The Urban Dharma Newsletter... November 26, 2002


In This Issue:

1. How to Become a Monk or a Nun ... A First Letter
2. What does a monk do during a typical day?
3. Becoming a Buddhist Monastic in Korea
4. A Shortcut Through My Life
...Bhikkhu Pajalo (Austria)
5. Going Forth
...by Karunadhammo Bhikkhu
6. Book Review: Buddhist Thought: A Complete Introduction to the Indian Tradition...
7. Temple/Center of the Week:
The Ewam Choden Tibetan Buddhist Center


1. How to Become a Monk or a Nun ... A First Letter


We are very happy to hear that you are interested in becoming a Buddhist monk/nun. This is truly a meaningful and worthwhile way to spend your life, and to be of benefit to others. We are very fortunate that the monastic tradition started by the Buddha is still alive today, thanks to the devotion, dedication and efforts of many thousands of monks and nuns in Asia over the last 2-1/5 millennia. In recent years a number of westerners have also taken monastic vows and have found the experience deeply rewarding, but at the same time very challenging.

To start with, in case you are not familiar with the Buddhist monastic tradition, we thought it might be helpful to let you know a few things about this tradition that you need to be aware of:

A Lifelong Commitment

The vows of a Buddhist monk or nun are taken for life, therefore it is important to not rush into taking them, but to spend time and take great care in reflecting on the various advantages and disadvantages before making a decision. Some monasteries in Asia (e.g. in Thailand) offer part-time ordination programs, usually for men, which allow one the possibility to live as a monastic for a few days, weeks, months, or years. However, this is rare in the Tibetan tradition. And although there are cases of people who take vows and later give them back, returning to lay life, this is not recommended. The vows should be taken with the determination to keep them for the rest of one's life.

Knowing the Buddhist Teachings

Before making the decision to take ordination, one should have a thorough understanding of the fundamental teachings of the Buddha, such as the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment (Lam Rim) and so forth. This normally requires several years of study and practice under the guidance of a qualified teacher. Therefore, you need to have a teacher who is teaching and guiding you, and who can give you permission to be ordained, and you need to be following one of the Buddhist traditions (e.g. Theravada, Tibetan, etc.).

Go Step-by-Step

What that means is that you first need to take refuge and the 5 lay precepts, and to spend some time living your life in accordance with Buddhist teachings and practices. If possible, spend some time – e.g. a year – living in a monastic community to get a feel for this lifestyle, and that way you can better know whether or not it is suitable for you.

Being Part of a Community

Becoming a Buddhist monastic means that you are joining a community – the Sangha – the purpose of which is to study and practice the Buddha's teachings in order to keep them alive, and whenever possible, to share them with others. Traditionally, one stays in a monastic community for at least 5 years after becoming ordained. If this is not possible, one should at least stay near one's teacher and follow his/her guidance for this period of time.

Supporting Yourself

In some countries – e.g. Thailand, Burma, Taiwan – when someone joins a monastic community, all one?s needs such as food, clothing, accommodation, etc. are provided for. However, in the west, the number of lay Buddhist supporters is quite small, and there is no central organization that looks after the needs of western monastics. For this reason, if you wish to become a monastic in the west, you will need enough funds to support yourself for at least the first 2-3 years. After that you may be able to receive some sponsorship. It is contrary to the Vinaya and generally not recommended that monks and nuns work at ordinary jobs to support themselves, however, there are a few cases of monastics who are given permission by their teachers to work due to unavoidable circumstances.

2. What does a monk do during a typical day?


I go to the community's first meeting of the day at five o'clock in the morning. I usually get up between four and four-thirty. We start the meeting by lighting candles and incense on the shrine, then bowing to the shrine three times. We then do about thirty minutes of chanting and then sit in meditation for about an hour. The chanting is in the Pali language which is a very ancient tongue not used these days for anything other than the Theravada Buddhist religion. Some of the chanting is devotional, reflecting on the beautiful qualities of the man that was the Buddha: kindness, compassion, wisdom, morality. Some of it is contemplative, reflecting on some of the things that the Buddha taught. The meditation is in silence. At the end of the meditation the senior monk rings a little bell and we bow to the shrine three times to finish the meeting. It is now six thirty. After the meeting I do some tidying up in the publications office where I work during the day. At seven-fifteen I go to the main hall and have a cup of porridge and drink some tea. Everyone is here and members of the community can make announcements about jobs that need doing and help that is required, as well as any other community business. Sometimes, after we have finished our drink, the Abbot gives a talk about the Buddhist teachings.

From about eight-thirty until ten-thirty I have free time. I do lots of different things, like type this letter, or maybe do some laundry, or go for a walk, or sit and chat with a friend or just sit. At ten thirty the main bell is rung and we all gather for the meal. We just have one main meal and it should be finished before mid-day. I put on my robe, take my alms bowl and go to the hall. There are two rows of mats on the floor. I bow to the shrine and sit. All the food is offered to the monks and I can put what I need in my bowl. We then do some chanting which is the traditional way of saying thank you to the people who gave us the food. I wait until the senior monks have started eating and then I quietly eat my food. After the meal I wash my bowl and take it back to my room. It is now about twelve o'clock. Now, I may have a rest for a while.

At about one-thirty I usually do some publication work. Print this letter, type out some information leaflets, scan and edit some pictures. I spend quite a bit of time on the computer. I take a break every now and then and just go for a bit of a walk and look at the trees and the sky and listen to the wind and the birdsong. At five-fifteen I try and leave the work for the day and go and have a cuppa with my fellow monastics - these are my friends. Sometimes it's difficult to stop work. Do you get absorbed in doing things that you enjoy? I work at what I like, so I enjoy my work, so my work is not work but play.

At seven-fifteen the big bell is rung and I put on my robes and go to the main hall for the last meeting of the day. We do some chanting for about half and hour and then meditate for about an hour. Sometimes, after we have finished this, the Abbot gives a talk about the Buddhist teachings. It is now about nine o'clock. I go back to my room, maybe read, write a letter, sit and look out of the window, sit and look in the window (of my mind) or just go to sleep.

Today is the full-moon day and we begin a retreat period. I shaved my head yesterday (I do this every two weeks) and this afternoon all the monks will gather and there will be a recitation of our rules - all 227 of them, in Pali. It takes about 45 minutes of fast chanting and is done from memory. It takes a long time to learn and remember all that chanting.

Why did you decide to become a monk and why choose the Theravada tradition?

I have lived many different lifestyles - lots of money, no money, married, family, travelling etc., and each one kept giving me the feeling that somehow all those things were not quite enough - I wanted more. More what? Looking back now, what I wanted was not more things but more peace of heart, peace of mind. So I tried looking at philosophy and religion and finally decided to become a Buddhist monk. I don't feel that I 'chose' this particular school of Buddhism. I think there is something organic about life and it often only seems that we freely 'choose'. Like with meeting people and making friends; you meet people in all sorts of odd places and some you like straight away. Why is that? It was a bit like that for me with Buddhism; I met a couple of monks in Western Australia and it all just felt right. It was eight years before I went to live in a monastery but somehow I knew from that first contact that this was the thing for me to do.

Did you ever wish you were not a monk?

I used to think 'I'd rather be taller. I wish I was older, richer, stronger,' and on and on like this. What is this feeling of wanting things to be different, this feeling that things are not quite right? If you look at the Four Noble Truths you will see the second one is about craving, wanting. This is the cause of suffering (dukkha ). When I get this feeling I often think of the weather and how stupid it is to get angry wanting the weather to be how I want it to be. When I am tired, bored, unwell or just fed up, I sometimes think 'if only I was . . .', in other words 'I don't want to be a monk, I want to be something else'. And then I ask 'what?' . . . I know really that what I want is to be content - and most of the time this life supports that.

Do drugs, sex and alcohol ever pose a temptation?

Sure. I did lots of that stuff as part of experimenting with different lifestyles. I still get the thought that I might like to do more, but having lived this life for about eight years now I know that it would only bring short-term satisfaction - the quick hit, the cheap thrill. The peace that comes from investigating the mind and nature of truth is much more satisfying and longer lasting; mainly because it isn't dependent on anything. Things like drugs are basically ways of distraction. An expression used about taking drugs is 'getting out of it' ('it' being the mind). Another expression when something is really excellent is that it is 'unreal' or 'extraordinary' - as if the real or the ordinary weren't particularly worth noting. The emphasis in the monastery is to be with it (the mind), to observe the real (which is the present moment) and take note of the ordinary. Drugs are a fairly extreme form of distraction but there are many forms 'temptation' can take, even in a monastery - reading, writing, chatting, sleeping, drinking tea. Not that these things are 'bad' but they can just be time fillers, distractions. Like flicking through a magazine - not really reading it, just letting the mind be 'tickled' by the images and a few words here and there. The result, of both drugs and the magazine mentality, is a dull mind. Without some good 'exercise' the mind gets flabby and often depressed. Getting stoned is dependent on having the drugs whilst peace is not dependent on any 'thing'. Resisting temptation does require effort. Bit of a drag really, but well worth it.

Why do you have only one meal a day?

Probably the easiest answer is that it is simpler. We usually have about fifty people at the meal and just getting everyone together is difficult. Not having to cook and wash up in the evening leaves that time free for study or meditation. For the lay people, because we are alms mendicants, this means that they only have to think about offering food in the morning which is simpler for them. Also one's mind isn't cluttered with dinner thoughts: 'hmmm, maybe there'll be cake, or . . .whatever'. Food can be quite a distraction for some people. There is also the factor of renunciation, working with non-attachment. There is nothing wrong with eating in the afternoon but it is possible not to. For those who have greed around food, having limited access to it acts like a mirror to greed. You can't indulge it, so best learn to understand it and let it go. If you aren't sure whether you are addicted to something then try going without it for a month.

Does the one meal a day offering affect your health in any way?

Not that I have noticed. I don't weigh any less but I don't do as much physical work either. The rule about not eating in the afternoon limits eating to between dawn and midday, so because of the colder weather in the Western monasteries we now have a simple breakfast to compensate for the extra energy needed. There are some things classed as medicines or tonics which can be taken in the evening like sugar, bean extracts (e.g. miso), soya milk, cocoa, meat broth.

Why do monks shave their heads?

This is a traditional symbol of one who has left the life of the householder - see the shaven pate of Friar Tuck. It is a sign of renunciation; giving up a significant part of one's self-identity; putting aside vanity. The religious life is very much about not being selfish - letting go of ego, singularity, uniqueness. (This doesn't mean the dissolution of personality). It also makes for simplicity - if I'm going out I don't need to think how to do my hair when I haven't got any.

How many hours each week are spent in solitary confinement?

The word 'confinement' suggests being shut up in a room somewhere. Our life is based on contemplation and reflection - these are individual, solitary pursuits but don't involve physical confinement. Theravada Buddhism was set up by the Buddha in such a way (specifically in relation to the need to collect alms food), that monks practising in isolation are not common; there is always some relationship with the laity and other monastics. In the monastery I live in we have a period of silent retreat during January and February (winter) when the whole community devotes a lot of time to formal practice. Quite a lot of this time I would be on my own - in my room or sitting in the temple or going for a walk. In a sense I am 'confined' within my own body and mind in that I don't engage socially with others.

Do you feel that the monastic life is introvert and world-denying?

In Buddhism we say that 'the world arises right here, in this body and mind'. All your experiences are totally personal and are of 'the world'. Denying the world is denying your own existence. Contemplation of one's experience - and this is inward looking - is a contemplation of the world. The word 'introversion' tends to have negative, sometimes psychotic overtones. What we mean by 'the world' is the relationship between all things - people, bus timetables, countries, customs. A true monastic life is a fully open and honest investigation of the world - which is often carried out in solitude.

Do you ever feel lonely?


Is there any social aspect to monastic life?

Living in a big community is like living in a big family. We are drawn together through our common love of truth rather than any kind of personality compatibility and we come from over twenty different countries so it is a real mixture. We didn't choose each other just like one doesn't get to choose brothers or sisters or parents, but we get on pretty well. Obviously some people will get on better with some than with others and friendships form quite easily. I find that even with those I feel quite neutral about a real bond of affection forms over the years. There aren't any strictly social 'events' during a week but I might go for a walk with someone or have a cup of tea with them. We have an annual gathering in March (Magha Puja) when monastics gather from all of the branch monasteries in Europe and the US and that is a pretty social time. With so much emphasis on kindness and compassion it is difficult not to feel loved.

Do you plan to be a monk for the rest of your life?

In this tradition we don't take lifetime vows so I can disrobe any time I like and become a monk again if I want (up to seven times). After eight years I am feeling more comfortable with the life and really starting to appreciate the benefits of this style of practice. I pushed my heart about quite a bit in the past and it has taken quite a while to see some of the wrinkles shifting out. When I first took my vows the thought of 'getting stuck' as a monk worried me but now it doesn't so much. Time will tell.

What do you hope to achieve as a monk?

On a personal level I would like to think that I get to be a little wiser than I am now; a bit less suffering. I try and always keep the possibility of enlightenment alive and close by, without making it into some kind of bulls eye I have to keep taking shots at. On a general level I hope to develop some educational resources (like this booklet) and make this way of practice more available to those who are interested. I enjoy teaching and hope to do a bit more of that. Generally I like the idea of relaxing - taking it easy - both internally and externally. Work but no sweat.

Can anyone become a monk?

You have to be a human being, male, debt free, free of civil duties (like military service), over 20 years old, have your parents' permission, your wife's permission if you are married, free of contagious diseases. In this tradition there is a two year noviciate when the teacher and the community have a chance to see if you are suitable - and vice versa. Apart from that anyone can get in. Staying in is not quite so easy!

Are all 227 of the monk's rules really necessary?

Probably not. Because they were compiled 2500 years ago a few of them mention objects that don't even exist today. What we try and do is get a sense of what the spirit of the rule is - what was the Buddha pointing to? For example, the rule about money is literally about 'not handling gold and silver'. So, say the cheeky ones: 'paper money is OK, and, credit cards even better'. The spirit of this rule is about giving up the power that money offers; this challenges desires and my sense of independence. With any system of rules different people always have different views and opinions but we have these 227 and rather than waste time debating them I can just get on with the system wer have; some might be a bit odd but they work well enough. It is also useful to consider the rules as part of a personal system of training, based on restraint and renunciation, rather than just some legal system to keep the monks in line. Most of the rules are not moral judgements but more suggestions on how to live together harmoniously. There are certainly loopholes one can 'wriggle out' through but I figure why take up this monastic training if I just want to get out of it. There are four rules that involve expulsion; thirteen that involve a penance and the rest are relatively minor offences.

Why is there so much chanting in Buddhist temples?

The chanting originated because in the time of the Buddha paper was not common and all his teachings were memorised in chant form by the monks and nuns. The teachings were passed on in this way for 400 years until they were finally written down about 80 BC in Sri Lanka. We still chant for many reasons. Tradition is one. Memory/mind training another - it is hard work learning even some of the chants but it really focuses and calms the mind. In learning the chants one also learns various aspects of the teaching and filling the mind with some of the basic concepts - like the chants on compassion - in this repetitive way it is very energising. With public rituals and ceremonies it can be very powerful, especially if everybody is familiar with the chants, even if they don't know them off by heart. Although many of the chants have been translated we still use the Pali language as there are many words that don't have a good English equivalent.

3. Becoming a Buddhist Monastic in Korea


by Lotus Lantern... November, 1999

A monk is a practitioner who discards mundane life in search of the Truth with the ultimate goals of becoming enlightened and then relieving the suffering of others. But how does one become a monk in Korea? Following a reformation movement in 1994, the Korean Buddhist Chogye Order set up a new system for such. It includes a Haengja or novice period (at least 6 months) before first ordination; the Sami (male) and Samini (female), or novitiate, basic education period (four years) after initial ordination; and then full ordination as a Bhikku (male) or Bhikkuni (female). The Chogye Order has distinctive attire to distinguish people along different stages of the process.

Novice Training

What is renunciation? When a person enters a temple to be a monastic, he or she should be admitted as a disciple under a teacher, a fully ordained monk. As a novice, he or she usually works in the kitchen and learns the preliminaries of temple life. A Sami or a Samini is a person rid of lust; renunciation is having severed thoughts about worldly life; and a novice is a person who is beyond worldly fame, profit, and desire, and who has entered the supra-mundane life.

Novices learn and are disciplined in basic precepts and Buddhist ceremonies, and study Buddha's basic teachings, and through these disciplines set a foundation for the powers of furthering Bodhisattva ideals.

After going through basic training, novices enter a 23-day special education course which is held twice a year, but before doing so they must pass rigid physical exams and meet strict qualification standards. Novices who pass these participate in the opening ceremony which signals the full-scale beginning of the course. During the course, novices review the behavior and practices learned earlier at the temple and take many other courses to make certain that their basic knowledge and behavior are adequate to eventually become a fully ordained monk. For example, they study the Sami precepts and a book on developing an enlightenment- and compassion-oriented heart. Practices to strengthen their resolve, faith, understanding and abilities include IlboIlbae (one prostration after each step), SamboIlbae (one prostration after every three steps), Wullyok (the power of cooperation), Chonggun (concentration/meditation) and Ch'amhoi (repentance). Most novices complete the full course while strictly keeping the precepts in their daily activities.

There is an old saying that the initial yearning for Truth is itself the mind of enlightenment, and so the faith and willpower developed during the novitiate course become the nourishment in ordained life. Consequently, the memory of hard practice and discipline during that time is very meaningful. The spirit of the novitiate is precisely that of the mind giving forth to the Truth without concern for the self. Isn't that the closest approach to Nirvana?

First Ordination

Finishing the course, the novices take their first ordination, the precepts of Sami for males or Samini for females. This brings them one step, albeit a long one, closer to becoming a monk. The preliminary stage is a process before the fully ordained Bhikku or Bhikkuni. As mentioned, Sami or Samini must complete four years of education and training and also wear befitting robes which include added stripes on the neck and sleeves.

The four-year education institutes include the Kangwon (for Sutra study), Kichosonwon (basic Zen meditation center), the Central Sangha College, and the Buddhist Division at Dongguk University. There, Sami and Samini study Buddhism and all related culture necessary to lead a good fully ordained life later. After the first two years, Samini must take additional Sikchamanani precepts, since in full ordination there are more precepts for Bhikkuni than for Bhikku.

Training Takes on New Dimensions

This year, about 600 novices completed their initial course at Chikjisa Temple, a major training site, in Kyongbuk Province. This number is about average for any given year. At the Spring education course, 228 Sami and Samini attracted attention by signing up in the drives for organ donation and cremation. And at the Autumn course, which ended in September, the temple master and teacher of each participant were invited to the completion ceremony to congratulate them on their first ordination. It is expected that parents will also be invited to the completion ceremony next year, reflecting the changing picture of renunciation ceremonies in modern Korea.

Despite this lengthy and hard course in becoming an ordained monastic, it is regrettable that there still is no standing education institute for novices, a problem that should be resolved as soon as possible. Although the issue was brought up several years ago, it was put on the back burner due to more pressing problems. But most people in Korean Buddhism will not hesitate to admit that the education and development of the Sangha is the most important issue facing the Chogye Order for its future.

4. A Shortcut Through My Life ...Bhikkhu Pajalo (Austria)


I was born in 1969 in Austria, a small country in the heart of Europe. I grew up in a village close to the beautiful scenery of the film «Sound of Music».

My parents gave me the name 'Florian', which means 'flower'. My father is a doctor and my mother is a medical assistant. I have an elder brother who is also a doctor and an elder sister who, after studying art history is now the owner of a gallery of modern art in Vienna.

My mother inspired me through her religious interest - first as a Catholic and later as a Buddhist. In my early teens I got interested in philosophical and spiritual books, which made me aware of the problems around me caused by a materialistic way of life.

I passed the higher examination in a Catholic Private School, the 'Heart of Jesus Missionaries'. After my civil service, I had no interest of studying in a university. I had, and I still have, the inclination to encounter life more directly.

Therefore I decided to go to America, where I worked on biological farms

and travelled extensively for nearly two years.

During that time I encountered different difficulties, which 'helped' me to look for a solution in Buddhism in a very serious and eager way. I spent several months in a Buddhist centre in Austria and in a monastery in Switzerland.

When I was 22 I started my journey to the East with the uncompromising

determination of becoming a monk. In 1992 I got my novice-ordination and later my higher ordination in a forest-monastery in Northeast Thailand, where I spent 2 years. In 1995 I came to Sri Lanka and since then I have been living here in meditation-centres, forest monasteries, temples, forests, caves and other places.

The more I got to know the people of this paradise-like Island, the more I

spoke their language, shared their lives and understood their problems, and the more I understood myself, the stronger I felt the need to become spiritual and socially active. In 1999 I founded the project “Simple Wisdom”. Since then, besides doing my own meditation and going on retreats, I use most of my time for children (programs in schools, printing and free distribution of Buddhist children’s books, etc.) for prisoners (meditation and discussions in jails, support through spiritual books, necessary medicines and hygienic articles), and for writing and publishing texts as an inspiration for a spiritual and harmonious life in a world full of difficulties and contradictions.

This is just a quick glance at my life.

5. Going Forth ...by Karunadhammo Bhikkhu


When I took ordination as an anagarika two years ago, I had a pretty strong sense that I'd be taking full bhikkhu ordination in a couple of years, though my "line" to myself and everyone else was, "I've only committed to do this for a year." I guess I'd learned through experience that making grand statements of intention can be a set-up for disappointment. As we all know, everything changes, and we shouldn't make any plans beyond our next breath. Right.

Well, two years later -- a very fast two years -- I found myself asking for upasampada, and being told "OK." For a while, it didn't really sink in, and I would tell myself, "I can still back out. No harm done." It wasn't until the date of the ceremony appeared in the last newsletter that I thought, "Whoa, this is really going to happen!"

The mix of emotions in the two months prior to ordination was incredible. Mostly, I felt a tremendous amount of joy and gratitude that this opportunity is available. It is truly a rare combination of circumstances that arise, internally and externally, to make it possible to ordain as a Buddhist monk 2,500 years after the Buddha created the Sangha, particularly in this country (USA) with its strange mix of materialistic seeking and spiritual soul-searching. Over the years, I have benefited in so many ways from the Teachings. To find myself now in the middle of a community devoted to the Dhamma is a true blessing.

Even though this sense of rightness pervaded the whole preparatory time, there were some intensely challenging moments. Doubts would arise: "Is this the best community to take ordination with? Is this the right time? Maybe I should give myself another year. What's the rush? I was able to actually help people in some way when I was an R.N. in Seattle. Of what use am I now as a monk? Maybe I shouldn't ordain at all! I miss my old friends! I want to go home!"

As these thoughts would circulate in my mind; sometimes I would fall for them, and other times I could see them as just thoughts and emotions arising and ceasing. Finally, one day when the doubts seemed particularly relentless, it suddenly occurred to me, "Mara doesn't want me to ordain. It upsets his plans too much." Miraculously, the doubts disappeared. Though they were to return in different ways, they never had quite the same punch. Whether it was an external minion of Mara plugging those doubts into my ears or an internal Mara of my own creation, I don't really know, and it doesn't really matter. What I learned is that the light of truthful recognition brings peace.

Of course, other "opportunities for learning" also arose during this period. People asked, "Oh, aren't you the first person to take ordination (in the Ajahn Chah tradition) in this country?" Pressure mounting. I'd feel simultaneously honored, maybe a little self-important, and definitely like crawling under a rock. "Gee, Karunadhammo, lots of people will be there. Does that make you nervous?" "Well, yes," I'd think. When I would start feeling anxious, though, I could always turn to sewing my robes, a very soothing practice. It must have been designed that way. The perfect antidote -- spending countless hours sewing straight lines in complicated patterns.

Again, in a moment of reflection on my periodic anxiety, it came to me: "I get anxious because I think this ordination has something to do with ME. It really has nothing to do with ME." It's both simply a series of thoughts, feelings, and emotions wafting through consciousness, and it's everybody's ordination. Everyone has had his or her own part in this process, and it couldn't have happened any other way. It became apparent that I was a small cog in a very big wheel. I felt like a twig floating downstream in a river of metta.

As the day of the ordination started to draw near, the long inhalation began: firing the alms bowl; dyeing the robes (I am now the proud owner of a two-toned sanghati, the outer robe); family members, friends, and monks from sister monasteries all arriving; chanting practice sessions. Still floating on a river of metta.

"The Day" finally arrived, and everything seemed to happen so easily. (Of course, I didn't have to help in the kitchen). The meal was offered, and afterwards small groups headed up the hill to the beautiful ordination site. People sat in the grass surrounding the platform where the monks gathered to perform the ceremony.

The chanting began

Calmness and loving-kindness were all around. I tried my best to feel a little nervous, but it just couldn't get through -- it had no place being there. The chanting began, and within a short period an ordination had taken place.


There was a moment when time stood still. My brother Bill, sister Gail, and friend Debbie offered my bowl and robes. So much space opened up, and everything else just stopped to witness. It all ended gently as we trooped back down the hill to enjoy the rest of the afternoon. I gathered all the belongings to be specially marked and determined as my own -- part of a monk's ritual to establish mindfulness around ownership and to encourage simplicity in the number of possessions.

Now that the ordination is over, I realize that the real work begins. I feel a tremendous amount of gratitude to be able to be here, in this monastery, with such excellent teachers and companions. As I had been told in the beginning, the real ordination is the one that takes place inside one's own heart.

6. Buddhist Thought: A Complete Introduction to the Indian Tradition ...by Paul Williams, Anthony Tribe


Editorial Reviews

Richard Gombrich

"I know of no more lucid expositor of Indian or Buddhist philosophy."

Book Description

Buddhist Thought guides the reader toward an understanding and appreciation of the central concepts of classical Indian Buddhist thought, tracing their development fromt he time of Buddha, and opening up the latest scholarly perspectives and controversies.

Best single volume on the history of Buddhist philosophy, June 4, 2002

Reviewer: Brian C. Holly from Pittsburgh, PA United States... Williams trumps his masterful classic "Mahayana Buddhism" with an even better book. This is vastly superior to any previous effort (David Kalupahana, eat your heart out!). Williams has a superb talent for explicating difficulty ideas with clarity and simplicity, and his prose has a pleasant and inviting tone. He is also completely up to date on the state of current specialized scholarship, so even those readers already endowed with a good grasp of the development of Buddhist philosophy will find an abundance of interesting material here. This book is destined to be a classic.

Good overview by recognized author, April 24, 2002

Reviewer: thordane from Vancouver, B.C. Canada... I'll be brief. This book is for readers interested in a good, relatively short, readable and useful book on the basics of Indian-tradition buddhism, which also touches on the confluence of Buddhism and Western philosophy. That said, it is an introductory work, and so it cannot cover everything.

Paul Williams is one of the finest writers on Buddhism and philosophy, and here he has written a wide-ranging book that -- while being devoted to doctrinal and practical and historical matters -- also touches on philosophy. The book is informed by his learning, and that of his co-author too (Tribe is responsible for just the one chapter.) I recommend it, and encourage readers to have a glance at Paul Williams' other books, and those of David Harvey as well.

Incidentally, the best short-and-sweet introduction to Buddhism must surely be Damien Keown's little book entitled Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction. And should the reader want to move to the other extreme and tackle philosophically weightier, cutting-edge topics, he or she should pick up works by Jay Garfield or (especially) George Dreyfus.

7. The Ewam Choden Tibetan Buddhist Center


Statement of Mission and Purpose

The Ewam Choden Tibetan Buddhist Center was established to provide an opportunity for the practice and study of Tibetan religion and culture. The basic meaning of Ewam is the integration of method and wisdom, compassion and voidness. Choden simply means "possessing the dharma". We feel that the union of compassion and wisdom is especially relevant for this age.

The Ven. Lama Kunga, Ngor Thartse Rinpoche, is the founder and resident lama of Ewam Choden Tibetan Buddhist Center. Rinpoche was born into the Shuku family in Lhasa in 1935, the son of Tsepon Shukupa, the former Financial Minister of the Dalai Lama's government. At the age of 7, he was recognized as the reincarnation of Sevan Repa, a Heart Disciple of Milarepa, the great 11th century yogi and poet of Tibet. Rinpoche entered monastic life when he was 8 years old and lived in Western Tibet, primarily at Ngor Monastery, in the Sakya tradition. Before he left Tibet in 1959, Rinpoche served as Vice Abbot of Ngor Monastery. Since coming to the United States, Rinpoche has taught in New Jersey, Washington, D.C., Wisconsin and California. He has authored two translations of Milarepa's work: Drinking from the Mountain Stream and Miraculous Journey. Rinpoche, with his quick insight, gentle presence and endless patience has touched and benefited the lives of many students.

Ewam Choden has been visited by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and the heads up three other major schools of Tibet, as well as many other lamas. We continue to expand our practice on numerous levels. Students are involved in translating Tibetan texts into English, and Rinpoche has worked diligently in this area. Several students have developed skill in creating traditional Buddhist ritual objects and images. The Center is also extremely interested in maintaining close relations with the Tibetan community in India and in the United States.

Activities at the Center include:

* Meditation: Sunday mornings at 10:00AM and other times.

* Classes and seminars on Buddhist teachings and practice: As announced.

* Empowerments: As announced.

* Marriage ceremony: For those who are interested in Tibetan Buddhism, Rinpoche is certified to perform the traditional Tibetan Buddhist marriage ceremony.

* Language classes: As announced.

* Private interviews: As scheduled with Rinpoche.

Rinpoche Lama Kunga Thartse was born into a noble family in Lhasa in 1935, the son of Tsipon Shuguba, Treasurer in the Dalai Lama's government.

At the age of 7, he was recognized as a reincarnation of Sevan Repa, a heart disciple of Milarepa, Tibet’s great 11th century poet-saint. Rinpoche entered Ngor Monastery at eight and was ordained as a monk at sixteen. In 1959, he was Vice-Abbot of Ngor Monastery, in the Sakya Tradition, but fled Western Tibet with his countrymen at the time of Chinese invasion.

In 1972 Rinpoche came to America and established Ewam Choden Tibetan Buddhist Center in Kensington California. Lama Kunga has also taught in New Jersey, Washington, D.C., Wisconsin, Oregon, Florida, Utah, Minnesota, and Arkansas. A skilled and compassionate teacher, Lama Kunga Rinpoche’s students feel blessed with his close relationship to the Buddha Dharma.


The Urban Dharma Newsletter Archives:



The Los Angeles Buddhist-Catholic Dialogue:



To Subscribe or Unsubscribe: