February 15th - March 1st 2013
The Pre-Ordination Course is designed for those who have already been accepted by the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama for ordination in that same year. Applications for 2013 ordination are now closed. Tushita is not involved in the application procedure; we invite you to read the Pre-Requisites for Ordination section below for more information about what's required for future applications.
The reason Tushita holds a Pre-Ordination Course...
"More and more people from non-Buddhist backgrounds are expressing a wish to become ordained as Buddhist monks and nuns. Sometimes they face unexpected problems. These may occur because they did not properly understand what ordination entailed or because they lack the social and spiritual support that is taken for granted in traditional Buddhist societies…
Ordination is not something to be taken lightly. In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, it is intended to be a lifelong commitment. The Buddhist tradition itself will not be strengthened merely by increasing the numbers of people who become ordained. That will depend rather on the quality of our monks and nuns. Therefore, those who sincerely seek ordination deserve proper guidance, encouragement and support.”
"After taking ordination the new monks and nuns should live in a monastery for at least 5 years, living within the discipline and with teachers available to guide them.”
- His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet
In response to the uniquely difficult position that His Holiness describes above, at the turn of the milennium concerned Sangha with first-hand experience of the challenges of being Western Buddhist monastics came together to organize a course designed to guide, encourage and support the newly ordained.
Dharamsala was the ideal location for such a training course, since His Holiness the Dalai Lama offers ordination every year, usually around Losar (Tibetan New Year). Since its establishment in 1972, Tushita has become a focal-point for those seeking English-language Dharma study in Dharamsala, and as such was the natural home for a Pre-Ordination Course for Westerners.
Held annually, the Pre-Ordination Course (POC) has continued to grow and develop. The 2006 POC was so well-received by the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, that they officially sanctioned it as being a pre-requisite in the application procedure for Westerners to be ordained by His Holiness.
The POC is structured to give a well-rounded insight into what monastic commitment entails, and provides opportunities for group discussion and personal reflection. Senior Western Sangha lead teaching sessions on all aspects of Vinaya and related topics such as sojong (confession), ordination procedure and how to wear robes. Great emphasis is placed onto learning to live together as a Sangha and how to use the Vinaya in our daily lives. POC participants live, study and serve together on Tushita’s grounds, giving them an opportunity to apply what they have learned.
Tushita’s Pre-Ordination Course is designed for those who have already been accepted by the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama for ordination in that same year (please note that there is no certainty if and when His Holiness gives ordination until it really happens - so please come with an open and flexible mind!), or those recently ordained getsuls (srameneras), getsulmas (srameneris), gelongs (bhikkshus) and gelongmas (bhikkshunis) of any tradition.
"The purpose of the Vinaya is to guide us on the fast track to real freedom and so reach our highest spiritual goal. But if instead of feeling lighter we feel burdened by it all, it means that we have not understood the purpose of ordination or we do not know how to apply the Vinaya to our daily lives in a constructive and positive way. As a Sangha, it helps us to live in harmony; as individuals, it helps us to train our minds so that we can experience the freedom that we are so desperately looking for.
The Course Leader
Ven. Tenzin Namdak, born in 1970 in The Netherlands, met the Dharma in 1993. After his graduation (B.Sc. in Hydrology) he lived for one year at Maitreya Institute where he received Lam Rim teachings from Geshe Sonam Gyaltsen. On the advice of Lama Zopa Rinpoche he moved to Dharamsala in 1994 to learn Tibetan language and to take Getsul (1995) and Gelong ordination (1996) from His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In 1997 he entered the Geshe Study Program of Sera Jey Monastery in South India. He is director of Sera IMI House, a house for western monks studying at Sera and he also teaches and translates at Choe Khor Sum Ling in Bangalore. Ven Namdak first led the POC in 2012, and we are most fortunate to have him do so again in 2013.
Advice for those taking Getsul Ordination (Please note that His Holiness does not give Rabjung vows)
Advice for those taking Gelong Ordination
Both men and women have to provide a letter of acceptance from their respective monasteries or dharma centres, signed by the director and stating that you have been accepted onto a course of study or that you will undertake a specifiable practice on your return. Failure to attach this letter with your application will deem it incomplete and your request will not be considered.
Documentation that you will need for the application procedure
You will need 2 copies of all this documentation, one to send to His Holiness' office AND one to the course leader. Those copies with the official seal or signatures will have to be scanned.
For the application form and further details on how to apply for ordination with His Holiness the Dalai Lama: Please contact Tenzin Tsepag at His Holiness' Office on the following email address:
The application process might take a while, so please apply as early as possible. The deadline for applications is the end of October - the year before the ordination (eg. for ordination in early 2014, you should apply by the end of October 2013), and late applications will not be considered!
After you have been accepted by His Holiness' office for ordination you are guaranteed a place on the Pre-Ordination Course.
FEEDBACK FROM PREVIOUS POC PARTICIPANTS
"The joy of being a monastic comes if you do it properly," said Ven. Tenzin Josh. With this, the third Pre-Ordination Course at Tushita Meditation Centre, Dharamsala, was set in motion. For the next eight days, our group was immersed in a great sea of teachings, pujas, discussions and shared meals.
The teachings generally fell into three categories: the root and secondary vows of a novice; establishment of the Sangha by Lord Buddha, how the precepts came about; and the practical aspects related to the ordination ceremony, requisites, robes, and right motivation for receiving the vows. In the afternoons we had discussion groups on various aspects of monastic life. Among our teachers were two nuns ordained in the Burmese tradition, Sisters Jotika and Dhammadina, who along with Vens. Josh, Rita, Sangye Khadro and Rene Feusi put forth an incredible wealth of advice, the result of years of studying and living as monastics. The emphasis on the Vinaya was helpful as it is truly rare to receive teachings on this subject.
Those of us attending the course came from a diverse background within Western culture. The days of intensive focus on living as monastics for the rest of our lives and what that really entails brought up many issues: the desperate need for monastic institutions in the West, how to deal with the desires, the need to return to a lay job right after ordination, how to keep our vows when being back in the west etc. Ven. Sangye Khadro offered some soothing, practical advice: "Be realistic, know that: 'I'm going to make mistakes, it's okay, it's not the end of the world'" and "Don't be too tight with family, but also not too loose in going beyond what is acceptable as a monastic." Two in our group decided to wait to become ordained, a result of thoughtful consideration of what taking these vows entails. Everyone was very supportive of their decision.
Then it happened. We got a call from Ven. Lhakdor, from the Private Office of His Holiness. With our heads shaved, last minute 'dress rehearsals', a few more words of wisdom from our kind teachers, we were off. We joined a crowd of about 100 Tibetans. The ordination ceremony was amazing: His Holiness Dalai Lama, our refuge and protector, read the Pratimoksha Sutra, in groups of three we went before him to have our robes determined, received new ordination names, and with a finger snap of our Preceptor, Ven Geshe Dawa (Sonam Senge), we became ordained! We were offered tea with His Holiness, who then gave a short discourse on the importance of keeping our vows.
We were also honored to have a teaching on the 'Thirty Six Vows' from Geshe Damcho, Abbot of the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics. Geshe-la said "It is incredibly virtuous to have been ordained by His Holiness, but it is not enough to just have the ceremony, you must now keep these vows." He went on to give an amazing teaching stating that according to Chandrakirti, "being born as a human has no other cause than morality." And explained that because it is only on the basis of a human rebirth that beings can be liberated from samsara, it is therefore imperative that we adhere to the ethical guidelines set forth in the vinaya pitaka. Geshe-la stressed the need for a long-term view, the need for a continuity of fortunate human rebirths to actualize the complete path to Buddhahood.
Being that our backgrounds were diverse before the course, our destinations after the course reflected this as well, with some people staying on in Tushita, some going back to work, and others venturing out on their own way...
The Pre-Ordination course is valuable for all who are considering ordination. There seemed to be a general consensus that the course could be even longer, with more group interaction, more in depth study of the vows and even wider participation from our western elder Sangha."
- Getsul Tenzin Sengye, POC 2001
"Dear Tushita Friends,
It is one week since my arrival back home to Australia and now I am getting to those things I promised on my departure!
Again I thank you sincerely for giving us, i.e. the "POC Folk", the space, the chance and the kind support to move into our new roles. This was particularly pertinent, I felt, because it was such a huge transitionary time and change can often bring with it discomfort. You, friends, and the Tushita environment, as a whole, contributed largely to making this process and progress easier. The POC allowed me to absorb the transition in a fully informed and focused manner. From my side I believe it allowed all attendees to step into our new Philosophical, Spiritual and Physical personas as Nuns and Monks, fully supported and informed in our endeavours. Thank you "Tushita Folk"!
Having acknowledged your full support I turn to the "Female Buddha" personified in Sister Jotika.Her calm presence and wisdom was literally palpable and enlightening to my, ignorant mind. Yet, I came to Tushita feeling fully prepared for my pending ordination. I realised at the end of the POC that I would have suffered in my ignorance if I, by chance, had missed the course. I never doubted it would, in some way, be a worthwhile attendance. What I was ignorant to was the extent which I would travel through into my new role as a nun. Sister Jotika deepened my knowledge base and therefore my understanding as to why things in Monastic life, are as they are. No information was left unexplored. All questions were answered candidly with profound knowledge and understanding, both practically and historically expressed. We were treated as adults of another era being guided into a higher understanding as we embarked on the new. This was done with a lightness of being that is truly the Buddhas way. Sister Jotikas humour and wit abounded as we travelled with our dear, wise guide, on this precious preparation for our journey forward.
I was given, no doubt, a precious gift at Tushita. I sincerely thank Sister Jotika and you Tushita staff for making it so. The recollection and learning will always travel with me and sustain my journey. Farewell... for the benefit of all sentient beings. "
- Getsulma Tenzin Tsangpa, POC 2006