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Married…to a monk?

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Today’s post is by my wife, Heather, as a recap of the week. Enjoy.

 

Today marks the end of my first week of being married to a monk. Married to a monk…that doesn’t even make sense. Monks don’t get married, and now we know why. To be more specific, I am married to a Jain monk (the most intense form of monk).

At the beginning of each month, I’m filled with excitement. I love getting the opportunity to learn about the culture and beliefs of other faiths. But even more, I like these faiths being on display for me in the comfort of my own home. Call me lazy, but I like being able to learn about other religions by simply watching my husband and not actually doing the research on my own. He is my theology Google. I simply sit back and watch and as questions arise, I ask. I have learned so much this year…and as one month closes, I find myself eager for the experiences the next month will bring.

November has been the exception. Living with a monk is extreme. Have any of you ever tried it? Probably not, and there is a reason monks live with monks and not with laity. Just a side note, unless you seriously want to have your sanity tested…don’t support your spouse’s decision to become a monk. They are not supposed to use any form of electrical appliance- which means no cooking. This presents a problem when your spouse does 95% of the cooking in the household. As if that’s not enough, they aren’t supposed to do any form of work. Nope, only meditation and teaching all day long. WHAT?! Ok- I’m sorry, but this seems like pure laziness to me, but I suppose if you don’t have a home/family to support, you really don’t need to work. Luckily though since I do work, and Andrew stays home with our children, he has still been keeping up with the household chores (minus the cooking). While we’re on the topic of food, let’s talk about the Jain monk dietary habits (or lack there of ).

Andrew has been eating one meal a day. But it’s really not a meal. He can only eat what I give him(so he really needs to stay on my good side ;) , and only what fits in the palm of his hand. So, around noon each day, I give him a bagel with peanut butter and a few vegetables. On days when I work, his 70-something year old grandmother brings him lunch. This seems absurd to me. A fully capable young man who can’t fix himself something to eat? Anyway, I digress. So, I’ve covered work and eating, what else? How about sleeping? Well, he’s not really doing much of that this month either. My estimate would be he has had maybe 8 hours of sleep in these first 6 days. He is trying hard to stick the premise of not sleeping in bed, and is sleeping on the hardwood floor in our living room. But he can’t use any blankets or pillows so comfort is a thing of the past, and being uncomfortable is not really conducive for sleep.

I was attributing Andrew’s lack of emotion and disconnect to lack of food and lack of sleep, but I’ve learned that too is part of the monk lifestyle. They are not to be affected by situations and circumstances, therefore they can’t have much emotional response. He talks less, smiles less and has laughed only once or twice in 6 days. This is hard for me to process, but even harder for our children, who keep asking “what’s wrong with Daddy?” And then there’s the issue of bathing…We all know that this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Jain monks believe in extreme non-injury to the point of not even bathing, because it can harm tiny microbes and organisms in the water and on your skin. Thankfully, after 3 days of not bathing, and a house full of odor, Andrew is now bathing (without soap), but the smell is gone!

Now, I feel like I need to clear the air a little bit. Yes, we know that I’ve had my first real emotional meltdown this year. In Andrew’s post where he said I turned into a person that he didn’t know, he’s right because I also turned into a person that I didn’t know. 10 months and 3 days of stress, worry, ups and downs all came to a crashing halt. I was appalled at the fact that Andrew was really going to neglect his personal hygiene and risk the health of his family for 30 days just for this project. Enough was enough, and so I broke down. I cried, screamed, and said many things that I am not proud of, and then found out that it was all a set up. At first, I was mad that he had played with my emotions like that, but then he explained and I understood, and I could deal with that better than the idea of him not bathing for a month and basically telling me that I was going to have to “deal with it”. This experiment that he used me as a guinea pig for caused a lot of tension for a lot of you, and I appreciate many of you coming to my defense, but guys there are no sides here. I feel like I was put in an uncomfortable situation to teach all of us a greater lesson. That’s something that is done in many faiths. From my Christian standpoint, God often uses our most uncomfortable circumstances to  teach us something. I feel this is no different. I was an instrument, and though I didn’t like it, we’ve all learned a very valuable lesson.

So because of all these extreme aesthetic practices, I feel like it’s been distracting and I haven’t really been able to learn much about the Jain faith this month. I’m hoping now that the shock value has worn off, I will be able to move forward and learn and be excited for this month just as I have the previous ten.



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abowen

posted January 9, 2012 at 2:18 pm


Jaingirl,

Thank you for finding my work and responding to the post! You’ve provided some good information here.



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jaingirl

posted January 7, 2012 at 9:49 pm


Jai Saddhatama
I have found Acharya Shree, a Jain guru in Windhom, Tx. the founder of Siddhyatan Ashram. I found a whole new perspective of Jainism. Also check him out on YouTube. This is their new updated website:

http://siddhayatan.org/?utm_source=Mailing-1612&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Jan62012

Siddahli Shree who is his right hand person also has a webpage. I’ve been on two sabbaticals there and I’m planning on a third. It’s worth investigating and checking out. Jai siddhatma, JainGirl



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Tshana Brigman

posted November 10, 2011 at 1:05 am


Hi Andrew,

I like the idea that you get be something new every month it’s kind of cool. Me personally I could not do it because I barely like my life style now so I know I couldn’t put up with 11 or 12 differnet other people lifestyles lol. It’s awesome though and I bet you can’t wait till the end of December to get here so you can stop, and your wife is going to be even happier that your stoping so she can have her husband back.



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abowen

posted November 9, 2011 at 3:29 pm


bharat,

Thanks for the suggestions and input!



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bharat

posted November 9, 2011 at 1:35 am


Hi Andrew,

You might be the first person on this beautiful earth doing this experiment.

Your work is a good example to all religious extremists to recognise & respect other faiths.

I have few suggestions,
-please create your own website, to preserve this work for future ( generations ).
-I wish , you continue it further next year & cover , if any religions are left out.

My base religion is hinduism. But, i always try to understand other religions.

My thought : God was invented by human being to take humanity in proper direction.

-bharat.



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Sam Karvonen

posted November 8, 2011 at 4:04 pm


Aye aye, Andrew! Salute to that!



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abowen

posted November 8, 2011 at 3:48 pm


Sam,

It’s okay that you don’t groove on the ascetic path. It’s also okay that the Baha’is don’t approve. This isn’t about agreeing or disagreeing, but about learning from those different from ourselves.



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abowen

posted November 8, 2011 at 3:46 pm


Frank,

Fire use is limited or off limits due to its potential to kill and so electric devices are in the same boat. The micro killing comes from the belief that there is life and jiva (soul) in every medium, including water, so one must be careful. This is why monks strain their water. There have been reform movements within Jainism, but none of them attempt to lighten the high form of asceticism or ideals on ahimsa (non-injury).



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abowen

posted November 8, 2011 at 3:43 pm


Rita,

She says thank you for your kindness!



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Sam Karvonen

posted November 8, 2011 at 4:51 am


Hi there Heather!

You’ve practiced monk-like patience all these months. No wonder you snapped! (If you ask me, he deserved it! Shhh!)

Overall, I still stick to my earlier post (sorry, Andrew! ;) ). A lifestyle based on food handouts, avoidance of marriage, avoidance of work and avoidance of washing, is treating perfectly legitimate and spiritually profitable service tasks as worldy attachments. I still find it a form of spiritual elitism which treats some of the most spiritually healthy and sensible things as things that a truly spiritual person (a monk) will avoid. I’m sorry but I have simply no other word for that than “folly”! As I said, this is the only thing about Jain Sadhu lifestyle that I continue to disagree with. The rest of the lifestyle and philosophy is more than admirable!

It’s not just the question of “it may not work for you Sam but it may well work for others”. Even if there was only one person in the world who shuns marriage, work, preparation of food and washing as a matter of principle, that one person is not profiting spiritually but rather retarding. He is still gravely mistaken about what spirituality ultimately means.

It’s a wholly different matter if someone is incapable of finding a spouse, preparing food or engaging in paid work. But to avoid these things as a matter of principle is not seeing their salutary effects on every single human person capable of them. No amount of meditation, soul-searching and even monastic service (which includes service to others, I am aware of that) can replace the benefits that a healthy social life, family life and personal hygiene has on one’s spirit. I personally believe that work performed in the spirit of service is worship. So is marriage lived in the spirit of service. The two of you and your team-like collaboration on Andy’s project is a living example of such a worship.

“The more we search for ourselves, the less likely we are to find ourselves; and the more we search for God, and to serve our fellow men, the more profoundly will we become acquainted with ourselves, and the more inwardly assured. This is one of the great spiritual laws of life.”

- Shoghi Effendi (1897-1957)

Lots of love to a great couple bent on serving others! Sorry for coming across unusually strong this time. I do think I’m only voicing sentiments that many feel but dare not to voice out due to political correctness. Since I’m an interfaith zealot myself, I dare to claim I’m coming from a slightly different angle.

Andrew, you have every right to disagree! :)

Sam



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Frank Winters

posted November 8, 2011 at 1:48 am


Being a Monk sounds fun if you can easily unbecome one when you want. As to the no cooking — what about using gas or wood to cook (no electrical appliances need be applied)? And another thought re: no work — teaching is work so there you go. And re: microbe killing — where did the Jain religion pick that up? — I mean are microbes in the sacred Jain writings and traditions? Buddha tried to undo the silliness of asceticism and other monkish practices — but funny thing — years and years later — most of those practices are back in one form of Buddhism or another. I wonder if anyone has tried to reform Jainism as Buddha tried to reform Hinduism. Anybody know?



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Rita

posted November 7, 2011 at 10:55 pm


Heather, you have been a rock. I’m glad to read such a positive attitude at this point (your theology Google… love it!)and again I thank you for sharing Andrew with us this year. Hang in there, it’s almost over!



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