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Great Western Vehicle Ordination Program

By the contemplative recluse monk Sotapanna Jhanananda (Jeffrey S, Brooks)

(copyright 2005 all rights reserved)

Hello, and thank-you for your interest in an ordination program in the Great Western Vehicle (GWV).  While the ordination program is still being developed I can say that it is very important to us that we make no distinction of hierarchy between lay ordination and monastic ordination. I believe the key to our success as a vehicle of Buddhism is in establishing attainment once again as the highest level of authentication within this vehicle of Buddhism, as it should be in any spiritual tradition.

Attainment of the fruits, or fruition attainment, is defined by a number of suttas in the Discourses of the Buddha.  It is perhaps best defined in the Fruits of the Homeless Life (Samannaphala Sutta DN 2).  There one will find these fruits described: absorption (jhana); a pleasant abiding in the here & now (di.t.thadhammasukhavihaaraa); knowledge & vision (lokuttara balani); the Out-of-Body (OOB) experience or (manomaya) or what is often called the "mind-made body"; clairaudience or the divine ear (dibba-sota); knowledge of other minds; knowledge of previous lives; and the divine eye, (dibba-cakkhu).

You might be happy to note that the Great Western Vehicle is primarily interested in Western people, who are native speakers of the languages of the West, becoming ordained teachers of the Western Dharma.  However, we are certainly open to ordaining all peoples from all walks of life and cultures and religions, who are interested in serving as teachers of the dharma.  So, there is no reason why anyone, who can fulfill the requirements, could not become a fully ordained teacher within the Great Western Vehicle. 

I believe the requirements for ordination in the GWV should be rather simple however rigorous.  The important thing is to generate a community of skilled contemplatives who are also skilled teachers of the dharma. 

To be a skilled contemplative, who is also a skilled teacher of the dharma one should need only have made a life-long commitment to following the Noble Eight Fold Path, and have successfully done so for a reasonable period of time to ensure they have embraced the discipline thoroughly.  We have decided a 5-year commitment to following the Noble Eight Fold Path should be sufficient to fulfill the requirements of ordination.

The definition of following the Noble Eightfold Path:

Note: The Pali term 'samma' is often translated as "right, correct, true or ennobling" but it implies that which uplifts or directs one toward enlightenment.

    Maha-satipatthana sutta (DN 22)

  1. Right view or understanding (samma-ditthi) is defined in terms of a regular daily practice of study of the literature of any and all contemplative traditions and religions.  It is however specifically defined in terms of studying the Discourses of the Buddha.  All of the ordained teachers of the Great Western Vehicle must have read the Discourses of the Buddha, and be able to demonstrate proficiency in the original words of the historic Buddha, Sidharta Gotama.  This means every ordained teacher in the Great Western Vehicle must have read the Discourses of the Buddha and be able to articulate both in writing and in speech the central principles of Buddhism.  They need not have to memorize any passages.  We are interested in people who understand the central concepts of Buddhism, not just memorize them.
  2. Right thought (samma-sankappa) is defined as cultivating the wholesome states and avoiding the unwholesome mental states, so that one avoids harmful thoughts and cultivates beneficial thoughts to self and other.
  3. Right speech (samma-vaca) is defined in terms of avoiding harmful speech and cultivating wholesome speech toward self and other.
  4. Right action (samma-kammanta) is defined in terms of avoiding harmful acts and cultivating wholesome acts toward self and other.
  5. Right livelihood (samma-ajiva) is defined in terms of finding a livelihood that is not harmful to self and other, and is a subsistence strategy that allows the contemplative sufficient time to engage in the contemplative and other practices of the Noble Eightfold Path.
  6. Right effort (samma-vayam) is defined in terms of being actively engaged in the daily practices and study of a daily contemplative life.
  7. Right concentration or mindfulness (samma-sati) is defined in the three suttas on mindfulness (sati): the Anapanasati Sutta (MN 118); the Satipatthana Sutta (MN 10); and the Maha-satipatthana Sutta (DN 22).  Each ordained teacher in the Great Western Vehicle will have thorough knowledge of the contemplative practices that were taught by Sidharta Gotama, the historic Buddha.
  8. Right meditation or absorption (samma-samadhi) is defined in the Maha-satipatthana Sutta (DN 22).
    Maha-satipatthana sutta (DN 22
"And what is right {meditation (sama-samadhi)}? There is the case where an aspirant -- quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful (mental) qualities -- enters & remains in the first (absorption) jhana"... (through fourth jhana).

For ordination one must be under the guidance of an ordained teacher of the Great Western Vehicle, maintain a daily meditation practice, as well as follow the Noble Eightfold Path and 5 precepts, for 5 years and be committed to maintaining that practice regimen for life.  One must also have read the Discourses of the Buddha, and be able to demonstrate a working knowledge of the central concepts of Buddhism.  One must also have completed a summer meditation retreat that was guided by an ordained teacher in the Great Western Vehicle.  One must also sit annual meditation retreats, and be committed to sitting annual meditation retreats for life.  And finally, for ordination, one must be examined by the body of examiners of the Great Western Vehicle.

If you are interested in ordination in the Great Western Vehicle, then please join the Dhamma_Teacher, a site for a peer-level Dharma Teacher's training program     

May you become enlightened in this very lifetime,

Sotapanna Jhanananda (Jeffrey S. Brooks)

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