Become a Buddhist Monk

Buddhism is a religion over 2,000 years old. It offers a method of overcoming the suffering that is inherent in being. Buddhist monks are those who take it upon themselves to live a life entirely devoted to this goal.

It doesn't take a whole lot to become a monk. You will need to have a basic understanding of Buddhism (which, if you intend to ordain, you will likely have). Otherwise, a sincere intent to practice the Buddhist teachings is all you need.


Learning About Buddhism

  1. Familiarize yourself with Buddhist teachings. Begin your path to becoming a monk by understanding the basics about Buddhism. Check out books from the library, do research on line, and if possible, take classes from an instructor who has been ordained as a monk. The Buddha doesn't force anyone to believe, but asks disciples to prove the tenants true based on their own investigation of the religion. Here are the fundamentals you should know:
    • Study the Eightfold Path, which is the way to the end of all suffering. The path consists of the right understanding, right speech, right intention, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration, right action and right livelihood.
    • Learn the four noble truths, which contain the essence of Buddhism. A simple version of the four noble truths is that suffering exists, it arises from attachment to wants, the condition stops when the attachment to desire stops and freedom from suffering is possible through the Eightfold Path.[1]
  2. Join a temple, or sangha, that practices Buddhism. The Buddhist religion is worldwide and temples exist in almost every country. Practicing Buddhism as a layperson will give you valuable insight into what it's like to be part of a Buddhist community, which is central to becoming a monk. You'll want to become a regular part of the community for months, or even years, before you take the next step to become a monk.[2]
    • Check your phone book or look online for a Buddhist center near you.
    • Be an active participant of the temple. Some sanghas offer introductory courses where you can learn more about Buddhism. Others schedule retreats to help you grow in your faith.
    • Not all Buddhist communities are alike. Like other types of religious institutions, some are more traditional, while others have changed with modern times. Find a community that fits with your views and is appealing to you.
    • It may also be helpful to visit Buddhist temples in other cities or even other countries to get a well-rounded view of the Buddhist community.
  3. Find a spiritual guide or mentor. Learning from a mentor is a very important first step in becoming a monk. One-on-one instruction allows you to delve deeper into Buddhist teachings and gain a more complete understanding of what will be expected of you as a monk. Begin working with someone who can teach you everything you need to know.[3]
    • To find a mentor, ask people in your Buddhist community for recommendations.
    • Often, a temple will invite Buddhist leaders to come and speak to the group, and this gives you a chance to make contact with potential mentors.

Preparing for Monastic Life

  1. Spend time meditating. Becoming a Buddhist monk requires daily meditation and a conscious effort to change how the mind works. When you live in an abbey, much of your day will be spent in meditation. This takes practice.
    • Buddhism incorporates different kinds of meditation, including meditation that focuses on breathing, meditation that focuses on transformation and meditation on the Lamrim. Mediation can also include certain postures.
    • Start with five minutes of meditation two times a day. When you become comfortable with five minutes, increase your meditation time by a few minutes every day until you can meditate for 15 minutes two times a day. Some monks meditate for hours at a time.
  2. Prepare to support yourself for two to three years. Becoming a Buddhist monk requires you to follow the Vinaya, a code of conduct, which stipulates that Buddhist monks and nuns do not work a normal everyday job to support themselves. In some cases the abbey you join will provide for your basic necessities, but in other cases you'll need to have enough saved to support yourself.
  3. Prepare to give up your worldly possessions. Monks live as mendicants, meaning they possess only what is required for a very simple quality of life, nothing more. You'll be provided with clothing, sundries, and other items you need to stay comfortable from day to day. However, electronic devices, expensive clothes or shoes, and anything that could be considered a luxury item is not allowed. Monks are not allowed to possess items that could inspire emotions like greed, envy or possessiveness.[4]
  4. Realize that your Buddhist community will become your new family. Once you join a monastery, your life will be devoted to your Buddhist community. Your days will be spent in service of others, and your focus will be on those who need your help. You will have little contact with your family, and will be encouraged to think of your Buddhist community as your new family.
    • Before pursuing ordination, you may want to discuss this with your family and let them know what is to come.
    • Some monasteries don't accept candidates who are married or have other strong relationship ties. Single people are more able to devote themselves to the teachings of Buddhism, since they don't have outside forces pulling their attention away.
  5. Be ready to take a vow of chastity. Monks do not engage in sexual behavior of any kind. In some cases male and female monks (or nuns) are not allowed to communicate with one another about matters that aren't related to everyday business. It is wise to practice chastity before becoming ordained so that you can find out whether you're suited to a chaste life. The idea is that the energy you'd normally put into sex is directed to matters greater than the self.[5]
  6. Decide what kind of commitment you want to make. In some traditions, ordination is meant to be a life-long commitment. However, there are other traditions in which it's perfectly fine to pursue ordination for a limited number of months or years. In Tibet, for example, many men complete two or three-month ordinations to develop their spiritual identities before eventually getting married or pursuing careers.
    • Make sure the monastery you're interested in joining offers the level of commitment you want.
    • If you're not sure, it's possible to do a two or three-month ordination, then pursue a longer-term ordination later.

Becoming Ordained as a Monk

  1. Start training at an abbey. If you're convinced that you want to become a monk, you'll be ordained at a specific abbey. It will be necessary to meet the requirements outlined by the abbey in order to be ordained there. In some cases an offer to become ordained must be extended by an elder who has decided you're a good candidate to become a monk.
  2. Participate in an ordination ceremony. The ceremony will mark your decision to become a Buddhist, and can only be performed by an ordained monk. During this ceremony, the monk will transmit to you the three Jewels and the five Precepts. You will also receive your Buddhist name.
    • If you're following Shin Buddhism, you'll have an affirmation ceremony, rather than an ordination ceremony. The affirmation ceremony serves the same purpose as ordination.
  3. Follow the instructions of your teacher. If you partook in an ordination ceremony, your teacher will usually be the ordained monk who led the ceremony. You will receive instructions specific to the monastery you are joining.
  4. Take the Bodhisattva Vows. A Bodhisattva is a person who devotes his or her life to the Buddhist way. The vows focus on doing compassionate deeds, striving to benefit every human being and seeking enlightenment. The vows serve as a way for you to embody your highest aspirations. They commit you to a life of selfless service, and you will recite them on a regular basis.


  • Buddhism originated in Southeast Asia, and countries such as Thailand and India have many Buddhist temples.
  • Some time after your initial training, sponsorships may become available that will provide financial assistance.

Related Articles

Sources and Citations

You may like