Being a Buddhist Monk

Assume the position
Assume the position

My Life

Technically I can't be a monk because I'm a woman, but what fun would it be to say that I want to be a nun, although that's what the female equivalent to a monk is. Nevertheless, I've learned much more about monks than nuns so I'm going with monk. Besides, it is the nuns who do a lot of the work (cooking, cleaning, etc) around the temples, leaving little time for meditations and typical monk activities so no thanks- that's too similar to my life now.

My greatest desire, and simultaneously my greatest struggle, is simplifying my life for much needed peace of mind. Some women read fashion magazines, imagining their ideal shopping day or outfit, others watch design shows in search of their perfect house and all the little perfect items to put in it. None of that is for me, instead I've read books about Buddhist monks, dreaming big of achieving less.

Somewhere I get lost in the shuffle of appointments, promises and expectations, children, family, work, perfectionism, dealing with a disability, and everything else that makes up the life of this busy woman. It's literally a giant sinkhole ready to take me down at any moment. While it would be easier to shave my head and wear a robe all day, I can't run away to a Buddhist retreat this very moment. I may live a complicated life, but I live in reality so I shall have to do it here- be a Buddhist monk for everyone to witness.

Take the journey with me- you might learn a thing or two about me, about Buddhist Monks, and more importantly about yourself.

Prayer
Prayer
Meditation
Meditation

Rituals

I love rituals- they are a sense of order, tradition, and familiarity that makes me happy as a clam. What's odd is that in my life, I've come to resent some rituals I've established. As a mom, I think they're especially important for kids and family, but it seems to achieve them, I overextend myself to the point of a stress melt-down. What should give me a happy feeling, makes me feel overwhelmed.

A Buddhist Monk's life is set up around rituals- prayer rituals for instance can take place several hours a day. They take periodic breaks for tea, lunch, or a nap (can I note here that I don't get any of those three things on most days). Their foods are nothing fancy (usually eating once or twice a day), their fashions don't change much, and they even find sweeping floors meditative.

Part of what makes a monk's rituals seem so relaxing is that they have very few needs- just the basics and the rituals are simple. The rituals I've established are complicated. I end up running to 10 different stores at the last minute or having to find just the right things to re-create the tradition or am pressed for time just to get around to a usual ritual. Either way I'm diving in head first to a pressure cooker. Is it impossible to create and maintain simple routines? No, absolutely not and that is something I can learn from a Buddhist Monk. It seems that prayer, tea, and quiet time are all perfectly reasonable to welcome into my life and now I know why my husband spends an hour sweeping our driveway.

Solitary Woman
Solitary Woman

Solitude

Admittedly, I am happiest by myself. Always have been, always will be. I know what the experts say, 'people need people', 'having plenty of relationships improves health', 'we're social creatures', blah blah blah. I can tell you though, it's not in my DNA- perhaps one my strands went rogue. I'm married, but still I could take it or leave it. If I get time to myself for reflection and letting my thoughts swirl around in my head, I am a better person for it- solitude is my drug of choice. I know most people associate solitary folks with sociopaths, but let me assure you that's not remotely me.

As fast as the world moves today, there is no way anybody has time to truly process anything without slowing down and taking some alone time to gain awareness and perspective. Isolated retreats are part of the Buddhist Monk tradition and one of the aspects that draws people to Buddhist retreats (my dream is to do this someday). Isolation has long been a spiritual tradition for many religions. I think my attraction to a period of isolation is to find order outside of chaos, to find myself outside of my typical titles I wear everyday.

Buddhist monks spend hours a day with others right beside them, in prayer, in meditation, at meals, but most of their self work is done within them. Their neighbor sitting next to them isn't trying to get the baseball score, a recipe for apple pie, or trying to make small talk. Meaningless small talk seems to go such a long way in our society- it stinks, I hate it. It's as if people are saying I don't know myself or you enough to talk to about something worthwhile.

Learning

My answer to the infamous question "What would you do if you won the lottery?" is I would be a career student. Some people are shocked by this answer, but it's true. I'd go to school as long as I could. The caveat is that colleges and teachers all adhere to certain and/or strong viewpoints with little wiggle room for free thought- you learn to play by their rules, you think like the teacher in order to get the grade. Buddhist Monks do not learn in this fashion.

Knowledge and philosophies are interpreted objectively. Personal thoughts and debates over knowledge are tossed around among other monks until the kinks are worked out. We often can't imagine knowing anything without having a personal opinion and subjective view of it- this is foreign to most of us, but not a Buddhist monk. Their self is different than our self. Knowledge is also not used to belittle or perpetuate superiority onto others. For them, knowledge is freedom and a path to enlightenment.

Karma

A philosophy within many religions is the fact that what we do here on Earth effects us for eternity- whether it's the heaven and hell of Christianity or Karma of Buddhism. This is a heavy burden leaving many of us to wonder how good is good enough and how bad is too bad, especially when we live in a world of a lot in between.

I have to admit, I think about this often because it seems those who suffer the most don't really deserve it- unnecessary suffering is one of the main arguments against a Christian God. Buddhism explains that all people suffer, life is suffering. Karma would suggest some people may have done bad in past lives, but it's not only about the past. What we do with the hand we're dealt presently, no matter how bad it may be, displays a good or bad in us. Two people with an equally difficult childhood may handle it completely different. There certainly is a distinct amount of unfairness among mankind and Karma explains this unevenness, even the innate personalities we are born with- they come from somewhere and not just genes.

My favortie Buddhist quote

I have always loved this quote so much that I have kept a 2003 Dalai Lama calendar all these years, because it has this quote in it. The calendar still smells like the sandalwood incense I used to burn constantly in my place.

"If you want to know what you were doing in the past, look at your body now; if you want to know what will happen to you in the future, look at what your mind is doing now"

In other words, our future is in our hands right now so there is no time like the present.

My Day as a Buddhist Monk

The inspiration behind the desire for living like a Buddhist Monk came to me long ago when I was taking a "World Civilizations" course in college. I remember one day sitting in class when the professor began rambling on about something that actually caught my interest. He was speaking on Buddhism, but in particular, the vicious cycle of wanting- people get what they want and then want something else, something more. This was me. He even challenged us to live like a Buddhist for one day. I did, and even though I am Christian, living a Buddhist philosophy for one day, changed my life.

I am mindful of when the rat race mentality takes hold of my life again and I momentarily forget there is another way people live. By writing this I am remembering, at least for today, to slow down, create time for peace, treat others kindly, keep it simple, and feel as though I have everything I want and need already. I hope you do the same.

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Comments 43 comments

TheManWithNoPants profile image

TheManWithNoPants 5 years ago from Tucson, Az.

Sis,

Are you cracking up? A monk? Listen .. Get your husband to take a couple of weeks off. Come on out here. Haley can play with Ashly, your husband and Amy can sit around and just get giddy with their boring crap while I throw you in the Jeep and go do some rock climbing, and blaze around the desert. We'll find some pretty rocks and look at them for hours. You're getting drained from the obligations that it takes being a silly responsible adult. We are perfect in our imperfections. Marriage counseling, deadlines, adult baby sitting,and routines are making you goofy. You're too tall to me a monk. Your're too opinionated to be a monk. You're too rebelous to be a monk, and your hair's too cool to get rid of. You WOULD look kind of sexy wearing a throw rug though. Hopefull I'll talk to you this week, and we can continue this. I voted up, useful, and funny. Yes, funny. I'll talk to you about it later.

jim


marellen 5 years ago

I like your comment that you could take or leave marriage. Did you always feel this way or just after you got married?

Sorry, didn't mean to get off the track of your hub. Its difficult to be everything to everyone...eveyday. I was also in the rat race but it does get better. I'm now retired and have hours of free time...I like it and have always enjoyed being alone. Guess you could say, I entertain myself very well.

I enjoyed your hub...now that you understand you will remember to slow down...


Jeanine 5 years ago

Very good read Izetti... I believe there are eternal truths in every religion...I do believe that God created this... and am Christian... where I different in my belief is if one were to try and create the perfect song for instance, one would create something that was familiar, yet changed slightly to be interesting each time you sang it,what one might consider an evolutionary change ever so slight... yet interesting... I believe in God like that... He put it into place and started it, then we are own our own... now we can pray and ask him to intervene... life is good... life is bad... is it... many parables deal with the yin and yang of life... there was a farmer in China when warlords ruled the land... the farmer had a son and was very poor, one day they were lucky and captured a few horses, his neighbors all said ahh God is with you because you have found favor... the farmer said is he... his boys loved the horses and became a great horseman... but one day fell and crippled his leg... everyone said God is against you or your boy would not have been injured... the farmer said is He...then a terrible warlord came into the village one day and took all the able bodied young men to war with him... his boy was spared and stayed home growing in favor with man and God...all the village said... God is with you... the farmer said...Is He...


izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

Jim~ not cracking up- lol. I find peace in many things and this kind of thing is just one of them. Here's the breakdown...if you took a look at my coveted bookshelves about 20% is fiction (mostly Shakespeare and vampire books), 50% psychology, we'll say 5% "other" and Bible of course, and then 20+%Buddhist type of books- I've been reading them for years. One of my faves is 'The Art of Happiness'.Buddhism is a great philosophy, but not a religion in my life. Did you know they learn things and sit around and debate them for hours- that's my cup of tea! So what we've discovered here is something you didn't know about me. But I will take you up on looking at rocks for hours.

Marellen~ thanks for stopping by. About marriage- yes, always felt that way. Many people who knew me prior to getting married were surprised I did it. I wanted a different adventure and maybe kids. It has certainly met those expectations- lol. Even when I take a break from the rat race it seems everyone else is speeding by me. I think it's a valuable trait to be OK with being alone and be able to entertain yourself.


izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

Jeanine~ I definitely believe inthe Christian God, but enjoy Buddhist as philosophy. Love that story of the farmer and his son- that's great! Reminds me of another story something to do about a guy who had great fortune and reacted in a neutral manner, then bad fortune and still reacted in a neutral manner. People wondered why he acted the same way for both good and bad stuff when most of us would be upset by bad things and elated by good things. He explained that life is full of ups and downs- this too shall pass. Nothing stays that way forever- even if one's entire life on Earth is suffering, that too shall pass in the afterlife.


TheManWithNoPants profile image

TheManWithNoPants 5 years ago from Tucson, Az.

Okey. I'll try. I DO love stretching. Oh, that's yoga.:/ I could really get into having my belly rubed while I look at rocks, and if that does it for you, I'm happy as pie. I've got an old girl friend in Colorado Springs that's all over that stuff.

Well, I learned something tonight! I think you know most of my stuff sis. I know there's nothing that can top freakin Budda for crying out loud. This is kinda cool actually.

jim

BTW I prefer having my own comments box if you can work that out. :)


Jeanine 5 years ago

I love that Jim... he is a funny guy...and yes Ms Izett wanted me to contact you and let you know we are working on and work out a way out way of working on you to have a private box... Jim you are extremely funny...I think oh I od love streaching is up there in the top 3 for me...

And yes Izetti.. I believe it as a philosophy.... and the reading is good and always uplifting...


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States

This is a very thought provoking hub. I hate to get caught us in more things then I have time for and I enjoy solitude also, but just part of the time. The simplicity of the Monk's routine sounds nice but I would get bored with it eventually I think. I really enjoyed this hub.


izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

Jim~ I don't like yoga- tried it in my fit days, hell, I try it periodically but I just can't like it. Something about my body being active and my mind being calm- it doesn't coincide. If my mind is to be calm, my body must also be fairly still (like meditating) and likewise with being active. The only bad thing about Buddhism as a philosophy is it is so far away from western mentality. if you were always altruistic, you'd get screwed in the U.S.


izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

pamela99~ I think I'd go nuts with that routine as well, but just as I see their routine as extreme and I see most AMericans routine as extreme, there is a happy medium balance. Monks would go nuts with our routine I'm sure- it's just cultural differences.If we were raised there, that would be the norm. Thanks so much for stopping by.


izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

J~ for me, the reading is good and uplifting as you say and I also get that from the Bible. The Bible is connected to a relationship I have with Jesus and God, but I do not connect with Buddha- don't think he was meant to be worshipped. Buddha really gets into what it means to be human, that's why I relate it to philosophy.


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 5 years ago

I might try being a monk who makes wine all day!


Robwrite profile image

Robwrite 5 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

Hi Izetti; I loved the hub. As a 7-year practicing Buddhist, I appreciate and agree with everything you've said. I once spent a few days in a Buddhist retreat with some Monks and it was a very renewing experience.

The thing that makes me so in awe of the Buddhist monks is the simplicity of their lives. In our culture, it seems that everything is designed to be as difficult as possible. The Monks have simple agendas and few needs. I admire their low-maintenance lifestyle. I mediate and chant every day to find the serenity they seem to have. I'm still trying.

I, too, prefer my alone time and can along be in a crowd for so long before I'm looking for solitude. This is probably why I never got married (although I did live with someone once, and it wasn't really pleasant for me to share my space). One good thing about living alone is that there are no distractions when you want to focus on Buddhist spirituality.

I loved the hub. Voting up. Don't lose that seeking spirit.

Rob


Cari Jean profile image

Cari Jean 5 years ago from Bismarck, ND

This is very thought-provoking and so well written. As for me, I find I can't be alone for very long or I end up getting down and depressed and start to feel negative. My husband is completely opposite he could be alone for weeks and it wouldn't bother him - his ideal way of living is to be as boring as can be. Maybe his true calling should have been to be a monk! His dad is afterall an Anglican Priest.


billy sidhu profile image

billy sidhu 5 years ago

hi Iz- a superbly written hub- my sentiments ditto. have not spent the day as a monk- but have started chanting- its blissful. much love


Goodpal profile image

Goodpal 5 years ago

Izetti, Thanks for a good narration of life as a Monk (nun). I suggest you go for a ten-day Vipassana course - you will get a good deal of benefits without turning into a monk. If the simplicity of Monk's life charms you, you will learn to observe (meditate) yourself plainly through your own efforts. A lot of people have actually changed their lives staying in the same environment. This is another practical way to put to use your seeking spirit, for your own good.

Here is the link, if you want to explore: http://www.dhamma.org/ OR

http://internationalmeditationcentre.org/


izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

Robwrite~ I remember the Buddhist thing about you and I understand exactly why you seek that- it just feels right for the body and mind- I don't believe everyone was meant to be everywhere at once- sure there are type A personalities that the average American lifstyle suits just fine, but I need my time and space. By far the most difficult thing about being a mom and wife is less of that time and space. I've been hooked on the Buddhist monk mentality for at least 10 years now so I won't give that part of me up. Once you experience a little bit of peace and simplicity as you did on a retreat then it's harder going back to the typical rat race. I respect the life you've created for yourself- I was close to that path- was single and lived alone for quite a while. When my little one gets older, I will surely go on a retreat and explore this more. Thanks for stopping by Rob!


izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

breakfastpop~ Your recipes are great so I bet your wine making would be just as fine- you'd be the most valuable and popular Monk on the block- lol.

Carijean~ Isn't it stange how some people have traits within them that either seek to be alone or around people? I do quite fine in a crowd- even the life of a party, but honestly I get physically and mentally drained if I am around people too much all the time. Yes your husband could have missed his calling. If I hadn't had gotten married, bieng a nun was a real consideration for me. Thank you for commenting.

Billysidhu~ great to see and glad you could read this hub. I believe there is a little of something we can learn from monks that we can incorporate in our daily lives. I have yet to try chanting, but love meditating.


izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

Goodpal~ Thanks for the link and info -something I'd like to check out.


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 5 years ago from TEXAS

This is good stuff, Izetti.

I have much awe of Zen monk lifestyles too. Thomas Merton's was similar as a christian monk in a 'silent', self-sustaining monastery in Kentucky. His writings are inspired. I've been at that monastery when potter friends delivered a vessel for the sanctuary. I'm not of the religious conviction but it was a truly inspiring experience, visiting there. I've read some of his writings, as well as many of & about Zen.

The bottom line is the detachment, simplification and trimming of excess prevalent in many a life being lived.

I personally have lived a life, especially during several periods of it, much like a monk's. I was aware of that, actually, and I did read a lot about Zen and that lifestyle.

I find, for myself, that my calling is being an active person demonstrating some of that perspective - among and within LIFE itself. It doesn't require actual separation or isolation. The "place" for it is always inside, anyway. That is the "room with a view" that really counts at the end of he day(s). And it is always where one "IS".

Thank you for an excellent hub and heart-felt perspective!


Goodpal profile image

Goodpal 5 years ago

Nellieanna, I fully agree with every word of yours and relate to them as well.

You have rightly said "The bottom line is the detachment, simplification and trimming of excess prevalent in many a life being lived."

Several years of my life too, have been spent in meditation centers serving and meditating. I still try to find time to do that. There is a peculiar sense of satisfaction in leading a life with minimal wants or desires.

I am trying hard to redesign my life around having and living with least "needs" and practice detachment - this is a virtue that gives tremendous strength. When the mind is detached,no amount of temptation or craving can shake you away from inner tranquility and inner joy.

I am glad that I read your words here.

I thank you and Izetti both.


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 5 years ago from TEXAS

Thank you, too, Goodpal, for a wonderful comment in my direction. And I want to tell you that one of the quotes on your profile page is an especial favorite of mine:

"I simply destroy my enemies by making them my friends". ?--Abraham Lincoln

A great philosophy! That's the kind of destruction from which this earth could benefit greatly!

I think that it is the inner feeling of detachment, and of simply not being controlled and impelled by "stuff" and the quest for it which matters, whatever the external circumstances. I don't think that spikes and ashes make it so. And if it's so, one needn't advertise it with spikes and ashes. It "tells" in one's whole being and behavior, especially in one's own awareness of its being so and knowing that it is so in all situations, not just when one is making an effort to express or show it. If one happens to have comforts in life, so long as the quest for and dependence in having them are not the determinants of who one is and how one thinks and behaves, those 'things' are no more significant than lacking them is. It is not the outer circumstances but the inner state of being that makes a difference.

Redesigning your external life may be helpful, but living the virtues of which you speak are the major matters and don't depend on those externals. In fact, being too aware of them one way or the other already gives them more importance than they deserve. Detachment is its own independent virtue and it abides within, rather than without.

I hope we may be forgiven for the mini-discussion going on here! Shows that Izetti touched off some real interest! :-)


Goodpal profile image

Goodpal 5 years ago

Thanks Nellieanna, for the time to respond to my words.

I gather the sense of your message. It was really wonderful to talk to you here at the sidelines of Izetti's page. I will be happily following your wise words and wisdom in the future.


Sharyn's Slant profile image

Sharyn's Slant 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

Really enjoyed this piece Izzetl and I REALLY loved the comments as well. Great work!

Sharyn


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

Very inspiring hub. I learn much from you. I know it isn't easy to be a monk. We have a pure heart, we never think about worldly matters. We must focus with good things, not all people can do this, right. But thanks for writing this. Vote it up!

Prasetio


fashion 5 years ago

Informative interesting hub.The simplicity of the Monk's routine sounds nice.


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 5 years ago from TEXAS

Thanks and hugs, Goodpal!


izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

Nellieanna~ I completely agree with your comments.I like what you said about not acutal isolation, but finding that place inside- very true. My mind goes a mile a minute and I walk into a place paying attention to everyone and every conversation so it is hard for me to detach without acutally being isolated. i need to work on that.

Goodpal~ thank you for your kind words and glad you could read and share here too.

Sharyn~ thank for taking the time to stop by- glad you enjoyed.


izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

fashion~ thank you and yes, simplicity always sounds nice...

Prasetio~ it is so hard to live these words in the world we live in, but it is nice when things come together and you find a little bit of peace in the crazy world. Thank you for stopping by.


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 5 years ago from TEXAS

Izetti. Thank you.

I believe the sense and awareness of detachment within allow one to participate with others simultaneously. It's an attitude, actually, one in which one's center is clarified & non-fragmented, whatever else is going on around one. Of course, to meditate in silence and isolation is restorative, as well, but actual inner clarity and detachment are not dependent upon it. That is part of being truly detached, in fact.


izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

Nellieanna~ great advice here and something I practice on. The awareness bit is crucial because I get lost in what a crowd around me is doing until I center it back to inside me and just be- it's hard. It's like solitary meditation where your thoughts go a mile a minute and you have to let them go, the noise goes away eventually and that's the sweet spot. Thanks again!


Nellieanna profile image

Nellieanna 5 years ago from TEXAS

Yes, it seems difficult to "tune out" the frantic noise around one. It's not too different from being able to 'let go of it' and go to sleep at night. It's hard to describe the process but it does overcome all that. There is something which does not so much as shut it out or escapes it as that one as you say, just 'is' amidst it, & just sort of absorbs and dissolves the superfluous stuff. That also allows one to see the difference in what is or isn't really superfluous. Some of the hubbub 'out there' really is important to notice and be aware of, though much really is unimportant. As you say you can get lost in all the stuff around. There is the key - to BE and maintain your "is-ness" no matter where you are or what is in progress. You do that a lot, I'm sure. That's why you know the difference if it's otherwise. Good for you. It can be a challenge. :-)


izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

Nellieanna~ funny you mention letting go of it to sleep at night. I have to work at that and being able to let it go and not take an hour to go to sleep. My 3 yr old daughter is the same way- not sure what to do to relieve a child of that.


Neil Sperling profile image

Neil Sperling 5 years ago from Port Dover Ontario Canada

Great hub - specifically I like this comment "simplifying my life for much needed peace of mind."

man needs to learn to love life and love living.... forget about the trappings of so called success and be happy. Good hub!


izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

Neil~ it is certainly the simple things that bring the greatest joy. But, in a way, simple is hard to attain when caught up with the world we live in...and having kids- lol. I like what you say about 'forgetting the trappings of so called success'. Man has really gotten lost on what happiness is.


Jeanine 5 years ago

I haven't forgotten, the fragrant gardens, the willows down by a healthy open stream.... beauty captured within my heart can often take me over... to the dream of when mocking birds sing....happiness is...


izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

now that vision puts me in a peaceful state of mind.


daskittlez69 profile image

daskittlez69 5 years ago from midwest

I loved your hub. You have great insight. Thanks and here is your up.


izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

thank you so much daskittlez69 (interesting name)


W. B. Isley profile image

W. B. Isley 5 years ago from Monett, MO

Great work. Thanks for the read.

I am who I think I am. So, who do I think I am. I can put on and take off any mental costume I choose to wear at any moment in my life. I can be peaceful or panicky. Life is what I make it.

Thanks Laura.


izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

W.B you stated it perfectly- I love the saying 'life is what we make it'. THanks so much for stopping by.


Dustin Staples profile image

Dustin Staples 4 years ago from California

I loved your line about small talk, it captures my thoughts on the matter perfectly. Thanks for the great read, our lives seem pretty different and yet I relate to your message a lot; I hate feeling so swept up in things, to the point that, I don't have a second to have thought upon thought, with no rush to do something else. (definitely desirves a beautiful", no surprise to go up a and find that's what the popular one was :] )


izettl profile image

izettl 4 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

Thanks for stopping by Dustin. Glad you can relate.

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