What is the Place of
Most religions have monastic
orders, which therefore must be part of any universal teaching. Such
orders, properly formulated, allow individuals to devote themselves
exclusively to spiritual practices by not placing outer demands upon
There are various monastic
orders within the Hindu tradition. Hindu monks do not always live at
a particular monastic institution but may wander, either gaining
food by begging, stopping temporarily at different ashrams, or
taking residence in the mountains. They devote themselves to lives
of Yoga and meditation and often become the greatest teachers.
True monasticism, however,
should not be confused with missionaries, who are not devoted to
spiritual practices but to converting others to a limited belief. If
one is not doing spiritual practices, monasticism is no more than a
devotion to a dogma or institution, and generally turns negative.
Such militant or political monastic orders have done great damage in
Nor does the value of
monasticism exclude the value of the married or householder life.
While the monastic path can be more direct, the householder life is
generally more practical and can in time lead to the same goal.