A monk is an individual who renounces earthly pursuits and commits to spiritual life. Monks practice religious asceticism, meaning they refrain from sensual pleasures and live.

What is a monastery?

A monastery is a building where monks live, both in communities and alone. Monasteries tend to feature a place for prayer and worship, such as a church or a temple. They may also include dormitories, cloisters, refectories, libraries, and infirmaries.

While ‘monastery’ refers to the buildings that house a community of monks, ‘convent’ describes similar female institutions.

What do monks do with their days?

The life of a monk might seem like it would be very calm and slow, but they get up to a lot. They devote much of their time to religious practices, such as prayer, mass, reflection, or meditation. In their free time, they will often exercise, cook, forage, or do various tasks around the monastery.

Different Types of Monks by Religion:

Catholic monks

Catholic monasticism is based on the rules of St. Benedict of Nursia (480-543 or 547 AD), the founder of monasticism in the West. Benedictine monks take three vows:

  • Obedience – the monk should obey Christ, represented by the senior member of the monastery.
  • Conversion of life – the monk, must be committed to monastic life, which entails death to the self and worldly matters and life to God.
  • Stability – the monk commits himself to the monastery until death when he will be buried in its cemetery.

Vows of obedience, poverty, and chastity were founded in other religious communities. There are many variations of Christian monks belonging to Lutheranism, Anglicanism, Orthodox, etc.

Buddhist monks

There are different variations of Buddhist monasticism. Theravada Buddhist monks are mendicants, meaning they subsist on the alms (food given to poor people) of others. Each morning they go on a donation round, where they receive food from locals, although the monks are forbidden from positively asking for anything. Boys can be ordained at a young age and, like their elders, eat only in the morning and abstain from worldly luxuries.

Mahayana Buddhists are known as the ‘community of the excellent ones’ once they reach a certain level of spiritual understanding. Bhikkhu monks are only permitted to own four items other than their robes – a razor, a needle, an alms bowl, and a water filter.

The life of a Buddhist monk is simple and focused rather than severely deprived. Unlike Christian monasticism, it’s not a requirement that Buddhist monks are obedient to a superior.

Hindu monks

There are several different orders of Hindu monasticism. Dashanami Sampradaya is a monastic tradition of renunciation. The monks, known as swamis, forgo worldly matters, practicing non-attachment and selfless service to achieve spiritual union with the Self.

Brahmacari monks from the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. These are known outside of India as Hare Krishnas.

Why do monks shave their heads?

Shaving the head symbolizes the abandonment of ego and fashion and shows a Buddhist’s devotion to their religion. In Buddhism, shaving the head and face is essential to becoming a monk!

What’s the difference between a monk and a friar?

Monks live contemplative lives of prayer in a monastery, while friars generally serve the outside community.

What do monks eat?

Monks’ diets differ depending on where they live, their religion, and their specific dietary requirements.

For example, some Buddhist monks follow Lacto-vegetarian diets, where they consume dairy but exclude eggs, poultry, fish, and meat. But not all Buddhists follow the same view, and some will eat meat and other animal products as long as the animal wasn’t killed specifically for them to eat.

The typical diet of a medieval monk used to consist of fundamental ingredients, such as grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. Most of their food was only seasoned with salt. They would also consume wine or ale with their meal, depending on what was available in their area.

How do you become a monk?

To become a Christian monk, one must first become a postulant. This refers to the time spent living at the monastery, where the person can leave at any time. They’re not bound by any vows, although the postulant and community must agree that the person can become a monk. Once approved, the postulant becomes a novice monk, living by his religious habit and participating fully in the monastery.

After six months to a year, the novice must take temporary vows. The final step comes after a period of a few years, where the monk makes permanent vows which are binding for life.

Facts About Monks for Kids:

  • Like you’d call a priest ‘Father,’ the correct way to address a monk is ‘Dom.’ This comes from the Latin ‘Domnus,’ meaning sir or master.
  • Monks made the first clocks in medieval England when Richard of Wallingford built the first public clock around 1320.
  • The first Christian monk was Saint Anthony of Egypt in the 3rd century.
  • Monks and nuns were among the most educated people during the Middle Ages.
  • Monks can spend much of their days in silence.
  • The famous Laughing Buddha is believed to have been a Chinese monk called Ch’i-t’zu.Top of Form
Choose your Reaction!