Questions and Answers

Q&A:

What's this all about? What is the Integral Monastery?

Is this some kind of new religion?

Why become a monk?

If I become an Integral Monastic, do I have to.....

It sounds like you're hijacking and diluting the meaning of the word "monk".

Is it going to cost me anything to become an Integral Monastic?

Do you have a monastery?

Why do you only speak about monks and never mention nuns? Can’t women be Integral Monastics, or what?

You sometimes use the word God. What do you mean by God? Do I have to take up any particular belief or metaphysical system to be an Integral Monastic?

You use the word “worldly”. What do you mean?



What's this all about? What is the Integral Monastery?

The Integral Monastery aspires to become a collaborative entity of like-minded, modern people devoted to spirituality. By like-minded we mean people who resonate with the shared goals of the Integral Monastery. By modern we mean people who typically live in urban environments, engage in social relations, use modern technology, take an interest in contemporary affairs, recognize current scientific ideas, etc.

Aware of the fact that there are many people today who, often despite great worldly success, still feel as if "something is missing", the Integral Monastery seeks to act as a vehicle through which a person is activated to explore and dive into the dimensions of life said to lay beyond worldly, routine existence.

Some people in the past with a calling to wholeheartedly seek the truth in this way found themselves choosing a rather unusual way of life, namely that of a monk or a nun. This quite radical monastic life which involves the renouncement of all worldly endeavors may seem quite unsuitable or inconvenient, if not impossible, in the light of modern society. Yet, we believe that it actually is possible to fully commit oneself to truth in a monastic manner, thereby reaping the profound benefits of such a commitment, all without having to abandon the privileged place of a 21th-century human being.

Capable of harmoniously integrating elements from all dimensions of life, be they worldly or spiritual, the Integral Monastery is thereby an excellent vehicle through which a modern person with a strong spiritual vocation may express themselves freely and genuinely.

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Is this some kind of new religion?

No. The Integral Monastery is not a religion, but a tool or perspective with or through which one is stimulated and encouraged to explore what is often called a spiritual or religious life. How this religious life will manifest itself in terms of practices, aesthetics, ambitions, etc, will often vary from person to person.

Since we are not a static religion with a rigid worldview, but a collaborative vehicle through which a religious life is led, we can address common religious issues in an open and flexible way. For example, we recognize this life comes in a wide variety of flavours and colours, and hence to some extent must be tailored to suit individual means of expression. We also recognize that many aspects of the religious life must be updated or reinterpreted so as to align itself with existence in the modern world, lest it will fail to remain relevant for people.

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Why become a monk?

In every field of endeavour, be it sports, art, business, a particular line of work, a craft, science, etc, there are some who, out of great interest, devote themselves more than others; some who find themselves spending much more time and energy in celebration of this one passion. As it turns out, this is also the case when it comes to spirituality and the pursuit of truth.

Someone who feels called to a life extending beyond the realm of personal achievement — the amassing of wealth, the acquisition of psychological perfection, the grasping for lofty spiritual states, etc — may choose the path of a monk, which can roughly be described as a path of selflessness.

Becoming a monk in the Integral Monastery however is different from most other monastic orders in that we don’t, in the search for truth, seek to alienate ourselves from the world. We don’t think of personal endeavour as something intrinsically “bad” which must be somehow removed from one’s sight. Instead, we seek a shift in perspective; a shift in which personal achievements simply aren’t clung to as absolute priorities. Rather, we view our personal life as just another neutral occurrence in the dynamic display of life.

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If I become an Integral Monastic, do I have to.....

The Integral Monastery is about the end of suffering, and the finding and celebration of truth. While some aspects of one’s personal life can prove less aerodynamic, or even burdensome, in terms of actualizing these goals of an Integral Monk, we do not force anyone to conform to arbitrary limitations.

However, we may recommend certain modes of conduct which will serve one’s spiritual development. For example, being in a relationship with another human being will for some clearly make it more difficult to focus one’s complete attention on whatever spiritual practice one is doing. Therefore, we may recommend that a solitary lifestyle is preferable at least as one begins this kind of life. Even so we don’t hold any beliefs whatsoever of relationships as somehow “bad” or “unworthy”. The same applies to money, sex, hobbies, etc.

To summarize: no, no one has to give up anything in the literal, physical sense. What one does have to give up, however, is one’s attachments and false beliefs about these phenomena. This is the heart of spiritual practice.

  • Follow up question: it sounds like you’re both diluting and hijacking the meaning of the word monk. Why call yourselves monks if you don’t practically have to change anything in your life? It doesn’t sound challenging in any way.

We maintain that the essence of monastic life was never the physical isolation from society, or the giving up of all of one’s literal possessions. Obviously, there are plenty of people who live alone or are extremely poor who experience nothing but stress and misery in their lives. So physical, literal renunciation can’t, if one looks more closely, be the key to union with God, or awakening to truth.

Instead, the essence of being a monk is the profound renunciation of one’s attachments and false beliefs. Until we give up these precious possessions of ours, needle-squeezing camels will abound.

(Also, for some the renunciation of one’s personal attachments and cherished beliefs actually turns out to be much more difficult and overwhelming an ordeal than, say, a bankruptcy could ever be. From this perspective, being an urban monk is even more challenging than moving into a traditional monastery, as one in addition is forced to deal directly with the many realities of worldly existence.)

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Is it going to cost me anything to become an Integral Monastic?

Apart from your ego, no. :)

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Do you have a monastery?

Not in the traditional sense. Instead, the monastery of the Integral Monastic is the universe, and his cell is the apartment or house in which he lives. That said, if any Integral Monastics were to move in together in a setting more closely resembling that of a traditional monastery, nothing would prevent it. Perhaps apart from the fact that literal seclusionism may not resonate perfectly with the all-encompassing philosophy of the Integral Monastery.

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Why do you only speak about monks and never mention nuns? Can’t women be Integral Monastics, or what?

We find the word “monk” to be preferable to “nun”, referring to both male and female Integral Monastics. The word “monk” derives from the Greek word “monachos”, which means “single, solitary”. This is an apt name, as a monk — initially — seeks to dissolve the many, and observe the one. The word “nun”, by comparison, is rooted in the Latin word “nonna”, which means “old woman” or “grandmother”.

Because of the word’s etymology and its actual neutrality regarding gender, we find “monk” to be a more suitable term in describing an Integral Monastic, female or male.

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You sometimes use the word God. What do you mean by God? Do I have to take up any particular belief or metaphysical system to be an Integral Monastic?

Whenever we use the word God, we simply mean truth.* That is, whatever is actually the case.

As an Integral Monastic one is free to use whatever vehicle one deems suitable, as long as it serves as a means of transportation to truth. It may be a traditional and well-defined religious vehicle like Christianity or Buddhism, it may be a fusion of various religious cultures, it may be a more or less self-crafted spiritual path, or it may be a vehicle which refuses to subscribe to any set patterns altogether. Any vehicle leading to truth without harming others is a good vehicle, and the Integral Monastic is completely free to craft her own, or to adopt one already existing.

That said, out of the countless vehicles out there, some clearly are more effective than others in terms of its potency in leading one towards truth. A monk should to the best of his ability seek to avoid the inadequate, outdated, damaged or deceptive vehicles.

*As for the nature of what truth actually is, that is a topic which is better addressed separately, but it should be said that the Integral Monastery doesn’t hand out rigid answers in response to this question, for a variety of reasons. At the same time, the Integral Monastery is not of the view that truth is simply “the truth that one makes for oneself”.

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You use the word “worldly”. What do you mean?

When we use the concept “worldly”, we refer to the dimension of our experience which often appear to us as very real, but upon closer inspection turns out not to be. A metaphor is a desert mirage: it appears to be real, but upon closer inspection turns out to be illusory.

Most spiritual traditions maintain that the reason one is not in contact with truth — or God — is because one believes the worldly reality to be real, while it isn’t. And, that the stress, or suffering, or incompleteness, that one may experience in one’s life comes as a direct consequence of this belief in the-worldly-as-real. The spiritual path may therefore be defined as the attempt of seeing through this belief.

The concept of “worldliness” however is one which turns out to be quite difficult to define, and various religious and philosophical systems differ on the details of what should or shouldn’t be counted as “worldly”. Yet, it is a concept very hard to do completely without; many find it to be a very useful teaching tool on the spiritual journey.

Some synonyms of the concept of “worldliness” is: conventional reality, conceptually imputed reality, dualistic reality, illusory reality, deceptive reality, relative reality.

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