Believe it or not, some researchers believe that Christian monasticism has it's roots in Buddhist monastic practices.
In 250 BCE, King Ashoka of India issued an edict for monks to carry Buddhism to other lands. Shortly thereafter, Buddhist monks brought Buddhism to the West, where a group of them settled in Alexandria, Egypt. It is thought that later generations of Greek, Egyptian & Ethiopian students of these Buddhist monks, became Christians and incorporated their Buddhist monastic practices into their new spiritual practices of early Christianity.
One reason that researchers think this might be the case is because Egypt had close trade and cultural ties to India during the 1st Century BCE, and Christian monasticism began in Egypt & Ethiopia, and then later spread throughout the more northern parts of the Roman Empire. When you think about it, where else would Christian monastic practices come from? In the West there were no antecedents for this sort of monastic living (except for maybe some of the prayerful lifestyles of the Essenes). And why would they develop first in Egypt and Ethiopia; and why would their monastic practices be so similar to Theravada Buddhist monastic practices. In fact, some researchers even believe that a Greek term for an early Christian monastic sect in Alexandria, Egypt, the "Therapeutae", is actually a Hellenized version of the Buddhist word "Theravada". (Theravada Buddhism was the type of Buddhism practiced in India around 250 BCE.)
So, it just might be that Christian monastic practices in the West were actually a gift from the Buddha. If they are, then it is just one more interesting example of how all of the principle religions are interrelated in remarkable ways.
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