In the Footsteps of the Buddha - A Bangladesh Bhikkhu's Journey into Monkhood
by Venerable Dhananjoy
International Buddhist College
Venerable Dhananjoy, a bhikkhu from Bangladesh, welcomes your feedback. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
It is difficult for me to explain why I chose to be a monk. I didn't wish to be a monk at first, and I didn't know what a 'monk' meant. It is interesting now to recount that event in my life. Perhaps some conditions related to my childhood and family background, religious and social views, and other circumstances may have worked together to lead me to walk on Buddha's path as a monk for so many years now.
In our family, I am a middle son of my parents. I have an elder brother and a younger sister. In the school I didn't pass a single day without quarrels. I didn't listen to the command of my parents. My mother worried about my conduct and behavior all the time. My family was not rich. At one stage, my parents could not afford my educational expenses at my school. For the sake of my future life, my mother sent me to live in a Dharmarajika Buddhist Monastery in Dhaka. It was very far from our home, about four hundred kilometers away. There were many boys living in this monastery. Some of these boys came from poor and broken families. Some were orphans; some had no father or mother. There were also many Bhikkhus (monk) and Sramaneras (novice). Up until now, there are still many students living in this monastery.
In the hostel of the monastery, I got to know many students, novices, and monks. I didn't know what their duties and responsibilities were. I didn't know about the ten precepts of Sramanera. I did not know even my aim and goal for coming here. It was very early in my life then, I was around nine years old. One day, I met my granduncle in the hostel. He was a monk and he advised me to carry on my studies. He also advised me that if I were educated and highly qualified, everybody would respect me. I could visit everywhere in the world like him, without others' help. He also said that he would send me for higher study abroad. He had studied Buddhism in Japan with a scholarship he received. This last proposal was very attractive to me. I became very happy for his advice and company at the monastery. After his left the monastery, s I sometime thought about his advice and his overseas travels.
About four years after I entered the monastery, the founder of the Dharmarajika, His Holiness Venerable Visuddhananda Mahathero passed away. His Holiness was a great scholar monk in Bangladesh. He was well respected and known to all as Maha Sanghanayaka. After his death, the revival of Buddhists community of Bangladesh suffered a setback. However, in memory of His Holiness, the monastery committee held an ordination ceremony to ordain the orphanage boys and other lay persons of Buddhists society as Sramaneras. In Bangladesh every lay male person should take ordination as a Sramanera (Novice) for a minimum of seven days in his life. During this time, my granduncle came back from Japan to pay respect to the His Holiness and to join in the ordination ceremony. He encouraged me to become a novice. In March 2, 1995, I became a Sramanera, together with a hundred and seventy two other lay persons. Though I was supposed to be a novice for only seven days from that day of ordination, in actual fact I remained a Sramanera for more than nine years. Now I am a fully ordained bhikkhu.
In my new novice life, my granduncle named Venerable Karunananda Thero to be my teacher. He taught me Dhamma and the precepts of a novice. Later my granduncle left for Japan again for his study. In the beginning of my novice period, I did not have much idea of the ten precepts and the seventy-two Sekkiya precepts of a Sramanera. These were much sorrow for me to live by the novice rules every single day. Novice life is different from the lay life. In my life as a novice, I couldn't play with my friends. I couldn't visit here and there, and I also could not take evening meals. Therefore, many times I had tried to disrobe to become a lay boy, to return to enjoy lay life again. But my teacher would not let me disrobe. All the Sramaneras who were ordained at the same time as me had disrobed seven days later except me and five others. My teacher and other monks always gave Dhamma talks to lay people. Sometimes he took me with him to participate in these religious functions. I listened to the religious talks and dialogues. My preceptor teacher often talked about 'Ti-Lakkhana', the three characteristics of existence in the world to the devotee - Anicca (Impermanent), Dukkha (Sufferings or Unsatisfactoriness), and Anatta (No Soul or No-ego). He also taught about different realms of Hells and Heavens. He explained Nirvana. Those religious discussions impressed me enough to want to lead a real ascetic life. Sometimes I tried to investigate the reality of Tri-Lakkhana in my social environment. In the beginning, I did not understand the reality of three characteristics. Later when I understood Tri-Lakkhana, I become interested in this kind of religious discussions. In the society there is no happiness. There is sorrow from greediness, selfishness, cravings and so on. Yet, someone may be happy sometimes but not for long.
I frequently compared lay life with Sramanera life. I was always happy to find novice life was better than lay life. I thought my earlier life before I was a novice was very miserable and sorrowful. My parents, especially my mother was very thoughtful and worried for my needs such as clothes, foods, other basic wants, and my non-obedient behavior. Later in my novice life, I was happy that I no longer caused anyone worries and anxiety anymore. One day I went home to meet my family and other relatives. That was the first visit to home after I had become a novice for about five years. When I reached home, everybody especially non-Buddhist people of our village, was surprised at how I looked. They wondered how a naughty boy could turn into an ascetic! And they had many questions like that. However, after I met with them I realized myself that they were proud of my conduct, a conduct that I had developed in my novicehood. When I was leaving home to return to the monastery, my relatives advised me to take Higher ordination as a Bhikkhu (fully ordained monk). It was a wonderful and surprising experience to receive so much respect from everybody in the community when I was home as a Sramanera. This experience was an influence on me to become a monk. I did not cause sufferings to others as I once did as a young naughty boy. I feel myself that I have to do some things for them to help them liberate themselves form sufferings. I also feel that Buddha's teachings are very necessary for them. I studied more about Buddhist doctrines like the Law of Kamma, the Four Noble Truths and others. In that way, I spent the nine years of my Sramanera life on general academic and religious education.
One day, I got the shock of my life. I received the news that my granduncle died in a road accident in Japan. He was the most important person in our family circle. He helped everybody. His relatives were dependent on his support. However, after the funeral ceremony of my granduncle, my close relatives requested to me to continue in Sasana. They also requested me to keep alive the memory of my granduncle and his life. Later I assured them that I would stay in the Sasana. I also realized myself that everyone should follow Buddha's doctrine, and that and it would be better practice as monks. Sometimes I observed myself there is more happiness to dedicate life for the helpless ones. I would go out for religious purposes at devotees' house. They offered me a lot of fruits and other useable things which I then distribute to the orphanage boys. The boys would become very happy after they got the presents. They respected me deeply and this impressed my mind help to them more. I think the monk way is the best way to help others. I want to be a helper of poor people of the hungry society. That's why I wanted to be a monk - for the good of others. I think if I were a learned person, I would be better able to help our Dharmarajika Complex. In this way I could help many boys. That way I became a fully ordained bhikkhu on March 2, 2003 at the 9th Death Anniversary of H. H. Maha Sanghanayaka, Venerable Bisuddhananda Mahathero.
I prayed to follow the Buddha's teaching, to not do bad, to do good deed to make others happy, and to remove all impurity from my mind to purify myself. I try to keep my mind quiet in meditation. According to Buddha, a learned man who does not practice Dhamma is like a colorful flower without scent.