Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Becoming a Buddhist Nun: "There is No Guidebook"



"Being a Sayalay here at Pa Auk. Pa Auk Center only does 10 precept ordination. So if you are wanting only 8 or 9 and thus want to still handle money, that is not possible here, but is at other monasteries. There is no guidebook. One really needs to find someone they connect with in order to ask questions and get some basic guidelines on what it entails to be a nun. I requested to be ordained, they accepted, the date was set, my hair was shaved, I was expected to have brown clothes and if not they give you one set and then one recites the 10 precepts in front of the teacher and that is it. You think there is a class or basic training but there is none. Once again, you are on your own to figure everything else out and to discover what is allowed and what is not. Cast to the wind in a sense. Thank goodness there is one Western Sayalay here who has been ordained for a few years now and has been kind enough to answer any of my questions and help me along the way. Without her, I would be completely lost. 

The ordained community is very kind and very helpful but not all of them speak English or even know what to inform you on as they might assume that you already know what to do and not do. It is an unfolding in every moment and when I make a grave error, then someone kindly comes up to me and then tells me so. A learn-as-you-go kind of experience. There are so many details that I will not go into but can only emphasize that it truly is a learn-as-you-go, thus one must not be in a hurry or have some agenda because it unfolds as new needs arise. Such as how to buy soap? How to travel? Since one relinquishes all one's requisites, one is then dependent on the monastery and thus needs to figure out where the go, who to talk to, how to arrange things, etc....You get a bit of the picture? Everything is relinquished, there is no guidebook or manual for either behavior or for how to acquire necessities and then one finds oneself on the holy grail trail to find out how to get one's needs met. 

Thank goodness ones needs are simple and yet issues and needs to arise. And they do get addressed but it is a treasure hunt in the making! In addition to keeping one's meditation schedule, cleaning duties, interview time slots, etc..." 

--Sayalay Sukha (Sarah Wilds)