Mandala at Gyudmed Monastery

Mandalas are a form of meditation and visualization, monks do rituals and prayers in preparation for the construction, many rituals and prayers during construction and after being finished its destroyed to remind us of the impermanence of all things, that everything that comes into being is then destroyed.   

About Being a Monk

By far the most common question I’m asked is “Why did you become a monk”
In some ways this is a tough question because there are so many reasons I chose this path. I remember wanting to become a monk while reading my very first Buddhist book. But for the next ten years I listen to the advice of others and put off my dream. Then one day I truly realized what the phrase ‘listen to your heart’ meant.

But the real reason for taking ordination and wearing robes is to practice renunciation, ethics and to practice the three higher training. Many students study, read and practice Buddhism but only monks and nuns undergo the Buddha’s strict training in discipline and virtue called “Vinaya” and the three higher trainings: vinaya (monk’s vows), sutra (teachings of the Buddha) and abhidharma (Wisdom).

Monks renounce ordinary living for a simple life geared towards personal development, study and training. Monks also renounce possessions, personal schedules, personal space; opinions, needs, and comforts. Moving away from the world of “I, me, and mine” and moving into a world of service to others.
The title of “Gelong” or fully ordained monk is translated as, “Ge” meaning “virtuous” and “Long” meaning “beggar” So Gelong means: “Virtuous Beggar”.

The vows of a monk are called pratimoksha vows or personal liberation vows. One takes the vows so he can be trained while developing an aspiration of becoming a Buddha in order to free all beings from their lives of suffering. Novice monks take 36 vows and within a few years when ready, will become fully ordained monks or Bikshu with 253 vows.

Some quotes I find inspiring

  • “The robes seem to inspire trust in others and serve to remind people of their own spiritual dimension”
  •  “For some, vows are a burden and a source of constraint. But for the sincere and renounced, the vows are the source of great happiness, joy and liberation”

Dharamsala India 2009

My Monk Ordination 2010

March 1st, 2010
Ordained Gelong Tenzin Tharpa by His Holiness the 4th Dalai Lama

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My Ordination Story

The month of February started with a month long ordination retreat to prepare and educate my class and myself in proper monk conduct, vows, responsibilities and what His Holiness The Dalai Lama requires from us.

We where all receiving our first novice monk ordination and very excited to be getting to meet His Holiness and be ordained in his private temple. The ceremony was incredible and so amazing to see His Holiness. The ordination went perfect, But as I was offering the traditional “Kata” (white offering scarf) to him at the end. He pulled me in close and asked if I wanted full ordination. I was shocked and as you can imagine quite overwhelmed just being in his presences. So of course I said yes and he had me stand aside from the others. After, we all went out in the hall, to my surprise everyone was very angry with me telling me that this was “just not done” and there must have been a mistake and said they where sorry but I just could not be ordained as a full monk in one day. But I didn’t take no for an answer. I started asking His Holiness’s senior monks to help me. I was told I didn’t have the right robes for full ordination and it would just not be possible to get them on such short notice. I continued to beg for help, when out of the corner of my eye I saw one of H.H. senior monks walking toward me with a complete set of his own Gelong (Fully Ordained) monk robes. Smiling he told me that I was to put them on and keep them. Finally no one could find any other reason to stop me.

As I entered the temple for my 2nd ordination that day, all the Dalai Lama’s senior monks on stage and H.H looked back saw me in my Gelong robes and all let out a big laugh and smiled as if saying, “The guy pulled it off”. I continued and finished the ceremony. At the end, when offering the white scarf once more to his H.H. the Dalai Lama. He took me by the hand, pulled me in, and laughing with a huge smile, patted me on the cheek. I thanked him and left the temple in a daze.

Well that’s the story. I’m still dazed and feel very humbled by the experience and now I’ll try to earn and repay his kindness, try to figure out what he saw in me and work hard in my studies.   



Bodhgaya Stupa, Bihar India

The site of the Buddha’s enlightenment.



Today I choose liberation


Today I choose liberation

Tired of irrepressible thinking spoiling my noble intention,
Negative actions, destroying my positive potential,
Today I choose liberation

Tired of pleasing my friends and avoiding my enemies,
Failing to meet expectations and having others failing to meet mine,
Today I choose liberation

Tired of persona, expressions and looks of surprise,
Meetings with pleasing faces and saccharine smiles,
Today I choose liberation

Tired of serious thinking and walking fast
Being wise, being clever, being something, being better,
Today I choose liberation

Tired of what others think or think it matters what I may,
Tired of fitting in and being a part of the gang,
Today I choose liberation

Tired of respect and need of respect in return,
Tired of compliment, status and my daily calculating of my worth,
Today I choose liberation

Tired of being funny, entertaining, interesting, and coy,
Tired of telling “my story”, while wishing it was better,
Today I choose liberation

Tired of neurotic caring and idiot compassion for fools,
Obsessive purpose fulfillers and the immediate righteous cause,
Today I choose liberation

Tired of boundaries and division, lines drawn in the sand,
Lines declaring enemies and lines protecting friends,
Today I choose liberation

Tired of tomorrow, today and events of the past,
Of soon, of almost, of one day,
Today I choose liberation

Tired of consequence, of threat, of hope and reward,
Tired of nights in sleepless deliberation,
Today I choose liberation

Tired, tired, tired…tired period.
Finally and fully exhausted, some things just need to be,
You see liberation needs no fuel, for its not ahead, but at our feet.
For thoughts are not the problem, you see,
It’s the unruly engine ” thinking” that pushes from behind,
But when “thinking’s” fuel is exhausted,
Thoughts are freed and can calmly and naturally arise.
Forward motion exhausted, we sit…in peace…in still…liberated.

–  Tenzin Tharpa

Nalanda, Vultures Peak, Mahala Cave, Bihar India

Interesting Monk Vows Facts


Here are a just a few of the vows of a monk

A monk’s vows are training in ethics, mindfulness and dignified behavior.

Monk’s vows or Vinaya are 2,500 years old, so some vows may seem strange now, but at the time where needed.  There are 253 vows for a fully ordained monk and an additional 46 for a monk with bodhisattva vows.

  • A monk cannot climb a tree above a man’s height
  • A monk cannot dig in the ground…to avoiding hurting living things
  • A monk cannot destroying seeds or growing plants
  • A monk cannot destroying any town
  • A monk cannot play in water
  • A monk cannot touch weapons
  • A monk cannot tickle another monk
  • A monk cannot try to scare another monk
  • A monk cannot sit in solitude with woman
  • A monk cannot tell a lie…even a small one
  • A monk cannot kill any living things…including small insects
  • A monk cannot take any kind of intoxicant
  • A monk cannot eat or drink standing up…he must be seated
  • A monk cannot eat after midday lunch…Juice and most drinks are allowed
  • A monk cannot snack…breakfast and lunch are the his only meals
  • A monk cannot sleep on high or expensive beds
  • A monk cannot show bad manners
  • A monk cannot wear jewelry, ornaments, perfumes or scents
  • A monk cannot participate in commerce or make profit from lay community
  • A monk cannot steal
  • A monk cannot belittle, insulting or teasing others
  • A monk cannot return: insults, anger, violence, criticism
  • A monk cannot act out thoughts of; anger, pride, hatred, envy, jealousy, greed
  • A monk cannot strike or threatening
  • A monk should be in his home by dark
  • A monk has to respecting the wishes/feelings of others
  • A monk has to return kindness
  • A monk has to accept all apologies…he can not hold a grudge
  • A monk has to accept invitations/offerings
  • A monk has to abandon; desire, harmful thought, regret, doubt, self-pity, discouragement, laziness, procrastination, dullness, over sleeping, frivolously talking, and gossiping


Rewalsar / Tso Pema, India

This is where Guru Rinpoche also known as Padmasambhava was said to have meditated for many years.

About Vows




Some living in the west may find the idea of holding vows strange, but we have many vows in our everyday culture. In school we say the pledge (or vow) of allegiance, Doctors take the Hippocratic oath, when we marry we take vows, many groups and clubs ask for vows, we often make personal vows of achievement and goals. And many of us will take religious vows of some kind in our lives.


My family’s moral code

When I was a boy my father taught us the code for the men in our family; we didn’t steal, we didn’t lie, we always helped the less fortunate, you never hit a woman and never hit a man when he was down. My grandfather passed this down to my father and he to us, they where our family vows. This noble tradition of living a “code of conduct” sadly is vanishing in the world.


Vows serve a great purpose

When in a moment of clarity we see the right direction, path or decision for our lives, we decide to take-on or create a framework conducive to these objectives. So that behaviors and choices within this framework function effortlessly, effectively and efficiently. So when we are in difficult and unclear moments we can rely upon this framework of ethical boundaries. 


Simply said: Vows keep us headed in the right direction and make for easier lives


There are many levels of Buddhist vows


The common 5 precepts

·         No killing 

·         No stealing

·         No sexual misconduct – dealing with inappropriate sex

·         No lying

·         No intoxicants – no alcohol or drugs of any kind


Common types of vows

·         One day – 8 vows, the 5 common precepts plus, not eating after noon, not to use high or expensive beds or seats, not wearing jewelry, perfume, make-up, avoiding non-dharmic singing, dancing or playing music.

·         Householders – the 5 common precepts, Celibacy can be added

·         Novice monks and nuns – 36 vows

·         Fully ordained monks – 253 vows, there are a handful more vow for nuns, which where added for additional protection of nuns


Bodhisattva vows – 46 vows, the very highest level of vows


Tantric vows – 10 vows, of a very special and secret nature