Becoming a Buddhist monk in middle age

Please don’t flame me for another one of my formosa friend just wrote and said blah blah blah, but this one really knocked my socks off. Stay with me for a moment. Maybe this has happened to you. It blows me away.

I just got an email from an old Taiwanese friend, a middle age man I know, around 50 I guess, divorced, one kid, worked as some kind of tech guy in Taipei, anyway, known him the 3 years i been here, very nice guy.

On the phone last week, he told me he might be making some changes in his life but he wasn’t detailed. Then today, just now, he writes:


A hard goodbye,

I told you on the call that I am planning a new life. I think it might be
a surprise to you. I must express my appologies that I may not be able to continue to contact u for a while. I decide to leave all this mess of life behind and begin a new one, that is I will begin an ascetic life and become a buddhist monk, and I am packing now.

Life is short and full of suffering. The Buddha said all deeds are suffering. This saying is unthinkable, and you may try to think deeply about it and understand it.

I have your e-mail and moving phone number, and will inform you after settling down. I’ll stay at Taitung or or Nanto county,or maybe Kaohsiung as a novice.


Whoa! Shook me up!

Please don’t post your e-mail correspondence on Forumosa. What’s the point? Are you so deluded to think that every aspect of your personal experience here on earth is of general interest?

It isn’t.

Maoman, my dear friend, this not MY personal experience I was writing about above, but a local friend going thru a rough time, No different than HakkaSonic’s post about is 37 year old former friend dying and I didn’t see YOU get on his case for that starting that thread.

Would someone please whisper in Maoman’s ear: “get off formosa’s case. you look bad when you only go after him.”

And let’s let others decide what this post is about, Maoman. You really are a real dictator sometimes, even though the Buddha tells me you are softy underneath it all.

Lay off. Take a long rest this weekend. and think twice before you attack fellow community members here without reason. no?

formosa, perhaps if you’d started the thread off with something like this:

I have a Taiwanese friend who has decided to become a monk. It seems the Taiwanese rat race became too much for him. Now seeing he’s a Taiwanese and couldn’t cope, how many of you have ever considered heading for the hills?

Thank you alleycat, for the face saving about face. good idea.

Let me begin again, better way:

I have a Taiwanese friend who has decided to become a monk. It seems the Taiwanese rat race became too much for him. Now seeing he’s a Taiwanese and couldn’t cope, how many of you have ever considered heading for the hills?

Alleycat, thanks. that’s what friends are for. (by the way, I have been a rough time in life lately too, please everyone, cut me some slack…)

Formosa, call this guy and see if he really followed up on it. He may have just been stressed out from working in Hsinchu, drunk, or had some personal tragedy, or possibly all three.

I’ll bite.

Yes, I’ve considered becoming a monk, ever since I can remember. I even recall wanting to be a priest during break time in the eighth grade. That soon passed when I saw Valerie again.

I still do feel like living a secluded life. But not an austere one. I look forward to buying some land here and doing the self-sustainability thing one day but including all the comforts I now enjoy.

That said, I think immersing oneself in a religion is just another form of denial and therefore a way of dying.

Live it.

No, no, Hakkasonic, he really has decided to do this and leave Taipei and has packed and is gone, as we speak. I can’t reach him, he doesn’t carry a cellphone and his home number has been stopped. It isn’t so much that he was suffering from the rat race, actually, he had become somewhat freelance the last year or so… he just decided to change his life, and he told me so by phone last week, he doesnt drink by the way, i think he just felt his wife had fucked him royally by leaving him with the kid and he felt becoming a monk was way to find peace. I can’t fathom it. I thought at first when he said, he was gonna change his life, that it mean, find a new job overseas or move to Taichung or Kaohsiug, but this email today, I am going to become a monk…whoa! it;s like a movie starrring Leonardio DeCrappio THE BEACH or something. It seems like a pretty EXTReme change to me. But he was always religious in the Buddhist way, so maybe this is not all that strange for Buddhists to do, even lay Buddhists.

Maoman’s comment is totally out of order.

But getting back to the subject of this thread, I’m curious to know more about the guy. Was he especially religious before? Does he have any close friends who have become monks? Is he doing it to spite someone (unlikely at his age)?


I don’t understand why your friend said “a hard goodbye”. Why can’t you continue to be his friend after he becomes a monk? I was once friends with a Taiwanese girl who was a nun. She even showed me pictures of what she used to look like before she became a nun (before she got her head shaved and started wearing gray robes).


So he was left with the kid according to your post. What happens to the kid now? Mum & Dad split up, Mum fucks off, Dad later wigs out and fucks off … thank heavens for grandparents and orphanages, eh? Your friend sounds like a real prize. NOT.

. . . or way worse . . . he gets left with Formosa! Heaven help the poor tot!


[quote=“Huang Guang Chen”]. . . or way worse . . . he gets left with Formosa! Heaven help the poor tot!


All right, you Ozzie git. I was only trying to be a smartarse, but your post? That’s … that’s just downright SICK! :shock: But it could be even worse – imagine if he taught the brat to post on Forumosa every nuance to flit through his noddle!

For some mad reason this song came immediately to mind:



Will you stay in our Lovers’ Story
If you stay you won’t be sorry
'Cause we believe in you
Soon you’ll grow so take a chance
With a couple of Kooks
Hung up on romancing

We bought a lot of things
to keep you warm and dry
And a funny old crib on which the paint won’t dry
I bought you a pair of shoes
A trumpet you can blow
And a book of rules
On what to say to people
when they pick on you
'Cause if you stay with us you’re gonna be pretty Kookie too

And if you ever have to go to school
Remember how they messed up
this old fool
Don’t pick fights with the bullies
or the cads
'Cause I’m not much cop at punching other people’s Dads
And if the homework brings you down
Then we’ll throw it on the fire
And take the car downtown

Which reminds me. Time to have another watch of the Spiders’ last concert.

to answer your questions

he put his daughter a high school girl now with his sister in Taipei and she is very smart student at one of the area’s top schools, no problem there

the wife, mother, has never returned in over 10 years

he was never deeply religious and never spoke of this before, that i could tell

there was a huge Magnitude earthquake 8 in Japan last night and I fear the big one is coming our way tomorrow

Maoman was way out of order, bartebly, thanks for the support.

I am out of here until the earthquake threat subsides…

hard goodbye> ? yeh i was wondering what he meant by that too? what did he mean? we can still be friends no?

until Moonday, I am


Once I ran off to a monastery–not forever, but to take stock of my life. I will be forever grateful for that experience. Although I never became a monk, I understand the attraction, and feel it has changed my life.

Being around intense spirituality is fulfilling in a way that worldly affairs rarely are. Becoming a monk or nun is not like committing suicide. Maybe more like joining the army, but it’s quite possible to live a happy and fulfilling life in religious orders. Indeed, some people wouldn’t be happy or fulfilled any other way.

What do you commit to giving up? Well, sex / relationships / marriage. It’s a sacrifice, yeah (and maybe not for the reasons we immediately think of).

But life as a lay person also involves sacrifice. Do you have romantic relationships? Are they temporary, shallow ones that leave you with a gaping hole in your heart? Or long-term ones that bring commitments, and tie your happiness to someone else’s happiness? (Marriage and monasticism have a surprising amount in common!)

Buddhist monks and nuns in the Mahayana tradition are supposed to extend that caring toward all sentient beings. So don’t think that your friend has forgotten you. Actually, going into retreat is his way of honoring relationships like these, which most of us take for granted, and giving them spiritual meaning.

Each of us has some role or purpose that we feel drawn to, one no less sacred than the other. Just remember that while you’re at work doing whatever you do, somewhere out there your friend is meditating–and these roles are interdependent.

About fifteen years ago, my father called me and wished me luck. He was sick of fighting the state, which had been trying to close down his business, and was going off to join the Peace Corps.

A few days later, I talked with my aunt, who reminded me that it had been April Fools’ Day. Shit, shit, shit, that &##^&#&^^&#&&&^.

Um… for what it’s worth:

I had a friend in Beijing (he was Taiwanese), a 40-something gay guy, a bit disillusioned with dating and with his work. One day he told us that he was going to become a monk. It was very sudden and very random. He said he loved his teacher like nobody else (although he insisted it was pure love, non-sexual). We all thought it was kind of strange, and like I said, sudden. But I think he’s still in Tibet or Qinghai or wherever. I never heard of him since that. I always secretly thought that he had a big crush on this master-guy, or that he was trying to escape. But if he is happier now, and more enlightened, then so what, right?

I think some people have romantic ideas about it and think that once they become a monk they would become like a new person or something. I’ve read, though, that after a while the old defilements raise their heads and are just projected onto other things, so for example instead of being angry with one’s colleague for being promoted first, one could become angry with one’s fellow monk for getting more rice or something.

I know of a man who became a monk and lived in a small house for a couple of years with two other monks. He then decided to quit the monastic life and went to South America and took a lot of drugs. Fortunately that period only lasted about a year and he subsequently became a bit more balanced and is now an active and contributing (lay) member of a Buddhist community.

I do think that if done in a considered way, with a good motivation, it would be a life-affirming, rather than denying, thing. I also recognise that it’s not for me, at least at this point, though.