In Thailand, every Thai man is expected to enter the monkhood for at least a few weeks during his life time. The monkhood allows them to create merits in this life for a good future life. It provides them with an opportunity to transfer their merits to their living parents and deceased relatives. It also gives them a chance to make a vow to the Buddha when seeking help in solving their personal or family problems.
Yun Yang Temple holds a 2-week ordination retreat every year, usually in the last week of December and the first week of January. The ordination ceremony will take place in the morning of the first day of the retreat, during which the participating novice monk will first have their heads shaved. This symbolises his departure from the household life to homelessness, which is detachment from trials, tribulations and pleasures of his lay life.
After shaving, the participating novice monks will make a formal request for ordination by reciting three times the Pali request passage. The participating novice monks are then allowed to put on their saffron robes, assisted by the experienced monks present. The ordination ceremony usually concludes with the participating novice monks performing an act of transferring merits to their ancestors, parents, friends and all sentient beings. After that, relatives of participating novice monks and devotees can make offerings such as food, medicine and articles of personal use to the monks.
To emphasise simple lifestyle, all participating novice monks will each be given two saffron robes, a sarong and a begging bowl during the retreat. They are expected to live on these items only during the duration of the retreat and move around barefooted to create the awareness of their environment. The pain caused by being barefooted reminds them of the suffering and hardship other sentient beings are enduring at the present time.
The monastic lifestyle is very different from that of the laity. It is designed to be conducive for spiritual practise and suitable for a life of dedication and service. As such, it has to be kept simple. It should also be free from family concerns and obligations.
A monk’s day begins in monasteries as early as 5 am. The pre-dawn hours are devoted to meditation, chanting and praying. There are two sessions of worship each day – morning and evening. These sessions consist mainly of chanting and a short period of sitting meditation. Also there are practices of barefoot walking, alms taking, and environmental tidy-up activities.
The experienced monks will give instructions and discourses on Dharma and/or meditation techniques. The purposes of these activities are to allow participants an opportunity to understand basic Buddhist practises. Hopefully, they can learn to apply the teachings in their own daily life and enjoy life with happiness and wisdom.
This is indeed a rare opportunity in Australia for men to experience the life of a Buddhist novice monk for a short period of 2 weeks.
Women who wish to participate in the retreat will be taking the Eight Precepts.
Not everyone has the good fortune or good karma to renounce the worldly life to become monks and nuns for the rest of their life. Why not take this unique opportunity to join the retreat and become novice monks during this period. Take a break and come to this beautiful 32-acre land of tranquillity and peace and learn how to live with the minimum material necessities. More importantly, you get a chance to purify your body and soul and be in touch with your inner self.