Thursday, August 30, 2007

A monk (Greek monachos (μοναχός, derived from Greek monos, alone), in modern parlance also referred to as a "monastic", is a person who practices religious asceticism, the conditioning of mind and body in favor of the spirit, and does so living either alone or with any number of like-minded people, whilst always maintaining some degree of physical separation from those not sharing the same purpose. The concept is ancient and can be seen in many religions and in philosophy.
In the Greek language the term can apply to men or women; but in modern English it is in use only for men, while nun is used for female monastics.
Although the term monachos-"monk" is of Christian origin, in the English language it tends to be used analogously or loosely also for ascetics from other religious or philosophical backgrounds.
The term "monk" is generic. In some religious or philosophical traditions it therefore may be considered interchangeable with other generic terms such as ascetic. However, being generic, it is not interchangeable with terms that denote particular kinds of monk, such as cenobite, hermit, anchorite, hesychast, solitary.

A monk (Greek: μοναχός, monachos, Latin: monachus) is a general term for a person that leads the "monastic life" in a "monastery".
Nowadays it tends to be wrongly assumed that it signifies a monk living in community, who is, however, merely a kind of monk, namely a cenobite.
From early Church times there has been a lively discussion of the meaning of the term monk (Greek: monos, alone), namely whether it denotes someone living alone/away from the rest of society, or someone celibate/focused on God alone. The Western rule giver Benedict of Nursia understood it as meaning the latter, namely a celibate dedicated to God. This is evident from the fact that his list of the four kinds of monks includes hermits.
The four kinds of monks identified by Benedict of Nursia in chapter 1 of his Rule for Monks as well as in the Rule of the Master are the following:
1. The cenobites live in community in a monastery, serve God under a religious rule and do so under the leadership of an abbot (or in the case of a community of women, an abbess). Benedict points out in ch. 1.13 that they are the "strong kind", which by logic of the context must mean the larger number rather than the better kind. 2. The hermits and anchorites have thorough experience as cenobites in a monastery. "They have built up their strength and go from the battle line in the ranks of their brothers to the single combat of the desert; self-reliant now, without the support of another, they are ready with God's help to grapple single-handed with the vices of body and mind". Benedict himself twice lived for prolonged periods as a hermit, which may account for the comparative length of the characterics of their life in this list. 3. The serabites, censured by Benedict as the most detestable kind of monks, are pretenders that have no cenobitic experience, follow no rule and have no superior. 4. The gyrovagues, censured by Benedict as worse than sarabaites, are wandering monks without stability in a particular monastery.
In the English language, but not in German and French, a distinction is made between monks and friars, the latter being members of mendicant orders.

A monastery is the dwelling of one or more monks.
The term monastery is already used by the Jewish philosopher Philo (c. 20 BCE - 50 CE, resident in Alexandria, Egypt) in his description of the life of the Therapeutae and Therapeutides, people with common religious aspirations who then were dwelling on a low-lying hill above the Mareotic Lake near Alexandria in houses at a distance of each other that safeguards both solitude and security (cf. On the Contemplative Life ch. III, in the Loeb Classical Library edition see §25).
In each house there is a consecrated room which is called a sanctuary or closet (monastērion), and closeted (monoumenoi) in this they are initiated into the mysteries of the sanctified life. They take nothing into it, either drink or food or any other of the things necessary for the needs of the body, but laws and oracles delivered through the mouth of prophets, and hymns and anything else which fosters and perfects knowledge and piety. They keep the memory of God alive and never forget it … Twice every day they pray, at dawn and at eventide … The interval between early morning and evening is spent entirely in spiritual exercise. They read the holy scriptures and seek wisdom from their ancestral philosophy … For six days they seek wisdom by themselves in solitude in the closets (monastēriois) mentioned above … But every seventh day they meet together as for a general assembly … (in a) common sanctuary … (Philo, On The Contemplative Life, ch. III).

Christian monks
Monasticism drew its origin from the examples of the Prophet Elias and John the Baptist who both lived alone in the desert. Jesus himself dwelt in solitude in the desert for forty days, and the Gospels record other times in which he retired for periods of solitary prayer. In the early church, individuals would live ascetic lives, though usually on the outskirts of civilization. Communities of virgins are also mentioned by early church authors, but again these communities were either located in towns, or near the edges of them.
The first famous Christian known to adopt the life in a desert was St. Anthony the Great (251 - 356), sometime in the latter part of the 3rd century. He lived alone as an anchorite in the Egyptian desert until he attracted a circle of followers, after which he retired further into the desert to escape the adulation of men. In the beginning, St. Anthony had an experienced ascetic who gave him advice, but he also lived near the town. St. Anthony was the first to go out into the desert for the sole purpose of pursuing God in solitude. As the idea of devoting one's entire life to God grew, more and more monks joined him, even in the far desert. Under St. Anthony's system, they each lived in isolation. Later, loose-knit communities began to be formed, coming together only on Sundays and major feast days for Holy Communion. These are referred to as sketes, named after the location in Egypt where this system began. The concept of monks all living together under one roof and under the rule of a single abbot is attributed to St. Pachomios (ca. 292 - 348), who lived in the beginning of the 4th century, and is referred to as coenobitic monasticism. At this same time, St. Pachomios' sister became the first abbess of a monastery of women (convent). Christian monasticism spread throughout the Eastern Roman Empire. At its height it was not uncommon for coenobitic monasteries to house upwards of 30,000 monks.
As Christianity grew and diversified, so did the style of monasticism. In the East, monastic norms came to be regularized through the writings of St. Basil the Great (c. 330 - 379) and St. Theodore the Studite (c. 758 - c. 826), coalescing more or less into the form in which it is still found today. In the West, there was initially some distrust of monasticism, due to fears of extremism previously observed in certain heretical groups, most notably Gnosticism. Largely through the writings of St. John Cassian (c. 360433) monasticism came to be accepted in the West as well. St. Benedict of Nursia (c. 480547) set forth the very first monastic rule in the west. In the beginning, Western monasticism followed much the same pattern as its Eastern forebears, but over time the traditions diversified.

History of Christian monasticism
In the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches, monasticism holds a very special and important place. Far more common than in the Roman Catholic Church, the spiritual health of the Orthodox Church can be measured by the quality of its monks and nuns. Orthodox monastics separate themselves from the world in order to pray unceasingly for the world. They do not, in general, have as their primary purpose the running of social services, as is common in Western Christianity, but instead are concerned with attaining theosis, or union with God. However, care for the poor and needy has always been an obligation of monasticism, so Orthodox monasteries are not normally "cloistered" like some contemplative Western houses are, though the level of contact will vary from community to community. Orthodox hermits, on the other hand, have little or no contact with the outside world.
Orthodox monasticism does not have religious orders as are found in the West, nor do they have Rules in the same sense as the Rule of St. Benedict. Rather, Eastern monastics study and draw inspiration from the writings of the Desert Fathers as well as other Church Fathers; probably the most influential of which are the Greater Asketikon and Lesser Asketikon of St. Basil the Great and the Philokalia, which was compiled by St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain and St. Makarios of Corinth. Hesychasm is of primary importance in the ascetical theology of the Orthodox Church.
Most communities are self-supporting, and the monastic's daily life is usually divided into three parts: (a) communal worship in the catholicon (the monastery's main church); (b) hard manual labour; and (c) private prayer, spiritual study, and rest when necessary. Meals are usually taken in common in a sizable dining hall known as a trapeza (refectory), at elongated refectory tables. Food is usually simple and is eaten in silence while one of the brethren reads aloud from the spiritual writings of the Holy Fathers. The monastic lifestyle takes a great deal of serious commitment and hard work, it forces the person to overcome their own flaws and weaknesses; those newcomers with romantic notions about this sort of lifestyle usually do not last more than a few days. Within the coenobitic community, all monks conform to a common way of living based on the traditions of that particular monastery. In struggling to attain this conformity, the monastic comes to realize his own shortcomings and is guided by his spiritual father in how to deal honestly with them. Attaining this level of self-discipline is perhaps the most difficult and painful accomplishment any human being can make; but the end goal, to become like an angel on earth (an "earthly angel and a heavenly man", as the church hymns put it), is the reason monastics are held in such high esteem. For this same reason, Bishops are almost always chosen from the ranks of monks.
Eastern monasticism is found in three distinct forms: anchoritic (a solitary living in isolation), coenobitic (a community living and worshiping together under the direct rule of an abbot or abbess), and the "middle way" between the two, known as the skete (a community of individuals living separately but in close proximity to one another, who come together only on Sundays and feast days, working and praying the rest of the time in solitude, but under the direction of an elder). One normally enters a coenobitic community first, and only after testing and spiritual growth would one go on to the skete or, for the most advanced, become a solitary anchorite. However, one is not necessarily expected to join a skete or become a solitary; most monastics remain in the cenobuim the whole of their lives. The form of monastic life an individual embraces is considered to be his vocation; that is to say, it is dependent upon the will of God, and is revealed by grace.
In general, Orthodox monastics have little or no contact with the outside world, including their own families. The purpose of the monastic life is union with God, the means is through leaving the world (i.e., the life of the passions). After tonsure, Orthodox monks and nuns are never permitted to cut their hair. The hair of the head and the beard remain uncut as a symbol of the vows they have taken, reminiscent of the Nazarites from the Old Testament. The Tonsure of monks is the token of a consecrated life, and symbolizes the cutting off of their self-will.

Monasticism in Eastern Christianity

Main article: Degrees of Orthodox monasticism Degrees of monasticism

Monasticism in Western Christianity
The religious vows taken in the West were first developed by St. Benedict of Nursia who wrote the very first monastic rule. These vows were three in number: obedience, conversion of life, and stability. Among later Western religious orders, these developed into the solemn vows of obedience, poverty, and chastity.
To become a monk, one had to first become an oblate or a novice. To become an oblate, one had to be given to the monastery by one's father. Then, if one was old enough, one could take their first vows and become a novice. Then, after several years, if the abbot (head of the monastery) allows, one could become a monk.
The monks in the Middle Ages lived in a monastery, similar to a modern boarding school. Most monasteries were shaped like a cross so they would remember Jesus Christ, who died on a cross. The monastery had three vows: obedience, chastity, and poverty, which made up the evangelical counsels. Obedience meant that monks were willing to obey the Catholic Church, as represented by the abbot (head of the monastery), chastity meant that since they were willing to dedicate their lives to God, they sacrifice the love between men and women and would not marry; poverty meant they lived their lives of sharing, and shared all their possessions within the community and for the poor and would not hold back for themselves.
Monks grew their own food and shared their work in the monastery. Some of the more qualified monks were set to more challenging tasks, while others did mundane work according to their abilities. The monks spent on average about seven hours work every day, except Sundays, which was the day of rest.
Monks wore a plain brown or black cape and a cross on a chain around their neck; underneath, they wore a hair shirt to remind themselves of the suffering Christ had undergone for them. A man became a monk when he felt a call to God and when he wanted to dedicate his life in God's service for the poor and gain knowledge of God. There could be other reasons individuals felt called into the monastery, such as wanting to be educated, as the monasteries were some of the only places in the world where one was taught to read and write.
The monks called each other "brother" to symbolize their new brotherhood within their spiritual family. The monasteries usually had a strict timetable that they were required to adhere to. They grew their food for themselves and ate it in complete silence. The monks were not allowed to talk to each other anywhere, except in very special places. The monks even had a hospital for the sick.

Roman Catholic monks in the Middle Ages
A small but hugely influential aspect of Anglicanism is its religious orders of monks. Shortly after the beginning of the revival of the Catholic Movement in the Church of England, there was felt to be a need for a restoration of the contemplative life. In the 1840s, Anglican priest John Henry Newman established a community of men at Littlemore near Oxford. From then on, there have been (re-)established many communities of monks, friars and other religious communities for men in the Anglican Communion. There are Anglican Benedictines, Franciscans, Cistercians, and in the Episcopal Church in the USA, Dominicans), as well as home grown orders such as the Society of Saint John the Evangelist, among many more in almost every Province of the Anglican Communion.
Anglican religious life at one time boasted hundreds of orders and communities, and thousands of religious. An important aspect of Anglican religious life is that most communities of both men and women lived their lives consecrated to God under the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience (or in Benedictine communities, Stability, Conversion of Life, and Obedience) by practicing a mixed life of reciting the full eight services of the Breviary in choir, along with a daily Eucharist, plus service to the poor. The mixed life, combing aspects of the contemplative orders and the active orders remains to this day a hallmark of Anglican religious life.
Anglican monks proceed through their religious life first by responding to an inner call to the particular life. Then after counseling with his parish priest, the seeker makes a visit to a monastery and tests his vocation. Usually he must spend some time with the community as an aspirant, then he becomes a postulant, then novice, then come first profession, and usually life vows.
Some communities are contemplative, some active, but a distinguishing feature of the monastic life among Anglicans is that most practice the so-called "mixed life." They keep the full round of liturgical and private worship, but also usually have an active ministry of some sort in their immediate community. This activity could be anything from parish work to working with the homeless, retreats or any number of good causes.
Since the 1960s, there has been a sharp falling off in the numbers of religious in many parts of the Anglican Communion. Many once large and international communities have been reduced to a single convent or monastery comprised of elderly men or women. In the last few decades of the 20th century, novices have for most communities been few and far between. Some orders and communities have already become extinct.
There are however, still several thousand Anglican monks working today in approximately 200 communities around the world.
The most surprising growth has been in the Melanesian countries of the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea. The Melanesian Brotherhood, founded at Tabalia, Guadalcanal, in 1925 by Ini Kopuria, is now the largest Anglican Community in the world with over 450 brothers in the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and the United Kingdom. The Sisters of the Church, started by Mother Emily Ayckbown in England in 1870, has more sisters in the Solomons than all their other communities. The Community of the Sisters of Melanesia, started in 1980 by Sister Nesta Tiboe, is a growing community of women throughout the Solomon Islands. The Society of Saint Francis, founded as a union of various Franciscan orders in the 1920s, has experienced great growth in the Solomon Islands. Other communities of religious have been started by Anglicans in Papua New Guinea and in Vanuatu. Most Melanesian Anglican religious are in their early to mid 20s, making the average age 40 to 50 years younger than their brothers and sisters in other countries. This growth is especially surprising because celibacy was not traditionally regarded as a virtue in Melanesia.
Another important development in Anglican monasticism are religious communities that allow both single and married people interested in the monastic lifestyle to become first order monks and nuns. An example of this is the Cistercian Order of the Holy Cross [1], an Order in full Anglican Communion with a traditional period of postulancy and noviceship for applicants in the Roman, Anglican or Orthodox faith traditions.

Anglican monks
Main article at Bhikkhu
People of the Pali canon
Community of Buddhist Disciples
BhikkhuBhikkuṇī Sikkhamānā SamaṇeraSamaṇerī
MonkNun Nun trainee Novice (m., f.)
Upāsaka, Upāsikā Gahattha, Gahapati Agārika, Agāriya
Lay devotee (m., f.) Householder Layperson
Related Religions
SamaṇaMonk Ājīvaka Brāhmaṇa Nigaṇṭha
Wanderer Ascetic Brahmin Jain ascetic
Although the European term monk is applied also on Buddhism, the situation of ordination is more complicated than that.
There are trial periods in becoming a buddhist monk to see if you would want to become a buddhist monk, if you in fact do, you stay there. In Theravada Buddhism, bhikkhus is the name of monks. Their disciplinary code is called the patimokkha, which is part of the larger Vinaya. They live lives of mendicancy, and go on a morning almsround (Pali: pindapata) every day. The local people give food for the monks to eat. The monks live in monasteries, and have an important function in traditional Asian society. Young boys can ordain as samaneras. Both bhikkhus and samaneras eat only in the morning, and are not supposed to lead a luxurious life. Their rules forbid the use of money, although this rule is nowadays not kept by all monks. The monks are part of the Sangha, the third of the Triple Gem of Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha.
In Vajrayana Buddhism, monkhood is part of the system of 'vows of individual liberation'; these vows are taken in order to develop one's own personal ethical discipline. The monks and nuns form the (ordinary) sangha. In Mahayana Buddhism, the term 'Sangha' is in principle restricted to those who have achieved certain levels of understanding (they are therefore called 'community of the excellent ones', Tib. <mchog kyi tshogs>); these in turn need not be monks (i.e., hold such vows), however. Several Mahayana orders accept female practitioners as monks, instead of using the normal title of "nun", and they are considered equal to male ascetics in all respects
As for the Vajrayana vows of individual liberation, there are four steps: A lay person may take the 5 vows called 'approaching virtue' (in Tibetan 'genyen' <dge snyan>). The next step is to enter the monastic way of life (Tib. rabjung) which includes wearing monk's or nun's robes. After that, one can become a 'novice' (Pali samanera, Tib. getshül); the last and final step is to take all vows of the 'fully ordained monk' (gelong). This term 'gelong' (Tib. <dge long>, in the female form gelongma) is the translation of Skt. bikshu (for women bikshuni) which is the equivalent of the Pali term bhikkhuni; bhikkhu is the word used in Theravada Buddhism (Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand).
Chinese Buddhist monks have been traditionally linked with the practice of the Chinese martial arts or Kung fu and monks are frequently important characters in martial arts films. This association is focused around the Shaolin Monastery. The Buddhist monk Bodhidharma, traditionally credited as the founder of Zen Buddhism in China, is also claimed to have introduced Kung fu to the country. This latter claim has however been a source of much controversy (see Bodhidharma, the martial arts, and the disputed India connection).

Buddhist monks
Main article: Hare Krishna
Similar in appearance to Buddhist monks, monks from the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), or Hare Krishnas as they are popularly known, are the best known Vaishnava monks outside India. They are a common sight in many places around the world. Their appearance—simple saffron dhoti, shaved head with sikha, Tulasi neckbeads and tilaka markings—and social customs (sadhana) date back many thousands of years to the Vedic era with its varnasrama society. This social scheme includes both monastic and lay stages meant for various persons in various stages of life as per their characteristics (guna) and work (karma).
ISKCON started as a predominantly monastic group but nowadays the majority of members live as lay persons. Many of them, however, spent some time as monks. New persons joining ISKCON as full-time members (living in its centers) first undergo a three-month Bhakta training, which includes learning the basics of brahmacari (monastic) life. After that they can decide if they prefer to continue as monks or as married Grihasthas.
Brahmacari older than fifty years can become sannyasi. Sannyasa, a life of full dedication to spiritual pursuits, is the highest stage of life in the varnasrama society. It is permanent and one cannot give it up. A Sannyasi is given the title Swami. Older grihastha with grown-up children are traditionally expected to accept vanaprastha (celibate retired) life.
The role of monastic orders in Indian and now also Western society has to some extent been adapted over the years in accordance with ever-changing social structures.
Madhvaacharya (Madhvacharya), the Dwaita philosopher, established ashta matha (Eight Monastries). He appointed a monk (called swamiji or swamigalu in local parlance) for each matha or monastery who has the right to worship Lord Krishna by rotation. Each matha's swamiji gets a chance to worship after fourteen years.This ritual is called Paryaya.

Monks in fiction

Ashta matha
Bhikkhu/Bhikshu — Buddhist monk
Into Great Silence — documentary about Catholic monks
Book of the First Monks
Lay brothers
Monk (RPG class)
Monk Seal
Religious order
Rule of St Benedict
Sea monk
Monk (TV Series)

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