A monk is a person who has decided to live his life in complete service to God. He gives up normal life to live in a monastery or temple, spending his time in prayer, meditation and service. There are monks in several religious traditions, including Catholicism and Buddhism; the path to becoming a monk in either takes years of commitment and study. Both start, however, with the same calling to devote themselves to their religion.
To become a Catholic monk, a man must be of sound mind and body. He must be a Roman Catholic, and have received the Sacrament of Confirmation, a ceremony usually performed in the adolescent years that makes a person an official part of the Catholic Church. Before embarking on the road to become a monk, a man must be free of all debts and responsibilities. He must have lived a good, moral life for several years, and, preferably, have an active roll in his church community.
The first step to become a monk in the Catholic Church is to visit a monastery, preferably several times. These visits should help the man decide if this a life he would be able to cheerfully lead. The next step is to contact the Novice Master, who is responsible for overseeing the training of new monks.
There is usually a trial period, called the postulancy, which lasts up to six months. During this time, the Novice Master and the monk in training see if becoming a monk is the right choice for the man. After this, the man will enter the novicate stage, where he will spend a year being trained to be a monk. After a year, the community can vote for him to take temporary vows and to be able to wear his first robe. At any time during this trial phase, the man can choose to leave, or be asked to leave, without any official action being taken.
After being voted in as an official monk in training, the man will spend a minimum of three years continuing his education to become a monk. At the end of this time, the community of monks will again vote to decide whether or not he should become a monk. If he is accepted, he will be allowed to take his vows and will become an official member of the community. There are three vows a man must take to become a monk: the vow of obedience, the vow of stability, and the vow of conversion of life, agreeing to give up his previous life to fully enter the monastery.
The path to become a Tibetan, or Buddhist, monk is similar to the path for becoming a Catholic monk. The first step is to study the Buddhist teachings and find meaning in them. The next step is to find a spiritual guide, someone who can act as an adviser and as support for the monk in training. The next step is to spend some time in a monastic community, to experience life as a monk.
After deciding that the life of a Tibetan monk is the right choice, a man then enters several years of training and education. During this time, he is expected to live his life in a way that honors the Buddhist teachings. At the end of his initial training, the man will take part in a ceremony, under the leadership of an experienced monk, to become a novice monk. After more training, the novice can become an ordained Buddhist monk, or a bhikkhu.
Most often, the term monk specifically refers to a man who has chosen this calling, while women are called nuns, although the two positions are not identical. There are some cases in which a woman may become a monk, however. Although the Catholic Church does not permit women to become monks, some other Christian denominations do. There are also female Buddhist monks.