Search This Blog


Buddhism in the News


Saturday, June 18, 2005

Live an Ordinary Life

Living in forests far away from other people is not true seclusion. True seclusion is to be free from the power of likes and dislikes. It is also to be free from the mental attitude that one must be special because one is treading the path.Those who remove themselves to far forests often feel superior to others. They think that because they are solitary they are being guided in a special way and that those who live an ordinary life can never have that experience. But that is conceit and is not help to others. The true recluse is one who is available to others, helping them with affectionate speech and personal example. .-Prajnaparamita From "Buddha Speaks," edited by Anne Bancroft, 2000. Reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Boston,

James's Comment: I have often thought about the monks that seclude themselves in high mountain tops or just being a monk in the first place as "escapism" in a way. It seems sometimes that being a monk is to purposefully seperate yourself from society and thus an artifical "life" of sorts. Sometimes I feel that to follow the middle path we must stay within the "middle path" of society. It is easy to "escape" to a cave somewhere but to remain in the middle of life is the true path I feel. Not everyone can escape and "leave society." It takes true courage to live a normal life within the confines of life and to submit yourself to the temptations of everyday society. This is where our truest, most raw lessons are taught and learned I believe. As the quote says, the true recluse is one who is available to others, helping them with the affectionate speech and personal example.

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Paradox Adam said...

Sure, living in socity is a test of mind- doubly so in the western consumer culture! But to call a monestic lifestyle escapism is a bit much, I feel. After all- one must journy to become a monk. There is a lot of emotional (and sometimes fiscal) problums one has to face before putting on the cloth.

"James" said...

Yes, but why do these people seperate themselves from the rest of society I guess is what I'm asking? The middle path would seem to be out of balance if one just left society and became a monk. Maybe there is something I am just not understanding. I think the monastic lifestyle is fine, wonderful even but not for all of us, you know? I think that I am learning more about karma, dharma and the sangha by not becoming a monk. However, that may just be me.

Amadeus said...

I guess I can see both of your arguments. Giving up the materialistic life is one of great challenge. As a person that once went through the process to do so, I was not able. It was in no way as easy as I thought it would be.

The life of a monastic is secluded because learning the Dharma and mastering the practice of meditation takes true concentration. There may be monestaries located at the tops of mountains, but there are just as many, if not more located in the middle of cities.

In Portland, for example, we have a couple monestaries that are this way, with monks having interaction almost everyday with the community. They are no more secluded as a layperson that is living in a house down the street.

Now, with regard to those living on the mountain top, it may seem extreme a bit, I would agree. I would have to say that there is a purpose to it. Though it is sure that some can learn concentration in the middle of a busy street, the secluded monestary may provide a better environment to learn techniques and teachings.


Andy said...

'There are many who live in the mountains and behave as if they were in the towns. You can be a solitary in your mind even when you live in the middle of the crowd. And you can be a solitary and still live in the middle of the crowd of your own thoughts'
- Amma Syncletica, a Christian desert nun (quoted in Silence and Honey Cakes by Rowan Williams).

Lans said...

I really have to recognize that there are multiple paths that work. Some peoples practices will flourish being a part of society and not separating from it. Some may flourish in a monastic environment while still others may flourish as a lone yogi on a mountaintop.

The path it's self is not set, otherwise it would be very easy, like a reciepe, for everyone to follow. Everyone must follow the path that works for them. The guru/teachers job is to help them recognize what path is going to work.



"James" said...

I agree that there are many paths and I guess that was my main point with this point. There is more then one way to enlightenment. Some monks (such as Thich Nhat Hanh and the Dalai Llama) spend a lot of time in the cities talking to people there. I guess I just would stress that monks are not necessarily "better" than lay people. It seems that some hold monks up to be these "gods" when they are just followers on the path as well.

ShareThis Option