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Why did you become a monk?

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Probably the #1 question we get is, “Why did you become a monk?” That question has many factors and answers. However, a better question is, “How did I actually get the nerve to become a monk?”  I had a lot to give up.  I was a computer programmer and really enjoyed my job.  It did not feel like work actually and I was also making more than 15 times what someone on minimum wage was making at that time.  I had gone through the “Should I stay or should I go?” routine many many times but never really committed myself to monkhood. 

Below is an excerpt from Going For Broke which explains the second of three tipping points for me.  The first tipping point was to leave my job because of an animal rights issue came to light with the blood analyzer I was working on.  The last tipping point was when I came to terms with the “deal” I made below, and knew in my heart that it was the right decision.

The third tipping point happened at Sai Babba’s Ashram.  It is also from the book Going For Broke1.

…It was an experience to go see Sai Baba, and during this experience I finally made up my mind about when I would end up in Thailand.

I am a Libra. As you may know, Libras have a very hard time making decisions. In the past I used a little trick to help make decisions, flipping a coin and calling heads or tails. Although it sounds like the familiar trick, I do it a little differently. I flip the coin and if I do not like the results, then I choose the opposite, the one I liked. This method lets me get in touch with my heart and what I feel I really want to do. Recently, I had made a similar test for whether to go straight to Thailand. Rather than flipping a coin, I used my “flippies” (flip-flop thong sandals). It was appropriate because I was using my shoes to decide which path I would take!

On my first day at the Sai Baba ashram, a Westerner told me to get a different (cheaper) pair of shoes before my Tevas got stolen outside the temple. Not everyone who comes to the ashram follows the Universal Rule (love and respect others). Luckily, I heeded his advice, for within 24 hours my 50-cent “flippies” were stolen during breakfast. One of my friendly roommates jokingly told me that someone outside the ashram was probably wearing my shoes. I responded that I really pitied the person who has to walk a mile in my shoes!

After a few days of putting my shoes is places that would be less likely to be stolen,  I challenged myself that I would go straight to Thailand the next time my shoes got stolen. I became fearless concerning my shoes. I started to leave them neatly together near the entrance of everywhere I went. Eventually I was putting them right in front of the exit and facing the right direction so that one only needed to slip his feet into them and walk away.  “Go ahead and take ‘em,” I would say to myself. When I would come back and find them still there, I sensed some disappointment. Later, I realized becoming a monk was now in my heart.  I could make a decision finally under my own power.  With this in mind, I made up my mind to rush through India and Nepal and then fly directly to Thailand before my 30th birthday. For the first time in 11 Months (has it been that long?) I have an itinerary! I’m now a tourist rather than a traveler. I recently gave my compass as a gift to my camel driver. I no longer needed my compass at this stage since I finally had a clear direction in my life.

And so that is what happened.  I ended up in the monastery on October 5th, only one day before my 30th birthday.

  1. This quote has been slightly modified to give more detail