If you want to become a monk, you have to be truly sincere. Only when you are ready to sacrifice yourself for other people, should you become a monk. Otherwise, if you only want to be liberated from the cycle of birth and death, then you don’t need to become a monk. You can wear ordinary clothes and stay outside in the world, and still get liberated.
You? Do you also have a question?
(Master, recently there were some fellow initiates who told me that they’d like to become nuns very much. Yes, however…) Why do they want to become nuns? OK, then tell them to sign up for it. (Yes. And one of them just had her head shaved and wore a nun’s robe.) What? (She shaved her head and wore a nun’s robe. I don’t know how to…) Wearing a nun’s robe by herself? (Yes. She shaved her head and wore a nun’s robe.) Where did she go after that? (I don’t know if I should ask them to come up to the stage.) Some people are already monks or nuns. Why do you imitate what they wear? Is it for others to respect you? How come? Is she here? (There are two Korean sisters here.) Korean. Where are they? (One of them didn’t do it voluntarily. So she changed back to ordinary clothes.) Ordinary clothes. (Yes. And I told the other one that she only shaved her head and wore a nun’s robe, but she knows nothing about the precepts that a nun should keep.) That’s true. (I’m quite worried that there’ll be many other fellow initiates who want to do similar things.) Yes. (This morning…) No. No way. (I told her about the entire process. What I did was also to protect our group from bad things that might happen in the future.) Yes. (So, she’s fine now. She repented to Master after knowing that.) She shouldn’t have done that. (And she changed out of the nun’s clothes.)
Just be an ordinary person. Why become a nun? They are already nuns, so they just continue to be nuns. Because I don’t want you to change your lifestyle, so, I dress like an ordinary person. Why do you have to change your lifestyle? If you want to be a renunciate with me, you have to sign up for it in advance. And then I’ll see if your destiny is to be a monk or a nun, OK? (OK, thank You, Master.) It’s not that you will become a renunciate by simply shaving your head and wearing a monk’s robe. They probably think that it’s very comfortable sitting here like you, while they can’t see me from sitting in the back. So, they think it’s fun to wear that kind of clothes and sit here. That is deceitful and creates bad karma.
(It’s a nun who shaved her head for her. So, I also told that nun…) Who’s the nun? Is she from our group? (Yes. She’s a Korean nun sitting over there. I explained to her and asked her not to shave fellow initiates’ heads anymore.) Don’t do this at random. Her intention was good. She thought that since the sister wanted to become a nun, she should just let her. But let me tell you, you should not act recklessly regarding two things, renunciation and transmitting the Dharma. That’s why at initiation, I tell you not to disclose the information to others. First, you’d hurt yourself, because you don’t have enough power yet and you would collect people’s bad karma. Second, the ones who learned from you did not learn the whole thing, which is not good for them. They can get possessed, etc., because they don’t have enough power. There are already many people outside who haven’t obtained anything yet, but go out to give lectures and transmit the Dharma, leading people astray. That is misguiding people. It’s not right.
I had a lot of monks and nuns before, but now many of them have left; not many remain. I told them not to wear monk’s or nun’s clothes anymore, because I saw that they were not devoted to being a monk or nun. So, I told them it’s better not to lie to people. Just wear ordinary clothes; it’s easy and free. No one would expect how you should behave, if you’re not a monk or nun. Understand? Carefree. Not to mention, if you want to become a monk with for no reasons at all. The reason to become a renunciate is to sit here and eat with me? That is not right. If that’s your motive, it’s not right. Not right. In this case, you will truly create a lot of difficulties, a lot of bad karma. You wouldn’t progress in your spiritual practice. If you want to become a monk, you have to be sincere.
I trusted people very easily before. If anyone wanted to become a monk, I would immediately shave their head for them, just like the Korean nun. Just out of love, thinking that renunciation is a very good thing. I myself also love to be a nun, so of course, I welcomed them to join. But slowly, I realized that they were different. It seemed that they had not come for renunciation; they had different purposes. If you want to become a monk, you have to be truly sincere. Only when you are ready to sacrifice yourself for other people, should you become a monk. Otherwise, if you only want to be liberated from the cycle of birth and death, then you don’t need to become a monk. You can wear ordinary clothes and stay outside in the world, and still get liberated. Yes?
(Master, one of them told me she had been following that Buddhist master for many years, and she longed to become a nun.) Because she’s been following the Buddhist nun who shaved her head, for many years? (Yes. She’s been following the Buddhist nun for many years.) Which Buddhist nun? (The Korean Buddhist nun.) Which one? The one behind? Has she been following her as a disciple or just following her around? Give her the microphone. Why did the nun shave her head? (As she wanted to practice harder, she wanted to be a nun…) Translate it. What does it mean by “following her?” Does it mean that she’s been following her without shaving her head, just living with her, like burning incense and reciting Buddha’s names, etc.? Or how did she follow her?
(Master, she was a follower of the nun. Not as a disciple, but just a follower.) Who said that? (I am the Korean translator.) Yes, tell me. (She was a follower of the nun. She’s been following her for a long time.) You’re also my followers. How is she special then? (Nothing special. It’s just that she has been longing for renunciation since a long time ago. That’s why she had her head shaved recently.) Only recently? Why? (Before, she was a lay person.)
That I know. Did her parents agree? Did her husband agree? (Let me ask her.) Yes. (Then, did your parents or your husband agree with that? Sister?) (I have no husband, no parents either.) (She has no parents nor husband.) How has she been following the nun? As a follower, just like you, right? Just comes and goes, right? (Yes.) (So, you’ve just been practicing like others; coming and going, right?) (Yes.) (Yes. She just followed her around.)
Then, why does she want to become a nun only now, and not before? She has already learned with me, why does she still want to become a nun? (Why did you not become a nun earlier and finally decided to do that now?) (I had two children. They have all grown up and got married now, so I decided.) (She has two sons.) (She was married and has two sons. On April 1, 2012, she received initiation from Master.) April of which year? (Initiation on April 1st, 2012.) OK. So it’s been seven years already. (Yes.) Now she wants to become a nun. So, where is she going to leave the children? (Both her sons are married already. Her children have grown up.) (She told me that because her children have grown up, now she’s free. She’s been longing for renunciation.) What about her husband? Is she going to divorce him? (She has no husband now.) No? How come? (She doesn’t have a husband anymore.) Are they divorced?
(Have you divorced?) (No. Twenty years ago, my husband passed away.)
(Her husband passed away 20 years ago.) Passed away. OK. And her children have grown up. How old are they?
(Grown up and married, that’s why she’s free.) What did she say? (What she means is, her husband died 20 years ago, and she raised the children. Both her sons are married already. That’s why she thinks it’s time now.) Oh. Is she Korean? (Yes.) And you advised her not to do it? (Yes. I told her… I explained the reasons to her and she accepted them. But then I thought it’s better that I don’t make the decision for her. I should report this to Master.)
Why did she still ask you? Since she had her head shaved already, why did she still ask you?
(Because I felt that she did not understand enough about monkhood.) She doesn’t understand. (No, she hasn’t been taught about precepts and hasn’t received them. So, I’m afraid that…)
How old is she? (She seems to be…) Forty something? (No, she’s nearly 60.) (I’m 60 years old.) Nearly 60? (I got initiated ten years ago.) (She said she’s 60 years old.)
Sixty years old and still wants to become a nun? What for? She’s 60 already, might as well just continue to live like that. It’s not that we think she’s too old, but I’m afraid that it’s difficult to change her personality at an old age. It might not be that easy for her to mingle and work with others. Her personality is already fixed. In Catholicism, they only accept people under the age of 30 to become priests. No more than 30 years old, male or female. They think it’s difficult to change or learn many things after 30. You can’t learn much if you’re old; not much time left. Time is too short for them to adapt to new circumstances. They would not be able to adapt to the group, nor to the rules and precepts of the group. Even if they want to devote themselves, it’d be difficult for them to adapt to the physical and lifestyle changes. That’s what I mean.
Of course, she can still become a nun. But afterwards, she just continues to follow the Buddhist nun, right? Does the Buddhist nun have a temple for her? (Yes, the nun has a temple.) Will she live with her? You ask her.
(Master, I did advise her, that since she’s been initiated by Master, true monkhood means liberation of the soul and renunciation of the mind. The outer form is not that important.) It’s not that important, indeed. (Yes, because if she dresses as a nun, but she doesn’t know about the precepts a nun has to keep, then she might easily violate the precepts, which would not be good for her.) Yes, this is what I’m worried about.
It’s not that easy to become a monk or nun. You have to be clean, pure and dignified, and keep rules strictly, with no exception at all. You see, Ananda almost broke the precepts even after having followed the Buddha for such a long time. Of course, he was lured by someone else. But it’s still not a good excuse. I had around 500 monks and nuns with me before. Now there might be only 50 left, who are half renunciate, half lay people. To be a monk is not easy. People look at you and have expectations. Your every move is watched by others. If they criticize you, they would also cause bad karma.
If she wants, she can stay with the Buddhist nun for a while, without shaving her head; she can be her attendant, taking care of her and helping to clean the temple. She doesn’t have to shave her head to stay with her. First, she can try to see if she can follow the rules and obey instructions from senior people. It’s not easy for someone of 60 to listen to others. I’m telling you. It’s my personal experience. I don’t listen to anybody now, I’ll tell you that. Whether I shave my head or not. I’m only ten years older than her, and I’m not listening to anybody, even my dogs.