These being the distinctions between the layperson and householder, it is important for an ordained people to realize the importance of not engaging in unnecessary activities and to maintain contentment. If there is no such contentment, then the two are similar.
His Holiness Dalai Lama
Letting the Buddha Relax
His Holiness Dalai Lama
Excerpt from His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Losar Teachings, 2001.
Since we have obtained this precious human life, now is the time to stop the suffering of samsara. When you remain a layperson or householder, there are many interruptions to your Dharma practice. On the other hand, if you ordain, in contrast to the life of a householder, you have greater opportunities to engage in Dharma practice. Therefore you should appreciate the life of ordained beings and the qualities of ordained beings, and you should know the faults of the householder life.
This is not to say that you will not be able to engage in Dharma practice if you are a layperson. But what is clear to all of us is that when you lead a household life, you naturally need to take care of all the members of the family, which includes gathering wealth and so forth. Then, in relation to your family members, you develop many more enemies and many more objects of attachment. It is in this way that you extend your circle. Therefore, under such circumstances, even though you have the wish to engage in Dharma practice, you will be naturally compelled by the situation itself to spend most of your life, your energy and your time looking after your relatives and so forth.
Master Sharawa also used to say that in the case of the layperson, normally they have to spend their life very busily but on certain occasions they wear very attractive clothes. Then when you go and visit monks and nuns, you will find that they normally wear the same kind of clothes but still remain quite tranquil and relaxed, with no need to rush here and there.
These being the distinctions between the layperson and householder, it is important for an ordained people to realize the importance of not engaging in unnecessary activities and to maintain contentment. If there is no such contentment, then the two are similar. There is really not much fun in simply shaving the hair, unless you engage in practice as a real ordained person.
In the case of very serious practitioners, particularly among the monks and nuns, there are those who really try to develop the specially trained qualities. Among the Tibetans there used to be a monk from Changse Monastery who made it sure that in the rest of his life he would not live under a roof. The purpose of this is to be able to engage in practice remaining under a tree with our robes and maintain contentment with tattered cloth and simple foods.
Such serious practitioners choose a very natural way of life, remaining in the forest near the water or watch the rising and dying of the waves in the sea and reflecting on impermanence, seeing one’s body and mind as similar to this rising and falling of waves. Then, they spend their time discerning the truth of the grasping at self and they develop disgust towards the afflictions of samsara and they see the world and sentient beings within it as an illusion. Serious practitioners aspire to such practices, and all these practices are possible in the case of an ordained person.
You should all develop some appreciation toward such a way of life. That way, even if you are unable to become ordained, if you appreciate this way of life, it leaves an imprint to be able to be ordained in the future. In the case of the vows, and of them there are vows for the lay person, the vows of the monks are treated as more important, of which the vows of the bhikshu are treated as the most important. Whether it is the practice of the bodhisattva path or the practice of the tantric path, the vow of a bhikshu is said to be the supreme and the most important.
When we talk about the vows of a monk or nun, out of the three types of vows, we are referring to the pratimoksha vows, or vows of individual liberation. You should see these vows of individual liberation, or pratimoksha, as the root of the teachings of the Buddha.
Of course, it is up to you whether to become a monk or nun or not, but once you become ordained, it is better to practice sincerely. What is important is quality rather than quantity. In Tibet, when the policy became a little bit more lenient, many people rushed to become monks and nuns. In one way, this is really good but on the other hand, it is really important for us to think what we really need is quality rather than quantity. If you wear the robes of a monk or nun but your way of life is not good, then gradually the lay community will start losing respect and look down on the way of life of the monk and nun, which is then very sad.
Buddha himself commented that: “Wherever there are these basic Vinaya practices, then I can rest and relax.” So, isn’t it wonderful if you’re able to observe these Vinaya practices sincerely!