By Harlton Fitzherbert —
There are few things in life that require as much commitment as becoming a monk or a nun. Even being in a dedicated marriage still allows one to keep property, have ambition for wealth, and indulge in romantic desire.
Would it be surprising to hear that both the religions of Buddhism and Catholicism are nearly equally restrictive with monastic life as a monk or nun? That’s right, there are nuns in Buddhism as well. They are often required to shave their heads, become celibate, and take up numerous other vows similar to those of Catholic nuns.
Becoming a monk or a nun, in any religion, is frequently a deeply personal and transforming spiritual process. Although very difficult, and sometimes unthinkable to an individualistic Westerner, it is a journey that thousands of people from a vast assortment of cultures around the world take as a way of attaining higher meaning in their lives. Different religions focus on different objectives in the path towards greater purpose, but they are often similar in nature. There is a lengthy multi-stage procedure that happens before one is fully admitted into an institution. A person must be prepared to forgo all that they have in life and live away from their family with a community of like-minded individuals. They also must be in good health–both physically and mentally.
There are a very high quantity of variations of faith and ways of preparing for monastic life, but some recognizable lifestyles are that of Western Christianity (including Catholicism, Lutheranism, Methodism, Anglicanism, etc.) and the more eastern Buddhism.
Monks and Nuns in Catholicism are members of a religious order who focuses on prolonged thought and prayer, and dedicates themselves to being an instrument for God’s work. They might specify to monastic life and internal study, or be used in the carrying out work for the church in the outer world.
To become a Trappist Monk or Nun of the Roman Catholic religious order, one becomes familiar with a monastery through visits over a period of time. After their disposition is made clear through these visits, they then perform what is called an “Observership” followed by a “Postulancy,” where they live in a monastery and slowly integrate themselves into life there. Six months later, they become a member of the order and are titled, “Novitiate,” but do not take vows yet. After two more years, they take temporary vows and become “Juniors.” This long process finally concludes after three more years in the monastery before they officially become full-fledged monks or nuns with solemn vows that profess stability, obedience, and conversion of manners. It is quite a process.
Unlike the desire to commit oneself to a deity, Buddhist monks and nuns seek a simple and meditative life for the sake of internal peace in a state of Nirvana. Nirvana seeks to eliminate suffering by first eliminating desire in oneself.
Becoming a Buddhist Monk (officially titled “Bhikkhu”) or Buddhist Nun (properly called “Bhikkhuni”) also requires, like Catholicism, a tiered entrance process that concludes with a set of vows. These vows start with eight Buddhist precepts that begin with the pre-postulancy stage, which are taken after a few weeks of training at a Buddhist location. Once this phase has concluded one becomes an “Anagarika,” which roughly means “Homeless One.” This is an apt title, as one has abandoned their home for the monk/nun life by now. Six months to several years later, a person is made into a Novice and can no longer use money, and may even be restricted from driving. When the Novice has been certified ready by their trainer, they are finally ready to make the final vows (which may comprise of over 300 precepts) and become a Bhikkhu or Bhikkhuni.
It may seem like an excessive amount of dedication, but many people consider monastic life to be worth the sacrifice and self-restraint. Whether it be for serving God or for internal peace, throwing everything away for these spiritual pursuits really show how far people are willing to go to find greater meaning than just living their life in the world around them.