Buddhist student aims to sample life of monk

By George Jaksa, THE FLINT JOURNAL FIRST EDITION, July 23, 2005

GRAND BLANC, Michigan (USA) - Josh Behan is an anthropology major at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, but he has his sights on another life work: becoming a Buddhist monk.

Behan, 21, may get his chance to taste the daily life of a Buddhist monk if he can land a three-month job of cooking for eight or nine monks this fall at the Bodhi Monastery in Lafayette, N.J. With the job, Behan said he could pay off the $6,000 debt accumulated so far for his education.

And, if Behan, a 2002 Mott Middle College graduate, is accepted as a Buddhist monk candidate, he said he will forget about finishing college and join the monks.

Q. If accepted, what would be the process to being a monk?

A. Depending on the tradition, I will be a novice first for maybe a year, then I will have to decide if I want to become fully ordained as a monk.

Q. When did you embrace the Buddhist faith?

A. Officially about two years ago, but I had been thinking about it before that time. I became interested in Buddhism when I was 18 just as a consideration, but after a year, I became more heavily involved.

Q. What attracted you to Buddhism?

A. The novelty of it and curiosity. I was brought up as a Christian, but I like to learn about other religions. Then Ken and Visakha Kawasaki of the Buddhist Relief Center here started taking me to temples to meditate with them.

Q. Anything else attract you?

A. Buddhism is not so much about worshipping someone or some god, but it's about working on yourself to change negative problems into positive outcomes. For instance, if you have stolen something, you try to change that into being generous or if you tell lies, you try to become less hurtful and more caring.

Q. How has our family reacted to you possibly becoming a Buddhist monk?

A. My mom, Beth Meadows, who goes to New Community Church of God, is very excited and said, "Oh, you are going to be safe with the monks."

Q. What happens if you don't join a monastery now?

A. I will go back to the University of Michigan to get my degree and then work off a $25,000 debt for my education. It would be at least 10 years before I can become a monk if that happens.

Q. Have you had any experience with the monks?

A. I have been to Toronto to meditate at a Burmese temple, and I recently returned from a retreat at the New Jersey monastery.