A monk (/mʌŋk/, from Greek: μοναχός, monachos, "single, solitary" via Latin monachus) is a person who practices religious asceticism by living a monastic lifestyle, either alone or with any number of other monks. A monk may be a person who decides to dedicate their life to serving other people and serving God, or to be an ascetic who voluntarily chooses to leave mainstream society and live their life in prayer and contemplation. The concept is ancient and can be seen in many religions and in philosophy.
Although the term monachos is of Christian origin, in the English language monk tends to be used loosely also for both male and female ascetics from other religious or philosophical backgrounds. However, being generic, it is not interchangeable with terms that denote particular kinds of monk, such as cenobite, hermit, anchorite, hesychast, or solitary.
In Theravada Buddhism, bhikkhu is the term for monk. 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, though the monks are not permitted to positively ask for anything. The monks live in monasteries, and have an important function in traditional Asian society. Young boys can be ordained 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 Mahayana Buddhism, the term 'Sangha' strictly speaking refers to those who have achieved certain levels of understanding. They are therefore called 'community of the excellent ones' (Standard Tibetan: mchog kyi tshogs); however, these in turn need not be monks (i.e., hold such vows). 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.
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. 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 and stereotypically 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 Kalaripayattu (which later evolved into 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). One more feature about the Chinese Buddhist monks is that they practice the burning marks on their scalp, finger or part of the skin on their anterior side of the forearm with incense as a sign of ordination.
In Thailand and Burma, it is common for boys to spend some time living as a monk in a monastery. Most stay for only a few years and then leave, but a number continue on in the ascetic life for the rest of their lives.
Within Catholicism, a monk is a member of a religious order who lives a communal life in a monastery, abbey, or priory under a monastic rule of life. Benedict of Nursia, (480-543 or 547 AD) is considered to be the founder of western monasticism. He authored the Rule of St. Benedict, which is the foundation for the Order of St. Benedict and all of its reform groups such as the Cistercians and the Trappists. He founded the great Benedictine monastery, Monte Cassino, in 529.
The religious vows taken in the West were first developed by St. Benedict. These vows were three in number: obedience, conversion of life, and stability. Obedience calls for the monk to obey Christ, as represented by the superior person of the monastery, which is an abbot or prior. Conversion of life means, generally, that the monk convert himself to the way of a monk, which is death to self and to the world and life to God and to his work. A Christian monk is to be an instrument of God's work. Stability entails that the monk commit himself to the monastery for the remainder of his life, and so, upon death, will be buried at its cemetery. The vow of stability is unique to Benedictines.
To become a monk, one first must become a postulant, during which time the man lives at the monastery to evaluate whether he is called to become a monk. As a postulant, the man is not bound by any vows, and is free to leave the monastery at any time. If the postulant and the community agree that the postulant should become a monk, the man is received as a novice, at which time he is given his religious habit, and begins to participate more fully in the life of the monastery. Following a period as a novice, usually six months to a year, the novice professes temporary vows, which can be renewed for a period of years. After a few years, the monk professes permanent vows, which are binding for life.
The monastic life generally consists of prayer in the form of the Liturgy of the Hours (also known as the Divine Office) and divine reading (lectio divina) and manual labor. Among most religious orders, monks live in simple, austere rooms called cells and come together daily to celebrate the Conventual Mass and to recite the Liturgy of the Hours. In most communities, the monks take their meals together in the refectory. While there is no vow of silence, many communities have a period of silence lasting from evening until the next morning and some others restrict talking to only when it is necessary for the monks to perform their work and during weekly recreation.
Monks who have been or will be ordained into Holy Orders as priests or deacons are referred to as choir monks, as they have the obligation to recite the entire Divine Office daily in choir. Those monks who are not ordained into Holy Orders are referred to as lay brothers. In most monastic communities today, little distinction exists between the lay brothers and the choir monks. However, historically, the roles of the two groups of monks within the monastery differed. The work of the choir monks was considered to be prayer, chanting the seven hours of the Divine Office and celebrating the Mass daily whereas the lay brothers provided for the material needs of the community by growing food, preparing meals, maintaining the monastery and the grounds. This distinction arose historically because generally those monks who could read Latin typically became choir monks, while those monks who were illiterate or could not read Latin became lay brothers. Since the lay brothers could not recite the Divine Office in Latin, they would instead pray easily memorizable prayers such as the Our Father or the Hail Mary as many as 150 times per day. Since the Second Vatican Council, the distinction between choir monks and lay brothers has been deemphasized, as the council allowed the Divine Office to be said in the vernacular language, effectively opening participation to all of the monks.
Within western monasticism, it is important to differentiate between monks and friars. Monks generally live a contemplative life of prayer confined within a monastery while friars usually engage in an active ministry of service to the outside community. The monastic orders include all Benedictines (the Order of Saint Benedict and its later reforms including the Cistercians and the Trappists) and the Carthusians, who live according to their own Statutes, and not according to the Rule of St. Benedict proper. Orders of friars include the Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites, and Augustinians. Although the Canons Regular, such as the Norbertines, live in community, they are neither monks nor friars as they are characterized by their clerical state and not by any monastic vows.
Monastic life in England came to an abrupt end when King Henry VIII broke from the Catholic Church and made himself the head of the Church of England. He initiated the Dissolution of the Monasteries, during which all of the monasteries within England were destroyed. A large number of monks were executed, others fled to continental European monasteries where they were able to continue their monastic life.
Shortly after the beginning of the Anglo-Catholic Movement in the Church of England, there was felt to be a need for a restoration of the monastic life. In the 1840s, the then Anglican priest and future Catholic Cardinal John Henry Newman established a community of men at Littlemore near Oxford. From then on, there have been 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 United States, Dominicans. There are also uniquely Anglican monastic orders such as the Society of Saint John the Evangelist and the Community of the Resurrection at Mirfield. 041b061a72