A Helpful Mindset to Have
It is important to understand that this is a training program in order to become a monk, and so although meditation is a cornerstone of monkhood, this program is more strict and very different in nature from a meditation retreat. The 8 and 227 precepts are rules of higher spiritual discipline that were established by the Buddha to create an internal and external environment that is conducive for those wishing to develop themselves spiritually. So in order to both support your personal practice and uphold the image of the Sangha, it is important that you maintain humility, patience, an openness to feedback, and a willingness to adjust your habits according to the guidelines of the program and the coaching of the staff. In this way, you can contribute to a quality experience for all.
Respect of Religious/Cultural Customs
Oftentimes people have the mentality that Buddhism is not a religion. This may be the case for those who apply Buddhist concepts like a philosophy in order to improve their daily life, but it is not the case for becoming a monk. When you become a monk, you are representing Thai Theravada Buddhism. This comes with a set of religious and cultural customs that you are expected to show respect for and abide by. This includes but is not limited to: properly bowing to Buddha images and more senior monks, holding hands in prayer position during blessings, taking off shoes before entering indoor or sacred spaces, not pointing the bottom of your feet towards sacred objects or other monks, taking good care of your robes and folding/wearing them in appropriate manner, not touching the head or shoulders of another monk, etc.
We as the training staff, will guide you on how to follow these religious and cultural customs. It is your job to adjust yourself according to this guidance. It is not necessary to identify as Buddhist in order to become a monk. You can identify as any other religion; however, you must abide by these outward gestures of respect. Not doing so may result in you being dismissed from the program.
One of the cornerstones of being a monk is living in a way that makes it easy for the lay people to support us. One such way in which we do this is by not being choosy in the food that we are offered. This is very central to the discipline of Theravada Buddhist monks. With that being said, a portion of the food that we eat every day will come from the villagers who make offerings during our morning almsround walk. The majority of the food that they, and most Thai people, make contains meat and other ingredients that lie outside of a vegan diet. In addition to this, if you decide to stay on as a monk longer-term, there will be certain situations in which you were offered food outside of the training site. In these occasions, it is important to be able to adapt and show gratitude for what is offered by the faithful lay people.
With that being said, we do try our best to have fresh salad, fruit, porridge and other dishes that do not contain meat. However, it is not always guaranteed to have an abundance of options for those who have vegetarian or vegan dietary preferences. There have been vegetarian and vegan’s in the past who have been able to adjust themselves to this reality, so it is certainly doable. We would just like to make you aware of this reality and the importance of eating what is offered as a monk in Thailand in case you happen to have vegetarian, vegan or other dietary restrictions.
POLICY FOR LONGER TERM MONKHOOD
After First 30 Day Program: The Monk 4 Life Program
While the first 30 days are focussed a lot on the process of officially becoming a monk, and the basics of monk life, subsequent to that there is less teaching time and more meditation time to really discover the fruits of monkhood. After the first 30 days, there is one daily full length Dhamma talk, morning and evening chanting together, a short sharing of Dhamma in the evenings, and an optional Sutta discussion group and 4 meditations per day. There is plenty of free time for hobbies and self-study or extra meditation. Many who take short-term ordination express an interest in becoming a Meditation Instructor afterwards, and so iMonastery in partnership with an Open University from America also offer the ability to monks to take 3, 6 or 12 month certification courses to become a Meditation Instructor for their future lay careers. Those who stay on as monks will be assisted into developing into whatever kind of monk they like, whether that be purely meditative or to become a teaching monk, for example.
Travel Policy for First 5 Years of Monkhood
According to the Vinaya set by the Buddha, men are considered “new monks” for the first 5 years of their monastic journey and must undergo training under the supervision of their senior monks during this period. iMonastery’s policy states that during this 5 year period, new monks are not able to travel and stay outside of the training site without express permission and support from the staff. If there is an emergency that requires you to travel in such a way, it will be necessary to coordinate with the staff and see if there is a potential solution where you are chaperoned by an approved attendant and have the proper accommodations and associated support during your trip as deemed appropriate by the staff. We will do our best to find a suitable option for you, however, in the event that we cannot find a good solution, as a last resort, it may be necessary for you to temporarily disrobe to take care of the issue in question before coming back to ordain again.
PASSPORT RECOMMENDATIONS FOR LONGER TERM STAY
If you plan to or are at least open to the idea of staying on as a monk longer than 3 months, please make sure that you have at least 5 blank passport pages for the sake of visa stamps. If your passport is almost full, it is best to renew your passport before coming to Thailand.
If you plan to stay on even longer term than this, it is best to make sure that your passport will not expire in the near future. If it will expire in the next year or so, doing a passport renewal in your own country before coming might be a good idea. Please just be aware that passport renewal from abroad while staying in Thailand can be troublesome for certain countries. With this information you can make an informed decision on how to proceed.