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The monastic institution is an important one in Buddhism. What is the purpose of monks and nuns and what are they supposed to do?
The Buddha's purpose in founding an order of monks and nuns was to provide an environment in which spiritual development would be easier. The lay community provide monks and nuns with their basic needs - food, clothing, shelter, and medicine - so they can devote their time to the study and practice of the Dhamma. The ordered and simple lifestyle of the monastery is conducive to inner peace and meditation. In return, monks and nuns are expected to share what they know with the community and act as an example of how the good Buddhist should live. In actual practice this basic mission has sometimes been extended far beyond what the Buddha originally intended and today monks and nuns sometimes act as school teachers, social workers, artists, doctors, even politicians. Some have argued that taking such roles is alright if it helps promote Buddhism. Others point out that by doing such things monks and nuns too easily get entangled in worldly problems and forget the purpose they went to the monastery in the first place.