Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Becoming a Nun in Burma

Two young Burmese nuns with a plant
A foreign nun who has been in robes for six years in Burma has graciously agreed to answer questions for other Western women who wish to ordain. The full discussion will appear in Shwe Lan, and for now we include her responses to two questions:

When I explained to my family my intention of become a nun they didn't understand my decision. I felt tension and guilt and there were tears. It's really difficult. What can I do?

"Usually it is easier for women coming from Buddhist countries, but still many times the family and friends are not ready for this. There are expectations about your life, and the close relationships make the separation difficult. Foreigners most of the times face more difficulties because the lack of knowledge about what is a Buddhist nun. Often some fear arises: they think that maybe you don't come anymore, they don't really trust the place or teacher that you are planning to join, they wonder how you can live without working. Sometimes they think that you are selfish, and that you have taken a decision that will bring suffering to them. Maybe they think that this is just an escape from your responsibilities. Many times one’s family can understand that you want to grow in meditation, but they then wonder, why to become a nun, why go to a distant country? Why you don't remain in your place doing meditation as a lay woman like other people? Sometimes they are afraid that you will be sick in short time if you don't take any food after noon. I feel fortunate because I met one family of a Western nun who came to visit her in Myanmar. I asked them for advice when explaining to my family. The main thing that they said it was: 'keep in mind always that to accept your decision is a process for them: they need time.' To follow this had been really helpful."

You said that you made decision to become a nun following your intuition inside more than your thinking process. Please, can you explain me a little more about this?

"When my teacher of Pali suggested me to become a nun, the first reaction was to say: 'No! I am not ready for this. I don't have enough purity for this kind of life!'. I was quite sure, because all my defilements were so clear in my mind. I felt dirty. But the fact is that when we talked a seed was planted. There were many reasons to continue on with the plans I had for life in Europe when I was to return. Intellectually it seemed that it was better to just forget about nun's life. But deep inside I had the feeling/intuition that this was the next step for me in Dhamma. Like other times in my life, as soon as I made decision of follow the intuition all doors were open. So much support, unexpected help came and in short time I was in Myanmar ordained as a nun."