Thinking about becoming a Monk or Nun?
For those considering ordination, Nalanda Monastery offers the possibility to stay here for free by doing voluntary work, or, alternatively, to do a retreat.
With this in mind it’s good for aspiring monks to visit the monastery and meet the community. For those who have decided to ordain in the near future, we offer a special financial arrangement so that they can live here for a time as aspiring monks, and be part of the community. Because in our tradition becoming a monk is a choice made for the rest of our life, it is important to be well prepared for this undertaking. On these pages you’ll find advice on preparing for ordination, inspiring stories, and you can discover more about the motivation you should ideally have, and what the benefits of ordination are. You will also find further reading suggestions.
Becoming a Monk of Nalanda
To become a monk of Nalanda would have to first complete the aspirant questionnaire, and then if he is accepted by the community of Gelongs, a mentor would be appointed to guide the aspirant through a six month period of observation in order to check the aspirant’s suitability to become a monk at Nalanda.
During the 6 month period, the aspirant will be observed with regard to his stability within the community, his general behaviour towards others, his social skills and his integration and harmonious participation within the community.
The aspirant should be made aware that if these aspects are not found to be satisfactory by the community of Gelongs, his application for ordination will be declined.
If the aspirant’s behaviour is observed to be suitable by the community of Gelongs, his application for ordination will be supported, and as a result, he would be accepted as part of Nalanda’s monastic community.
In a situation where an aspirant takes his ordination before the period of observation is complete, he would continue under the guidance of his mentor, and complete an application for residendancy.
How to Join Nalanda’s Community
A monk wishing to join the community will have to complete a questionnaire, and if approved by the Gelongs, he will engage in a six month period of observation. If necessary, a mentor may be appointed at this time.
If the monk successfully completes his period of observation, he will be accepted into the community.
If a ‘known’ monk applies for residency at Nalanda or is a well known to the FPMT, a period of observation may not be necessary.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche emphasises the primary consideration in any request for ordination is the relationship of the student with the teacher. The student-teacher relationship is not only important in determining the suitability of the candidate for ordination at the time of the request but also as the student integrates into the monastic community after taking vows.
“Because the main objective for a monk is to do the training and study the teachings, engage in study, it is still good to rely on volunteers to help us with the many physical tasks that need to be done here in the monastery. So, it would be good to continue to invite volunteers to stay here to help us with all this work, and by doing so we are also offering an opportunity for the volunteers to accumulate great masses of virtue. Therefore, bringing about the conditions for the volunteers, the lay people, is also an activity which is benefiting others. Those monks who are able to engage in serious study should put great effort into their studies in order to do this amazing work [well] and accomplish intensive study. If there are monks who do not have the capacity or wish to study and feel that they would rather work in the monastery, they should follow this wish and put themselves completely to the task of working for the monastery and do this in a very excellent manner. Thus, someone who is a monk and on top of this either engaging in study or working for the monastery is doing something that is very intensive and meritorious”.
Geshe Jamphel (December 23, 2006)
While the teacher has the responsibility of deciding the suitability of the student requesting ordination, the decision to ordain is made by the student him (her) self.
Prior to requesting ordination, it is understood that the student will:
- Have a foundation in the Lamrim (Stages on the Path to Enlightenment).
- Have a firmly established relationship with a spiritual teacher.
- Have cultivated an understanding of renunciation in undertaking the life of a monk or nun.
- Have developed the wish to devote their life to service and practice as part of a monastic community.
Students considering ordination should also:
- Have had Buddhist refuge for at least 3 years or, while living/ studying at Nalanda, for at least 2 years.
- Have lived with lay vows for at least 1 year.
- NOT be a Shugden practitioner.
- Be at least 20 years of age.
- Ideally, have permission from their family.
- Be free of any encumbering relationships; if married, the candidate will have permission from their partner and be living separately.
- Be free of any encumbering financial obligations.
- Not be returning to their ordinary work situation; working in a Dharma center is permissible.
- Have held the getsul ordination for at least 3 years if requesting gelong ordination.
Prior to requesting ordination, the student is encouraged to discuss their interest with an IMI senior Sangha member or SPC who can facilitate the process and provide guidance.
Advice from Geshe Losel
International Mahayana Institute
The Nalanda monks and the nuns of our community are all members of the International Mahayana Institute (IMI).
The IMI is a community of Buddhist monks and nuns of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT).
The IMI is distinct in preserving the unique lineage of Lama Tsong Khapa, integrating study and practice as manifested by its teachers, H.H. Dalai Lama, Lama Zopa Rinpoche, and Lama Yeshe all the while adapting to various cultures and conditions around the world.
On the IMI website one can find more information about preparing for ordination.