My dear friends, I want to share with all of you the vision I have for my monasteries.
From outside everything looks very beautiful. But looking behind the glossy cover of the magazine, the reality is quite different. I really feel that a lot needs to be changed:
Young children are mainly brought to the monastery to become monks because of their families’ financial difficulty. This is not the choice of the children .
Then they receive a religious education but not a regular education. This means that when the children grow up, if they decide to leave the monastery they have no way to live a good life. I have close friends who left the monastery when they became 19 or 20 yrs old, and now they are washing dishes in a restaurant or driving taxi. Since they have no training or education for living in the world, they will have a very difficult time to have a full and happy life. This breaks my heart.
Also I see the young monks learning about Dharma without having any direct experience of life; nor without the expericnce of Dharma in life. For example, I learned, as many young monks learn, that samsara lies outside the walls of the monastery; that those who are in relationship, those who are married, those who work and are fully engaged in life are in samsara while those of us in the monastery are not in samsara. We are educated with this kind of pride, this kind of prejudice. Some of these monks then go into retreat and come out as Lamas. They are invited to the west to live and teach in a Buddhist center. And when they arrive, they discover that “Samsara is Beautiful”. They then want to experience everything that life has to offer, and too often get involved in dharma business, and abusing and taking advantage of innocent people. Too often they use the Dharma to cover up and justify their personal behavior.
Another person might grow up outside the monastery, receive a regular education, and experience the joys and difficulties of life. And then having really understood that samsara is our own state of mind and our own attachment, decide to enter the monastery and follow a spiritual path. This to me is a much better approach.
So my idea is to create a school for children whose families have financial difficulty. The children will receive both normal and religious training. Then when the children reach 19 or 20 years of age, they can freely decide if they want to leave and have a personal life with work and family which they can do in a good way, with full appreciation of Dharma in their lives; if they want to join the school and education system, they will be welcome; and if they want to enter the monastery and follow a spiritual path they will do so fully and completely as their own decision.
For me the point of Dharma is to give us freedom and possibilities. Currently the system does not do that. I hope that this new approach will do so in my monasteries and Dharma communities.
This is my vision. And I am determined to make it happen.