"Should I become a monk?"

February 19, 2009

Last week, during my yoga retreat, I started thinking about whether I should make the commitment to being a monk. In many ways I already feel like I live the life of a monk, or something close to it, so I think it's a reasonable thing to think about.

During the week I started reading a book I brought with me by Zen Master Seung Sahn (ZMSS), titled "Only Don't Know", and as I read through the book I ran into a chapter on this issue of whether or not someone should become a monk. Fortunately ZMSS's answer was very straightforward, and I can say this is no longer an issue or concern of mine.

Without plagiarizing his book, here are a few quotes that helped in my decision:

"Maybe I want to save all beings, but I also have desired -- I want a good job, or good position, or to get married. If so, then you must get married. If you have even a little bit of desire for yourself, then not becoming a monk is OK, and becoming a Dharma teacher is better."

"Becoming a monk is possible only if you completely have no desire for yourself, only for all beings. When you become a monk you cannot have sex, drink alcohol, or live the way you want to all the time."

"If you want to become a nun 100%, become a nun. But if you want to become a nun only 99% of the time, that's no good, don't become a nun."

Having my own attachments to freedom, and also to other things like money, I know it would be wrong for me to try to become a monk. These days I may only have a few alcoholic drinks a year, but at least I can have them.

ZMSS also later states that "Some people want to become monks for emotional reasons", like a breakup with a boyfriend of girlfriend, or they have a bad feeling about society. ZMSS states, "This is number one bad reason to become a monk!"

The point about that last 1%, that really does amaze me. In my case I feel like I am maybe a monk 95% of the time, but now it's very clear that's not good enough. But hopefully I still do some very nice things in this world with my 95%, and with my attachments. Time will tell.

One other cool thing here: Although ZMSS passed away several years ago, his words and thoughts live on in his books. Sometimes when I think about being a writer, and spending a lot of time writing, I wonder if it's all worth it. But then something like this comes up, and I realize the power of the written word to help someone else in their life, even after your own death, and it renews my spirit for writing.

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