Stepping into Freedom

Young Men and Women Prepare for Monastic Life

On the 14th of December, 2017, nine young men and women will be ordained into the Plum Village Monastic family.  For the very first time they will discover the reality of monastic life.

The nine young aspirants (monastics-to-be), living in France, represent ten nationalities, a microcosm of the greater Plum Village community. On the brothers’ side, there is: Rupert from Austria, Gabriele from Italy, Khoa from Vietnam and Australia, Marvin from Germany and Suriname, and Hernando who is Colombian-French. On the sisters’ side, there is: Marie from France, Suriyana from Indonesia, Linh from Singapore, and Thuy who is another Vietnamese Aussie. Three of them are joining the “Five-Year Monastic Program”.

The Five-Year Monastic Program is a new opportunity in the Plum Village Tradition open to young adults, to make a commitment to ordain as a monastic for 5 years.  After they graduate from the program they are free to stay as a monastic or to go back to their worldly life. 

They have all come from very different life paths, whether working as a biologist and sailing the Hawaiian seas, learning to cultivate the land in an ecological community in Portugal,  or farming as a “WWOOF”er, working as a physiotherapist, sociologist, computer programmer, professional singer, musician, or running their own business, or even taking care of a castle in Monbazillac (just up the road from Upper Hamlet).

As soon as the ordination date was confirmed, the web team gathered with the aspirants at the Upper Hamlet teahouse on a chilly winter afternoon with a cup of tea, to find out how they’re feeling.  The aspirants were beginning to feel one step closer to monastic life – a life of simplicity, humility, service, understanding, and love.

There is happiness: “As soon as I read ‘Old Path White Clouds’, I wanted to come to Plum Village and become a monk right away.  In fact, it’s taken 3 years to get here, and it feels great.”

There is excitement: “I know this is the greatest thing I have done, am doing, will be doing in my life!”

There is curiosity: “This suddenly feels real. I have no idea what it’ll be like to live in the monastic residence.”

There is openness: “I am living with many people from different cultures I am not yet familiar with. It challenges me to come out of my comfort zone.”

There is bewilderment: “This decision to enter spiritual life is a very intimate decision, which because Plum Village is such an engaged and active community, is also somehow very public.”  (It is true that the novice ordination ceremony is an event for the whole world-wide community, including the head shave.)

There is love and trust: “The sisters are seeing so many facets of me that have never before been truly seen. I feel their love, and now understand the strength of the sanghas’ wisdom and compassion”.

In the weeks before ordination these nine young men and women are carefully tended to by their mentors and the greater Sangha. It is a time for them to contemplate what they are letting go of and why. Before the ordination they let go of their personal possessions like bank account, cellphone, laptop, car, home, etc….  In the case of those in the 5 Year Program they set everything aside for the length of their monastic life.

Their task is now to prepare themselves to “cultivate the soil of their heart and mind” (a traditional image), to be clear, calm, solid and open to make the commitment to follow the 10 novice precepts and live in community.


The “Poplar Tree” family (“Cây Bạch Dương” in Vietnamese) will be ordained on the 14th of December, 2017 in Plum Village France and Thailand. Ordinees are ordained in groups called ‘Ordination Families” which are given a name such as “Plum Tree” or “White Lotus”. Ordaining aspirants in “families” generates the energy of togetherness and closeness in the context of a large international sangha. Being ordained is a unique and seminal experience in the lives of our new and old monastics so families tend to meet up together and stay in close contact over the years.  The ceremony in France will be held at the Dharma Cloud Temple, Upper Hamlet.

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