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Canada 'He was like, what?': Why 4 women left their 'normal' lives to become Buddhist nuns

15:30  09 december  2019
15:30  09 december  2019 Source:   cbc.ca

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'I became a Zen Buddhist nun '. From childhood, Miranda Hodgson had been a staunch atheist, but when she Not all Buddhist nuns wear traditional dress and shave their heads, like this Mongolian woman - Miranda He was a committed Christian, but this didn't cause too many problems, as long

A nun is a member of a religious community of women , typically living under vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in the enclosure of a monastery.

a group of people standing in a kitchen: From left, Yvonne, Sabrina, Elena and Joanna are among about 450 Buddhist nuns on P.E.I.© Provided by cbc.ca From left, Yvonne, Sabrina, Elena and Joanna are among about 450 Buddhist nuns on P.E.I.

Yvonne had always wanted to be the "perfect wife," so for her, she says, the hardest part about becoming a Buddhist nun was having to break up with her boyfriend.

For Sabrina, who grew up adoring boy bands like the Backstreet Boys, it was telling her father. She knew it would be a shock, so she waited until Christmas Eve to break the news.

Joanna saw herself spending her 20s soaking up the energy of New York, immersed in the colourful arts and culture scene. Not in rural P.E.I., wearing a beige robe day in and day out, her long, flowing hair shaved shorter than an army sergeant.

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A Nun 's Life is a blog that is aimed at women in the thinking stages of becoming a nun . Why is it important for you to be in good financial standing while going through the initiation process? What is the process to becoming a nun ? Most orders of Buddhist nuns are required to shave their head.

It wasn't a big stretch for Elena, however, given that her older sister was a Buddhist nun and her brother a monk.

The women are part of the Great Wisdom Buddhist Institute, a growing monastery on P.E.I. of about 450 nuns with an average age of 29. It is separate from the monks' Great Enlightenment Buddhist Institute Society, but many, like Elena, Sabrina and Yvonne, have brothers there.

Family is a common thread among the nuns, they said. There are 66 pairs of siblings and cousins, and four sets of mother and daughter.

They come from different parts of the world, with different backgrounds. But at some point in their "normal" lives, they found a new purpose. They not only practise Buddhism in their everyday lives, but in the past few years have been invited to teach mindfulness and wellness workshops at businesses and organizations in P.E.I., Ontario and the U.S.

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Buddhism Buddha Siddhartha Gotama Buddhist Society Monks Nuns Religious Communities. This life of restraint and simplicity often reflects a disgust of the materialistic world and a desire for a Thai women seeking to focus their lives on religion are in an entirely different situation than Thai men

Buddhist monks are those who take it upon themselves to live a life entirely devoted to this goal. Spend time meditating. Becoming a Buddhist monk requires daily meditation and a conscious effort to Buddhist monks and nuns can marry in Japan, as well as in certain sects of Tibetan Buddhism .

They can come and go freely and communicate with their families, they said. Many have had their families visit them at the monastery.

The nuns can leave the monastery permanently at any time, though they say only two per cent of ordained nuns ever do.

Here are the stories of how and why four highly-educated women who, while in their 20s, decided to give up their dreams of family and a career for a life of celibacy, study and devotion to Buddhism.

a couple of people posing for the camera: Venerable Yvonne always though she'd be the 'perfect wife' and businesswoman.© Provided by cbc.ca Venerable Yvonne always though she'd be the 'perfect wife' and businesswoman.

Venerable Yvonne

Yvonne was born in Taiwan and spent her high school years in New Zealand. She moved to the United States to study business at Purdue University.

She had a loving boyfriend, and talked about getting married and settling in the U.S. It was all good.

"I never thought that I would become a nun," she said. "I thought I wanted to become a perfect wife and a successful businesswoman just like my mom."

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People who want to be Buddhist monks or nuns are strongly encouraged to take training first, and then to Others finish their time and make a decision to continue as monk or nun , or to return to the lay life . But, yes, in most Buddhist sects and in most Buddhist communities, a person may become a

Becoming a nun was not a difficult decision for me (almost anyone can be ordained) but developing Then, unexpectedly I met Wendy Finster, a Buddhist nun . She joined our team at a mental health Our new relationship was very satisfying, it felt like a natural progress from marriage to a more

Things began to change, she said, during a management lecture at Purdue. The professor asked the class what they thought was the most important thing in their lives, and all 600 students went silent, blank looks on their faces.

"At that moment I was really shocked. I was like, 'So what's the most important thing for my life?' I want to know."

After speaking with her professor and her parents, she decided to leave the business program and find her dream. Maybe go to Africa and help women.

First, she went to visit her parents in Taiwan. This was big news. Buddhists themselves, they suggested she attend a Buddhism discussion group.

"Surprisingly, it really hit me," she said. "To me it was not like a religion, but it was more like a tool that I can make myself happier."

She wanted to pursue it further, and made plans to join the monastery. But first, she had to tell her boyfriend.

"That was the hardest part, because we didn't break up because we had any problem," she said.

"Of course, he was very sad. So every single time we talked about it he would cry and I would cry…. But we said goodbye and then I joined the monastery after that."

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What makes you a Buddhist ? In order to be able to become Buddhist , we need to take responsibility for creating our own lives , with the confidence Our meditation practice is like a laboratory; we work on ourselves in a closed environment. Then we check our view and reactions in daily life — stuck in

Why is there suffering? What is the meaning of life if all we do is die at the end? What can I do to But when I reflected upon them in light of the Dharma, my decision to become a nun only became My husband had ambivalent feelings. He was a Buddhist , and the wisdom side of him supported my

Fifteen years later, she said she has no regrets.

a group of people posing for the camera: Yvonne poses in front of herself and her younger brother before joining the monastery.© Provided by cbc.ca Yvonne poses in front of herself and her younger brother before joining the monastery.

Venerable Sabrina

Before she became a Buddhist nun 13 years ago, Sabrina said she had a "very normal" life in southern California.

She grew up a Los Angeles Dodgers fan, and like many teenage girls at the time, fawned over boy bands like the Backstreet Boys. She once saw 'N Sync play live!

She loved going to Disneyland, especially when she could get in for free as part of a youth orchestra that played there twice a year.

"I had a pretty happy childhood," she said. "My family was very loving and I had a lot of fun growing up."

As she got older, she realized not everybody did, that with all the joys in life, "there's always a sliver of pain and suffering."

She thought the best way to help people would be to study psychology. In her second year of university in San Diego County, she asked three accomplished psychologists if they could do it all over again, would they?

"Each of them told me no. I was like, 'What?' I got really confused."

So in her third year she decided to study abroad and, on the advice of her mother, check out a Buddhist retreat in Taiwan.

Little did her mom know that a year later Sabrina would come home and tell her she wanted to become a Buddhist nun.

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"She thought I would just go to the retreat and that was it."

After the initial shock, her mom, who is Buddhist, came around, especially after Sabrina told her she would go on to graduate school if it didn't work out.

Her dad, who is not a Buddhist — well, she had to wait for just the right time to tell him.

That time was Christmas Eve, right after supper.

"He was like, 'So you're about to graduate university. Do you have any plans in mind?'" she recalled.

"I was like, you know, dad, I was thinking maybe after I graduate university I'd become a Buddhist nun and he was like, 'What? ...  Um, go upstairs I need to talk to your mom for a bit.'"

a person posing for the camera: Venerable Sabrina, standing in front of a picture from her youth, grew up in southern California watching baseball games, going to Disneyland and listening to the Backstreet Boys.© Provided by cbc.ca Venerable Sabrina, standing in front of a picture from her youth, grew up in southern California watching baseball games, going to Disneyland and listening to the Backstreet Boys.

She waited upstairs with her brother, Matthew, for about an hour when she was finally called back down. Her mom put out a plate of apples.

"I could see my dad was a little teary eyed. He had cried I think," Sabrina said.

"First he double-checked to see if I was crazy and then he realized I was being serious and then he just started thinking, well what can I do for you."

She knew he had finally accepted her decision when he bought her a new pair of thermal underwear, which she wears under her robe during the cold P.E.I. winters.

In 2017, after graduating from med school at Berkeley and working as a doctor for 10 years in Los Angeles, Sabrina's brother Matthew moved to P.E.I. to become a Buddhist monk at GEBIS.

Ryzza Mae Dizon sitting at a table posing for the camera: Sabrina, right, says she had a happy childhood. In this family photo, she is seen celebrating a birthday with her mother and brother, Matthew, who is a Buddhist monk on P.E.I.© Provided by cbc.ca Sabrina, right, says she had a happy childhood. In this family photo, she is seen celebrating a birthday with her mother and brother, Matthew, who is a Buddhist monk on P.E.I.

Venerable Joanna

Joanna grew up an only child in northern California, but it was always her goal to live in New York City after graduating university.

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Buddhist nuns at Maymyo, Myanmar © Julian Nieman/Alamy Stock Photo. Abandoning houses, going forth, Giving up son, livestock, and all that is dear, Leaving behind desire, anger, and ignorance, Discarding them all, Having pulled out craving down to the root, I have become cool, I am free.

Becoming a nun is socially acceptable and respectable. In addition, Asian cultures focus more on As first generation Western Buddhist nuns , we indeed lead the homeless life . The Buddha ’s concern when he made this precept was for nuns to avoid causing suffering to others or generating arrogance.

"I loved the energy, I loved the vibe of the city, I loved the culture and the arts there and I really wanted to surround myself with that," she said.

She said her "eyes were opened" when she went to university to study health psychology.

"My best friend growing up as a child suffered from severe depression and I always wanted to find a way to help her because I really didn't know what to do when I was 14, 15, 16," she said.

"I realized that there were a lot more problems in the world than just my friend and then I suddenly felt very small and that I didn't really know how I could contribute and what I could do for the world."

She knew people — friends and family — who were well educated and had good careers but still seemed unhappy and dissatisfied with life.

She began studying Buddhism as a way of helping others find joy. Her mother, a Buddhist, had always wanted this path for her, she said, but eventually gave up on the idea given her "way of life before joining the monastery."

"I surprised a lot of people," she said. "I wanted a family. I knew how many kids I wanted. I probably had their names figured out."

a person wearing glasses and smiling at the camera: Venerable Joanna says she loved the energy of New York City, but has found her home at the Buddhist monastery on P.E.I.© Provided by cbc.ca Venerable Joanna says she loved the energy of New York City, but has found her home at the Buddhist monastery on P.E.I.

Before becoming a nun, she said she would spend hours on her hair and picking out clothes.

"Now I save all that time because it's just very simple…. It allows us to focus on the things that we want to focus on and for us that's studying and improving ourselves and becoming better people."

She's been a Buddhist nun for six years, and has "not regretted a day." That was reaffirmed on a recent outreach trip to New York, she said.

"New York was again full of arts, full of culture, full of diversity. But coming back to P.E.I., coming back to the monastery I was like, 'You know, no, this is where home is and this is where I belong.'"

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If the candidate lives in a non- Buddhist country, he can write for details to the country where he is Q. 15: Why do monks shave their heads? A: When the prince who was to become the Buddha left If he no longer has any interest in the bhikkhu- life , the tendency will be for him to become lax and a

a couple of people posing for the camera: Joanna says she would spend hours on her hair and picking out clothes before becoming a nun.© Provided by cbc.ca Joanna says she would spend hours on her hair and picking out clothes before becoming a nun.

Venerable Elena

Elena was born and raised in Taiwan. As a kid she travelled around Asia and Europe a lot with her parents.

She studied foreign languages and literature. She can speak multiple languages, including French.

Her older sister became a Buddhist nun in 2006, not long after hearing the Dalai Lama speak in India.

"She was really moved because she is always someone who wants to perfect herself," Elena said.

Elena said she and her younger brother were sad at first because they were a very close family. Then, in 2008, her brother became a Buddhist monk.

"He thought that some of the things the monks are learning are really interesting. For instance, what he found most fascinating was that debate, he found that can really sharpen your thinking."

After her siblings joined, Elena began to think more and more about joining as well.

a smiling man and woman posing for a photo: Venerable Elena says her family had an influence on her decision to become a Buddhist nun.© Provided by cbc.ca Venerable Elena says her family had an influence on her decision to become a Buddhist nun.

Then some tragedies struck. She learned an old high school classmate, who became a talented musician, had died of leukemia. And one Christmas morning while staying with family friends in France, she came downstairs to see them hugging and crying after learning their neighbour had died by suicide the night before.

"These events really shocked me because I started to really think this is something that everyone might encounter, the struggling times in life," she said.

"I always only looked at the happy side, like travelling or learning new things or making new friends. But what can I really do for my life and for the ones I love? Or maybe even more people? And how can I really make good use of my life?"

She found those answers six years ago, she said, when she became a Buddhist nun.

Quebec legislature member files police complaint over hateful online messages .
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