Where to Ordain?

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Pabbajja Ordination in Pa Auk (8th April 2014)

The short answer is: If you are looking for vinaya (places that don’t touch money), and you believe in the commentaries and Abhidhamma and want to meditate, you have two choices, Pa-Auk and Na-Uyana. If you don’t believe in the commentaries and Abhidhamma, you are best off at a Thai Forest Monastery like Ajahn Chah (Mahanikaya) or Ajahn Maha Boowa (Dhammayut) monasteries. There are other places that I might recommend too. I will mention them later.

I often get asked for advice about where to ordain.  I am not an expert but I have lived in Pa-Auk and Na-Uyana for many years. I have also stayed at several of the Thai Forest Tradition monasteries as well. Usually people who approach me are interested in Pa-Auk or Na-Uyana and cannot make up their mind. This article is not short, and probably not for one who has no intention of ordaining or cares about where monks ordain.

Do you Know How to Meditate?

I also often find out that they have never done a meditation retreat after quite a long exchange. Please do a few retreats, preferably Goenka before you think about monkhood.

Do You Like The Abhidhamma and Commentaries

The first thing I always ask is, “Do you like the Abhidhamma and Commentaries?” I ask this first because Westerners and also Asians who are “Westernized” usually do not like the Abhidhamma and Commentaries. This quickly filters things down and my advice is not really for them and we can tidy up the conversation quickly with a few Thai mentions which they can explore from there.

The Thai Forest Tradition, especially among the branches for Westerners, are for people who do not like the Abhidhamma or Commentaries. If the Thai tradition monks are politically correct, they will say they prefer to only study the suttas which is the same thing as saying they don’t believe in the Commentaries and Abhidhamma, but are more polite. You probably don’t read romance novels because you don’t like them.. in fact…you might have never read one…. but you know you won’t like them. The Thai tradition is a little bit like that.

Philosophy Matching

“Philosophy Matching” is important and the general theme of this article. You should find a monastery that matches your philosophy. If you want to learn texts, don’t ordain at a meditation center. If you want to meditate, don’t ordain at a pariyatti (study) monastery. If you want to use money, don’t ordain at a vinaya-following monastery.

So, if you don’t like the Commentaries and Abhidhamma, you would not want to ordain at monasteries where those texts play a central role in the day to day mode of practice. Since most practice systems are based on the Commentaries and Abhidhamma, a monk who does not follow these texts will find it difficult in such monasteries even if they only want to do breath meditation. Why? If one is not going with the flow of the monastery, it just won’t work for them.

The same is true with setting your focus. I spent 4 months at a study monastery and found it easy to learn the Patimokkha (monk’s rules) by memory, relative to many failed attempts at meditation centers.

Vinaya (Monk Rules)

I only recommend places that follow the rules (vinaya-following monasteries).  It is the same as “Philosophy Matching” but more serious. If you are told it is “okay” to break the rules, then it can lead to very bad kamma. Most monasteries (about 98% of them) break the rules on money. Most monks who break the rules on money often break the majority of bhikkhu rules The Buddha created for his monks to follow. Breaking the rules is disrespectful to the Original Teacher, The Buddha. It will bring one demerit rather than the great merit that can be earned as a monk.  Using money is a serious thing because it is unallowable every second you have money or things bought with the money.  Small drops of kamma like this add up quickly like the rain fills the oceans. See this video here.

Theravada exists in many countries but has roots in five major countries:  Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.  Of those five countries, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand have more of a presence in the ordination of foreigners.  Even though Cambodia has over 40 vinaya monasteries which are quite reputable in following the vinaya/commentaries, I have not visited any of these monasteries to this date. I do however, know some of these monks who study in Myanmar and they are very good monks.

The Teacher

The Teacher: If you don’t like the philosophy of the monastery/abbot, you will dislike the teacher and the way things are run in the monastery.  Even if you agree about samādhi but not the other stuff and still want to go, you are making a huge mistake.  You will simply dislike the day to day routines that goes on and the required interaction with the teachers. Don’t look at the facilities, the Western or Eastern presence, or the advantages or the amount of freedom you are given.  Firstly, look and see that you match the abbot or leader of the organization.  It is very important.  After you narrow down your choice based on philosophy, start looking at other qualities.

Read The Connected Books

Books: Read the books of the abbot or legacy abbot. Can you finish the books without getting bored or annoyed? Is it too complex, technical and against what you believe in? These are some big warning signs. On the other hand.. do you really groove with the writings? This can be a clear sign that this place is for you. When I was ready to ordain in Wat Pa Nanachat, I came across “Knowing and Seeing” by Venerable Pa-Auk Sayadawgyi. I was in Myanmar within 2 weeks. When you find your teacher, you will feel a strong urge to go see him as quickly as possible. Follow that urge, especially if you have visited several places and teachers beforehand.

Age As A Factor

Age: Age is a factor too.  Usually, the Thai tradition does well with those who ordain at early ages.  When I say young, I mean under age 26.  There is a “military” feel to the Thai Forest Tradition and because of that, being young helps a great deal in terms of survival and acceptance within that system.  If you go to a Thai Forest Monastery, ask the senior monks when they ordained and figure out the demographics.  Age is no guarantee of success or failure and there are many variants in their monasteries, especially in the West, but understand that there is a military feel to the tradition, especially in the country of Thailand itself.

Myanmar does well with older people.  When I say older, it is common in Myanmar to ordain after your kids have grown up.  It is common for a Myanmar man in his 50’s or 60’s to ordain.  Myanmar also has many monks who ordain as children and continue onwards as adults.  Many of the teachers with Dhammacariya degrees started when they were young.   Myanmar also ordains people in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s as well.  I tend to see people in their 30’s and 40’s ordain in Myanmar but there are a few in their 20’s. Myanmar monasteries are also large. When I say large, I mean industrial size. Pa-Auk Main Branch usually has upwards of 600 monks of 1200 residents during normal times. The Pa-Auk Maymyo branch has 230 monks of 550 residents.

In Sri Lanka there is the Na-Uyana of the “Galduwa” (Cave Dweller’s) tradition.  They have a rule that they don’t ordain anyone over 55.  Usually it is 30’s and 40’s and 50’s. Na-Uyana has about 180 monks and novices including their pariyatti center down the road.

In Myanmar (Burma), you have the choice of Pa-Auk and Pa-Auk. Fortunately, there are quite a few branch monasteries that one can visit. However, only a handful are suitable for foreigners and ordination. A few independent monasteries do exist. Even so, many of these “independent” monasteries have abbots who grew up in Pa-Auk.  Varanasi Monastery is one such place.  Mahavihara is a great quality independent vinaya monastery with 1600 monks.  However, this is not suitable for most foreigners and if meditation is your thing. These are the more traditional study monasteries without individual lodgings for most of the monks.

Unlisted Monasteries

What about the other famous monasteries in Myanmar like Mahasi, Swe Oo Min and Panditarama?  They did not get on my list as places to ordain because although there are some monks who do not use money at some of the places listed, it is not the norm and somewhat rare for Swe Oo Min and Panditarama. There have also been technical problems with Panditarama’s ordination halls, new and old which caused two monks to re-ordain at Pa-Auk and lose their seniority. I have never met a vinaya monk from Mahasi, Mogok or Sitagu Monasteries except for one Sitagu monk from Texas who came to Pa-Auk and disrobed. He knew he had made a mistake. Sitagu Sayadaw as well as most other non Vinaya monks are not afraid to have their pictures taken accepting plates of cash let alone discrete envelopes.


While EBT has become popular in the West, it is far from mainstream Theravada Buddhism. It is a very very small fringe group with mostly junior inexperienced monks compared to the vast majority of monks in Theravāda countries. In fact, EBT is not Theravāda and they don’t claim to be Theravada. I am recommending only Theravada places and therefore such places that bill themselves as EBT are not on the list. Furthermore, EBT goers accuse the elder ancient Theravāda monks of conspired lying and intentionally changing the Buddhist Teachings. EBT is not suitable for monks, let alone someone who is totally new who wishes to ordain. Lastly, it should be noted that the EBT is mostly from Chinese texts. Those texts were most likely previously translated Sanskrit sources from the very same sects that had some very odd and strange views as listed in the kathāvatthu (Controversial Points PTS). If you like EBT, be sure to read that book. It is translated. You should be very weary of accepting such texts as an authority over the Pāḷi Theravāda Texts.

Let’s recap:

  • The EBT group found on Sutta Central is very open that they are not Theravāda.
  • The core Chinese EBT Texts were most likely translated from Sanskrit, to Chinese and then to English and they claim that these texts are more reliable than the original Pāḷi Texts. If something is missing from a translated text with over 3 layers of language translations, they sound the conspiracy alarms.
  • The core Chinese EBT Texts are most likely from the very same heretical groups with odd views on Dharma, as mentioned in the kathāvatthu (Controversial Points, PTS).

The Thai Forest Tradition

Thailand has the Ajahn Chah Tradition and the Dhammayut Tradition which are both rooted in Ajahn Mun.  My most popular post is The Dark Side of Ajahn Mun’s Biography speaks about a controversial point in the book. You might want to read it first.   Just a word of warning:  The Dhammayut tradition allows smoking and chewing betel nut which are highly addictive yet according to their philosophy do not prevent one from removing all traces of desire.  The Ajahn Chah tradition does not allow this practice even though they do not argue that smoking is a hindrance because Ajahn Chah once smoked cigarettes until he decided to quit. 1http://www.fsnewsletter.amaravati.org/html/19/jun2.htm. So if you are against smoking and chewing betel nut as well as the Commentaries and Abhidhamma, you should look no further than the Ajahn Chah monasteries in Thailand and the West.

Wat Pah Nanachat Forest monastery.  The philosophy is based on the writings of Ajahn Chah books.  You need to read these books to understand “The Teachings.”  If you want to ordain there, you should like the Ajahn Chah books and philosophy of doing work as a form of “practice”. You should also read books from the abbots of these monasteries if they have written any books.   In Thailand, you will be brought back 100 years by doing things the “old fashioned” way.  Meals are usually one time per day with daily chores lasting about 1.5 hours…unless there is a full work day.  Often once or twice per week a full or half work day can be expected.  There are also meetings and daily tea-time.  There is almost no formal guidance in meditation.  You will need to go elsewhere for that. The Western branches offer a light breakfast and have a similar schedule.

Wat Ban Tad (Dhammayut) is the Ajahn Maha Boowa monastery.   It is old fashioned like above, but maybe has less chores and work days.   There are lots of chickens, smoking and chewing betel nut there.  Some foreigners have ordained there.  This is probably the most famous Dhammayut Monastery in Thailand. Ajahn Thanissaro has a branch in California and is from this monastery. The Dhammayut monasteries are quite exclusive to their own ordained monks. If you ordain there, you are likely to be welcomed at Wat Metta, California. There is also another branch monastery in Virginia but I have not heard of residents lasting long at this latter branch.

Forest Sangha (Ajahn Chah) are a network of monasteries in the West.  There are several in England and the USA alone, not to mention several other European countries.  See forestsangha.org .  If you want more of your own culture, slightly more modern, and don’t want to be forced to learn Thai, then these monasteries may be more your thing.  Be sure to be inline with the Ajahn Chah books as well as the writings of the current abbot or residents before choosing these as well.

Wat Metta (Dhammayut) Ajahn Thanissaro, is a great scholar monk and he also teaches meditation.  His method is similar to Goenka.  Make sure you meet the abbot and talk one on one with him often so you can get to understand his personality, and philosophy.  This Ajahn is very accessible and you will get a lot of attention from him if you ordain with him. He has written the Buddhist Monastic Code 1 and 2 which are great books minus its bias in the Thai Tradition.  I did not see anyone smoking at his monastery and I asked about it 20+ years ago. He did not think there was a problem with smoking and betel as far as enlightenment was concerned and I think he allows it if a monk “needs” it. It is considered a medicine in the Thai Tradition and justified with some “controversial” Pali quotes. You will have plenty of time to meditate at this center.   Some learned monks find his views on Dhamma controversial.

Wat Bodhinyana: Ajahn Brahm, is a monastery in Perth, Australia. He seems to still have a waiting list to get into his monastery yet many monks I know became disenchanted after they actually visited and lived there. They expected personal time with Ajahn Brahm and rarely got it. However, there is plenty of time to meditate and chores are only 3 days per week which is very little for a Thai Ajahn Chah rooted monastery. However, Ajahn Brahm and his monks and monasteries are no longer part of the Forest Sangha franchise. They were kicked out and asked to vacate Bodhinyana in 2009 for the round of Bhikkhuni ordinations he did. Ajahn Brahm and his monks are still at Bodhinyana today against those initial requests by the current Ajahn Chah Sangha leaders. There are also some problems if you ordain there and want to visit other Thai Monasteries. Last I heard, you are welcome to visit, but cannot participate as a communal monk in the vinaya ceremonies. https://bswa.org/location/bodhinyana-monastery/

Other options in Thailand:

There is a Pa-Auk branch in Thailand called Angthong Meditation Center. There might be another one as well.  These may have a full time teacher and you can see the website at https://www.paauktawyathailand.org/en/

There are 12 monasteries in Thailand which follow the vinaya very closely to the Commentaries and Abhidhamma.  The main center is Wat Khao Sanamchai in Hua Hin which is a learning center. Google knows about the place but there is no website.  There is virtually no English support, but maybe one of their monasteries would ordain foreigners. Their monks often come to Pa-Auk in Myanmar for meditation and there is a 4 postures meditation center down the hill from them. Phone: +66 32 536 604

Wat Prathat Nong Sam Muen is another one of these 12 monasteries situated in a rural area with a quiet village to go for alms. There are about 50 monks. The Thai tradition is ignored when it does not agree with the Pāḷi texts and commentaries. For instance, one can keep his eyebrows and other strange things like chocolate and bottled juice as a 7 day medicines are not allowed as you would expect. I have been there and it is a great place. However, it is also a study monastery.

อ.ภูเขียว, ชัยภูมิ

อ.ภูเขียว, ชัยภูมิ
Wat Prathat Nong Sam Muen
+50 studying monks/novices during vassa
“strict” monastic code
Unknown English status
Monastery has vehicles, pickup from bus station possible – need to
arrange thru abbot


Politics of Myanmar

The country has gone through some politics lately. This is nothing new for Myanmar. I lived in Myanmar in 2001, when they were still on the embargo list shared with Iran and North Korea to name a few. The country is much more developed from those times and still has not been placed on that same embargo list as they were during 2001. (The restrictions are cherry picked for companies or individuals who own certain companies). If you are willing to stay out of politics, it should not affect your practice. You will be asked to sign a statement that says you will not get involved with politics. Pa-Auk is often found near military bases. The monks often go to the Military hospitals for free treatment, especially at Pa-Auk, Pyin Oo Lwin. If you feel you have an ethical problem with staying in Myanmar, you might want to find another Pa-Auk Branch monastery in a different country or consider the non-affiliated Na-Uyana monastery in Sri Lanka which teaches that same method.

Pa-Auk Philosophy

You should read both Knowing and Seeing and The Workings of Kamma before deciding on Pa-Auk or even Na-Uyana.   Unlike most other monasteries.  Pa-Auk has a personal requisite system.  You will need a sponsor to make an “account” for you to cover your medical needs which go beyond the abilities of the local clinic.  Likewise, all other personal expenses and items not provided by the sangha store room and “donations from lay people”  Basically, anything other than robes, soap, detergent, thread and needles will need to be provided by an “account”.   The office worker helps obtain such needed items and the money is deducted.  Your visa will also need to be purchased by this account.  Most or all other monasteries listed here discourage such practices and cover visa fees. Nevertheless, requisite accounts are very legal in the Buddhist world and mentioned in the root texts and commentaries.  Recently, visa fees are usually waived after one year of continuous stay.

Pa-Auk Main Branch Mawlamyine: I no longer strongly recommend this place for ordination because it is so big. However, there is a lot of space to meditate and it is a good landing point for many while they decide or wait to get accepted to other Pa-Auk Branches. Because it is so huge (1200 yogis), it is easy to get permission to come. There is a full medical clinic several times a week, as well as a dental clinic several times a week. Both are for basic general needs usually based on symptoms rather than checkups. The food recently changed to self serve buffet to cut down on waste. The monastery is well organized. https://www.paaukforestmonastery.org/

Pa-Auk Pyin Oo Lwin:  This is one of the newest of the Pa-Auk monasteries which is designed for foreigners from the ground up. Venerable Pa-Auk Sayadawgyi lives and teaches at this monastery.  It is getting quite large now as well, with 250 monks and a total of 550 residents, which makes it almost equally as big as the main center in its earlier days.  The climate is cool, rainy season is light and the food is very acceptable to foreigners. The food is by buffet so you can choose what is suitable for your needs.  There are vinaya classes weekly and a dhamma class weekly by the Abhivamsa Meditation Teacher, Sayadaw U Kumarabhivamsa.  The meditation schedule is rigorous and attendance is taken in the meditation hall and at interviews.  A pathway to ordination can be much quicker than the Thai Tradition, but they still like to watch you for a few months.   Medical facilities are on the premises. There is a huge waiting list, and email responses are often lacking. https://paauksociety.org/

Pa-Auk Dawei:  Probably my recommended place for new monks who want to ordain in Myanmar but cannot get into Maymyo although I have never been there. One of my friends has ordained there and he is very happy.  The abbot, Sayadaw U Kundadhana was Venerable Pa-auk Sayadawgyi’s right-hand man for fifteen plus years.  He will teach you how to be a monk and give you proper individual monastic training. That is why I recommend this place. It is however, less foreigner friendly than the other places. However, the Sayadaw will make you feel comfortable and is very fluent in English.  I have learned much from this Sayadaw when we were both at Mawlamyine. He is not a meditation teacher but very kind, happy and knowledgeable.  Meditation instruction is from the resident meditation teacher and might be translated. You would need to contact the main branch about information.

Pa-Auk Mudon:  Nice place to visit after ordaining elsewhere.  The abbot has lots of metta (loving-kindness) and loves having foreigners visit as well as anyone.  The monastery is situated on top of a steep mountain and has breathtaking views. The monastery has a nice breeze during hot season. I’m not going to recommend it for ordination due to lack of language.  They use mostly Mon Language including a special version of Pali called Mon Pali.

Sayadaw U Revata Pa-Auk He-Ho. Sayadaw U Revata’s place is full and getting in is difficult. He speaks English well and has been an official teacher since his third vassa and maybe before that. He is also fluent in Thai and oversees the Thai monks and teachers. He has authored several English books and has a good following. Internet is prohibited at his monastery. His assistant Bhante U Manijota speaks English and is devoted to helping. The contact numbers are +95 9-795843239 and +95 9-764538589.

Sri Lanka

Na-Uyana Forest Monastery, Sri Lanka:  Na-Uyana is a fine monastery with over 5,000 acres.  There are 4 or 5 monasteries combined into this monastery with different “feels” to each of them.  There is also a learning center 20 minutes down the road.  If you want something in between The Thai Forest Tradition and Pa-Auk this might be a good place to choose. The Sri Lankan language is much easier to pick up than the Myanmar language. The culture is quite different from Myanmar and it is less tolerant than Myanmar but more tolerant than Thailand. The food is quite spicy and high in black pepper content but there is special foreigner food available. The monastery has about 180 monks and novices total, but living areas are much more spread out than Pa-Auk. Kutis and the way of living is a little more austere than Pa-Auk but suitable for monks. https://nauyana.org/

International Theravada Institute:  This monastery is no longer taking candidates to ordain. In 2022 there were 8 candidates but only one made it through and he was local too. I personally live at this monastery now. The monastery is part of the same tradition as Na-Uyana and the government supported the initial construction.  They have already commenced a 6 year program starting December 2022. Enrollment is closed, but you can go to https://theravado.com  You can see some of the lectures here. This is a place I recommend if you are into or open to the Commentaries and Abhidhamma but not totally faithful to them. Venerable Devananda wishes anyone to come regardless of their ideas about the Abhidhamma or Commentaries. Venerable Devananda is kind and will give proper instruction and has a gentle way to successfully persuade people to learn and do the right thing. This will be primarily a study and training monastery. Weekends are off and there is a month off every 5 months where one can meditate. The program is called Nissaya muttaka (freedom from dependency on a teacher). However, those specific requirements are secondary to the whole institutional educational process which seems to be the main objective. Nevertheless, the requirements will mostly be fulfilled at the completion of a six year program, but it will take six years. Actual requirements can be probably be fulfilled in 2 years if studying the same amount of time and effort as IIT.

The program is based on the traditional requirements that all monks should know within their first five years which are rarely required anymore. They want to bring this training back to life. The abbots are very kind and highly intelligent. They might be some of the most well learned monks in Sri Lanka actually. I might go there some time later on to complete some studies and training. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFhy_YsPcufmBl4AqkvaUXA/featured

Renagiri Lena Forest Monastery (Diddeniya): This ancient cave monastery which is 30 minutes away from Na-Uyana is primarily a learning monastery with not much support for foreigners. Most foreigners who lived there were Sinhalese immigrants living abroad. However, they say they are equipped to ordain foreigners. A good solid foundation will be found at this monastery with good vinaya. This monastery is always full and usually two or more sleep together in a cave kuti or many in a crowded 2 story dorm room. If you are new and young in monk years, the dorm will be a likely place to stay. One should be warned that there are work days, maybe several per week. There are also frequent house chanting trips for the monks. Language will be a problem and you will not be able to participate in the main classes until you know Sinhalese. If you are okay with that, this place might be okay for you. I heard of one American arranging to stay there, but he was asked to donate large ticket items just before he was set to come. The charm was lost and this monastery was aborted. He found another place to accept him. The chief retired abbot (who was not involved with this above “big-ticket-asking” problem) is Venerable GnanaSila and speaks very clear English. +94 71 080 8623 (in Sri Lanka) 071 080 8623

Just in case I did not say this, all of the above places in Myanmar and Sri Lanka are based on the Abhidhamma and Commentary.  Na-Uyana places an emphasis on the Pa-Auk system, but you are allowed to practice other methods as well under guidance.  However, Na-Uyana does not allow monks to go out for Goenka retreats during the first 5 years. You will also be with monks who are gung-ho for the Commentaries and Abhidhamma so don’t think it won’t matter because it will. The Dhamma lectures will be in that direction and you should attend such lectures.

Nisaranavanna, Sri Lanka:  This is a monastery also known as Mithrigala that practices and teaches the Mahasi method with proper vinaya. It might be the only monastery that practices both Mahasi and proper vinaya that has English capabilities.  I have not heard of any foreigner ordaining there who stays there long since 15 or 20 years ago but they are capable to do so.  There was once a temporary “separation” from the Galduwa franchise, but now they are technically back together… well… sort of … I’m not sure if it is suitable for foreigners since I know very little of the place, yet have heard a lot about monks not fitting in well. http://www.nissarana.lk/


Malaysia is extremely difficult to get long term visas. Please don’t ordain until you have a renewable residential visa sponsored by the actual place that you are living at. If you are told it is no problem to have a sponsorship from one physical location while living full time at another, ask the immigration officials if it is no problem. There is a very valid reason why the monastery you physically live at won’t be able to sponsor you. You can stay up to 3 months on a tourist visa if you come from a Western country. However, do not expect to be able to do visa runs every 3 months. They will catch you and reject you if you are not a tourist and entering for non-tourist reasons. I know two monks who were rejected. One of those monks disrobed because of visa problems. If you are rejected, you will have a black mark on your travel history for life because other long term visa application forms from other countries might inquire if you were ever refused entry from any country.

Malaysian monasteries that make the list are Tusita and Pa-Auk monasteries in Malaysia as well as Nandaka. Both are loosely affiliated with Pa-Auk, but separate. You can look them up. Feel free to inform me about adding any other Malaysian vinaya Theravāda Monasteries of other affiliations.


Cambodia is one of the most Theravāda Buddhist Countries in the world with 97% Buddhist population. However, the quality of Buddhism might vary from different places. There is a large Cambodia vinaya tradition that follows the Abhidhamma and proper Buddhism. Pa-Auk Vipassana Dura monastery might be the proper place to start. It is well supported and can probably accommodate foreigners better than any other place. There are many meditation kutis available and the method is Pa-Auk. The training will have some work and chores to do. “More than Pa-Auk Myanmar, but less than Thailand. Somewhere in between Myanmar and Thailand”. There has never been a foreigner to ordain at their place and visas are very important to secure before ordaining. Because there are no religious visas, a Business visa will need to be secured.
The contact is Bhante Kassapa who is on Whatsapp and Telegram on this number: +85516442744

Pa-Auk or Na-Uyana?

I often get asked this question. Which is better, Pa-Auk or Na-Uyana? The answer is that Pa-Auk and Na-uyana are both great monasteries and both have a focus on meditation of the Pa-Auk method. However, Pa-auk is set up more like a meditation center and you will need to take care of your own needs that the inhouse clinic cannot provide for you, even after you ordain. After the first visa, they might be able to arrange a free visa, but if that cannot be done, it is your responsibility. Na-Uyana will cover all costs for you after you ordain including visa fees. However, you have to do things the Sri Lankan way. Medical will be by the Sri Lankan free medical system or by inviting clinics in most cases. Na-Uyana has more of a monastery feel to it and a variety of options for practice or study. However, it is less group intensive for the pure pa-auk meditation. There will also be more bowing down, and lots of chanting involved in Na-Uyana. Some do not like to do this, but it is essential for building a good monastic base. Na-Uyana will also take much longer to become a bhikkhu. It can take well over a year. Pa-Auk can happen quite quickly, but they are now usually waiting more than 3-6 months in most but not all cases. It also depends on when you come, your history, and behavior and when rainy season is. Pa-Auk and Na-Uyana are not the same places. Na-Uyana teaches the Pa-Auk method, but it is not affiliated with Pa-Auk in any official way. In the past, the Na-Uyana monks who have completed the course or showed signs of success in meditation (even foreigners) have been sent to Pa-Auk to practice. I have seen this happen every few years before COVID times.


I hope this information helps you. Although I mention about philosophy matching for selecting a monastery to ordain at, it does not mean you can’t visit and intermingle with other monks after the initial five year training is completed. I have visited other Thai Forest Sangha Monasteries after such periods and I have made good contacts and insights because of those visits. In fact, I asked a monk from the Thai Forest tradition to take a look at this initial draft to make sure it was accurate. I met this Ajahn in 2013 during a visit.

Wishing to ordain with long term intentions is a noble endeavor. I wish you all the best and hope you find a good match which will lead to happiness and Nibbana.

13 thoughts on “Where to Ordain?”

  1. Bhante, thank you for this very helpful post.

    Would you have any specific advice for women wishing to enter into Theravādan monastic life?

    Also, I know in many Asian countries it’s not unusual for people to ordain in their older years, but for a Westerner, do you think there’s an age where one is “too old” to ordain?

  2. It depends on what your philosophy is. That should be the main thing of interest. If you like the commentaries and Abhidhamma, then Pa-Auk will be a good place to go at any age. However, there might be restrictions in the Thai tradition. I think there is an age 50 limit with them.

    1. Great resource, thanks! Can you refer to a similarly comprehensive guide for those on the other side of the Abhidhamma issue outside of Thailand. Meditation monasteries that don’t stress study but hold to vinaya outside of Thai Forest? 🙏

      1. I’m sorry to tell you that it is pretty much black and white or night and day. Those who care about the commentary vinaya usually follow the commentary and abhidhamma system. It is rarely decoupled. Like I said before the 12 mostly pariyatti monasteries and the 1 or 2 paauk branches in Thailand are pretty much all you will find outside in the vinaya traditions for Thailand. The reason is that vinaya following places are rare to begin with.

  3. Apologies if this posts multiple times, my browser keeps crashing.
    I think this post is currently the best map to the most important question in my life. I know ordaining is just a matter of time for me at this point.
    I have a strong, regular practice, lots of Goenka retreat experience including a long term stay, and financial means of getting wherever I need (I’m a software engineer). I turn 37 next month but outside Thailand that doesn’t seem a problem.
    I do have some concerns holding me back, none of which aee insurmountable. Who could I talk to about them?

  4. Pingback: International Institute of Theravada - American Buddhist Monk: Bhante Subhūti

  5. Thomas Gabriel Schreyer

    Dear Bhante,
    I just wanted to express my gratitude for this comprehensive list of places to ordain. It’s incredibly useful. Thank you. May you be well and happy🙏🏾

  6. I am 45 and from California. Thank you for this amazing guide! I am in contact with a monk from the Thai Forest Tradition who is recommending I ordain at Sasanarakka in Taiping Malaysia. Do you know anything about that center or have any advice regarding it? I am also strongly considering applying to the Metta Forest Monastery in San Diego, California. I like to meditate a minimum of 4 hours per day. I also enjoy some intellectual study but it is not my main focus. Neither are the commentaries. Thank you!

    1. Surely you expressed EBT and that is why sbs was recommended. Good for them to recommend to fit your character. I have little to say since I don’t support EBT. Ven Ariyadhammika is a good monk. However , visas are problematic for Malaysia. I wrote about that so be careful.

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