Buddhist Monasticism

Read Complete Research Material

Buddhist Monasticism


Buddhism spread worldwide for over 2,500 years through trade, royal patronage, migration, scholarly study, and travel. Currently, about 350 million people or 6 percent of the world's population identify themselves as Buddhist, with Mahayana the largest tradition. Besides Mahayana Buddhism, the other primary schools are Theravada and Vajrayana. However, Vajrayana also regarded as a form of Mahayana Buddhism and is said to provide a faster path to Buddhahood or enlightenment. In addition, there are organizations or individuals who identify themselves as nonsectarian Buddhists. While Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana traditions all have their distinctive features, the traditions also share commonalities such as the acceptance of the Four Noble Truths.

In recent times, renewed attention was given to women's roles in all Buddhist traditions. Nuns and lay-women alike are achieving prominence in all aspects of life, and many are dedicating their efforts to benefit others. Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka became the world's first woman prime minister in 1960, and nuns have been leaders of political protest in Tibet, especially since the 1980s (Gutschow, 2004).


In traditional Buddhist societies, leadership gets closely related to monastic ordination. There are many misconceptions about what Buddhist ordination is and what it signifies, but among Buddhists, the decision to enter monastic life and devote one's life to the goal of spiritual liberation gets highly valued for both women and men. Historically, as Buddhism spread, the seeds of the tradition got carried by monastics, who become teachers and leaders for people in recent locations. The Buddha's modern paradigm of awakened consciousness got transmitted by monks and nuns to different communities. In essence, monastic ordination is a positive affirmation of an individual's highest human potential. Monasteries are single-sex communities where renouncing women and men can live in harmonious, relationships with others who have committed their lives to realizing their enlightenment potential. Entering the Sangha not only empowers people and helps them realize this potential, but it is also a means of transmitting leadership skills, authority, confidence, and energy that builds over generations. Some critics emphasize the privileges that monastic practitioners receive, without understanding that these privileges go hand in hand with specific responsibilities. Traditionally in Asian Buddhist communities, laypeople respect monastics and are happy to provide them with food, clothes, and shelter, whether they stay in monasteries or solitary retreat. The Sangha serves the laity by teaching, chanting, and providing other services, and is a source of pride to Buddhist communities (Creel, & Narayanan 1990).

Ultimately, the duty of the monastics is to help lead others to a whole new way of looking at the world—away from the entanglements and disappointments of worldly pursuits and toward the cultivation of enlightened awareness, which is free from attachments, delusions, and suffering. In turn, the lay community recognizes and supports the monastics' ethical leadership. Supporting those who lead lives of renunciation and contemplation gets understood to accrue merit, even if the highest goal of enlightenment is not achieved in this lifetime. In traditional Buddhist societies, the monastics got entrusted with spreading the Buddha's teachings ...
Related Ads