Buddhist Monasteries (Viharas)

Notes in the mind map are taken from the AQA textbook but you can also use it if you are with the exam board EDUQAS. 

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  • Buddhist Monasteries
    • Why Monasteries?
      • A monastery is a community of men or women (monks or nuns), who have chosen to withdraw from society, forming a new community devoted to religious practice. 
      • The word monk comes from the Greek word monos, which means alone.
      • It can be difficult to focus a lot of time on prayers and religious ritual when time needs to be spent on everyday activities that insure one’s survival (such as food and shelter). 
    • Viharas
      • Viharas offer a place for devotion, ceremonies, retreats and teaching; they are maintained by the Lay Community. Who provide practical help and offerings.
      • In Buddhist countries it may be quite normal for young people to spend a period of time living a monastic life in the Viharas.
    • Monasteries
      • At the time of the Buddha, communities of monks would travel together, living outdoors, providing teachings to the laity and receiving offerings.
      • Three months of the year saw the rainy season, during which the monks need to take shelter.
      • The places they stayed in were called 'Viharas' (resting places) and these were provided by the Lay community.
      • Over time, Viharas became more permanent places to settle, and became the monasteries where monks and nuns live.
    • Halls for Meditation or learning (gompas)
      • A gompa is a Tibetan Monastery where learning takes place.
      • Buddhist scripture is housed in libraries here and used for study.
      • In the West the term 'gompa' may be used more broadly to include Buddhist temples, monasteries, places of learning, centres for meditation and religious practice.
      • Meditation halls are room in which Buddhists can gather to meditate, usually under the guidance of someone leading the meditation.
        • Meditation halls are important features of Buddhist buildings due to the central role meditation plays in Buddhist practice.
        • Meditation is a particularly popular dimension of Buddhism in the West and meditation sessions can take place in non-Buddhist venues such as community halls or yoga centres.


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