dedicated to a peaceful & just society
grounded in contemplative & spiritual practice
Friday 9 April 2004
I have just undergone a big change in my life. One for which I hope I will have your sympathy and support. I have given up the formal training of the bhikkhu (Buddhist monk) and now live as an ordinary student-practitioner of Buddhism.
My life has largely been guided by a sense of responsibility, obligation, and what is right. For the past nineteen years that tendency has centered on Dhamma practice and service within the convention of the Thai Theravada bhikkhu. Now, I have come to recognize that this convention is no longer sufficiently meaningful for me; and that I do not fit it very well. This change by no means lessens how this practice has benefited me over the past nineteen years, especially while Ajahn Buddhadasa was alive; and I hope that it continues to inform my life well into the future. Looking back, I see that events and personal developments beginning with his death in 1993 have gradually taken me outside the convention. I hold beliefs and attitudes that my monastic colleagues do not accept. Now, the honest thing to do is to give up that bhikkhu-life and continue my Dhamma training in another form.
As I adjust to a new life in Chicago, the choice to disrobe is not the only one I face. But it is one that I am sufficiently clear about. Others decisions and choices, and further discernment, await: How will I explore the emotional openness and intimacy that have become increasingly important to me in recent years? What form of Dhamma community will I be able to live and foster? What kinds of relationships will I enter into? Will I undertake another form of monasticism in the future? How can I best serve the Dhamma in America and elsewhere?
There are also some givens. I remain committed to helping transmit Ajahn Buddhadasa’s teaching to the West. I will continue to study and practice Buddha-Dhamma. I will work to form a Dhammic community at Liberation Park. I will do what I can to support the Dhamma study and practice of others. I will still try to live unselfishly and free myself from the defilements of patriarchy and consumerism.
This is a good opportunity to thank everyone who has helped and supported me these past nineteen years. There are far more benefactors than I can name or even remember. I have been blessed by great kindness and wise guidance. Now, I hope that I can count on your continued friendship as I undergo a difficult transition.
Further, if my personal failings have caused hurt to anyone, I humbly ask your forgiveness. And if my decision to disrobe causes disappointment, please give me the benefit of your doubt.
May we all accept our own paths and follow them honestly to the end of suffering. I am following mine to the best discernment available to me and hope that we all succeed in our most noble aspirations.
(Robert D Larson)