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Buddhadharma : Spring 2010
55 spring 2 01 0 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly want to devote themselves to lifelong meditative, intellectual, emotional, and psychological development, living at a very high ethical level. Monasticism creates a privileged life for someone who wants to achieve the ideals of the Buddhist path. Bhikkhu Bodhi: Whether one takes a Theravada perspective or a Mahayana perspective, the final goal of Buddhism involves the complete abandoning of all the defilements that keep us in bondage to samsara. A monastic person might not have advanced very far in the actual inner renunciation, but the outer lifestyle of the monk is designed to facilitate that inner renunciation. Through the profession of their vows, the monastics adopt a life of celibacy, a life without possessing material resources or money. It’s a life that is in principle dedi- cated to the inner work of completely purifying the mind. Even though laypeople living at home, practicing the dhamma on their own, can practice very diligently, the (portraitsclockwisefromtopleft):Janel.wechsler;brinkmanphotography,unknown;richardrethemeyer. monastic form provides the ideal conditions for the achieve- ment of that inner state of complete renunciation. The monastic lifestyle represents in a manifest and visible form the achievement of the final goal, the achievement of that state of complete inner renunciation. Without the presence of a monastic sangha in the West, the final goal of the Buddha’s teachings will not be so visible. In that case, one can easily mistake the goals to be simply about living mindfully in the here and now, experiencing presence of mind in the present life, without seeing that there’s a transcendent goal toward which the Buddha’s teaching is pointing. Jan Chozen Bays: What Bhikkhu Bodhi said about having a visible, alternative way to live is important. We’ve adopted “a career day for mystics,” which was advocated by Matthew Fox. When I first heard about this idea, I liked it because so many young people have come to us saying, “I wish I had known about this alternative when I was younger, when I was eighteen and desperate.” Now we go out to career days at colleges and set up a booth for the monastery. RoBeRt thuRman: [laughs] That’s great. Is it alongside the mili- tary recruitment? Jan Chozen Bays: Yes. How did you know? RoBeRt thuRman: [laughs] Well, that’s the competition. Jan Chozen Bays: They put us next to the CIA, and they were actually very friendly. When we did it at the University of Portland, many people came to the booth and said how glad they were to have us there as an alternative. Even the military people and the police said that. Monasticism is an important alternative way of living. Although monastics interact with the outside world, the dis- tractions, pressures, and temptations are significantly reduced. The Buddha was so practical. He was always looking at how to maximize the amount of life energy and time devoted to the pursuit of liberation. When he looked at clothing, food, and shelter, he was always looking at it with an eye to how we can devote the majority of our resources to the pursuit of liberation. We don’t have a television here. We get a newspaper once a week. So there’s not this constant obsession with what’s happening in the world. On a normal day we end up with four hours devoted to meditation, and during retreats it’s eight to ten hours, which you can’t possibly do in lay life. ayya tathaaloka: At any stage along the path, when it’s in one’s heart to do something more than practice for a few minutes or hours a day or go on some short-term retreats, when one feels motivated to give body, mind, and heart to the path 100 percent, on an extended basis, the container of the monastic life is there to make that possible. The idea that we don’t really need monasticism here is very wrong. The source of it is an unwitting Protestant ethic that is unwilling to have people pursuing a life path that doesn’t involve producing things. —Robert Thurman brinkmanphotography Morning service at Great Vow Monastery in Clatskanie, Oregon.