The Palyul Monastic Association (PMA), under the umbrella of Kunzang Palyul Choling (KPC), serves as an organization to promote the compassionate activity and welfare of Westerners ordained within the Palyul monastic tradition.
What is Ordination?
Buddhist ordination entails making a lifetime commitment to one of several levels of ethical precepts (rules to live by). These are detailed in the collection of the Buddha’s teachings called Vinaya. In the Sanskrit language, “Vinaya” means “discipline,” referring to self-discipline. The purpose is to abandon the negative actions that harm others and lead to one’s own suffering. Such a way of life also creates a firm foundation upon which one may more easily engage in meditation.
The sangha, or ordained community, began with the Buddha’s five companions in the severe ascetic life he abandoned just prior to his enlightenment. Teaching them the 4 Noble Truths and the 8 Fold Path – Part 1 to which he had awakened, each experienced profound realization and became “naturally ordained.” They instinctively led a pure life after that. Most sangha members needed more guidance, however, and the Buddha developed ceremonies for their admittance to the community, as well as precepts. The precepts are followed to this day. Initially the Buddha only ordained monks, but due to the persistence of the Buddha’s aunt, Mahaprajapati, women gained admittance as nuns with the creation of some special rules. These ensured that such a development would be acceptable to the Indian society of the time. Buddhist monks and nuns now practice in the oldest continuous monastic lineage in the world, stretching back nearly 2,600 years.
While there are eight categories of ethical precepts altogether, for the purposes of simplicity, three are the most important:
1. Lay ordination (Tib. Genyen; Skt. Upasaka)
The committed lay practitioner takes from one to five precepts for life, in which he or she refrains from taking the lives of other beings, stealing, lying, engaging in sexual activities that are harmful to others, and becoming intoxicated.
2. Novice ordination (Tib. Getsul; Skt. Sramanera)
Male and female novice monks and nuns abide by ten precepts, and abandon outer signs of being a lay person by shaving their heads, not using adornments, and only wearing the three robes prescribed in the texts.
3. Full ordination (Tib. Gelong; Skt. Bhikshu)
Male and female fully ordained monks and nuns abide by 253 and 364 precepts respectively. It seems that the female lineage of full ordination was never introduced in Tibet. There is significant discussion underway concerning how to introduce it from other sources.
Traditionally, the precepts of novice and fully ordained monks and nuns are not publicly discussed.
Who are the ordained nuns and monks of KPC?
At present, there are more than three dozen monks and nuns in the KPC ordained community, making it one of the largest ordained communities in North America. Most come from the United States, with some from Australia, Switzerland, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
As the first generation of Western ordained in the Palyul tradition, the KPC monks and nuns see their role as one of creating the Buddhist infrastructure for future generations in the West. Thus, most live in group houses near KPC and have permission to work outside jobs to support themselves and temple development. Several live at Dakini Valley in Arizona to care for the dogs rescued through Tara’s Babies Animal Welfare.
Services for the local and global communities
Jetsunma has said that because of the virtue of the vows upheld by nuns and monks, the potency of their prayers increases by at least 100 times. With faith in this, and wishing to use such benefit for the welfare of others, KPC’s monks and nuns offer the following services:
- Foundational classes and study groups: KPC monks and nuns regularly offer classes at the temple to teach the basics of Buddhist practice and philosophy. Classes and study groups may also be organized off-site. See our monthly calendar for details or sign up for notices of upcoming teachings by email.
- Offsite talks and panels: Several KPC monks and nuns are authorized to give talks on Buddhism for schools, churches, community groups, or to participate in interfaith panels and the like. If you would like to schedule an offsite talk, please contact us.
- Prayers for those who are ill or dying, including animals: People may request that practices be done on behalf of themselves or loved ones. Depending on the circumstances, the ordained may do Medicine Buddha practice; a sang (smoke offering) ceremony to remove obstacles; Chime Sog Thig for longevity; or Amitabha Buddha practice for those definitely in the dying process.
- P’howa for the deceased: This specialized practice for transferring the consciousness of those who have recently passed away is performed once a month, but may also be performed by special request.
- Shower of Blessings with tsog feast offering: This guru yoga practice is a powerful method for removing obstacles and vow breakages, as well as accumulating vast amounts of merit. Food and drink is offered and mentally transformed to be redistributed as wisdom substance. The offering and practice may be sponsored by individuals, families and other groups. If the sponsors are local, they are welcome to participate.
- House and business blessings in the local community: Upon request, it may be arranged to have a group of four or more KPC monks and nuns come to one’s home or business to perform a traditional Buddhist blessing.
- Pet and Animal Blessing: Buddhists consider all beings equally and with compassion. KPC monks and nuns can perform rituals to bless animals.
- Hospital visitation: KPC monks and nuns may be requested to visit patients in local hospitals to make prayers or serve a pastoral care function.
- Prison Program: Several KPC monks and nuns are trained to visit those who are incarcerated, or develop more formal groups under its Prison Program.
All of the above services are offered free of charge. It is traditional, however, for those requesting such services to consider making an offering which will be placed in the common account of the Palyul Monastic Association. Please send email inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A fund has been established for the purpose of supporting KPC monks and nuns. Donations made to this fund help to finance the following:
- Future monastic housing on KPC property
- Housing and care for elderly nuns and monks
- Health insurance for monks and nuns
- Support for meditation retreats
- Living support for ordained engaged in compassionate projects
- Emergency relief
- Van for transportation
Your support of KPC’s monastic community is greatly appreciated and tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law. You may make a secure online contribution or write a check to Palyul Monastic Association.