Some years back I visited a buddhist monastery, when holidaying in Tawang in the north-east of India. The monastery houses three to four hundred child-monks, some as young as six or seven. The children are from nearby villages, people of tremendous faith, where it is customary to send the second son (when a third is born to them) to the monastery. It is a way of continuing their culture and giving a child to the monastery is a huge sacrifice.

The children are given a new name and all ties with family are snapped. Their parents do not visit and nor do the children go stay with their folks once in a while. From now on they have very little contact with their families. This may well seem inhuman. The children are small and their minds are vulnerable at this age. They do not get to decide for themselves. Some could potentially be doctors or artists. Instead they have few possessions and are prepared for a life of nothingness?

But these things are not given much importance. They believe the children will be happier leading a monastic life. To them it is not brainwashing but not allowing any dirt to accumulate. Not allowing attachments and desires (that nourish and support the ego-self) to take root. Living with family they would become attached. Living in the world they would grow greedy and aggressive.

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