Author Topic: Self- Ordination  (Read 10471 times)

Yeshe

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Self- Ordination
« on: August 14, 2011, 05:57:12 am »
Aside from the online religious organisations offering ordination, there is a tradition of self-ordination in Buddhism.

For those with a dislike of institutionalised rules and requirements, this may be a useful course of action.

I offer two sources for info or discussion.

The first adopts a Vinaya-based model:

http://ia700604.us.archive.org/5/items/BuddhistSelf-ordinationADharmaStrategyForTheWest/BuddhistSelf-ordination7.pdf

The second adopts a Bodhisattva Vow form:

http://homepage.mac.com/kemlo/Mukyoho/page8/page8.html

Is either model particularly applicable to the West?

As a householder I don't believe that I could adhere to the Vinaya-based ordination, but could certainly abide by the Bodhisattva Vow model, having already taken these vows, and other sets of vows, within intitutionalised Buddhism.

Time to create precision in terminology?

I would also seek to have some clarity in the terms used within Buddhism and would personally adopt 'Priest' and 'Priestess' for one whose holds the Bodhisattva Ordination, and the terms 'Monk' and 'Nun' to indicate those taking the Vinaya Ordination, irrespective of whether these were obtained through a preceptor or by self-ordination.


If the thread produces anguish at the cheek of even suggesting ordination without institutional sanction, then I'll ask it to be moved to the DZ. ;)

Offline Caz

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Re: Self- Ordination
« Reply #1 on: August 14, 2011, 07:38:17 am »
Its long been said that there should be Mahayana ordination vows rather the following the Srvakayana model of ordination, Doesnt make much sense considering that the goals are different.
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Re: Self- Ordination
« Reply #2 on: August 14, 2011, 09:34:24 am »
Its long been said that there should be Mahayana ordination vows rather the following the Srvakayana model of ordination, Doesnt make much sense considering that the goals are different.


it's not only been said, it's been done. ;)

The link about the Bodhisattva ordination is interesting.  Apparently, self-ordination and institutional ordination of this type has been conducted without the Vinaya for many years and by some of the founders of the Japanese schools, for example:

http://homepage.mac.com/kemlo/Mukyoho/page27/page27.html

The other source also states that several Japanese schools were founded by 'Bodhisattva Monks' .
« Last Edit: August 14, 2011, 10:10:02 am by Yeshe »

Offline Amitabha

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Re: Self- Ordination
« Reply #3 on: August 14, 2011, 07:46:19 pm »
Quote
As a householder I don't believe that I could adhere to the Vinaya-based ordination, but could certainly abide by the Bodhisattva Vow model, having already taken these vows, and other sets of vows, within intitutionalised Buddhism.

Can the difference be elaborated? Thanks
« Last Edit: August 14, 2011, 07:47:57 pm by Amitabha »
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Re: Self- Ordination
« Reply #4 on: August 15, 2011, 01:00:04 am »
Quote
As a householder I don't believe that I could adhere to the Vinaya-based ordination, but could certainly abide by the Bodhisattva Vow model, having already taken these vows, and other sets of vows, within intitutionalised Buddhism.

Can the difference be elaborated? Thanks

There is some interpretation which complicates the simple vows, such as the vow not to take intoxicants, where one could argue that 'to excess' is really what was meant, i.e. to the extent that it leads to breaches of other vows.

However, the Vinaya requires celibacy pure and simple, which is not the case for Bodhisattva ordination.  That is probably the biggest difference which affects a householder.  Some of the archaic minor rules would also be impossible to keep, as quoted in the link.

There are also 'in between' cases, for example the Ngagpa (Ngakpa) in Tibet who adhere to the Vinaya except in terms of celibacy and may be married and have children. They are still 'Lamas'.

I would also say the such vows of celibacy are not necessarily permanent, as some monks disrobe and ordain again in later life, and may do so a few times, so being celibate only temporarily.

In short, the Vinaya completely prohibits sex, drugs and rock 'n roll. ;)

Yeshe

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Re: Self- Ordination
« Reply #5 on: August 15, 2011, 01:08:38 am »
Another interesting aspect is something I interpret to mean that the Tibetan schools may also recognise the Bodhisattva form of ordination, as shown here in Tsongkhapa's Prayer of the Stages of the Path:

''But I cannot become a Buddha
By this alone without three ethics;
So bless me with the strength to practise
The Bodhisattva’s ordination.''


It is, however, set within the context that Tantric vows and practices supercede all else.


Offline Amitabha

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Re: Self- Ordination
« Reply #6 on: August 15, 2011, 01:28:04 am »
So, it seemed that the vinaya is sort of baby till teenager, while bodhisavatta ordination is adulthood! It there possibility of incorporating both vinaya and bodhisavattas?
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Yeshe

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Re: Self- Ordination
« Reply #7 on: August 15, 2011, 02:55:34 am »
So, it seemed that the vinaya is sort of baby till teenager, while bodhisavatta ordination is adulthood! It there possibility of incorporating both vinaya and bodhisavattas?

In the Mahayana, many do take Bodhisattva Vows as well as ordaining in the Vinaya, for example in the Tibetan traditions.

The difference in celibacy, for example, is more to do with monastic life and family life rather than age.

Offline lowonthetotem

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Re: Self- Ordination
« Reply #8 on: August 15, 2011, 08:13:05 am »
Quote
For those with a dislike of institutionalised rules and requirements, this may be a useful course of action.

I wonder why someone who sees only the evils of institutions would want to be ordained in the first place. I wonder if self-ordination is really just ordaining the "self?"  If there is a "tradition" of this, isn't that tradition an institution?  Being ordained implies that you gain authority by submitting to the judgement of a higher authority.  If we supplant that authority with our own judgement, isn't that a little hypocritical?  "Ordination" literally means "to make official."  Why would those who dislike officiality seek to be official if not to set themselves up as the judge of what is and is not official.

We are all capable of reading the Dharma and applying it to our actions.  That we are not all very capable of applying it consistently is the reason why monastic life is necessary, as well as ordination as householder within a tradition.  It offers the opportunity to "check in" and be "checkeded up on."  If you don't like being checked up on, you may want to consider your motivations for wanting to be both ordained and self-ordained.

I wonder if self-ordination really just amounts to a way of assigning ourselves a title to satisfy the ego.  "When they say that you're not good enough, the answer is you're not."

I am not trying to start a huge debate or saying that this doesn't have a place where access to "official Dharma transmission" is unavailable.  I just think folks should be very careful about their motivations and try to assess them fairly before engaging in such a practice.

I was ordained as a householder, and when I couldn't live up to my vows, I let the ordination lapse.  It seemed like the only right thing to do, since I really wasn't ready for it from the beginning.  I plan to renew my precet vows and refuge vows in a couple of weeks, but this will not mean a renewal of my ordination.  I am still considering whether that is really necessary for me, so I appreciate the thread, as it gives me a reason to reassess my own motivations behind such a move.  Part of being ordained is being an example.

Precept vows, refuge vows, Bodhisattva vows, and others don't really imply ordination and are non-sectarian, IMO.  They are available to be taken hundreds of times if necessary before we develop the will and ability to follow them perfectly.  When we can follow them perfectly is when we should ordain.  If we carry officiality, yet cannot or will not follow all our vows, this creates doubt in the Dharma, which should be considered unacceptable for the ordained.  This may be exceedingly difficulty for someone who has poo-pooed the support/authority of the "official" Sangha.  Creating doubt in the Dharma does not aid in liberation.  It is fine to doubt and examine the Dharma yourself, but setting yourself up as an "official" example and creating doubt in the Dharma in others is a very different matter.  I just wonder if people who consider self-ordination are really keeping this in mind or even really understand what "ordination" is, inside or outside Buddhism.  I certainly don't think it would be the case 100% of the time, but it seems to open the door to simply using Buddhism to put another feather in our cap alot wider.  The title of "ordained" is only valid because it involves supplication rather than insistence.  We are all capable of supplicating to the non-sectarian Dharma without carrying a title, and I wonder if self-ordination actually works against such supplication.

Zen practicioners should at least review the Four Acts of the Mahayana before considering such a move.  I am not sure that this is a precedented practice in Zen as it is in the Tibetan tradition.

In the sense of fairness, the Chinese tradition has several renowned lay people.  I am not sure of their ordination status, and again, there are such creatures as ordained lay people (the Sangha has been 4 fold since the beginning).  In the Japanese tradition, there are many ordained monastics and priests of whom it could be said they created doubt in the Dharma.  A famous one is Ikkyu, who proclaimed his enlightenment as he visited prostitutes.  So it can be said that ordination makes no guarantees.  That is up to the individual.  Of course, that brings us back to the motivations behind ordination.

Offline Monkey Mind

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Re: Self- Ordination
« Reply #9 on: August 15, 2011, 08:43:01 am »
Thanks, LOTT, you make the same points I was wondering about myself. As a layperson, I can choose to aspire to be a leader among laity, a minister of sorts. But the function of ordaining seems to move in a different direction. When I think of the benefits of ordination, I think of Sangha or "community", and the quality control that comes from adhering to a lineage of the ordained. Self-ordination seems to circumvent all that. I know my inner nature well enough to know that I would follow my Wrong Views down a rabbit hole and I would end up vehemently defending ideas that are probably contrary to Buddhism. The monks and nuns I meet with belong to a community that provides checks and balances for both quality of practice and quality of teaching. Their rules are necessarily strict, and not at all compatible with modern lay life.

Yeshe

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Re: Self- Ordination
« Reply #10 on: August 15, 2011, 09:23:03 am »
Quote
For those with a dislike of institutionalised rules and requirements, this may be a useful course of action.

I wonder why someone who sees only the evils of institutions would want to be ordained in the first place. I wonder if self-ordination is really just ordaining the "self?"  If there is a "tradition" of this, isn't that tradition an institution?  Being ordained implies that you gain authority by submitting to the judgement of a higher authority.  If we supplant that authority with our own judgement, isn't that a little hypocritical?  "Ordination" literally means "to make official."  Why would those who dislike officiality seek to be official if not to set themselves up as the judge of what is and is not official.

We are all capable of reading the Dharma and applying it to our actions.  That we are not all very capable of applying it consistently is the reason why monastic life is necessary, as well as ordination as householder within a tradition.  It offers the opportunity to "check in" and be "checkeded up on."  If you don't like being checked up on, you may want to consider your motivations for wanting to be both ordained and self-ordained.

I wonder if self-ordination really just amounts to a way of assigning ourselves a title to satisfy the ego.  "When they say that you're not good enough, the answer is you're not."

I am not trying to start a huge debate or saying that this doesn't have a place where access to "official Dharma transmission" is unavailable.  I just think folks should be very careful about their motivations and try to assess them fairly before engaging in such a practice.

I was ordained as a householder, and when I couldn't live up to my vows, I let the ordination lapse.  It seemed like the only right thing to do, since I really wasn't ready for it from the beginning.  I plan to renew my precet vows and refuge vows in a couple of weeks, but this will not mean a renewal of my ordination.  I am still considering whether that is really necessary for me, so I appreciate the thread, as it gives me a reason to reassess my own motivations behind such a move.  Part of being ordained is being an example.

Precept vows, refuge vows, Bodhisattva vows, and others don't really imply ordination and are non-sectarian, IMO.  They are available to be taken hundreds of times if necessary before we develop the will and ability to follow them perfectly.  When we can follow them perfectly is when we should ordain.  If we carry officiality, yet cannot or will not follow all our vows, this creates doubt in the Dharma, which should be considered unacceptable for the ordained.  This may be exceedingly difficulty for someone who has poo-pooed the support/authority of the "official" Sangha.  Creating doubt in the Dharma does not aid in liberation.  It is fine to doubt and examine the Dharma yourself, but setting yourself up as an "official" example and creating doubt in the Dharma in others is a very different matter.  I just wonder if people who consider self-ordination are really keeping this in mind or even really understand what "ordination" is, inside or outside Buddhism.  I certainly don't think it would be the case 100% of the time, but it seems to open the door to simply using Buddhism to put another feather in our cap alot wider.  The title of "ordained" is only valid because it involves supplication rather than insistence.  We are all capable of supplicating to the non-sectarian Dharma without carrying a title, and I wonder if self-ordination actually works against such supplication.

Zen practicioners should at least review the Four Acts of the Mahayana before considering such a move.  I am not sure that this is a precedented practice in Zen as it is in the Tibetan tradition.

In the sense of fairness, the Chinese tradition has several renowned lay people.  I am not sure of their ordination status, and again, there are such creatures as ordained lay people (the Sangha has been 4 fold since the beginning).  In the Japanese tradition, there are many ordained monastics and priests of whom it could be said they created doubt in the Dharma.  A famous one is Ikkyu, who proclaimed his enlightenment as he visited prostitutes.  So it can be said that ordination makes no guarantees.  That is up to the individual.  Of course, that brings us back to the motivations behind ordination.

OK, I'll put up a few answers, some of which I believe.  I should also add for thsoe who don't know that I have attended classes and received vows exclusively from institutions such as the Gelugpa, without which I would probably have strayed long ago.  ;)

The answer is that a person may see the evils of an institution but it does not follow that this automatically makes them see ordination as evil, albeit that it could be used for negative reasons - as a 'permission' which gives control over other beings.

Ordination is also not about 'joining' an institution or having pride in your new robes and new 'authority'.  Institutions may be potentially every bit as 'self' focused as any individual..  After all, they are just collections of individuals with delusions.

I'm sure there are many who want to boost the ego through self-ordination, or buy an online doctorate etc etc.   I saw plenty in the martial arts who were pretty crap and never made it to 1st Dan black belt, so they joined a dodgy organisation and suddenly became 3rd Dan.  But they were still crap.

As you say, the precepts are there to guide us, not to boost our 'self'.  We do not need a higher authority to which we appeal ,or to give us permission to take vows, surely. Support, maybe, but what essential function is there to a preceptor in the actual process of taking vows, which we may not now recieve from online guidance, for example.  Sure, I'd want to check the vows carefully, just as I wouldn't get  a tattoo in Kanji which I didn't know.?

Self-ordination is either valid or not - I don't think it matters if there are or are not institutionalised varieties available.   So who validates an ordination?  If there is Refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Enlightened Sangha it is maybe more direct than regarding your guru as Buddha and your local sangha as representational of the support of the Enlightened Sangha. Aren't ordained sangha just dharma friends, the same as our lay dharma friends but with a few extra vows?

I should say at this point that I don't want to confuse the role of the 'guru' or 'lama' with ordination, as I want to focus on the value of ordination rather than the value of having a guru.

There are valid reasons for avoiding many institutions.  Off the top of my head:

 - Because they may only be in the 'business' of Buddhism to exploit others by tying them in to a prescribed ordination etc. for the selfish purposes of the leaders.

 - Because maybe there is simply no need of buying a particular brand or the label it gives you.

 - Because none of those institutions can claim their ordination as 'better' than self-ordination.

Buddha is recorded as saying that in the case of the vows,  the minor ones may be amended or deleted. So if one person decides to amend them and form a new Zen school, is that any worse than someone else who forms an institution where they retain more of those vows.

I think we are in danger of freezing Buddhism and regarding the actions of people in history as the final word in what Buddhism is, or should be.  You could even see some of thsoe figures as interposing themselves between us and Buddha.  Is there really a difference between someone setting up a new school now and using amended vows, and someone doing it 1,000 or 2,000 years ago?

There is a huge vested self-interest in preserving 'traditions' and 'lineages' as these are the products for which a market demand may be created, perceived as essential to enlightenment.  Monastics have received lay support for many reasons, such as lay supporters being told they will gain 'merit' - which could be perceived as the currency of the monastics.  That's looking at the transaction as a marketing activity.

I think a person who takes ordination vows (Bodhisattva or Vinaya) and keeps them purely should be able to legitimately adopt the label of Priest, Priestess, Monk or Nun, and use it if they are in a situation where that helps others, perhaps through teaching others or supporting their paths.

Equally, I think it may be much easier for an institution to hide  those who fail to keep their vows - there's plenty of evidence of cover-ups etc..

Surely the shramana/sramana path should be as available today as it has always been.

I guess the acid test is not whether institutions recognise the self-ordained, or those who take Bodhisattva ordination or variants of the Vinaya ordination, and keep thsoe vows purely.  The acid test is surely whether Buddha would have recognised such a committed person as ordained.  I'd like to think so. :)
« Last Edit: August 15, 2011, 09:28:43 am by Yeshe »

Offline Amitabha

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Re: Self- Ordination
« Reply #11 on: August 15, 2011, 05:03:02 pm »
So, it seemed that the vinaya is sort of baby till teenager, while bodhisavatta ordination is adulthood! It there possibility of incorporating both vinaya and bodhisavattas?

In the Mahayana, many do take Bodhisattva Vows as well as ordaining in the Vinaya, for example in the Tibetan traditions.

The difference in celibacy, for example, is more to do with monastic life and family life rather than age.
Oh i see! Thanks. As for the teenage and adulthood are just a metaphor. :D
Love is felt everywhere like magic in the air; Unity can only be manifested by the binary. Unity itself and the idea of unity are already dual.

Yeshe

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Re: Self- Ordination
« Reply #12 on: August 16, 2011, 02:10:53 am »
Here is another view on self-ordination which appears to reflect a resistance to the insistence of centralised monastic institutions that people should ordain through them:

http://www.hermitary.com/articles/thudong.html

''Jataka asceticism was continued in Sri Lanka by Pannananda's disciple Subodnanda, who developed a village asceticism wherein a discipline for laity was not based on scholarly or monastic models. Subodnanda also introduced the notion of self-ordination when the sanghas of cities and towns refused to cede their authority. From village-based asceticism in Sri Lanka came the later break to the creation of small monastic communities based on non-authoritarian decision-making and dwelling in the forests. These small communities of monks (largely self-ordained) were conceived of as a primeval sangha in a style that the historical Gautama would have approved, according to its Sri Lankan champion Ratanapala Asmandale, who lived through the mid-twentieth century.''


Offline lowonthetotem

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Re: Self- Ordination
« Reply #13 on: August 17, 2011, 07:19:55 am »
Quote
I saw plenty in the martial arts who were pretty crap and never made it to 1st Dan black belt, so they joined a dodgy organisation and suddenly became 3rd Dan.  But they were still crap.

I saw this too in Shakuhachi.  The guys that get ahead are usually the ones that do lots of free stuff, producing his CD's and books and stuff, for the Sensei, regardless of skill.  I never sought certification, so it never concerned me much (or did it ... hmmm, I mean I am writing about it).  I just always gave the teacher the benefit of the doubt and assumed, either correctly or otherwise, that he understood something about instruction that I wasn't seeing.  Maybe it was more about being part of the student body and promoting the school more than it was about skill.  I definitely was not "joiner" in that regard.  I generally chalked it up to me being jealous.  Whether I was justified or not didn't seem as important as what it showed me about myself.

Again, I don't mean to insinuate that everyone who self-ordains is doing it for the wrong reasons.  It just seems to be a tricky animal and much more oriented to the very serious and sincere practitioner, although its appeal seems like it would be terribly tempting to the less circumspect individual.

Offline Mahasiddha Bodhisattva

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Re: Self- Ordination
« Reply #14 on: May 31, 2012, 04:28:22 pm »
Namaskar! I am very gratified that this discussion forum has chosen to mention my book, Buddhist Self-Ordination: A Dharma Strategy for the West, published by Chroniker Press. Perhaps your readers would also be interested in my WordPress blog and Youtube channel related to this and related topics. I would also be happy to clarify any questions that may arise, as some of the comments do represent a misunderstanding of certain aspects of my view.

http://palisuttas.com/

http://www.youtube.com/user/PaliSuttas




 


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