He thought they were going on a family vacation, and was utterly shocked when his mother informed him that she was leaving him in their ancestral homeland of Cambodia at a Buddhist monastery until he “changed.” It was two years before he returned to the United States. He seemed to have learned some discipline and was almost silent for the first few weeks. Then things went pretty much back to the way they were, minus the drugs and police contact. Gone is the training to “not want stuff” and now he works because he likes to make money. He doesn’t do his chores or keep his room clean. His mother says she is disappointed, but is glad at least he’s not on drugs anymore or in trouble with the law. This is the story that ran in the Yakima Herald Republic’s faith section today (sourced from the Seattle Times). It was titled “A Monk No More.”
So what happened? After the initial shock to his system this young man seemed to have settled into the monastic lifestyle. Why would he turn back to a “normal” American teenager after two years as a monk?
The problem lies in the failure of the Buddhist system to deal with the root of the problem. A disciplined lifestyle will always fall apart if it is done on the person’s own strength. The problem is not that of discipline or self-will, but of sin.
The Bible says that everyone is born into the sinful nature. Everyone may not get into drugs as a teenager, but every does live as a slave to sin apart from Jesus Christ. That’s why no matter how much self-will you may have you constantly find yourself slipping back into old habits until you are changed from the inside out. And the only one capable of changing the sinful nature into a new nature cleansed of sin and alive to righteousness and holiness is Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation; The old has gone, the new has come!”
The problem with the Pharisees of the Bible is they had an outward form of religion but inside they were dead, just like an outwardly painted tomb still holds dead man’s bones (Matthew 23:27). So it is with anyone who has “religion” but has not been cleansed from the sinful nature. Sin will always creep back in without this change.
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:11-14).