Overnight Guest Guidelines
Guests participate both in the routine of the monastery as well as in the activity of the community. Guests are expected to participate in all aspects of the monastery schedule. Standards of behaviour for laypeople visiting Tisarana are governed by the Eight Precepts. These include eating only before mid day and avoiding sensual physical contact between men and women.
In keeping with our tradition, there is no charge for anything at Tisarana Buddhist Monastery. We are supported entirely by voluntary donations in the form of food and other material requisites, money, and work. While there is no obligatory charge to stay here, guests may consider how they might contribute to the needs of maintaining the monastery, developing the virtues of generosity, gratitude, and kindness – important qualities which support the practice of mental cultivation.
Guests are temporarily part of the resident community and it is not considered appropriate to come and go without notice or engage in external business during their stay. This would include leaving the monastery in one’s own car unless one had a very compelling reason and had asked permission of the office monk to do so. To help make the monastery a haven of quiet and solitude, guests staying for two weeks or less are not permitted to use their own or the monastery’s telephones, computers, or email for any unnecessary external business. Emergencies are always an exception to this rule. There is no public wi-fi or internet service available for short term guests at the monastery. If a guest is required to check the internet for the purpose of leaving the monastery (i.e. for checking/procuring a plane/bus/train ticket) they may ask permission of the office monk to do so. If possible, we ask that guests take care of all business and travel arrangements before coming to the monastery. All of this helps to ensure a peaceful, contemplative stay.
Please note that we cannot accommodate special diets and ask that all guests receive whatever food is offered each day. Guests are expected to refrain from smoking during their visit to the monastery. Unfortunately, we are unable to accommodate pets.
The Eight Precepts – kept by all residents and guests
To refrain from destroying living creatures (harmlessness: not intentionally taking the life of any living creature)
To refrain from taking that which is not given (trustworthiness)
To refrain from any kind of intentional sexual behaviour (celibacy)
To refrain from incorrect speech (avoiding false, abusive or malicious speech and idle chatter)
To refrain from intoxicating drink and drugs which lead to carelessness (sobriety)
To refrain from eating at wrong times (restraint: not eating after midday)
To refrain from beautification, entertainment, and adornment (restraint: not seeking distraction, playing radios and music, and dressing modestly)
To refrain from lying on a high or luxurious sleeping place (alertness: refraining from overindulgence in sleep)
Personal items to bring: a flashlight, sheets, pillow case, towel and toiletries, sturdy shoes, work clothing (warm clothing in the winter months), and an alarm clock. Note: Please do not bring a sleeping bag or blankets.
Making a booking
If coming from close by (Ontario or Quebec) first-time visits are limited to one week. If you are coming from further away provinces or states in the north-east of the United States, you may request to stay for ten days. If you are making an international trip (with the exception of coming from the north-east of the United States), you may ask to stay for two weeks. For those who have previously spent time with our community, it may be possible to arrange for longer stays.
Please don’t make a reservation unless you can make a firm commitment to follow through. When you cancel a reservation it may mean that someone else was turned away for lack of space. Our cancellation policy may require people to wait one year to make another reservation if they do not show up or if they cancel their current reservation with less than two weeks notification from the reservation date (unless they have an emergency which requires them to cancel). This is due to many cancellations and no shows we have had in the past. To book a visit, please fill in the guest booking form. Bookings can’t be made over the phone, so please use this form.
Standards of Monastic Etiquette
Mindfulness and Composure
Buddhist monasteries have certain social conventions and a body language meant to convey a sense of composure, grace, and respect. For people visiting the monastery and unfamiliar with the etiquette, it can often feel intimidating: “I think there is a way I am supposed to behave, but I don’t know what it is!” Most important is a well-intentioned attitude. No one will be offended by the absence of precise etiquette on your behalf. General courtesy and respect go a long way and are the basis for many of the forms of etiquette we use in the monastery. As well as promoting harmony and grace within the community, the forms of etiquette we use are also a means of training oneself in mindfulness and circumspection in everyday social interactions.
Añjali: The most commonly used expression of body language in the monastery is the añjali. The hands are held palm-to-palm in front of the heart and are sometimes raised to the lowered forehead. It is a gesture of respect that can be used as a greeting, a goodbye, a thank-you or when speaking with one of the monastics.
Bowing: The traditional way of paying respect to a shrine or to a senior monk is to bow. This is best learned by following the example of others. As with many traditional practices it is more a ‘movement of faith’ rather than a rigid rule and is taken up accordingly. In the monastery we pay respect to the shrine when entering or leaving the meditation hall and to the senior monk at the end of the morning and evening meditations.
Sitting: In Thai culture it is traditionally considered impolite to point one’s feet at either the shrine or at the monks when one is sitting. Also, lying down or stretching out is considered inappropriate in public spaces. During meditation or a Dhamma talk, care should be taken to move and shift positions quietly.
Relating to the Monastic Community
Monks have many rules in their monastic code of discipline that affect the way they relate to people. In particular it is a serious offense for an ordained monastic to have sensual physical contact with a person of the opposite sex. Partly for this reason, monks will greet people with an añjali rather than shaking hands or embracing. There is also a stipulation that there must be another conscientious male present whenever a monk is spending time with a woman in a private place. This is to prevent unfortunate situations from occurring as well as to prevent harmful gossip and misunderstanding.
As alms-mendicants, monks are prohibited from engaging in activities that could provide for their own material livelihood. This includes handling money, cultivating crops, and working the land or storing food. As a result everything that accrues to the monastic community is the result of an offering from a generous person. Anything a monk consumes, except water, must actually be offered to them directly. They cannot help themselves to food unless it has been given to them.
In addressing a monk, it is generally considered impolite to refer to them directly by name without an appropriate form of address. The abbot or any monastic who has been ordained for more than ten years is usually addressed as “Ajahn” (i.e. Ajahn Vīradhammo). “Ajahn” is a Thai word, from the Pāli word “Ācariya,” and means “teacher.” Monks who have been ordained for less than ten years may be addressed as “Venerable,” or as “Tan” (i.e. Tan Pavaro), which is Thai and means “venerable.” To make things easier any monk can be addressed as “Bhante” (pronounced BUN-tay) which is from Pāli, the original language of the Buddhist scriptures and means “venerable sir.”
Relating to the Monastery
Sangha life is a life of community. Everything in the monastery belongs to the Sangha, the ordained disciples of the Buddha, both present and future. The individual members of the Sangha and its guests are the caretakers charged with the responsibility of safeguarding, protecting, and maintaining the monastery for the use of the Buddha’s disciples today and tomorrow. One should remove one’s shoes before entering any monastery building. For dwellings the standard is to try to leave it cleaner than when you arrived. An overall attitude of care and respect for monastery property is the rule.
Items in the kitchen and in the storeroom are also property of the Sangha. Even the monastics may not help themselves to things without permission. If you need something, you should ask permission of the guest monk (the monk in charge of guest stays). To help oneself to food, personal items (except library books or items for free distribution) without permission would go against the spirit of monastic life.