The Benefits of Monasteries

The Benefits of Monasteries

Date of Advice:
September 2016
Date Posted:
September 2017

The monastery gives Sangha a place to abide, where they can study and practice, and where they can subdue and protect the mind more easily. Rinpoche advised that those who build holy objects, temples and monasteries collect great merit that increases for eons.  

Most dear, most precious, most kind, most wish-fulfilling one,
I wanted to tell you a little bit about the benefits of building a monastery. During Guru Shakyamuni Buddha’s there were monasteries and many Sangha living in those monasteries. There were many monasteries during that time, but now they are under the ground and covered by earth, for example at Shravastri, where Shakyamuni Buddha spent most of his time. He spent about twenty years there and five years nearby. Then a village started above the monastery and it has been like that for almost 3,000 years—not exactly, maybe 2,800 yearssince then.

Without monasteries, the Sangha would have no place to live together and no place to do practice or to study. They can’t just live just on the bare mountains or in the fields without any shelter, so there have been many monasteries even since that time. Monasteries are normally not in the city, but away from the city, away from distraction. The main purpose of monasteries is to subdue the mind, to keep the mind in peace, in Dharma, to keep away from distractions, which are the causes of attachment, anger and so forth. Therefore, monasteries are built away from cities, in isolated places, away from obstacles. It is like this so that monks and nuns can live in their vows better. Monasteries help them do this.

Of course, in Tibet after the monks studied sutra and tantra in the monasteries, they either practiced in the monastery and became enlightened, or sometimes they taught others, like the great teachers who practiced themselves and became enlightened. After they finished their studies many monks also went away to the caves and hermitages and practiced in more isolation and then achieved enlightenment.

Numberless yogis, monks and nuns, as well as lay male and female practitioners in Tibet and also in ancient times in India and Nepal, lived in many caves on many mountains. Like nests of insects, the caves were full of practitioners. They just built in the earth, they made a hole inside, covered it with earth and then lived there for years and practiced. They are so blessed, so blessed, so blessed. It’s unbelievable. For example, Milarepa became enlightened and practiced in so many caves, where he achieved different realizations.

Those living in the monasteries, the monks, have their own monastery rules and discipline to help the mind, to be away from the distractions and to protect the mind.

Quotation from the Mindfulness Sutra:

Whoever has built well the support [holy objects] and the supporting [place]
And has also arranged the place for Sangha, their rooms, bedding and so forth
[Goes] from virtue to virtue—it always increases.
The virtue never gets wasted, even for ten thousand million eons.

This is saying that those who build the holy objects—[representing] the holy body, holy speech, holy mind—and the temples and the places to abide, the monasteries for an established Sangha assembly, as well as arranging all the needs for the Sangha, such as bedding, rooms and so on, collect a great amount of merit that never gets wasted. It always increases for eons and eons.

In the Mindfulness Sutra, Buddha said that monasteries and gompas where there are holy objects of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha—statues, stupas and scriptures—are called “abiding places” or nä khang in Tibetan. The meditation place is called the abiding place. What is abiding is the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. So an abiding place is a great, great place to subdue the mind, collect extensive merits and achieve enlightenment. Even the name nä khang is incredible.

If we build monasteries, temples and holy objects—the statues, stupas and scriptures that have the Buddha Dharma and Sangha abiding —however many atoms the object has, for that many eons we will become a universal king. There is only one universal king in the world at a time, not two, and when there is a universal king in the world, during that time there is so much good fortune for everyone. People are able to live in the ten virtues and there are other incredible, incredible benefits.

Being born as a universal king is just by the way, because ultimately we will achieve enlightenment. That means we will exhaust all the mistakes and complete all the realizations, and we will free the numberless sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric sufferings and bring them to the peerless happiness, sang-gye, the total cessation of all the obscurations and completion of all the realizations.

The Buddha said that by building shelter and providing bedding for monks, the eons of merit created increases and those merits cannot finish. There is no way to explain. Even for eons you cannot finish explaining the benefits. In the Mindfulness Sutra it says that even for hundreds of eons—I don’t remember the exact number—one cannot even finish explaining the benefits. It is unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable.

In Tibet, the Nyingma, Kagyü and Sakya put in place many monasteries. Then Lama Tsongkhapa came and established Ganden Monastery. His disciples established Sera Je and Me, then Ganden Shartse and Jangtse, and Drepung Loseling and Gomang. These are just the main monasteries, but there are many others in this world. In these monasteries, you can study sutra and tantra in depth, like the Pacific Ocean so, so deep, so vast. Even for Mongolians it was the best place for them to come and study. There were many Mongolians studying in Tibetan monasteries and becoming geshes.  Before communism, Mongolia was full of learned geshes; so many lharampa geshes, so many, so many, so many. They studied all of Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings, the whole lam-rim, and they knew the great Lamrim Chenmo by heart. Then they went back to Mongolia and created many monasteries there, branches of Sera, Ganden, Drepung and so on, which gave Sangha a place to practice and study, so they didn’t have to live on the fields or on the bare mountains. The benefit was unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable.

Those outside the monasteries were able to collect merit by coming to the monasteries and making offerings. Also by building the monasteries they collected so much merit. In this way lay people collected unbelievable merit by making offerings to the Sangha, requesting or doing practices, offering to holy objects and so on. They also sent many of their children to the monasteries to be educated.

The Buddha came approximately 2800 years ago, and the Buddhadharma still exists. This is because of monasteries and the education they provide. In Tibet, the complete Buddhadharma existed, meaning the Lesser Vehicle teachings as well as  the Mahayana sutra and Mahayana tantra teachings. These were taught by Buddha, came to Tibet from Nalanda, and were completely preserved and disseminated in full.

In Tibet and India these teachings existed for many hundreds of years in the past and the teachings still exist today.  Even after Mao Zedong, Buddhism has developed a little bit, more and more, so you see it is very, very important, it is unbelievably important. If people had become monastics but just stayed in the fields or on bare mountains, like monkeys, then this would not have happened. It is entirely due to monasteries that this happened. It is unbelievable.

There was only one lama, a Kagyü lama called Goesempa, whose practice was that he never had a monastery. He was a great yogi, but he rejected monasteries and groups.

Of course, in Sakya it is the same—in sutra, without talking about tantra—in Sakya there is parting from the four forms of clinging. It has a different name, but it is all the same in the four sects. In Sakya there is parting from clinging to this life, parting from clinging to samsara, parting from cherishing the I, and [parting from] holding the merely labelled real I as not merely labeled. Parting from cherishing the merely labelled I; parting from that, parting from cherishing the I. That is according to Sakya, however, all four sects have the same teaching but it’s called by different names. It is said that if we cling to this life then we are not Dharma practitioners and if we cling to samsara it’s not renunciation. Clinging to the I is not the right view. Cherishing the works for the I is not bodhicitta, and so on.

Therefore, [these are the benefits] of building a monastery. Besides Sera, Ganden and Drepung in India, there are so many other monasteries and branches in India, where the monks live and study and where Buddhism is taught extensively in this world. Recently, according to His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s wishes, we also helped to build the Gelugpa monastery and offices that are in Drepung. I went there, as I had some fortune to be able to help a little bit financially.

This is also similar for all the centers in the West and in different places. Centers where there are resident teachers and translators, where people come to listen to the Dharma, to study Dharma, to meditate, to collect merit, to purify defilements, to take refuge, to generate bodhicitta and to dedicate the practice for all sentient beings, also have all these unbelievable benefits.

At the centers we can learn compassion and bodhicitta. Each time we practice there, we help the six realms’ sentient beings by dedicating, without leaving out even one. Not one ant or one maggot or even one slug is left out; all our practices are dedicated for them. We practice Dharma for them. Therefore, the centers and monasteries are places to develop Dharma wisdom and compassion for all sentient beings. We can also develop the whole graduated path to enlightenment; we can learn the essence, the middle and the elaborate teachings, according to our intelligence. 

Of course, there are Sangha who have a place to do practice in the monasteries. By having a monastery they are able to do practice.

This [explanation] is just a drop, not much, just a drop of the benefits. It’s like the BBC news or CNN news of the benefits of monasteries. 

Thank you.

quotes on the benefits of building temples and monasteries

King Salgyal in India asked the Buddha and the Buddha explained this:

Any human being building a temple of the Victorious One (the Buddha)
Even while still wandering in the samsara of the transmigratory beings
Will achieve happiness all the time
And will abide in a holy place, like the radiating palace of the king of the devas. 

Also from the Sutra of the Compassionate Eye Looking One:

For the guide, the savior of the world
If we build a house related to that
Then we don’t become like a surrounding servant (the karma)
But we will become a wealthy king in future lives.

This is not just for one life, but for many lifetimes, maybe hundreds or thousands of lifetimes.

From a life story of the Buddha:

Abiding in the house there will be happiness
And one will have contemplation
And great insight and so forth
By offering monasteries and temples to ordained Sangha
And this is admired by the buddhas.

However many atoms there are in a house that is built as a temple or monastery, for that many lifetimes we will be king, and maybe also a universal king. I did mention this quote before.

It is said by Pandit Nagkye Rinchen:

No question if we build a holy statue of The Gone to Bliss One (the Buddha)
And thre sangkang (I need to translate this word) or a temple or bedroom for Sangha,
Even if we walk seven steps
In order to build a small house for the servants (of the temple and so forth)
We won’t go to the lower realm, just by that, and we will achieve a deva’s body.

If we make temples for the Three Precious Sublime Ones
And even if we make food for [Sangha],
During that time, creatures that are accidently killed under our feet won’t be reborn in the lower realms.
It’s the same thing when building a temple
Any creature that is accidently killed under the stones
Doesn’t get reborn in the lower realms

It is mentioned in the text of the Buddha, the Small Quotation Sutra [Tib: Lung ten tseg]:

It is possible for the moon and stars to fall to the earth
For mountains and forests to rise up into the sky
And for the water of the great oceans to completely dry up
But it is impossible for the great sage (the Buddha) to tell a lie.

With much love and prayers...