The Monastic Steward
In non-Buddhist countries small hermitages like Arrow River generally operate by depending on the help of a monastic steward. The steward is a layperson who takes care of the neccessary duties that the monks cannot because of their rules. The office of monastic steward is not entirely a modern innovation, but is based on the original Vinaya texts.
In practical terms this means mostly looking after the kitchen and cooking the meals. The duties are fairly light because we only eat once a day. This is an excellent opportunity for someone looking for some solitude and a chance to meditate and study.
Vinaya restrictions on the monks
The following are a few of the restrictions on a bhikkhu which neccesitate the assistance of a lay steward.
A bhikkhu should not...
- Store food overnight
- Eat anything that has not been offered to him that day
- Handle or have control over money in any form
- Cut living plants
- Dig living earth
The Duties of a Steward
The steward is in charge of the kitchen. He does the shopping (although sometimes this duty may be delegated), stores the food and maintains the kitchen. He cooks the meals and offers them to any monks or nuns staying here. The steward can expect some help with the kitchen work whenever the center is busy.
In the summer season only (June and July mostly) the steward may have to cut the grass once or twice a week. If any digging needs to be done, the monks can help after the black earth and turf is gone through. This is pretty minimal here.
If any cash money is given or needs to be spent, it is to be handled by the steward.
Suitable Candidate for Steward
- Stable personality
- Able to make a firm commitment for a definite period of at least two months.
- Very helpful to have an Ontario driver's license.
- Good physical and mental health
Benefits of Serving as Steward
- Chance to live in a beautiful natural setting
- Lots of free time for meditation or study
- Access to library of Dhamma books
- Make heaps of merit!
Arrow River Forest Hermitage