What is the purpose of temporary ordination? Where can one read about the pros / cons or even legitimacy (for men)?

I am considering ordination and doing it right the first time. Was temporary ordination practiced in the Buddha’s time?


All conditions are impermanent.

One monk ordained seven times, and disrobed six times.

There is nothing in the ordination ceremony about it being a lifetime commitment. Couples say “Until death do us part” when they marry, but most marriages end in divorce.

The Buddha understood very well how a person’s mind can change over time.


I joined samanera 2 weeks program four times during my teenage life. Twice under Thai tradition, another two under Sri Lankan tradition.

It is more like a bootcamp where you can learn basic Buddhist doctrines, observe precepts, have an experience of monastic life, meditation sessions, learn how to chant Pāli scriptures.

It is quite beneficial, certainly it helps to deepen the devotion to Triple Gems.


Welcome @Dean to the group. I hope you can make more questions.

One of my friends is a Myanmar doctor and ordained for 45 days. He got jhāna and decided to stay. He finally disrobed after maybe 8 or so years. However, he learned the pa-auk dhamma meditation course and finished the alankhara examinations (twice in 2 districts). He is quite grounded in the dhamma now.

I think “Dullabho” was the Buddha’s daily desana while getting his feet washed on his way back from alms. I chant a more poetic version of this ~daily found in the na-uyana chanting book.
Below is from the cscd vri pali.

‘‘bhikkhave, appamādena sampādetha, dullabho buddhuppādo lokasmiṃ, dullabho manussattapaṭilābho, dullabhā sampatti, dullabhā pabbajjā, dullabhaṃ saddhammassavana’’nti.

It means rare is the chance for the Buddha to appear, for getting the right dhamma, for associating with the correct people (added in my chanting version), for getting the ordination.

So… In Myanmar they have a tradition of Doe-lllah-bhaht bhikkhus. This is Myanmar phonetic spelling of Dullabho bhikkhu. It is the term for temporary ordination. It is perfectly fine. Ven Ledi Sayadaw criticizes the Sri Lankan idea that if you cannot ordain for life, then you should not ordain. He calls this dhammamacchariya. This idea of life long ordinations is more common in Sri Lanka and mostly only there. It is also a Western perception as well because of the Catholic Church that keeps some of the most undesirable priests because they made a life long commitment. The Sri Lankan shaming of disrobed monks is quite sad. Often the parents disown the children who disrobe. One monk in Na-Uyana killed himself instead of disrobing. One of my SL friends had his father say… “Son, if you disrobe, it is okay, don’t worry.” He did disrobe eventually, but he is given a Sri Lankan label just like a person who is categorically “divorced”.

It is perfectly fine to ordain temporarily, but… don’t just ordain anywhere thinking this is temporary. You should find a proper teacher who follows proper dhammavinaya and ordain there. That means they don’t use money and follow the entire set of rules and they don’t claim they need to break the rules to survive. Don’t belittle an ordination and also make sure the ordination is valid in case you want to stay. Although temporary ordinations are allowed, it is a great chance, but also great and heavy kamma to ordain. There are serious benefits, but also serious consequences if done improperly.

I have told you of a place to ordain in Thailand which is loosely connect with wat khao sanamchai. This is where you should go. There are no proper places in the USA and that is why I did not mention any in my article “Where to ordain.”

Dear Ven. Pesala,

Thank you for your comments. Very well poised! Last week I drove a Theravāda monk to the airport. In our little dharma talk he told me that he ordained 11 times, (he is 73 years old). In my experience I simply do not want to ordain knowing I will have to disrobe in a few days due to my laymen responsibilities. I think once my house is in order (which I am woking on as fast as possible) I can rest assured the ordination will last longer then a weekend. Himmmmm

Dear Ven. Subhuti,

Thank you, now I do not feel pressured to ordain under less then dhammavinaya conditions.

Your continued guidance is always apresheated and encouraged.

Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!

Temporary ordination wasnt a norm in the Buddha’s time but plenty of people in his time ordained for a period and disrobed and even ordained with the purpose of disrobing in the future in thier minds I believe.

I think temporary ordination is a very valuable tradition, despite it not being commonplace in the Buddha’s time. Its a chance to get a feel of the monastic life and I know plenty of people who became monks temporarily and then decided to stay on. Even for those who don’t it can be a very enriching and eye opening experience. I was never really that into serious Buddhist practice until I did a 2 week temporary ordination program and got a taste of the life.

In the 90’s a person told me about how goenka was like being a monk for 10 days. I signed up and on the 9th day, I knew that this was what I wanted for my life. On the 10th day everyone was allowed to talk and I was very sad because it was over.

It was not realistic for what monk life was like, but it did give me a taste without ordaining first.
Being a short-term monk would be a better way. You can stay long term from a short term intended ordination. There are problems with possessions and even tax burdens. It can get sticky and quite a burden. As one who is married you do not need to get legally divorced (unless a monastery requires it). The wife is not automatically your donor. She must invite you. Donors are only by blood. You should plan things out before hand. What if I stay? What is legal what is not legal for the rules? Ask your teacher and one who follows strict vinaya.

I knew one temporary monk who stayed for 4 years. His wife cheated on him and he was quite unhappy about that. It is wrong and unfair for both of them.

His fault, entirely. After three months or so, if he wanted to continue in the monkhood, he should have got divorced and handed over all of his wealth to his former wife.

A society cannot support everyone to become monks. Yet parents want their kids to become monks for some time. Being a monk for some time is better than never becoming a monk. Doing good kamma is the way of the Buddhists.

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You should also remember that Buddhism is at its core a practice based religion. You can read all the suttas and commentaries you want but it is of little use if you don’t practice and what better way to practice than to become a monk? Temporary ordination gives you the benefit of practicing seriously without having to commit your whole life premeditatedly. Gives you a chance to taste the Dhamma to see its true benefit rather than looking at the menu all day and discussing the menu with people online.

“Monk, there is the case where a monk studies the Dhamma: dialogues, narratives of mixed prose and verse, explanations, verses, spontaneous exclamations, quotations, birth stories, amazing events, question & answer sessions. He spends the day in Dhamma-study. He neglects seclusion. He doesn’t commit himself to internal tranquillity of awareness. This is called a monk who is keen on study, not one who dwells in the Dhamma.

“Then there is the case where a monk studies the Dhamma: dialogues, narratives of mixed prose and verse, explanations, verses, spontaneous exclamations, quotations, birth stories, amazing events, question & answer sessions. He doesn’t spend the day in Dhamma-study. He doesn’t neglect seclusion. He commits himself to internal tranquillity of awareness. This is called a monk who dwells in the Dhamma.

“Now, monk, I have taught you the person who is keen on study, the one who is keen on description, the one who is keen on recitation, the one who is keen on thinking, and the one who dwells in the Dhamma. Whatever a teacher should do—seeking the welfare of his disciples, out of sympathy for them—that have I done for you. Over there are the roots of trees; over there, empty dwellings. Practice jhana, monk. Don’t be heedless. Don’t later fall into regret. This is our message to you.”