Monks can be found in various religious traditions, including Christianity (such as Benedictine, Franciscan, and Trappist monks), Buddhism, Hinduism, and others. At the same time, specific practices and lifestyles can vary between different monastic orders and traditions. They typically commit to a life of spiritual devotion, deepening their relationship with their chosen deity or spiritual path. They often engage in prayer, meditation, and contemplation as primary means of connecting with the divine.
Monks are people who make a promise to stay in one place for their whole lives. They stay in a monastery and take a vow of stability. That’s the difference between Monks and Friar because Friar moves about the country everywhere. To help experience the joys of spiritual practice, people come up with the Monk challenge and choose this life.
Books about monks allow one to delve into the spiritual practices, beliefs, and philosophies associated with monastic life. They offer insights into how monks seek connection with the divine, deepen their understanding of faith, and embark on a journey of self-discovery. Such books can inspire you to reflect on your spirituality and explore different paths to enlightenment.
10 Books About Monks (Spiritual Self-Help)
Monastic life shows simplicity, detachment from material possessions, and a focus on spiritual pursuits. Since the dawn of time, the world has been inhabited by various species of life. What differentiates humans from the rest is the ability to inquire.
The one question that has steered the progress of civilization for millennia is what makes us happy in the pursuit of happiness. We have developed scientific and engineering marvels, explored outer space, and invented countless ways to tantalize our senses. But still, there seems to be something missing. We’ve conquered everything except our minds.
Monk explains that we are spiritual beings having a human experience, and this experience of our inner self makes us happy. You can try anything, and you can go everywhere. But if you don’t go within, something will always be missing. So to fill up this missing and learn about existence, Monks are always in practice, focusing on mindfulness.
Do you want to know more about Monk? I’m going to talk about the top 10 books about Monks. They can invite readers to contemplate deeper questions about life’s purpose, the nature of existence, and the pursuit of inner peace. Let’s go!
1. The Book of Joy
To celebrate the 80th birthday, the 14th Dalai Lama invited Archbishop Desmond Tutu to his home in Dharamsala, India, to discuss cultivating joy. This was a widely anticipated meeting, and people could submit questions before the meeting to have these two spiritual leaders answer. One of my favorite things about this book was that these two men’s genuine friendship and affinity for each other were apparent.
So there are three main monks in this book. The Dalai Lama is a religious role and position passed on through generations. It’s believed that he is the manifestation of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, the patron saint of Tibet, and he’s a political lightning rod.
The 14th Dalai Lama is because China believes Tibet should be part of China, and Tibet does not necessarily agree. They think that they should be independent. So the Dalai Lama has been living as a refugee in Dharamsala, India, ever since 1959, and he’s done a lot of work preserving the Tibetan language and cultural heritage.
He coordinates with the Tibetan government in exile, based in Dharamsala, India. He does much advocacy work for peace, non-violence, self-discipline, and compassion. Archbishop Desmond Tutu is the archbishop emeritus in South Africa for the Anglican Church, and he received a Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent opposition to apartheid.
A third person has a significant voice in this book: Douglas Abrams. He moderated the conversation between the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop. So he was the individual posing the questions to both men out of the big pool of questions asked in advance. He also follows up with clarifying questions and is the book’s narrator.
The Book of Joy assumes that the audience has no religious background or knowledge whatsoever. That is fascinating to me, and the best evidence for a way to increase your baseline level of happiness is to pursue goals consistently throughout your life.
Author: Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu
Average Rating: 4.8/5
Category: Spiritual Self-Help (Best Seller)
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle
2. The Art Of Living
The Art Of Living is a very different spiritual book. Although the book is a Buddhist book and Thich Nhat Hanh is a Buddhist monk, it has viewpoints and ideas addressing core problems in our society. The blurbs in the book are very interesting as well.
The author is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who entered a monastery when he was only 16 years old. He fought for peace during the Vietnam wars, and finally, he became famous and started establishing Buddhist monasteries and retreats in different countries. He has a huge one in France and introduces people to Buddhism.
The content of the book is simple. It is structured into seven chapters, each explaining one concept of Buddhism. So the chapters are emptiness, spinelessness, aimlessness, impermanence, non-craving, letting go, and finally, nirvana. Each of these chapters has many small subchapters as well. Some practices include starting walking, meditation, or something like that.
The explanations are sometimes spiritual, but sometimes they try to logically explain the best way to think about things from the Buddhist perspective. There’s simple stuff here, like practicing mindful walking meditation from where you go from your parking lot to the office or shopping center. It is the best book about Monks, I must say.
Author: Thich Nhat Hanh
Average Rating: 4.8/5
Category: Zen Philosophy, Personal Transformation Self-Help
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle | Audio CD
3. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari
People go to the Himalayas and spend time with the monks. They meditate for a year and a half, then return and share it with their friends. That’s what this book is about. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari covers meditation and mindfulness spirituality, a trip to the Himalayas, spending time with the monks, and many excellent Eastern philosophies. It reminds me of a book like Siddhartha or The Alchemist. It’s a journey, and it’s a fun read. Julian, the book’s main character, has a great lesson about reading.
Certain books have the opportunity to transform your life over and over. Every time you approach one of those great pieces of literature, you have a different lens that you’re reading through a different perspective in life. You’ve grown and transformed and changed. So don’t read a book one time. If you love it, read a book many times. Study it, and this is one of those books for me.
Author: Robin Sharma
Average Rating: 4.7/5
Category: Inspiration & Spirituality, Happiness Self-Help
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle | Mass Market Paperback
4. Mind Full to Mindful: Zen Wisdom From a Monk’s Bowl
Mind Full to Mindful talks about Zen Buddhism and philosophy. After this book, you can understand Zen philosophy because it’s ridiculously simple. Anyone can understand and the way on me delivers the value. When you start, they start with small stories. This book is divided into small levels to understand Zen philosophy or what is insane in Buddhism.
So at the start of the future, you talk about what insane concepts are or various Zen concepts like childhood heads. Then there are the legends in concert. If you want to understand but pick up the book and start trading, you’ll understand this concept of the Zen shadow. After this book’s end, the author talks about life, humanity, and forgiveness.
You will learn to think about it, forgive, and understand life. So all this stuff we talk about at the end of this book is going from not knowing anything about life, then understanding first and Zen philosophy, then moving towards how you can apply it to your life. After that, you will understand why this Zen philosophy is so simple.
If you have read any book by the monk, the language is a monk. Like, how would they talk as a monk or how they deliver as a monk? It is a perfect storytelling book. It is monk-like, and the author has been an entrepreneur. He was a businessperson and then shifted to a monk. So he understands what type of story has to be done in the book.
Author: Om Swami
Average Rating: 4.7/5
Category: New Age Meditation, Spiritual Self-Help
Available: Paperback | Kindle
5. Think Like A Monk
Think Like a Monk offers practical tools, insights, and guidance for personal growth, mindfulness, and purposeful living. The author Jay Shetty was a previous monk entrepreneur speaker. His life mission is to make wisdom go viral, and maybe you’ve seen one of his videos on Facebook or YouTube. Also, it’s evident during these videos that he has a talent for taking complicated concepts and making them easy and digestible for the audience. He does the same thing within his book, not disappointing.
The first best idea of the book is breathwork at the beginning of his long journey. Jay Shetty saw a ten-year-old monk teach a class of five-year-old monks how to breathe, and he found that interesting. After the class, he saw this young monk and asked, Why are you teaching them how to live? This young monk looked at him and said, Think about it the moment you are born to the moment you die. The only constant you have within your life is your breath.
So if you learn to manage your breath, you can control your emotions at such a high level. It’s an easy concept to understand, but it’s something that we don’t even necessarily think about. So within this part, Jay explains different categories to utilize the breath to your advantage. If you do this ten times, the oxygen within your brain will increase, your energy will go up, and your focus will also go.
The final one he explains in the book is when you are asleep and trying to fall asleep. Take a breath of four counts in and four counts out throughout your mouth, and do that repetitively until you fall asleep. You can do the breathwork to help you be more focused, energized, calmer, and relaxed. It’s completely normal as a human being to have some negative thoughts. The problem lies if you have more negative thoughts than positive ones.
A recent study shows that humans have approximately six thousand thoughts daily. If most of it is negative, it will be in your thoughts and reality. It will manifest within your life within who you are as an individual. That’s why he explains.
There’s a way to spot it and stop being negative. He says the concept is something that he calls spot, stop, and swap. So this book hits home, giving you many tricks and methodologies to be more mindful and successful and connected with your inner being and emotions.
Author: Jay Shetty
Average Rating: 4.5/5
Category: Stress Management Self-Help, Buddhist Rituals & Practice (Best Seller)
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle | Audio CD
6. The Monk
The Monk is a dark and gripping Gothic novel that explores the depths of human desires and the consequences of unchecked passions. The basic story is about a priest named Ambrosio, who is at the height of his power. He’s renowned in Madrid. Everyone loves him, and he’s all these qualities.
So he’s giving mass at church, and the sisters of St Clair Convent come in to confess. One of the young novices drops a letter from her habit, and he picks it up and reads it. It is a letter from her lover and Raymond, so she begs him, Please don’t turn me in, and he ends up doing the right thing and turning her in, and she curses him.
For his lack of understanding and forgiveness sets in motion his fall. One of the monks in the monastery is named Rosario, and he’s very obedient to Ambrosio. One night he confesses that he’s not Rosario. He’s Matilde, a beautiful young woman who was the model for the Virgin Mary statue Ambrosio is obsessed with. It gets into many of these sexual temptations, and sometimes it’s an extreme depiction of all of this.
We’ve got Ambrosius’s story and the other main story in the other part of the story. Many different levels are going on, but the other main story is about Agnes, who gets pregnant by Raymond, and Raymond wants to marry her. He wants to do the right thing. But she’s trapped in the nunnery with the Sisters of St. Clair. When they find out that she’s pregnant, they put her into this dungeon, torture her, and do all horrible things to her. The book caused an incredible sensation, so everyone wanted to go out and read it.
Author: Matthew Lewis
Average Rating: 4.6/5
Category: Literary Fiction, Classic Literature
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle | Audio CD
7. A Canticle for Leibowitz
A Canticle for Leibowitz is a fascinating classic sci-fi book with elements of religious monk and science, post-apocalyptic fears, and some Red Scare. It has the best features of classic sci-fi, still going strong throughout its story, introducing futuristic or philosophical elements into human society and examining the consequences or the author’s opinion of those consequences and how they would on humanity.
This book doesn’t have the best characters of all time, but certainly better than many classic sci-fi books in terms of depth, enjoyability, and quite a bit of good humor. It is funny, which is refreshing because it’s a depressing setting if you’re interested in a post-nuclear religious society with a strong relationship with science.
It is probably right up your alley because it has many strong religious influences and metaphors. Also, it has a clear, concise set of metaphors to get a single message across while doing very fun and classic sci-fi. There is the trope of introducing one or a few changes to society and examining their consequences.
Author: Walter M. Miller Jr.
Average Rating: 4.5/5
Category: Dystopian Science Fiction
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Library Binding | Mass Market Paperback | Kindle | MP3 CD
8. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
The Name of the Rose is a historical mystery novel set in a 14th-century Italian monastery. The story follows Franciscan friar William of Baskerville, who arrives at the monastery to investigate a series of mysterious deaths.
Eco’s masterful storytelling combines elements of theology, philosophy, and medieval history. The book immerses you in the intricate world of the monastery, offering a richly detailed monastic life, religious debates, and the pursuit of knowledge. The research and intricate plot make this a must-read for fans of historical fiction and intellectual mysteries.
9. Monk Habits for Everyday People by Dennis L. Okholm
Monk Habits for Everyday People explores how the wisdom and practices of monastic life can be incorporated into the daily lives of laypeople. Dennis introduces us to key monastic values such as silence, prayer, hospitality, and simplicity. He provides practical guidance on cultivating these habits in the modern world.
The book offers a balanced approach, combining theological insights with personal anecdotes and practical suggestions. It’s a valuable resource for those seeking to integrate monastic spirituality into their everyday lives.
10. Into Great Silence by Philip Gröning
Into Great Silence is a documentary film companion book that provides a glimpse into the lives of Carthusian monks living in the French Alps. The book shows a meditative and visually stunning journey, complementing the contemplative nature of the film.
Philip’s evocative photographs capture the serene beauty of the monastery, while the accompanying texts provide insights into the monks’ daily routines, rituals, and spiritual practices. This is a captivating exploration of solitude, devotion, and the pursuit of spiritual enlightenment.
Romance Books About Monks
A few books incorporate romantic storylines involving monks or characters in religious vocations. Here are some examples:
The Monk and the Hangman’s Daughter by Ambrose Bierce: This classic novella tells the tale of a monk named Ambrosius who becomes romantically involved with a woman named Benedicta. The story explores the forbidden love between the monk and the daughter of a hangman. It is set in medieval Spain, which shows passion, religious conflict, and the consequences of pursuing forbidden desires.
The Monk by Matthew Lewis: While primarily known as a Gothic novel, it contains romance within its dark and tragic narrative. The story follows the virtuous monk Ambrosio, seduced by a mysterious woman named Matilda. Their relationship leads to a series of illicit encounters and tragic consequences. This novel explores lust, temptation, and the consequences of yielding to one’s desires.
It’s important to note that romance books involving monks are relatively uncommon, and the examples provided may contain elements of darkness, forbidden love or explore the conflicts between desire and religious commitment. If you specifically seek romance books with a monk or religious protagonist, consult specialized bookstores and online communities, or seek recommendations from readers who have explored this subgenre.
Fiction Books About Monks
Fiction books about monks offer fictionalized portrayals of monastic life, exploring spirituality, self-discovery, and the challenges anyone faces in religious vocations. Here are some fiction books featuring monks:
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco: This book, set in a medieval Italian monastery, follows a Franciscan friar, William of Baskerville. He investigates a series of murders. The book discusses religious conflict, intellectual pursuits, and the complexities of monastic life, offering a rich and immersive portrayal of the medieval monastery.
The Last Abbey by Thomas H. Cook: The Last Abbey is a contemporary fiction novel centered around an aging monk, Father Ambrose, and his struggle to save his crumbling abbey. The book represents faith, doubt, and the challenges religious communities face in a changing world. It explores the tensions between tradition and modernity and the resilience of individuals committed to preserving their way of life.
The Hermit by Thomas Rydahl: The Hermit is a captivating mystery novel set in modern-day Denmark. The story follows a former monk who becomes involved in a complex web of intrigue and crime. He investigates the suspicious death of a young woman, confronts his own past, and grapples with the tensions between his former monastic life and the secular world.
These are fiction books that feature monks or explore monastic life. They offer fictionalized stories of the experiences, challenges, and inner lives of people in religious positions. Each book provides a unique perspective of spirituality, devotion, and personal growth within monasticism.
Non Fiction Books About Monks
Non-fiction books about monks provide insights into their real-life experiences, practices, and philosophies. Here are some non-fiction books:
The Wisdom of the Desert by Thomas Merton: In this classic work, Thomas reflects on the teachings of the early Christian Desert Fathers, who lived ascetic lives in the deserts of Egypt, Syria, and Palestine. He explores their wisdom on solitude, silence, prayer, and spiritual discipline, offering insights into the contemplative aspects of monastic life.
The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton: This autobiographical work by Thomas Merton chronicles his spiritual journey, from his youth to his decision to become a Trappist monk. Merton reflects on his experiences, struggles, and the transformative power of his monastic life, offering a deeply personal account of his life as a monk.
The Rule of Saint Benedict, translated by Timothy Fry: This book outlines the guidelines and principles for living in a Benedictine monastery, including prayer, work, communal living, and pursuing spiritual growth. It provides valuable insights into the Benedictine tradition and its influence on monastic life.
Monastic Life: A Short History of Monasticism and Its Spirit by Georges Duby: Georges Duby presents a comprehensive overview of monasticism throughout history in this scholarly work. He examines various monastic orders, their origins, practices, and societal contributions.
Reading books about monks allows for exploring spirituality, reflection on personal values, and a deeper understanding of monastic traditions. They can inspire personal growth, offer insights into historical and cultural contexts, and guide a more purposeful and fulfilling life. Whether seeking spiritual insights, historical knowledge, or personal inspiration, these books have much to learn.
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Frequently Asked Questions
What is the holy book of monks?
The holy book of a monk can vary depending on their religious tradition. Here are a few examples:
Bible: For monks within various Christian traditions, such as Benedictine, Franciscan, and Trappist monks, the Holy Bible is the central sacred text. The Bible consists of the Old Testament, which includes books shared with the Jewish Tanakh, and the New Testament, which contains the teachings of Jesus Christ and the early Christian community.
Tripitaka: The Tripitaka, also known as the Pali Canon, is the sacred scripture for monks in Theravada Buddhism. It is a collection of teachings attributed to Gautama Buddha and his disciples. The Tripitaka is divided into three sections: the Vinaya Pitaka (rules for monastic discipline), the Sutta Pitaka (discourses of the Buddha), and the Abhidhamma Pitaka (philosophical and psychological analysis).
Quran: The Quran is a holy book for monks who follow the Islamic faith. It is considered the word of God as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. The Quran guides moral and ethical living, religious practices, and spiritual teachings.
Guru Granth Sahib: For monks within Sikhism, the Guru Granth Sahib serves as the central scripture. It is considered the living Guru and contains the teachings of the Sikh Gurus as well as compositions by other saints and devotees. The Guru Granth Sahib is treated with utmost reverence and is seen as the spiritual guide and authority for Sikhs.
It’s important to note that these examples represent only a few religious traditions, and many other monastic orders and spiritual paths have their own sacred texts. The specific holy book of a monk depends on their religious affiliation and the tenets of their faith.
What are the four types of monks?
The four main types of monks in Buddhism represent different stages of spiritual progression within the monastic community. These types are commonly recognized in Theravada Buddhism and may vary slightly in other Buddhist traditions. They are:
Samanera (Novice Monk): A Samanera is the initial stage of monastic life. Novice monks are usually young individuals who enter the monastery to learn and practice Buddhism’s teachings under senior monks’ guidance. They observe a set of precepts but have not yet taken full ordination.
Bhikkhu (Fully Ordained Monk): A Bhikkhu is a fully ordained monk who has taken higher ordination. They commit to following the monastic discipline, which includes a set of rules and precepts known as the Vinaya. Bhikkhus dedicate themselves to a life of study, meditation, and living by the teachings of the Buddha.
Bhikkhuni (Fully Ordained Nun): Bhikkhunis are fully ordained nuns who follow the same monastic discipline as Bhikkhus. In some Buddhist traditions, such as Theravada, Bhikkhunis are present, while in others, such as Tibetan Buddhism, there may be a different system for female monastic practitioners. Bhikkhunis engage in study, meditation, and spiritual practice to attain enlightenment.
Anagarika: Anagarikas have chosen to live a semi-monastic life, dedicating themselves to the monastic lifestyle without taking full ordination. They observe a simplified set of precepts and may engage in supportive roles within the monastic community, such as assisting with daily tasks and participating in spiritual practices.
What did monks read?
Monks read various texts depending on their religious tradition, spiritual practices, and the purpose of their reading. Here are some types of texts that monks commonly read:
Sacred Scriptures: Monks often read and study their respective religious scriptures, such as the Bible for Christian monks, the Tripitaka for Buddhist monks, the Quran for Islamic monks, or the Guru Granth Sahib for Sikh monks. These sacred texts contain their respective faiths’ foundational teachings, stories, and wisdom.
Commentaries and Exegesis: Monks may read commentaries and explanations on their sacred scriptures. These texts provide interpretations, explanations, and insights into the meanings and applications of the scriptures. Articles can help monks deepen their understanding of the teachings and apply them to their spiritual practice and daily lives.
Spiritual and Philosophical Texts: Monks often read texts that explore spiritual and philosophical topics relevant to their religious tradition. These texts can include works by prominent spiritual leaders, philosophers, or scholars who offer guidance on meditation, ethical conduct, mindfulness, or the nature of reality. Examples include “The Cloud of Unknowing” for Christian contemplatives or the works of Nagarjuna for Buddhist scholars.
Monastic Rules and Regulations: Monks study texts that outline the rules, precepts, and guidelines governing monastic life. These texts provide instructions on ethical conduct, rituals, communal living, and the proper observance of monastic discipline. For example, Christian monks may study the Rule of Saint Benedict, while Buddhist monks may study the Vinaya Pitaka.
Inspirational and Devotional Literature: Monks often read devotional texts that inspire and deepen their connection to their faith. These can include hymns, poetry, or devotional writings by revered figures within their religious tradition. Such texts are intended to evoke reverence, gratitude, and devotion.
Educational and Academic Texts: Monks also engage in scholarly reading about theology, philosophy, history, or other subjects relevant to their spiritual and intellectual growth. This may involve studying texts from within their tradition or exploring comparative religious studies, philosophy, or the history of their faith.
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