Spending months at a Buddhist monastery is an experience I would recommend for anyone. One cannot help but grow from the experience. Below are five simple lessons that I learned from my stay at the monastery.
1) Wake Like Fish
At 5:00 a.m. a morning gong would wake the monks at the monastery. While most visitors at the monastery would try to ignore the gongs and fall back asleep, the monks at the monastery would awake and begin their daily routine.
An elder monk explained to me that he liked to wake like a fish meaning that when the gong rang, he would quickly get out of bed and start life. No snooze buttons or taking 30 minutes, just get up, start your day and embrace life.
2) A Daily Dose of Humility is a Good Thing
Each time a monk enters the temple, they would prostrate to Buddha. Prostration is a series of gestures and bows that has many different meanings, but in its simplest form it is designed to remind one to be humble. In many ways Buddhism is about losing one’s ego and understanding that an individual is just a tiny part of the universe. A few seconds of humility everyday reminds one to keep their ego in check and understand that we are just a small part of a vast whole.
3) Don’t Worry About Time
I hate being late. It is probably my number one pet peeve. The problem with hating being late is that I was always stress about being late. At the monastery, time did not matter. Breakfast was scheduled for 7:00 a.m., but many days it would be at 7:30 a.m. Life happens according to its own schedule, worrying about minutes is a waste of life.
4) Question and Debate
Several days a week the older monks had Buddhist Philosophy Debate Class. They would spend hours debating principals and beliefs. Buddhism as I understand it has no concept of blind faith (perhaps this is what is appealing to me about Buddhism). Question your beliefs and do not accept things blindly.
More than any other group of people I have been around, the monks were connected to each other.T hey would hold hands, walk arm in arm and were a close knit brotherhood. Monks understand that their happiness (and the happiness of everyone) is dependent upon every other being.