Buddhism is a religion that centers around the idea of freeing the mind, or enlightenment. The religion was founded on the principle that all of life is suffering and that liberation can only be realized through dissolution of the ego and desires, which naturally generates loving-kindness and compassion as a holistic approach to interacting with the world. As such, Buddhist monks spend their lives both striving to attain enlightenment and in service of not only those around them but also all living beings.
A monk's day begins between three and six o'clock in the morning, depending on of which monastery he belongs. After morning meditation and chanting, monks spend a few hours every morning doing typical household chores. Though these too depend on the specific monastery, the majority of these chores consist of simple cleaning such as sweeping and maintaining the chapel, taking care of the monastery grounds as well as cooking for the everyone in the monastery. Essentially, the daily chores are designed to maintain the monastery and support one another's health.
In addition to household expectations, monks perform services to lay people and the community at large. The role of a monk to the lay community is that of a counselor, where he often visits the sick, serves as a mediator for disputes, and takes on leadership roles in charitable organizations and fundraisers. Overall, the goal of a monk's service work is to aid the community in which the monastery resides, abiding by the tenet of Buddhism that the path to enlightenment should benefit all beings.
Education is one of the biggest obligations for a monks. Within the monastery, monks are solely responsible for teaching every new candidate for ordination, introducing them to the teachings of the Buddha as well as the monastic life. Outside the monastery, not only do they educate young and old alike on loving-kindness and the path to freedom from suffering, the basis of the Buddha's teachings, but they also teach in schools educating children in Buddhist practice and general subjects such as reading and writing.
Within every Buddhist tradition there are many festivals and ceremonies each calendar year. Whether celebrating the Tibetan New Year, the Buddha's birthday and specific holy days, monks are responsible for leading the ceremony at any festivity. In communities where monasteries reside, these festivals and celebrations are typically held at the monastery itself, where the monks will lead the lay people in the appropriate chants and prayers. Additionally, increased desires by Buddhists to have a monk's blessing at both these services have caused this to become a frequent duty for monks around the world.
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