When a young man enters the monastery he is ordained. Before he enters the monastery the young man must be free from debt and other kinds of social obligation. He has to visit the monastery a number of times beforehand to be accepted as a potential monk.

In Theravada countries, the day before the ordination, the man walks to the monastery wearing the white robes of a layman to show his good intentions. During the ceremony he has his head shaved to show rejection of the previous life.

Features of the day of ordination

  • The young man walks around the monastery four times wearing elaborate clothing and carrying a candle, flowers and incense. By dressing in elaborate clothing, Buddhists are reminded that the Buddha himself was born as a Prince.
  • He removes the clothing and throws coins onto the ground to show he is leaving wealth and possessions behind, just as the Buddha himself did.
  • The young man goes into the monastery and asks the abbot to ordain him.
  • He puts on yellow robes.
  • The abbot asks a series of questions about his intentions and his willingness to live by the rules and standards of Buddhism. The new monk answers these questions in Pali.
  • The monk is now accepted into the monastery.

Entering a monastery helps a young man to follow the example of the Buddha and focus on the spiritual part of life. He casts off luxuries and focuses on the things that really matter in life.

How ordination might affect the life of the individual

After ordination, the monk has to live a simple life according to the Five Precepts and other rules that only monks have to follow.

He has to respect life, not steal, not lie, not have sexual relationships and not use alcohol or drugs. Many young men stay as monks for several years, becoming more mature in their attitude to life.

They then leave the monastery to get married and have a family. Many Buddhists value the monastic tradition as it shapes their character and stops them becoming too easily distracted by the passing things of life.

Some Buddhists will stay in the monastery for life in the hope that their dedication will result in them reaching Nirvana.