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First and foremost, they are expected to preserve the doctrine and discipline now known as Buddhism.
They are also expected to provide a living example for the laity, and to serve as a "field of merit" for lay followers—providing laymen and women with the opportunity to earn merit by giving gifts and support to the bhikkhus.
The way of addressing monastics differs between the Christian traditions.
As a general rule, in Roman Catholicism, monks and nuns are called brother or sister, while in Eastern Orthodoxy, they are called father or mother.
Most of the modern disciplinary rules followed by bhikkhus and bhikkhunis — as encoded in the Patimokkha — relate to such an existence, prescribing in great detail proper methods for living and relating in a community of bhikkhus or bhikkhunis.
The number of rules observed varies with the order; Theravada bhikkhus follow around 227 rules, the Vinaya.
It began to develop early in the history of the Church, but is not mentioned in the scriptures.
It has come to be regulated by religious rules (e.g.
Monastic life plays an important role in many Christian churches, especially in the Catholic and Orthodox traditions.Novices often ordain at a young age, but generally no younger than eight.Samaneras live according to the Ten Precepts, but are not responsible for living by the full set of monastic rules.Similar forms of religious life also exist in other faiths, most notably in Buddhism, but also in Hinduism and Jainism, although the expressions differ considerably.
By contrast, in other religions monasticism is criticized and not practiced, as in Islam and Zoroastrianism, or plays a marginal role, as in Judaism.After the Parinibbana (Final Passing) of the Buddha, the Buddhist monastic order developed into a primarily cenobitic or communal movement.