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  "Why Be a Monk?"
(In Our Practice, Fall 2002)

By Cheri Huber

Through the years I've heard from monks that their family and friends ask them questions such as, "Why do they (the Monastery) make you do the things they make you do?" quickly followed by, "Why do you let them?"

Most folks new to monastic training adopt a we/them stance. "We" are the helpless victims of "them," those evil meanies who run this supposedly spiritual organization actually created to inflict pain and suffering on the hapless seekers of enlightenment who, taking a wrong turn on "the path," innocently wander through the gate.

We come to monastic practice when, despite what feels like our best efforts, life has not been working as we would like. We try to do the things that will make us feel better, try to live successful lives, and we keep ending up in suffering places. In frustration, despair, and defeat we seek a new direction. For a time we feel relief. "Whew. I can lay it all down. I'm going to have some help, some support, another set of hands, and perhaps a clearer mind to assist me in accomplishing what I haven't been able to accomplish." Soon the relief is replaced by a growing resentment. "Hey. I don't need you to tell me what to do. I'm an adult. I can make my own decisions. I'm at least as smart and capable as you are. I'm not going to take orders from you!"

In our newfound (or newly revisited) assertion of self we forget that, in fact, we sought assistance precisely because how we were doing life wasn't working. "Okay," we concede, "perhaps I didn't have all the answers about everything, but I do know what to do about THIS!"

The work begins in earnest as we slowly see what is meant by "it's not what, it's how." "I'm not being told I'm inherently flawed, inadequate, terminally incapable-quite the opposite. I'm gently being guided to see that while my heart, my essential nature is intrinsically pure, brilliant, and clear, my egocentric, karmic conditioning is clueless, and that I have unfortunately lived most of my life believing I am it."


Copyright 2003-2011 Cheri Huber