Why Be Monastic?

Time and again people ask us, “Why on earth would you want to be monastic?  Are you trying to escape from the world, or what?”

481567479-56a0c46d3df78cafdaa4d775Becoming a monk or a nun is a vocation.  It’s a calling from Divine Spirit to lead a life of prayer, immersion in the dharma teachings of a spiritual pathway, and an opportunity to live in community.  Living in a monastic community means living with people who may, or may not, be your friends, which then creates an opportunity for acceptance and compassion. Monastic community creates a society dedicated to the common purpose of thinking, praying, meditating, working, and living for the benefit of all beings.

True Prayer and meditation is the ability to harness Divine Mind (the One Mind) to declare and know healing, peace, light, harmony, generosity, and compassion for the needs of others.  The monastic life requires hours of focused attention to being awake in the moment.  When we are awake in the moment it’s possible to choose compassion, kindness, generosity, fearlessness, and hope.

suffering.jpg.e0ba387663cfd689d3b50b560c59a3e0Every day billions of humans on this planet are THINKING!  They are thinking into the One Mind of infinite possibilities.  And from all that thinking decisions are made.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what the majority of humans are putting into the One Mind, and into action.  We see it in the news, on Facebook, and in the public marketplace.  Anger, hatred, contempt, despair, hopelessness, violence, and domination are the ugly manifestations millions of humans are constantly projecting into One Mind, no wonder the spiritual teachers tell us this world is hell.  No wonder so many are suffering.

Yes, there are good people, kind people, and generous people everywhere!  But even good people are often filled with anger and despair at the state of the world.  Stress and anxiety has been determined to be the number one disease of the 21st century.

Monastics train, daily, hourly, to send thoughts of loving kindness, peace, healing, and compassion into the One Mind generator of action.  It is a life dedicated to creating light in the darkness of world mind.  Throughout the ages humble souls, dedicated souls, sensitive and generous souls have given up the things of the world (money, possessions, power, prestige, family, and relationships) to devote their lives to prayer, meditation, and service to those in need.

Monks and nuns do not run away from the world.  They chose to renounce ordinary life and enter a world of devotion, to become a Bodhisattva in hell.  Perhaps we should honor their courage, their sacrifice, their unremitting determination to free all beings from suffering!

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The Monastic Journey

The secret to spiritual mastery is to become more of who we already are as spiritual beings.  We did not become who we are today in a year, or two years, or even in ten years.  It took a lifetime to be ourselves.  IMAG0820Who is this self?   To be human is to long for an unfettered union with the divine although we often strive to meet that need, that goal, through friendships, companions, and lovers eventually our soul will turn to the Maker of All Things and rejoice in the possibility of that unconditional, loving union.

We can never eliminate our ego, or personality self, but we can be aware of the voices inside that do not speak to us of love, compassion, forgiveness, and grace.  We can let go of guilt, anger, and self-pity and take the journey of awakened consciousness.  The only thing standing between us and our highest spiritual good is our fear and an acute sense of our own unworthiness.

Monasticism is a joyful journey toward Great Spirit and the sublime heights of spiritual love but it is also an arduous climb out of the shadowed valleys of self-hatred, despair, and childhood psychosis so that we can touch the sublime heights of spiritual love.  taktshang2But if effort were unnecessary we would not need courage, determination, and a passionate, even obsessive love for The Master, for Her or His Grace, or for the ultimate goal of knowing the Self, which is called Enlightenment.

To free ourselves it is necessary to change the past and our story of the past by reviewing the emotional decisions connected with earlier unhappy events.  We do this by redefining what those things mean to us now.  What did we learn?  What treasures did we find?  What do we need to leave in the ashes?  And what shall we carry with us into our future?

On the monastic path we spend a great deal of time noticing our thoughts, our arisings or mental images, emotional reactions, and bodily sensations.  We become so familiar with our inner landscape that we finally wish to release it, forgive it, and find some new adventure on which to embark.  However, our old self has to go with us.  We can’t run.  We can’t hide.  And we can’t destroy any part of us.  starangeAnd why should we?  We are a beautiful, unique, divine spark of the All Spirit Energy.  There has never been anyone just like us…and there never will be again.  Shouldn’t we try to enfold all of our beingness in the loving arms of compassion?  Great Spirit doesn’t make mistakes…and the Eternal Spirit of All Life doesn’t make junk.

So from what are we trying to free ourselves?  Simply put it is the deep seated belief that we are intrinsically bad, wrong, unworthy, and wrong-headed.  When we free ourselves from this misconception into the possibility that somehow we need all of our qualities and the wisdom of all our experiences in order to serve Great Spirit… we will be free indeed.  The monastic life gives us an opportunity to practice accepting ourselves, as we are, right now…and maybe even more importantly to accept others as they are right now.  This is a daily practice because we will be living in intimate community with people we don’t know very well, who have habits we don’t always approve of, and who may be individuals we almost certainly would avoid if we were living in the world.   And yet there they are day after day being themselves… as we continually express being ourselves.  Oh, boy, what a recipe for suffering!  So in monasticism we practice accepting others as they are and continually strive to accept ourselves as we are.11537595-bells-inside-the-buddhist-monastery-square-composition

Acceptance is not approval.  It is ALLOWING.  In allowing we find concern and kindness for others who are also on a great journey to enlightenment, and are struggling with their own doubts, challenges, and suffering.  We find care and compassion for ourselves because we are suffering.  And softly, with great gentleness we surrender to Great Spirit in prayer, pohwas, and the mighty nectar of mantra.  Slowly, bit-by-bit, prayer-by-prayer Enlightenment brightens up the world around us until we are Holy and we are Free!