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Buddhadharma : Spring 2010
53 spring 2 01 0 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly BuddhadhaRma: Let’s start with our overarching question. How important is the monastic path for Western Buddhism? Bhikkhu Bodhi: Buddhist monasticism owes its origins to the life story of the Buddha himself. When the Buddha decided to set out on his quest for enlightenment, he didn’t remain a prince in the palace and practice Vipassana a few hours a day. After he became disillusioned with birth, old age, sickness, and death, he glimpsed a wandering ascetic walking through the streets of Kapilavastu. That became the model he emulated. He adopted the lifestyle of a monk, and after his enlightenment, when he wanted to make the path to enlightenment open to others, he did so by establishing a monastic sangha, so that those who were inspired by the ideal of nibbana could follow the same path the Buddha had followed. Throughout Buddhist Asia—in the southeast countries as well as in the Himalayas—it’s been extremely important to preserve the monastic sangha. It’s taken as a representation of the third jewel, the visible manifestation of the Aryan sangha, meaning the sangha of the noble ones. Now as Buddhism comes to the West, there are many challenges that make the existence of a monastic sangha difficult here, but it is a neces- sity if Buddhism is to flourish in America. ayya tathaaloka: When I was young and saw depictions of Buddhist monastics on television, in movies, and in maga- zines like the National Geographic, I felt a strong affinity with them, a call within me to monastic life. As long as there are those who feel inspired to take on the monastic life, it’s important that we make that kind of life available. I’m so glad it’s been a possibility for me, not just something historical I could read about in a book. courtesyofsravastiabbey Dallas Becker has her head shaved prior to taking anagarika vows at Sravasti Abbey near Newport, Washington. paulQaysi