BeenThere - I'm not sure I'm quite as cynical about monks as you are, though I've read some pretty amazing things about the Jesuits and others. The truth is, there are good and pure people in every religion that have chosen like yourself to have a life dedicated to knowing G-d with or without having dogma as a vehicle.
It's so much easier as you get older and have a family to return to the religion of your upbringing - but the eastern religions just have always made more sense to me on many levels. For instance getting selected for eternal heaven or hell based on the usually inconclusive acts from a single lifetime born into such varied and unequal circumstances seems capricious in the extreme.
The concept of earning your circumstances in this world and the afterlife through rebirth (reincarnation) and by a cumulation of your past and present deeds (karma) is the only way I see that the inequalities of this world could be remotely fair or justified. (Not that that necessarily proves its' reality).
But whichever religion you chose or have chosen for you, you're right - private communion and dedication to G-d or good is all that really matters.