Looking to live with monks, train and learn what it means to be a monk


#1

Hey people of Forumosa!

I will be visiting Taiwan in about a month and though I have a few connections down there already I think it’d only be wise to ask here for further guidance…

I want to spend my month with monks, if possible, live at a temple and train tai chi and do other activities that they do in their every-day life. So basically I want to “try” what it’s like and if it’s something I want to further delve into.

Honestly, I am a little worried I might come off as ignorant, but my knowledge about what religions / beliefs are practiced around the world is not the best… So please take that in consideration when reading my wall-of-text (sorry!).

Now I have heard that not all buddhist monks practice tai chi for example, so what is it that I should be looking for? The reason why I prioritize tai chi is because I am hoping to better my body control and feel a sense of serenity whilst doing it.

Also, how is it with wi-fi in temples? I really do enjoy my work as a developer and would love to be able to sharpen my skills IF such thing is allowed and that it wouldn’t disrupt my process of being… right there and then.

Has anyone done something similar, where can I go to gather information? Would it be easier for me to research while I’m actually in Taiwan?

If you could, please elaborate on what the differences are between taoism, daoism and buddhism? Really briefly, if possible

If any of you have done such thing before and got to live in the temple with them, what was the fee? Did you pay them weekly?

Please any feedback or answers would be of great help to me!

Thanks for taking your time to read all of this through…
/ Alejandro


#2

Have you tried to Google it? There is a really lot of information about places like that just buy Google.

It really sounds like you have done absolutely no research at all and just asking a random question.

If you’re asking about where to go eat some good food and that’s okay, but asking such deep serious questions it seems like someone really serious would have done a little bit of research already.


#3

I suggest taking gradual steps instead of just going. At the moment you may have a very idealistic vision of the whole process which can become a disheartening experience once you take such a huge leap. It’s like being in kindergarten and trying to jump into a Phd class because that’s where all the hype is at. No snobbiness intended, I am not even close to there either.

You may want to ask yourself a few questions first. What makes you happy? What’s your purpose?

There are a few http://meetup.com groups that can get you started on the process of of answering these questions and moving you in the right direction. Maybe a Meditation / Qi Gong group. They have some international groups that do that. There are also groups that go to monasteries on the weekend for half a day, for a whole day, for two days, etc. You will most likely find Mahayana buddhism a bit overwhelming, the concepts are a bit “advanced” for people who are brewing in the physical world of issues. That’s why I do not recommend that to start with, but you can experiment.

If you are truly adamant about going in deep and coming out a new person, try a vipassana retreat, https://www.dhamma.org. It’s usually a 10 day retreat, they feed you, you meditate and do not speak to anyone for the duration. There are no distractions to run to, just yourself. You usually don’t have to pay anything, but donations are appreciated if you find it helpful.

To sum up. Take baby steps, there is no glamor in this journey of self-discovery. There is only silence. Through silence you will be able to answer the questions you are trying to run away from. Hopefully that will help you find your purpose and a way to apply yourself in this world. We are rooting for you :balloon:


#4

Being a monk in Taiwan, for the most part, is truly soul crushing. Most of them are just gears in a large religious corporation.


#5

@augsteyer
I believe you are right, especially about the idealistic vision I most likely have as to how the whole process, experience will be.

So I will do just what you recommend, about using meetup and hopefully find something to dip my feet into, see how it feels.

About the questions, I am absolutely happy about my life and who I am, what I am running away from though would be people that I feel aren’t going anywhere in their lives, harsh I know, but it’s true (to me)… But it would also be of my mind, I am an overthinker, but that’s not the problem. The problem is when I feel as if I can’t control my mind, which I can but then again, it’s so much easier to be negative than positive in this life, weirdly enough.
Thanks for bringing those questions up!

It’s super nice of you to link and mention different beliefs and retreats, I can, when I am there maybe find these places and just see what they are. Oppose to just find out when I am in the centre in all of it.

Again, thanks for your very kind words @augsteyer, it really do mean a lot to me. So, many internet thanks and +1’s

@Adoga
Could you elaborate more on this? I guess I see how they could be seen as “gears”, but isn’t that part of it? Like cleaning up the temple, making sure when dalai lamas come to treat them well etc, together with the rest of the temple. Or are you saying this is only the case in Taiwan? Would I be better off elsewhere to find monks to connect with?

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this subject, it really does help me see a bigger picture of what I want but also how the world on the other side of me is functioning.

+1!


#6

I’m not sure I can even discuss Daoism by itself briefly, even though I know almost nothing about it (and, I might add, I may know some things that ain’t so).

I guess the too-long-didn’t-read version of Daoism would be that in pure Daoism, people follow the Chinese philosopher Laozi and his work, the Daodejing. Laozi and the original Daoists sought to become detached from the tumults and troubles of the world and to live a life in harmony with nature. But I think that most modern Taiwanese seem to associate Daoism with traditional Chinese religious practices, an association that I imagine that some of the original Daoists would have found appalling. Traditional Chinese religion seems to me to be a colorful, noisy, exciting thing, whereas the original Daoism seems like a quiet, withdrawn sort of thing.

Daoism and taoism are two spellings of the same set of beliefs. The reason that it is spelled two different ways is that in the old days, when Chinese words were written in the Roman alphabet, a system called Wade-Giles was used. In that system, the sound similar to our t was written as t when it was breathless, and as t’ when it was accompanied by the breath. But over the past half-century or thereabouts, a writing system called Hanyu Pinyin, or just pinyin, has come to be a very popular system for representing Chinese sounds in the Roman alphabet, and by that system, the t-resembling sound is represented by d.

What little I might know about Daoism comes from an old (1969), free book (that I never finished) written by a scholar named Wolfram Eberhard, and entitled A History of China. You can read what Dr. Eberhard says about Daoism on pages 45-50 of his book, which you can find here: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/17695

There’s also stuff about Daoism in Wikipedia:

Here’s some stuff in Wikipedia on Wade-Giles and Hanyu Pinyin:

I guess the too-long-didn’t-read version of Buddhism would be that Buddhism was founded by a man named Siddhartha, who I guess you could say was an Indian (even though many pilgrims visit a place in Nepal as Siddhartha’s birthplace), and who reportedly lived in the sixth and fifth centuries BCE. Siddhartha seems to have become very unhappy because of all the suffering and futility in the world, and seems to have abandoned his position and wealth to pursue a new approach to life. Accounts of his life (again, about which I know almost nothing) seem to say that he attained some kind of transcendent state through meditation. At some point, he developed a belief system that involved, to put it in extremely simple terms, diminishing one’s worldly desires, and he began teaching these beliefs to others. Siddhartha became known as Gautama Buddha, or just Buddha. In Chinese I think the easiest version of his name is Fó, or Fótuó.

According to Dr. Eberhard (on pages 124-125 of his book), initially traders from Turkestan and India made it possible for Buddhist monks to establish themselves in China.

I think that among a lot of Taiwanese, Buddhism and Daoism tend to get kind of get identified together, at least to some degree.

Here’s some stuff on Buddhism in Wikipedia:

I hope this helps.


#7

A book called Private Prayers and Public Parades is probably the best layperson’s introduction to Taiwanese religion that I’ve seen. It was published about 15 years ago; I’m not sure how easy it is to find these days.

And I really should reread it, because I don’t remember a thing.

Note that expecting Daoists here to focus on the Daodejing is a bit like going to America and expecting all the Christians to have regular 40-day meditations in the desert.


#8

I’d echo the suggestion re: Vipaassana retreat. There’s one in Taichung, and here’s the link I found online:

https://www.dhamma.org/en/schedules/schudaya

I had a friend a few years back who actually came to Taiwan to try to sit in one of their 10-day long retreat. We were also allowed to come into the receiving area which looked more like a big front porch. The place is very serene and in Fengyuan, Taichung. According to my friend, this retreat is the ultimate 10-day retreat he’s had and taught him proper breathing techniques and meditation which he uses for sports.

I would’ve done it myself but since I can’t be away that long from work, I didn’t. The one in Taichung also has fluent English-speaking folks so you wouldn’t have any problems if you’re not fluent in Mandarin.

However, vipassana’s core is about disconnecting you from the outside world so that you can focus on meditation and the core values of Buddhism (not sure if it’s Theravada or Mahayana).

I think this is the best way to do it if you really want to get into Buddhism. But if you only want the monk-like experience, I think the Fo Guang Shang retreat might be more to your liking. It’s in Kaohsiung though:


#9

Am I the only one that seen monks in business class to first class seats on flights?


#10

Yes, you can do the whole Kung Fu Panda thing and practice tai qi in a Chinese Buddhist monastery in a summer camp type program (often laypeople living a vaguely monastic lifestyle). Fo Guang Shan (Buddha Light Mountain) in Kaohsiung has had one for years, here’s its link:

(Edit: Somebody already mentioned this one Sorry!) Unfortunately, you may be too late to apply to it. Ditto for the Woodenfish Program, which used to be the name of Fo Guang Shan’s, until the nun who ran it moved it to China:

Chung Tai Shan in Nantou also organized programs like this. You’d better contact them directly.

https://www.ctworld.org.tw/english-96/html/contact%20us.htm

I am not a big fan of either group, but “Big Buddhism” is more likely to be able to provide what you want, in English. I also vaguely remember a Chan (Zen) program which advertised in one of the English dailies a year or so ago. (Edit: here it is:

http://www.dharma-academy.org/event6.htm

Most of these groups have very cozy relations with China and an ethos of venerating their leader. (Not to mention a lot of money.) Good luck.

PS: The vipassana link above is to one of the Goenka groups, and is not particularly Chinese (the founder is an Indian from Burma). It’s intense meditation, which not everyone likes or can stand. Check out the complaints about it before you go.

May I suggest asking your question at dharmawheel.net ? At least one person there is an English-speaking, Taiwan-based monastic.

In reference to your question about Chinese religions, “Taoism” and “Daoism” are variant English spellings for the same (complicated) thing. There is a literary Daoism associated with Laozi (= Lao Tzu) and Zhuangzi (=Chuang Tzu), the folk Daoism (= the Chinese folk religion, but noting that it also contains Buddhist elements) visible in most temples here, and in between, several ancient or medieval movements of liturgical or religious Daoism, which you’re most likely to encounter here in the form of the Daoist priests you see at the temples (or funerals) from time to time. In China, Buddhism and Daoism influenced one another for a thousand years or so. How many books are you willing to read? :smiley:


#11

A lot of monks are hypocrites. Not that different from Catholic priests.Honestly, joining either group rates about the same on the “Is this a good idea?” scale.

If OP really wants to study Buddhism/Daoism, then read the books and meditate alone. No need to pay a bunch of money to some retreat scam. Buddha and Laozi sure as hell didn’t.

Aside from the Daodejing (John C.H. Wu translation) and the Dhammapada, pick up books like “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind,” “Wanting Enlightenment is a Big Mistake” and the koans. I would avoid Alan Watts and any other New Age hippie writers.

If you’re still adamant about the whole mystical mountain temple kung fu experience, skip Taiwan and go to Wudangshan in China.


#12

Generalize much?

If the concern is money, well, Woodenfish only charges a couple hundred US (for the uniforms–yes, there are uniforms), and you have to pay your own airfare. I think Fo Guang Shan is the same. (Dharma Academy is expensive, but lay-led, so you can’t blame monks.) There is little chance of either group brainwashing you to become a monk or nun, although Chung Tai Shan was accused of that a decade ago.

Where’s the scam? As far as I can tell, they deliver what they promise–namely, a month (or however long) of instruction, meditation practice, and other activities. Enlightenment is not guaranteed, I’m sorry to say, but at least you will learn something about a particular religious culture. I am thrilled, however, to learn that Wudangshan is free of hypocrites, and hope I don’t ruin it for them when I finally go there myself.

In general, it is much easier to find Buddhist meditation courses / retreats oriented towards foreigners in the Theravada (esp. in Thailand) and Tibetan (in Nepal and India) traditions.


#13

Looks like someone has been neglecting his meditation.


#14

Nolo contendere.


#15

That’s also where you should go if you’re in the Wu Tang Clan. I think you get a discount or something. :wink:


#16

And a free account at Wu-Tang Financial.