New Winds

How the turn tables

So my latest bout of “how can I get ordination” led to some interesting changes. Previously I was believing that ordination was impossible based on direct refusals from a handful of monasteries and the lack of any news coverage about trans people receiving full ordination. I started to contemplate ordination as an 8-precept monastic, made a thread on Sutta Central about it and had some conversations with monastics. Learned a few important things:

  • I’m unlikely to get a good response by cold calling places
  • I was asking the wrong monasteries
  • There is at least one nonbinary monastic, potentially two (second was awaiting full vows last I heard but may have taken them since then)

I think this information was already around, especially about one of the nb monastics existing as well as the possibility of finding a place to settle in. I’d say it was a combination of my aversion to looking after having taken multiple rejections to the face. In a way it was easier to say “well, it’s impossible” than risk more pain by looking. I wanted the easy “yes, of course” rather than the longer process of building a relationship. I was told something that helped get a better perspective, that for supplicants ordination is this special status and lifestyle but to the monastery community, it’s a relationship. You don’t want to enter into a disastrous relationship and asking early for ordination becomes a red flag, like proposing marriage on a second date.

With this in mind I gathered a list of four or five places to visit that have more experience with trans people and that I’m more likely to feel good about entering into communion with. Aloka Vihara, Dhammadharini Vihara, Karuna Vihara and Empty Cloud. I was also recommended to look at Bhavana, although tentatively. It’s going to take a while for this virus to recede enough that I can actually take visits at these places. Still, now the travel plan is more concrete. I also know with this I’ll have to tolerate more anxiety about entering new spaces. Yet this brings up the real possibility of ordination and along with it, old fears that got put aside when the “nope” factor overrode them.

  1. Can I actually do the lifestyle?
  2. Can I give up these things of the world?
  3. What if I’m uncomfortable?
  4. What if I regret my decision?
  5. What if I don’t find True Dhamma?

In the interest of coping ahead I think I should actually answer these questions. My concern with the first is often connected to physical pain, can I tolerate the manual labor that’s usually present? If my experience building the van is anything to go by, when I care about what I’m doing I will put in the long hours. Even if I don’t care I can do enough with compression tights and good shoes to tolerate it, as my experience in Starbucks showed me. From looking at the work schedules on some monasteries the actual work hours are not the grueling eight hour days of a capitalist wage slave so I think I’d honestly be fine. Especially if while traveling I spend time building functional strength at the gym.

In respect to the second, I mean I know the answer is yes. There’s an adjustment period when you give anything up, I’ve given up enough things to know that. I think the big adjustment, at least while alone, is the influx of free time. I’m currently dealing with that but I haven’t yet felt crushed with a sense of boredom. I do think being in community and having more structure in terms of whatever I’m expected or told to do will alleviate that a lot. I’ve already given up a lot from where I started and I think doing so gradually while alone has done a lot for me.

When it comes to discomfort, I’m going to be uncomfortable. I remember when I started working at Starbucks the amount of physical shaking with anxiety I had, yet over time that gave way to confidence in what I was doing, satisfaction when I did the job well. Similarly with being a counselor, I had so much anxiety about if I was doing my job correctly, if I was making mistakes, yet at the end of that year I felt a sense of ownership and calm in my position. I think visiting will have that same experience of high anxiety to start, yet over time leading to calm. Even my experience in Japan has been like that, anxiety to start that gives way to calm.

Looking at regret seems harder. Although I don’t have very much doubt these days, occasionally I’ll wonder if I’ll somehow change my whole mind about everything at some point. Worst case I know I can disrobe. Even if that’s far enough down the line that my parents have died and I could stay with one of the many other family members while reintegrating into lay life.

In respect to finding true teaching, I think having narrowed things down to the appropriate groups I won’t have any egregious trouble. I just read a study guide on recognizing true dhamma so I can skim through that if I’m concerned. Given that I have multiple places on my list I’m not too concerned on this point.

Given all this, I know that this process, quest even, will take a lot of effort and perseverance on my part. Yet, I know I can do it if I set my mind to it. Ordination and community is an attainable goal.