Introductionmonasticism (mənăsˈtĭsĭzəm, mō–) [key], form of religious life, usually conducted in a community under a common rule. Monastic life is bound by ascetical practices expressed typically in the vows of celibacy, poverty, and obedience, called the evangelical counsels. Monasticism is traditionally of two kinds: the more usual form is known as the cenobitic, and is characterized by a completely communal style of life; the second kind, the eremitic, entails a hermit's life of almost unbroken solitude, and is now rare (see hermit).
Monasticism in general has played an important role in Buddhism (including Tibetan Buddhism), Jainism, Islam, and Christianity. Practitioners of monasticism in ancient times included the vestal virgins of Rome, the Jewish Essenes, the Therapeutae of Egypt, and the Peruvian virgins of the sun. The life of the Shakers had many analogies with monasticism. The Reformation saw the sudden end of monasticism in the Protestant countries of Europe. The Oxford movement, however, reintroduced religious orders into the Church of England in the 19th cent., and after World War II renewed interest in monasticism led to the establishment of a Protestant monastery at Taizé, France.
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