religious way of life
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Trappist monk praying in his cell

Monasticism (from Greek μοναχός, monachos, derived from μόνος, monos, "alone") is a religious way of life in which one renounces worldly pursuits to devote oneself fully to spiritual work.


  • As Christianity spread, and the Church became more secularized, this realization of the costliness of grace gradually faded. The world was Christianized, and grace became its common property. It was to be had at low cost. Yet the Church of Rome did not altogether lose the earlier vision. It is highly significant that the Church was astute enough to find room for the monastic movement … Thus monasticism became a living protest against the secularization of Christianity and the cheapening of grace. … Monasticism was represented as an individual achievement which the mass of the laity could not be expected to emulate. By thus limiting the application of the commandments of Jesus to a restricted group of specialists, the Church evolved the fatal conception of the double standard.
    • Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Nachfolge (1937), translated as The Cost of Discipleship (1959), pp. 46-47
  • Whereas some ascetics and Brahmins remain addicted to attending such shows as dancing, singing, music, displays, recitations, hand-music, cymbals and drums, fairy-shows, acrobatic and conjuring tricks, combats of elephants, buffaloes, bulls, goats, rams, cocks and quail, fighting with staves, boxing, wrestling, sham-fights, parades, manoeuvres and military reviews, the ascetic Gotama refrains from attending such displays.
  • Whereas some ascetics and Brahmins remain addicted to such unedifying conversation as about kings, robbers, ministers, armies, dangers, wars, food, drink, clothes, beds, garlands, perfumes, relatives, carriages, villages, towns and cities, countries, women, heroes, street- and well-gossip, talk of the departed, desultory chat, speculations about land and sea, talk about being and non-being, the ascetic Gotama refrains from such conversation.
  • If he goes forth from the household life into homelessness, then he will become an Arahant, a fully-enlightened Buddha, one who draws back the veil from the world.
  • What has been spoilt through the abuse of the church: … the “monastery”: temporary isolation … a kind of deepest concentration on oneself and self-recovery—to avoid not “temptations” but “obligations” … away from the tyranny of stimuli and influences that condemns us to spend our strength in reactions, and does not permit us any more to let it accumulate to the point of spontaneous activity. (One should observe our scholars closely: they have reached the point where they think only “reactively,” i.e. they must read before they can think.)
  • Academe needs deprofessionalization and deyuppification. It has to recover its clerical or spiritual roots. Scholarship is an ideal and a calling, not merely a trade or living. Every year at commencement, we put on medieval robes that connect us to a great monastic past.
    • Camille Paglia, “Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders: Academe in the Hour of the Wolf,” Arion, Third Series, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Spring, 1991)
  • Luther understands monasticism as a product of an egoistic lovelessness that withdraws from one's duties in the world. By contrast, this-worldly work in a vocation appears to him to be a visible expression of brotherly love, a notion he anchors in a highly unrealistic manner indeed and in contrast—almost grotesquely—to the well-known passages of Adam Smith.

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