This is where your dream of becoming a Buddhist monk will become true

Written by Dennis Odeny

Edited by Norah Lawrence

What if you had 2 robes, a bowl and mat as your only belongings for 2 months in a foreign country?

Well, that is exactly what happened to me during my 2 month stay at The Dhammakaya International Ordination Program.

I have always regarded myself as a work in progress and often went with what my intuition told me, not because others wanted me to, but because I felt it was the best thing to do at the time. When the decision to ordain as a monk at the Dhammakaya temple came up, I had watched the monks teach and wondered how they could be so peaceful and calm when my mind always went all over the place.

It all started in 2013, when I saw Monk Pasura who had come to Kenya for a peace fellowship, where he taught and led meditation. Looking back, I could almost remember the exact manner in which he spoke. With calm conviction and great humility he helped us understand the nature of life and how meditation helps us achieve happiness.

At that time, I made up my mind to explore this field of meditation and since then, the journey has been filled with several astounding discoveries I never even imagined. Here is a sneak peek into the timeline of my transition into monkhood and beyond:

  1. Fascinated with a vision for sustainable world peace I am touched by the vision of sustainable world peace through inner peace expressed by Luang Por Dhammajayo. I read about his vision and got to delve deeper into meditation practice and what it entails. I am amazed at what I found within the web details, which contrasts with the suspicious looks people give me when I start talking about meditation and closing my eyes. It is still a new idea here and people prefer concrete money making activities, not meditation where you do nothing.
  2. A new  habit forms I can do this exercise for a few minutes but no more than ten! I get distracted easily and would quickly fall asleep. However, I can get a glimpse of a peaceful moment when I close my eyes and for that very five seconds of nothingness being in my center, a habit forms.
  3. Traveling across Africa, a peace message to share I have always loved traveling and here was my opportunity to travel. I was courageous and daring enough to pack my bags and head to the airport with no idea who my host in Madagascar would look like. I was called to serve and here I am! If traveling gives me pleasure, guiding sessions give me more, I just can’t get enough of it.
  4. Dennis, have you heard of the IDOP program? I cannot remember exactly where it started, but this question I do remember. I am literally in the middle of transforming and finding my balance and wham! Here is a question I do not really understand. Am I grounded..? Not as much, am I firm…? Not as much… well, I am transitioning smoothly. I am evolving, new things are happening. I do not have any idea what the International Dhammadayada Ordination Program is and am burning to find out. Sadly, the asker of the question doesn’t know much either and refers me to my Colombian brother who has had experience with this. I am all ears that night in the fellowship bunkhouse, and somehow, I know that I am ordaining soon!
  5. Here are your robes and bowl  I am not sure how I felt then, but leaving my phone, clothes and practically everything for a pair of robes and a bowl is perhaps the most daring thing I’ve done in my life. I am saying NO to the things that I would usually never say NO to, at a time when I have a beautiful girlfriend at home and a family to take care of. Looking back at it, I am not even sure what got over me, yet, would I do it again? Yes, oh yes! In the emptiness of having no phone, fancy clothes or luxury beddings, but a mat, I have had more time than I ever thought… to think. I think of my phone, my clothes, my beliefs and all of the “complex” things my mind conjures in the moment of “nothing to do.” I am a moving body and I see things and people moving and having fun, possible laughter and fun amidst the rush to meditate or perform community cleanup exercises. I am lost in trying to wrap the robes without losing the essence of the practice.
  6. At the end of the thoughts, enters the silence Through thoughts, you can choose to generate more thoughts, or to follow one thought to absolute stillness. In the beginning, I owned a company of thoughts, creating and refurbishing old thoughts till all I had was a stream of thoughts leaving me tired and worn out, no return on investment at all. In the quiet presence of meditation, no phone, regular clothes or distractions to hold me back, I delve deeper and enter the silence. I am amazed at how silence can be welcoming and comforting at the same time. I am moved by the nature of the stillness, almost purifying, yet emptying at the same time. Thoughts are not my own, they come and go, I remain centered and alive. I am conscious and awake, yet alive in essential equanimity. Yes. Everyone has silence residing within them, in their center, only if they calm their mind and enter, shall they surely know.
  7. What do silence, detachment and inner peace do to one man? Oh, what can silence do to a man striving to achieve his purpose in this world? What can one being do with a renewed sense of direction and purpose? What can possibly change a man to start respecting, loving and appreciating his family and society with a renewed passion? What could this be?

Coming out of IDOP, I felt changed in several ways and dimensions. I get back to my clothes and phone with a new sense of ownership, not clinging to the nature of the phone it is but rather experiencing the touch, the call, the connection and the need to have a phone, not just for calls, but as a means of communicating with a being at the other end of the line. My clothes, they speak less of who I am, but instead serve their purpose of protecting me from cold and heat.

As I go back to a normal life, I am more careful and aware, a renewed focus and direction, because I took time to STOP, ORDAIN and take stock.

What if you had 2 robes, a bowl and mat as your belongings for 2 months?

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