Ordination ceremony in Wat Noi Nanghong with Chao Khun Phratheap of Wat Pathom Chedi as the preceptor.
Since time immemorial, there are those people who took up the life of brahmacariya of one ordained and who renounce earthly wealth and desires to pursue a more fulfilling spiritual life in instructing others on religious practices. These are the sattha or teachers whose teachings are believed by many people and passed down through the generations.
However, in our contemporary world, there are as many good teachers who took up a chaste life to teach and instruct others in the practice of the Dharma as there are self-proclaimed “teachers” who are either monastic or laity and who spread sectarian or outright fake religious practices. Therefore, as previously mentioned in “Mysticism in Thai Buddhism”, it is imperative for you not only to understand the Dharma but also the Vinaya so as to distinguish between the true teachers and the phonies in order not to be duped.
In this article, I will refer to the writings of His Holiness Somdej Phra Maha Samma Chao in starting off with a summary of the rules and regulations of giving the upasampada of which is also known as the “Four Fulfilling Conditions” or Sampati in order to be accepted into monkhood. The “Four Fulfilling Conditions” are summarized as:
(1) Vatthu-sampati – of the material relating to personal qualities;
(2) Parisa-sampati – of the assembly;
(3) Sima-sampati – of the boundary; and
(4) Kammavaca-sampati – of announcing the Act
An individual to be ordained as a monk has to possess the right personal qualities as stipulated in the Vinaya. Firstly, the person who wishes for upasampada has to be a male of at least 20 years of age; not physically defective; must not have committed any serious crime; and must not have committed any serious spiritual offence according to the Buddhasasana. It is also a tradition that the upasampada must only be given to a willing aspirant who utters the words requesting the Going-forth. The ordination of any individual not fulfilling the afore-mentioned prerequisites is defective of the material (vatthu-vipatti) and is not considered a monk according to the rules set by the Exalted Lord Buddha.
The second and third conditions are intertwined. An ordination ceremony can only take place within a prescribed boundary (sima) with one or two examiners of qualities (acariya), a preceptor (upajjhaaya) who has completed a minimum of ten rain retreats and a required quorum of monks (parisa-sampatti) to confirm the prescribed Sangha Act. Only when the formal rules and regulations are satisfied (sampatti), a senior monk would move the first motion (nanti) informing the Sangha and requesting that it accept the aspirant. The recital would be made another three times (anusavana) of which, in the course thereof, any monk can oppose the motion and announcements. The ceremony is spoilt if any objection takes place. The quorum of monks unanimously assents to the motion by remaining silent during the anusavana. Thereafter, the acariya through chanting witnessed the consent. Finally, the name of the aspirant, the upajjhaaya, and mention of the Sangha is uttered, fulfilling the final condition of kammavaca-sampati.
The aspirant is then admitted into the Sangha, the community of monks. The newly ordained monk is expected to behave properly and uphold good conduct (Abhisamacara). For this purpose, the Exalted Lord Buddha has established the Buddhapannatti – the rules and regulations precluding wrongful behaviors. The Buddhapannatti and Abhisamacara are collectively known as the Vinaya. In the next article, I will provide a prelude to the origin and advantages of the Vinaya before delving into the rules of training in the subsequent articles.