Many people may not realize that the monastic tradition of Monk prayer was founded as a response to Hindu practices of asceticism. They were brought together by the Medieval Latin Church, which at the time considered itself “heathen.” The monastic movement arose during the renaissance and is often referred to as one of the most important periods of religious development in history.
Monastery was derived from the Greek word monastos, which meant ‘one dwelling.’ In order to establish monastic schools, monasteries were built to act as houses for monks. The primary function of the monastery was to provide a place of worship. As such, the primary activity of the monk during his or her religious life was prayer.
Common to all monastic institutions were the self-imposed rules imposed by the monastery’s leader. The monk’s daily regimen was dictated by these rules. These rules were designed to help ensure that the monk’s spiritual well being was secured. This is because all activities of the monk had to be conducted in accordance with monastic rules.
The most famous monastery in the world is Holy Sepulcher, situated in the cemetery at Champlain, New York. The name Sepulcher comes from the first monastery built in America by the French, Sepiour. The monastery was built on land that was obtained through charter granted by the English king, John Winthrop. It was established to accommodate both the monks and their families. Families who wished to settle in the neighborhood were given the use of a manor house, or abbey, as is more commonly known.
Most of the monks took vows of poverty and abstinence before entering the community. However, after two centuries of residence, they would begin to offer financial support to the needy, especially those who were members of their community. This practice of sharing of the wealth came to be known as monk prayer, or sharing of the blessings of the Buddha.
Theophrastates are not true monks; they are teachers of Buddhist religious teachings. They would be considered to be living in association with the Sangha, which is a hierarchy of ordained teachers who are respected as teachers of the sacred teachings of Buddhism. Theophrastates do not live by the monk’s example, but rather, according to the guidelines laid out by the religion, by their own set of rules and ethics. Their very role as teachers is what sets them apart from a monk. Theophrastates may also choose to withdraw from modern society and retire to an island, or mountain, to teach and preach the Buddhist teachings to future generations. This role is considered necessary for maintaining sanity and peace in the world today.
Monks typically spend their lives in seclusion, meditating, and trying to find enlightenment. This can take many forms. For some, it could mean living alone for years, living within a community of monks, or learning the Buddhist disciplines alone. Others would prefer to live in a monastery and meditate amongst other monks. Still others would like to spend their days as free individuals, enjoying the finer things in life and living as freely as possible.
No matter which of these alternatives a monk chooses, one thing remains constant. The purpose of monk prayer is to find enlightenment, which is the very goal of Buddhist faith. By practicing their religious practices, a monk would be able to reach this state of consciousness, and would then be able to fully understand and enjoy life.
Because these monks would be living such austere lives, they would be forced to practice a strict lifestyle. There would be no contact with the outside world, no listening to music, reading, watching television, or even having any kind of hobbies. Only the necessities of life would be fulfilled, and the monk would try his best to eliminate unnecessary conflicts and sufferings. In the process, they would become more powerful spiritually.
The first few years of training would be spent in learning how to meditate and concentrate. Gradually, the focus of the monk would shift towards becoming more harmonious and peaceful. Reflection and spiritual searching would begin, until eventually the monk would be able to realize his inner state of being. It is at this point that he would be ready to take his meditation to the next step and become a fully fledged monk.
People who practice monk prayer are called monastics. Although it is not common for a monk to hold religious power over the lives of others, some monastics have been known to have made significant contributions to society. A prime example of this is Pope John Paul II, who was elevated to cardinal in 2021. It is important to realize that even in today’s society, the monastic way of life is still very much alive. Anyone who wants to follow this path should be prepared for both the spiritual and physical challenges ahead.