Ever wondered what life is like for a Buddhist monk or nun inside a monastery? Here we will cover some of the basics, but it is important to understand Buddhism is a very big religion and has many traditions. Larung Gar is the largest Buddhist is the largest Tibetan Insitute in the world and is very different from what one may find in Myanmar.

Monastic life can vary considerably between different groups and in different countries. E.g. Tibetan Buddhism is very different from main Chinese Buddhism but also Tibthen Buddhism can be subdivided into different traditions. The Four Holy Mountains of Chinese Buddhism are different from other types of Buddhism.


A Day in The Life Of A Myanmar Buddhist Monk

Here is a typical day of a Buddhist monk in Myanmar according to Gabriele Rodriquez. Buddhist monks follow a fixed schedule waking up at 4.30 am (including Saturdays and Sundays) and that's regardless if the monk is young or old.

They then gather for an hour-long meeting in the temple to recite mantras. There's personal hygiene and at 6.30 am everyone gathers and stands in front of the gate of the monastery in a row.

After that, they need to go barefoot to the neighboring villages asking for alms - both food and money.

Having done that, they return to the monastery at 7.30 am and have breakfast with whatever they have been given by the villagers. It is shared so that those who received less get more from those who were given more.

By 8.30 am it is time for school for the young monks up until 11.30 am. At 11.30 am the second meal of the day is served - this is the only other meal for the day. After 11.30 am the monks here can't touch food again until the following day's breakfast.

School then resumes at 1.30 pm and runs until 5.30 pm and after that, it's time for everyone to meet again in the temple and offer prays to Buddha. By 7.00 pm they should all be in bed.

  • 4.30 am: Wake Up Call & One Hour Mantras In The Temple
  • 6.30 am: Gather At The Gate And Then Head Into The Villages Asking For Alms
  • 7.30 am: Breakfast With the Food Gathered
  • 8.30 am to 11.30: School For the Novices
  • 11.30 am: Second And Last Meal For The Day Is Served
  • 1.30 pm to 5.30 pm: More School For The Novices
  • 7.00 pm: Everyone Should Be In Bed

Related: What To Know Of Buddhist Monasteries In The USA

What The Sravasti Abbey In Washington State Asks of Its Visitors

The Sravasti Abbey in Washington State is a very different Buddhism monastery with a different tradition to that mentioned above in Myanmar. While many Buddhist monasteries maintain very strict segregation between men and women, Sravasti Abbey is a monastic community for both nuns and monks.

It is the first of its kind in America and was founded in 2003 by author, teacher, and fully ordained nun Venerable Thubten Chodron. They practice Tibetan Buddhism in the tradition of the Dalai Lama.

If one would like to visit them, they ask that all guests attend all meditation sessions, Dharma talks, and chanting sessions along with study and offering service sessions. Guests are also invited to join them in offering service to the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, and sentient beings.

Service that guests are expected to engage in includes helping with meal prep, cleaning, forest work, and Abbey projects. They also ask visitors to stay offline while in the monastery.

The Sravasti Abbey also expects the guests to live according to the Buddha’s five ethical guidelines for laypeople.
  • Respect life: Don't Physically Harm Anything - People or even Insects
  • Respect others’ property: Don't Take What Is Not One's Own
  • Do not engage in sexual behavior at the Abbey: In General, This is More Sexual Misconduct, But As They Are Celibates, They Ask All Guests To Fully Abstain While At The Monastery
  • Speak truthfully: It Includes Speaking Wisely, Kindly And At Appropriate Times
  • No Intoxicants: No Alcohol, Drugs, Tobacco, or Vapor
Related: Mount Athos: Greece's Holiest Site, Home To Over 2,000 Monks

Cultivating A Monastic Mind

According to the Sravasti Abbey, the aim of the Abbey is to slow down, quiet down, and cultivate a Monastic Mind. Here the nuns and monks live simply following the Buddha’s guidance on how to tame their bodies, speech, and minds.
  • Quiet The Mind: No One Should Play Music, Dance, or Sing (Except For Religious Chanting) - Silence After Evening Meditation Until Mid Breakfast The next Day
  • Be Mindful: Speak and Act Quietly - No Yoga In Common Area
  • Focus on Inner Beauty: Wear Simple, Modest, Loose Fitting, and Solid Colored Clothing
  • Unplug: No Cell Phones Etc.
  • Respect Our Environment: Conserve Electricity, Take Short Showers, Etc.
  • Practice Joyous Effort: Do The Work Happily, Kindly, and Efficiently