WHERE MONKS LIVE - Buddhism Zone (2023)

Monks live with all of us here on planet earth. Knowing this aside, you may be wondering where to always find a monk. That is, where monks are at home. This can arise due to the ascetic way of life of the monks. As a result, it can be difficult to identify a monk in the community. This is especially common among Westerners, who believe that monks can only be found in monasteries.

In fact, in Buddhism, monks live in monasteries (also called “abbeys”). This is a place where the monastic order lives together to serve their purpose. However, some monks do not actually live in the monastery. Instead, they live in ordinary society. And others live in natural environments that can be mountains or caves.

Therefore, where monks live depends on various factors. For example the society you live in, the tradition practiced by the monks and the types of monks. As a result, don't be surprised if you discover that your neighbor is actually a monk.

Throughout this article we will see:

  • Brief history of how the Buddhist monks lived
  • The types of Buddhist monks and where they live
  • Where monks live based on location of practice

Siddhartha Gautama (The Buddha) himself founded the order of Buddhist monks. And also that of the nuns. Her aim was to teach the ways of the Dharma to the lay Buddhist community. In return, the lay community donates to the monks. The donations come in the form of food, clothing and other basic items.

Brief history of how the Buddhist monks lived

In early Buddhism, the monks and nuns were responsible for spreading the teachings. This enabled them to preserve the Buddha's teachings to this day. Therefore, the order of monks is very important in the practice of Buddhism.

Then Buddhist monks wander around with no fixed abode. They mostly did this by begging for alms. Sometimes a group of monks, mostly friends, will roam together. And they lived on the outskirts of their local communities. Above all, they meditate in the surrounding forest areas.

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There is a belief that during the Buddha's time, the monks would go on retreats on rainy days. These are quiet places that offer security. Additionally, these retreats come as donations from wealthy citizens.

From this practice emerged the two ways of arranging the living quarters of the monks. These include the Avasa and Arama.

The Avasa can also be referred to as the Vihara. It is usually a temporary house for the monks. It consists of cells (parivena). As a result, each monk stays in a cell. And they all live together in the house.

The Arama is a more permanent home. Also, the arrangement offers more convenience than the Avasa. As a rule, wealthy citizens donate these places. And take care of maintenance equally. The Arama is usually found in orchards or parks.

The types of Buddhist monks and where they live

Monks are generally people who have taken vows to learn and practice the Dharma. Therefore they devote their time to following the teachings of the Buddha. And teach others who are willing to learn. Therefore, anyone who takes such a vow is a monk. There really is no demarcation when it comes to monks.

However, the way monks live their lives can vary. That is, there are different levels on which Buddhist monks operate.

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Thus we have:

Monastic Monks

These are the monks who live in the monastery. As a result, they don't have much to do with the outside world. They live a total life of solitude. Above all, they give up everything for full observance of the Dharma. These monks wear their robes at all times. And they depend entirely on donations from the lay community.

In fact, these are the monks that come to mind when we talk about monks. Because monasteries have always been a place for monks. As a result, monks live in the monastery. And you can call those who do it monastic monks.

The lay monks

These monks also took vows of devotion to the Dharma. They live a devotional life, just like the residents of the monastery. However, these monks choose to live amidst their community. It is also possible that some monks in this category are married. Although this is not that common. But mostly found in western society. As a result, they live in common houses and cities.

The lay monks live in the midst of this longing generation. So mostly they try to explain the teachings of Dharma to people. These monks do not always appear in saffron robes. They usually wear their robes on special occasions. Or when they visit the monastery for an event. Apart from that, they live among the people as simple citizens.

Aside from telling you they are monks, you probably won't know. Except that you are familiar with the way of life of the monks. First of all, these types of monks are rare in traditional Buddhist nations.

The Hermits (Hermit Monks)

Some monks are isolating. As a result, they live in places far from humans. These are places that can be found in nature. For example, hermit monks are most likely to live in mountains and caves. These are the rarest monks. Therefore, you may not be able to see them naturally. Also, very few monks live as hermits.

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However, some monks who do not live as hermits sometimes go to the hermitage. That said, monks living in the monastery or in society sometimes isolate themselves. You can go to the mountains or caves for a period of time. But they return at the end of isolation. Of course they don't live there.

Hermit monks spend most of their lives in deep meditation. Hence the need for a natural and tranquil environment.

Where monks live based on location of practice

Buddhism is a practice that travels around the world. As a result, we have the traditional Buddhist countries. And the western countries where the practice is growing. Therefore, where monks live can vary. Hence:

Traditional Buddhist countries

These are countries that are predominantly Buddhist. Mainly because Buddhism came to them at an early age. As a result, they have fully developed the Buddhist community. Monks staying in these countries mainly live in the monastery. This is because there are so many monasteries in the countries.

These monks live a common life within the monastery. And, as always, mainly dependent on donations from the lay community. Examples of traditional Buddhist countries are China, Thailand, India, Japan, Vietnam and Sri Lanka. Above all, these countries have organized Buddhist monastic orders. And this grew from the beginning of Buddhism. Therefore, this is a fundamental Buddhist institution for the guidance of the lay community.

Western Buddhist community

Buddhism in the western world is not yet as strong as that of traditional Buddhist countries. As a result, there are not many people who practice Buddhism. On the same note, there are quite a few Buddhist monks here.

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There are not many monasteries where monks can live. Therefore, monks live in Zen centers. This is a place where groups of practicing Zen Buddhists live. Therefore, many monks live in these centers. This is most evident in the United States.

On the other hand, some other monks are lay monks. As a result, they live in community with people.


There are many places where a monk can live. The important thing is to focus on their path to enlightenment. And also lead the lay community on this path.

Therefore, as explained on this page, a monk can live in a private dwelling, a meditation hut, a monastic residence, a forest, or a retreat. The times when a monk stays can also depend on the season. For example, some remain in the forest during the dry season. And goes to retreat during the rainy season.

However, Buddhist monks lead a rather quiet life. As a result, requires a quiet and calm environment. Even those living within society will sometimes find time to remain in solitude.

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What is the place where Buddhist monks live? ›

Viharas were the place where the Buddhist monks stay. Monks lived in Viharas and worshipped in Chaityas.

Where does a monk live answer? ›

A monastery is a building or complex of buildings comprising the domestic quarters and workplaces of monastics, monks or nuns, whether living in communities or alone (hermits).

Where are most Buddhist monks located? ›

Large Buddhist populations live in North Korea, Nepal, India and South Korea. China is the country with the largest population of Buddhists, approximately 244 million or 18.2% of its total population.

Where are monks located? ›

Within Catholicism, a monk is a member of a religious order who lives a communal life in a monastery, abbey, or priory under a monastic rule of life (such as the Rule of St. Benedict).

How do Buddhist monks live? ›

Monks and nuns were expected to live with a minimum of possessions, which were to be voluntarily provided by the lay community. Lay followers also provided the daily food that monks required, and provided shelter for monks when they were needed.

What is a monk village called? ›

A monastery is a community of men or women (monks or nuns), who have chosen to withdraw from society, forming a new community devoted to religious practice.

What do monks live in? ›

A monastery is a building where monks live, both in communities and alone. Monasteries tend to feature a place for prayer and worship, such as a church or a temple. They may also include dormitories, cloisters, refectories, libraries and infirmaries.

Do monks live in temples? ›

It's how they approach life and deal with negativity, that makes them unique. They can't hide from conflict between other monks. They all live together in the temple and have very strict daily routines that make it hard to avoid each other.

Where did the first monks live? ›

Monasticism emerged in the late 3rd century and had become an established institution in the Christian church by the 4th century. The first Christian monks, who had developed an enthusiasm for asceticism, appeared in Egypt and Syria.

Does monk live in a house or apartment? ›

Monk's apartment (exteriors) was located at 999 Broadway. San Francisco, United States.

When did the monks live? ›

The evolutionary history of moles extends to the Eocene Epoch (54.8 to 33.7 million years ago) of Europe, the Oligocene Epoch (33.7 to 23.8 million years ago) of Asia and the Mediterranean region, and the Late Oligocene Epoch (28.5 to 23.8 million years ago) of North America.

What mountains do monks live in? ›

About 5,500m (18,000ft) above sea level in the Indian Himalayas sits the Tangyud Gompa Buddhist monastery, where snow can leave the monks in complete isolation for seven months a year. The monks and residents of the nearby village of Komik, said to be Asia's highest, are already stocking up for winter – and praying.

What is a Buddhist monastery called? ›

A Chaitya, Chaitya hall or Chaitya-griha refers to a shrine, sanctuary, temple or prayer hall in Indian religions. The term is most common in Buddhism, where it refers to a space with a stupa and a rounded apse at the end opposite the entrance, and a high roof with a rounded profile.

Do monks live in Thailand? ›

There are some 300,000 monks living in the Land of Smiles. From Phuket to Bangkok, visitors are almost guaranteed to see a few of them in Thailand.

Do monks live in caves? ›

Monks withdrew from normal society to live a life of prayer and contemplation in solitude. The word “monk” comes from the Greek words for “solitary” (monakhos) and “alone” (monos). Retreat to a private monk's cell, was a defining feature of the monastic life. Monks would sleep, live, and pray in cave rooms.

Do monks live in houses? ›

A monastery is a building or collection of buildings in which monks live.

Why do monks live in monasteries? ›

Many Buddhists who join a monastic community do so because it offers a life of immersion in the dharma. For some this is an ideal environment for long hours of uninterrupted meditation and study.

What kind of life did monks live? ›

Medieval monastic life consisted of prayer, reading, and manual labor. Prayer was a monk's first priority. Apart from prayer, monks performed a variety of tasks, such as preparing medicine, lettering, and reading. These monks would also work in the gardens and on the land.

What term means a place where monks live and worship? ›

A monastery is the building where monks live while they're practicing their religion. Some monasteries are occupied by hundreds of monks, and sometimes only one monk lives there all alone.

Do monks live in community? ›

In the Christian tradition, monks live in communities under the guidance of a Rule and an Abbot, or Prior. Monastic life for Christians is very simple. Monks live simple lives, we devote ourselves to prayer and any work that is necessary.

Why is it called a monastery? ›

The term monastery (from Greek: μοναστήριον (monastērion) denotes the buildings of a community of monastics (monks or nuns). Monasteries may vary greatly in size from a small dwelling accommodating only a hermit to vast complexes and estates housing thousands.

What lives in a monastery? ›

Monasteries are places where monks live. Although the word "monastery" is sometimes used for a place where nuns live, nuns usually live in a convent or nunnery. The word abbey (from the Syriac/Aramaic word abba: father) is also used for a Christian monastery or convent.

Do monks live in Tibet? ›

Most Tibetan monks live in 10 famous temples and monasteries such as the Jokhang Temple, Drepung Monastery, Sera Monastery, Tashilunpo Monastery, etc. You may have a glimpse of the top ten temples and monasteries in Tibet. Chanting Buddhist scriptures is the daily practice of monks.

How to live like a Buddhist monk? ›

12 Essential Rules to Live More Like a Zen Monk
  1. Do one thing at a time. ...
  2. Do it slowly and deliberately. ...
  3. Do it completely. ...
  4. Do less. ...
  5. Put space between things. ...
  6. Develop rituals. ...
  7. Designate time for certain things. ...
  8. Devote time to sitting.

Does a monk live in an abbey? ›

An abbey is a type of monastery used by members of a religious order under the governance of an abbot or abbess. Abbeys provide a complex of buildings and land for religious activities, work, and housing of Christian monks and nuns.

Who lives in a temple? ›

The form and function of temples are thus very variable, though they are often considered by believers to be, in some sense, the "house" of one or more deities. Typically, offerings of some sort are made to the deity, and other rituals are enacted, and a special group of clergy maintain and operate the temple.

Where did Buddhist nuns and monks live? ›

The caves were generally used as Viharas i.e. living quarters, by Jain and Buddhist monks.

Are monasteries where the Buddhist monks lived? ›

Viharas were the monasteries or living places of Buddhist monks where religious education was imparted. A Vihara usually had small rooms around an open courtyard and had a small shrine containing a stupa or an image of the Buddha at one end.

How did the earliest monks live? ›

Christian monks did not live in monasteries at first, rather, they began by living alone as solitaries, as the word monos might suggest. As more people took on the lives of monks, living alone in the wilderness, they started to come together and model themselves after the original monks nearby.

Do monks have their own rooms? ›

Each monk's room, or cell as we call it, is also a personal sacred space where he can pray and study the things of God.

Where do monks and priests live? ›

“A member of a religious community of men typically living under vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience” (Oxford Dictionary). Monks remain in a monastery and serve the Church within the Monastery's boundaries. When compared to a diocesan priest, a religious priest makes three solemn vows before he is ordained.

Did monks have kids? ›

Monks, for example, are not allowed to get married nor have children. They leave their family forever and get a new family in the monastery.

Who was the first monk ever? ›

Paulus the Hermit (c. 230-342) was the first Christian monk known by name to history. Eventually, many adopted a modified eremitic existence, living as hermits but near each other for occasional gatherings and support. Marcarius first encouraged this form of living, nicknamed “the larvae.”

How long Buddhist monks live? ›

There are many accounts of Japanese and Chinese monks living for more than 100 years, and even those who died at 122 years old. ascribe it to rigorous lifestyles. Also, there have been a number of accounts of people living long past 100 years old due to their meditation practices.

How do monks live in forests? ›

The forest monk will usually stay 2-3km from the nearest village so that he can go for alms in the morning. He accepts only food, never money.

What is the other name for a monastery? ›


1 cloister; abbey, priory, friary, lamasery.

Where do monks sleep in a monastery? ›

A cell is a small room used by a hermit, monk, nun or anchorite to live and as a devotional space. Cells are often part of larger cenobitic monastic communities such as Catholic and Orthodox monasteries and Buddhist vihara, but may also form stand-alone structures in remote locations.

Is a monastery the same as a temple? ›

Temples are built by Hindus for the worship of idols of God/Goddess. The monasteries are built primarily intended as residences of monks and as institutions of dissemination of religious knowledge.

Where do monks live in Thailand? ›

Wat's in Thailand; Home of the Buddhist Monks

Buddhist monks live in the 'WATS'; temple or monastery. Thailand has almost 29,000 beautiful and serene Buddhist Wats across the country. These temples typically shape the lifestyles of the rural and urban areas they're located in.

Do monks live in India? ›

While the location of the Buddhist monasteries is predominantly is the mountains of Northern India along the borders of Nepal and China (given the geographical proximity during the times when monks exiled from their countries sought refuge here), there are a few beautiful monasteries in South India too.

Can you touch a monk? ›

Do not touch people you meet and shaking hands is considered bad manners. Also, do not touch monks ever.

Why did monks live in caves? ›

So genuine Buddhist monks who wanted to leave the world could find no better place to do so than in a cave on a mountain somewhere where no king could find them. It was a home-leaver's perfect home away from home, offering shelter in cold winters, concealment from the king, and a quiet place to meditate.

Who lives in a cave house? ›

Berber people have been living in underground caves for centuries, with some of the best examples located in the village of Matmata. Berber homes generally consist of a large central living area with smaller caves dug off the main room, and you can try one out for yourself at Matmata's Hotel Sidi Driss.

Why did Buddhist make caves? ›

While the main purpose of the caves was to celebrate the glory of Gautama Buddha's life and achievements, they also provide an important insight into the Buddhist life and belief system and the reflection of its values in art. In many ways, the Ajanta caves were a watershed in subcontinental architecture.

Who can live in a Buddhist monastery? ›

For a couple of months you can Live in a Buddhist monastery as a volunteer to gain the experience of a lifetime. A Buddhist Monastery volunteer gets the opportunity to not just intermingle with the Buddhist people, but live like the way they do and understand their hardships and also their culture, traditions.

Do most Buddhists live in monasteries? ›

In Tibetan Buddhism and some other sects, monks retreat to caves or remote huts to meditate and live as hermits. But generally most monks live in a community with other monks in a monastery.

What is the Buddhist house of worship called? ›

The Buddhist place of worship is called a Vihara, also referred to as Temple or Centre. Buddhists worship there whenever they can. The Vihara (monastery) is traditionally the focal point for corporate worship and communal life.

Can I stay in a Buddhist monastery? ›

Yes, in some of the Buddhist monastery, you can help the monks as a volunteer and you can live in the monastery for certain period.

What is Buddhist monastery is called? ›

A Buddhist temple or Buddhist monastery is the place of worship for Buddhists, the followers of Buddhism. They include the structures called vihara, chaitya, stupa, wat and pagoda in different regions and languages. Temples in Buddhism represent the pure land or pure environment of a Buddha.

Who lives in a vihara? ›

Buddhist viharas or monasteries may be described as a residence for monks, a centre for religious work and meditation and a centre of Buddhist learning. Reference to five kinds of dwellings (Pancha Lenani) namely, Vihara, Addayoga, Pasada, Hammiya and Guha is found in the Buddhist canonical texts as fit for monks.

What is vihara called? ›

vihara, early type of Buddhist monastery consisting of an open court surrounded by open cells accessible through an entrance porch. The viharas in India were originally constructed to shelter the monks during the rainy season, when it became difficult for them to lead the wanderer's life.

What are the 3 main places of Buddhist worship? ›

The vihara in return supports the members of the community in their spiritual growth. Shrine – the site of a statue or image of the Buddha , either within a temple or vihara, or alone. Stupa – a burial mound built to house relics of the Buddha or another important Buddhist teacher.

Can a female be a monk? ›

Women can be ordained as the equivalent of monks in China, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam, mostly dominated by the Mahayana school of Buddhism. Female ordination is not available in the Tibetan tradition nor in Cambodia, Laos or Myanmar.

Can you talk in a monastery? ›

However, most monasteries have specific times (magnum silentium, work silence, times of prayer, etc.) and places (the chapel, the refectory, etc.) where speaking is prohibited unless absolutely necessary. Even outside of these times and places, useless and idle words are forbidden.

Can you touch a Buddhist monk? ›

Do not touch people you meet and shaking hands is considered bad manners. Also, do not touch monks ever.

What is a monks temple called? ›

A monastery is the home of monks and nuns.

Can a monk be married? ›

Monks cannot marry if they are indeed ordained monks. They cannot speak lewd words or touch women with or without desire. There should also be no marriage ceremonies performed by monks. It is important for lay people to know some of the major rules and question when these rules are broken.


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