Buddhist Monks

The Buddhist community known as the Sangha is made up of both male and female monks referred to as bhikkhu and bhikkhuni respectively. The lifestyles of both male and female monks are structured in such a manner that it supports and enhances spiritual practice which basically is to live a simple and meditative life in order to attain nirvana.

Bhikkhu in its literal sense means a beggar or one who lives by alms. The lives of Buddhist monks from this aspect is intended to mirror that of the historical Buddha, who as a prince renounced a life of status and luxury, and instead chose a unique life, wandering from village to village, imparting spiritual knowledge in exchange for food. A Buddhist monk renunciation of the secular/active lifestyle implies they have no resources to support themselves, thus they have to rely on the goodwill of well-wishers in order to sustain their renounced lifestyles. They have to beg for food and other resources to support their ascetic lifestyles, thus it is the mark of a Buddhist monk or nun to beg as it signifies their practice of non-attachment to the material world and to an extension the practice of poverty in this regard.

Even though there are some communities which accommodate pre-teen children as monks, the minimum age for an ordination candidate is 21 years who in addition, must be of good physical health, a sound mind, and free of debt. Once ordained, Buddhist monks are governed by a set of rules called the Pratimoksa that regulate each detail of their day to day lives, and which must be observed by all the monks in entirety. After every two weeks, a meeting of the Sangha known as the Uposatha is held in which violators to the set of rules would confess of their transgressions. There are four particular monastic rules which if violated, lead to lifelong expulsion from the order, these are;

(a) Indulgence in sexual activities
(b) Taking life or ordering the taking of life
(c) Taking something as one’s own which has not been freely given.
(d) Making claims regarding one’s degree of enlightenment or spiritual attainments

A monk’s head and face are clean shaven; they wear three garments which entail- an upper and lower robe, and a loincloth-like undergarment. A monk is only allowed to have minimal possessions; their clothing attire, a needle and thread for mending, a bowl for alms, a razor, and strainer to prevent harm for little insects that might infiltrate their drinking water.

Different Buddhist sects have different daily routines for their monks, but generally, the patterns are quite similar. Most monks rise up early, usually at 3am, they pray and meditate, do chores around the monastery, and lead simple lives. A large portion of their routine however, as already established, is spent on prayers and meditation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *