A monk is a man who has chosen to dedicate his life to religious service and contemplation. Such men can be found in the Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, and Taoist traditions, among others, and there are a number of different types of monk, ranging from brothers in active service to anchorites who choose to cut themselves off from society to pursue a life of asceticism and contemplation.
In order to become a monk, a man must generally first apply to a monastery, where he will be interviewed by the residents before being accepted on a trial basis. If his trial is successful, he will be admitted as a novice, meaning that the opportunity to take vows will be offered at some point. After a period as a novice, which can vary depending on the rules of the community, he will be offered vows and be accepted fully into the community.
Monks can live in a variety of communities. Some monasteries are dedicated to active service in the surrounding region, with residents working both on the monastery grounds and outside. Others are more cloistered, fostering a more serious and focused environment that is dedicated specifically to religious pursuits, and residents are typically expected to work on the grounds of the monastery to produce food, garments, and other needs. In some cases, monks may even take vows of silence to increase the contemplative atmosphere.
Many religions also have a tradition that considers hermits and other solitary religious ascetics to be monks. In most cases, people choose to pursue a period of hermitage or isolate asceticism after serving in a monastery for a set period of time. While living as a hermit, a man relies on the kindness of others and his own abilities to support himself, with some choosing to live in harsh, isolated environments to enhance the experience. In some cultures, such periods are said to be very important for personal growth and religious development.
Religious ascetics must generally take vows of poverty, obedience, work, service, and chastity. These vows are not to be taken lightly; the choice to become a monk should be considered a permanent life choice, although individuals are offered opportunities to depart the monastery before they take their vows. Typically, those who join are expected to have no outstanding debt or obligations, and they must demonstrate a genuine commitment to the religious life before they will be accepted into a monastery on a trial basis.