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Monasticism (from Greek μοναχός, monachos, derived from Greek monos, alone) is a religious way of life characterized by the practice of renouncing worldly pursuits to fully devote one's self to spiritual work. The origin of the word is from Ancient Greek, and the idea originally related to Christian monks.

In the Christian tradition, males pursuing a monastic life are usually called monks or brethren (brothers), and if females nuns or sisters. Both monks and nuns may also be called monastics. Some other religions also include what could be described as "monastic" elements, most notably Buddhism, but also Hinduism and Jainism, though the expressions differ considerably.


Buddhist monasticism

The Sangha or community of ordained Buddhist bhikkus (similar to monks) and original bhikkhunis (similar to nuns) was founded by Gautama Buddha during his lifetime over 2500 years ago. This communal monastic lifestyle grew out of the lifestyle of earlier sects of wandering ascetics, some of whom the Buddha had studied under. It was initially fairly eremetic or reclusive in nature. Bhikkhus and bhikkunis were expected to live with a minimum of possessions, which were to be voluntarily provided by the lay community.[1] Lay followers also provided the daily food that bhikkhus required, and provided shelter for bhikkhus when they were needed.[1]

After the Parinibbana (Final Passing) of the Buddha, the Buddhist monastic order developed into a primarily cenobitic or communal movement. The practice of living communally during the rainy vassa season, prescribed by the Buddha, gradually grew to encompass a settled monastic life centered on life in a community of practitioners. Most of the modern disciplinary rules followed by bhikkhus and bhikkhunis—as encoded in the Patimokkha—relate to such an existence, prescribing in great detail proper methods for living and relating in a community of bhikkhus or bhikkhunis. The number of rules observed varies with the order; Theravada bhikkhus follow around 227 rules. There are a larger number of rules specified for bhikkhunis (nuns).[2]

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