese Zen),

Becoming a Monastic

There is also a wide variety of ages, from age 15 to 79, though most of the monastics are in their 20’s and 30’s.

All applicants must be under 50 years of age. No academic degree is required. If you are under 18, you must have permission from your parents. Those who have serious or terminal illnesses or severe disabilities can not be accepted as monastics.

As a candidate for the novitiate you should stay in either Plum Village Monastery for at least three months. In this way you can have direct experience of monastic, communal life and the Sangha can observe whether or not you have a strong monastic vocation.

Or, for Theravada more specifically, a web site for Theravada in Switzerland seems to be http://www.theravada.ch/

One of the pages which this links to is http://www.geneva-vihara.org/fr/bhante.html which says, about its chief monk,

Bhanté Dhammika est moine depuis l'âge de onze ans. Il a étudié le Bouddhisme, la langue Pâli et le Sanskrit avec son propre Maître, Vénérable Mãwanané Pemãnandã au temple de Sri Vijayãnanda à Habarakada/Gãlle au sud du Sri-Lanka. Puis, il a poursuivi ses études à l'Université de Colombo au Sri-Lanka, puis en Europe à la Sorbonne en France.

So this man clearly did most of his studying after he became a monk.

Anyway I suspect there are many different types of career path for Buddhist monks ... for example some might be more scholars, others might meditate more, others might act for (interact with) the lay community, etc.

  • I'm glad to see that no academic degree is required. Thank you for the links.
    – Paul
    Mar 30, 2015 at 11:38

I'm sorry Paul, but to become a monk, you need to have a PhD.

PhD = "Permanently holding onto Dhamma" :-)

This website has some requirements and procedures to become a monk.

You need to first become a novice monk (samanera), which involves taking up the ten precepts of the novice monk.

But before becoming a novice monk, you can consider becoming an anagarika, who observes the eight precepts.

You will first be asked these questions before ordination:

  1. Do you suffer from leprosy? If you do, answer 'Yes, Venerable Sir', if you do not, answer 'No, Venerable Sir'.
  2. Have you got boils?
  3. Have you got eczema?
  4. Have you got tuberculosis?
  5. Do you get epilepsy?
  6. Are you a human being?
  7. Are you a man?
  8. Are you a free man?
  9. Are you free from government service?
  10. Have you got your parents' permission to be ordained?
  11. Have you a set of three robes and an almsbowl?
  12. What is your name? (My name is Naga.)
  13. What is your preceptor's name? (My preceptor's name is Venerable Tissa.)

I also have in this answer, some quotes on how mindfulness and meditation helps depression, including a quote from Scientific American.

  • Thx ruben for your funny and helpful answer :-)
    – Paul
    Mar 30, 2015 at 15:16

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