Buddhist monasticism

The disciplinary regulations for monks and nuns are intended to create a life that is simple and focused, rather than one of deprivation or severe asceticism. Celibacy is of primary importance in monastic discipline, seen as being the preeminent factor in separating the life of a monastic from that of a householder. Depending on the tradition and the strictness of observation, monastics may eat only one meal a day, provided either by direct donations of food from lay supporters, or from a monastery kitchen that is stocked (and possibly staffed) by lay supporters.

A Buddhist monk in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, wearing the robes of an abbot in a monastery

In Thailand, where the Buddhist institution has traditionally been closely associated with the government and the institution of kingship, a more hierarchical structure has evolved to deal with the administration and regulation of monasteries. This system initially stemmed from a system of royal patronage, in which monks who were appointed the abbots of 'royal monasteries' (those endowed and supported by members of the royal family) were accorded greater respect than those who headed more conventional monasteries. This system remained fairly unstructured until the modernization efforts of the 19th century, during which a more formal system of governance was created by the central government. Modern Thai monks are ranked according to their ability to pass examinations in Buddhist doctrine and the Pali language, and are appointed to successively higher positions in the ecclesiastic hierarchy on the basis of these exams, as well as their support among influential members of the royal family and government. Local affairs continue to be handled primarily by the local monastic and lay community, but nationwide efforts (such as curriculum decisions for monastic schools, and the authoritative form of scriptures and rituals) are typically made by the central hierarchy.