Monasticism is an institutionalized religious affiliation or association where the members observe the rules and works beyond those of their spiritual leaders or the laity (Guéranger 4). Individuals affiliated with a monastic life separate themselves from others in the society and start living as hermit/anchorite or join a community whose members uphold similar beliefs. The concept was first applied to Christianity, but later adopted in Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Daoism. The term monasticism is a Greek work that means living alone. However, in practice, people living the monastic life live in cenobitic communities. In most cases, the monasticism is used to imply the state celibacy.
Monastics are instrumental in creating, preserving, and enhancing religious and secular learning. Individuals play a central role in the transmission of culture, artifacts, and intellectual knowledge of one generation and society to the next. The institutions raised by the monastics have been contributing to the medical, political and military, functions, which are important pillars of societies across the world. Monasticism is largely practiced in societies with the written transmitted lore. The monastics respond to the written literature of the religious doctrine and replies to it by generating counter criticism on the doctrines under reproach. The founders or their successors can support or oppose the traditions in the official religious affiliation.
In fact, Individuals practice monasticism for various reasons, including overcoming imperfections, spiritual perfection, salvation, and redemption. Although Monasticism can exist in different forms, they have the similar theoretic conviction that life in the society inhibits the realization of the spiritual consummation, which is expected by the religious affiliation. Imperfections of life arise when one is clogged into sin, ignorance, and imperfect theoretical teachings in the society. The expectations of the society and the attempt to seek identity in the compromised society makes it had to live a perfect life. The body and mind force individuals into imperfection when an individual strives to have a good life based on the social expectations (Dunn 140). To overcome the imperfection, the body, and the mind must be controlled by diverting from the normal routines of life. Therefore, Monasticism is used as a means of separating an individual from the society and the factors driving individuals to imperfection.
Acquiring spiritual perfection is a desire for all the religious conscious individuals. Withdrawal from the society is an important step towards the realization of the state of perfection. However, to succeed in the separated life, both the body and mind require the support to stay in the separated state. Consequently, Monasticism offers the opportunity for an individual to seek the support of the Supreme Being. The prayers, worship, and propitiation characterize the Monastic life (Dunn 99). Individuals separated from the rest of the society are, therefore, at a perfect opportunity to devote their time and energy to activities leading to spiritual perfection.
The purpose of religion is by large to save the believers from bondage through salvation. Since man is prone to and lives a sinful life within the society, it is important to receive and conserve salvation. Salvation, in this case, should liberate the body, mind, and soul. The maintenance of the salvation once received in the entire life of an individual can be a complicated undertaking because of the temptations of the society. The society is full of pressures, which drives individuals into sin. Individuals seeking salvation while attending to other aspects of the society are likely to have a part-time salvation because they fall back to sin due to the temptations. In essence, Monastics are full-time salvation seekers; hence, separating themselves from the society is strategic in insulating themselves from sin and temptations.
Redemption as deliverance from past wrongdoings, sin, or unwanted behavior is different though similar to what salvation entails (Merton and O’Connell 20). For instance, in Christianity, salvation came with the death of Jesus, but redemption is the act of an individual to plead for forgiveness of sins committed in the past (Merton and O’Connell 80). The Monastics make a personal sacrifice or intervene on behalf of others with the aim of advancing their redemption. Self-mortification involving the mind, while the body assists a monastic to remain along the spiritual path. For example, a Join monk can volunteer to lie on a bed inhabited by vermin to have his blood suck as a sacrifice to redeem his client from the unwanted karma. By doing so, the Join monk redeems the client and fulfills his duty as a monk, which is an important step in his spiritual life. In addition, a follower of Francis of Assisi offers free service to the poor and the sick and demonstrates humility, while at the same time it is a sign of restoration.
Apart from the redemption, salvations, and spiritual perfection of individuals, the monasticism plays a role in developing the societies. Contrary to the blame of obstructing and retarding civilization, monasticism motivates civilization. The doctrine creates, preserves, and transmits traditions, which are both secular and religious, particularly in cultures promoting cenobite traditions. The orders in arts, sciences, and letters by the monks and mendicant friars, as well as the social service have a momentous role in the development of societies.
Monasticism is also playing a role in the society by raising institutional centers used in the training and preparation of leaders. Indeed, Monasteries are largely used to train the religious leaders who in the future will play fundamental roles in serving the people and enhancing their spiritual lives. The training differs from one doctrine to the other, but the difference comes with the type of service that the trainees intend to undertake. For example, in the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox, there is the training of the clergy, including the bishops, the priests, and the brother. On the other hand, the laypersons include brother and sister devoted to serving the church and the people (DiPaolo 44). The training in the monasteries in collaboration with other learning institutions prepare the clergy and the laypersons with skills and professions that are valuable in providing social services. For example, a large number of brothers and sisters in the Catholic Church are trained teachers, nurses, and psychologists. They are involved in schools and hospitals where they serve the people in societies across the world.
As is evident from the discussion, monastic life is a strong and long-term commitment in which an individual or a community tends to live a separate life from the society. Their aim is to enhance spiritual perfection, redemption, and salvation. The separation from the rest of the society is aimed at keeping the body and mind away from the sins and temptations. Apart from the role of monastic life for individuals, it has a wider impact on the society through the creation, preservation, and transmission of positive values. In addition, the training of clergy and the laypersons providing social services to the people is an important role played by monasticism.