Becoming an ascetic is a great decision of life which takes a lot of courage and determination. Though the path that Shakyamuni Buddha guided us fills with challenges, it is the noblest path worth embarking on.
Humans always desire and pursue happiness for their whole life. Normally, it is the journey of seeking fame, wealth, status, love and numerous wishes. Going against that current, Buddhist disciples who adopt monastic life choose the unique pathway to true happiness.
Becoming an ascetic: a turning point in the life of Prince Siddhartha
More than 2500 years ago in ancient India, Prince Siddhartha left home for a great ideal of saving sentient beings. Despite dwelling in all the prosperity and luxury of royal life, the Prince could not help thinking about the suffering of human life.
According to Buddhist scriptures, one day, Prince Siddhartha went out of the palace through four gates, then He witnessed for sights of life that came as a complete shock for Him. The moments when He respectively saw an old man, a man of disease in pain and especially, a corpse, the Prince was enlightened about the suffering of life. Finally, He found the fourth sight of a calm ascetic whom He adored so much. These four sights motivated Him to leave behind everything and become an ascetic to find out the path of liberation.
That Prince Siddhartha left the palace and renounced the throne, a beautiful wife and His newborn child to search for the ultimate truth was such a great renunciation. His departure from the palace helped the Prince find out the cause of suffering and the path to save all sentient beings from suffering. That renunciation was a superiority of merit and virtue, which was beyond secular knowledge. Thanks to the renunciation of the Prince, today we have the light of the Buddha Dharma. Without that great renunciation, there would be no Dharma for us to practise.
Becoming an ascetic—setting forth on the path to liberation
In the Dharma talk “Virtue of becoming a monk” at the anniversary of the day Prince Siddhartha leaving home (the eighth day of the second lunar month), Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh—the Abbot of Ba Vang Pagoda said: “On adopting a true ascetic life, we involve ourselves in the stream of liberation. That is when we transform our karma.”
The great renunciation of Prince Siddhartha is an inspiration for all lay Buddhists who have actualised bodhicitta and established a will to become monks. By practising and spreading the Dharma, Buddhists monks benefit not only themselves but also other sentient beings. Besides, the image of a monk encourages lay Buddhists to initiate the will to become ordained and wish for enlightenment. Becoming an ascetic marks an important milestone in one’s life on the path to liberation. From this milestone, he has the opportunity to enter the path of Saints by earnest cultivation and strict observance of the Buddha’s teachings. That is also the desire of Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh. Thay always encourages His ordained disciples to be bound and determined on the way they have chosen. Furthermore, Thay always hopes that His lay disciples will become ordained whenever they have adequate good conditions.
One who vows to become an ascetic deserves praise and respect. And one who can accomplish his vow to wear the orange robe and truly practise the Buddha’s teachings is a treasure of the world.