With all due appreciation for all positive interventions and with apologies for a seemingly dilettantish question, does anyone have any insight on the differences as well as on the commonalities of living long-term inside a meditation center compared to a monastery?

3 Answers 3


"Traditionally they didn’t have such things as meditation retreats. You went to monasteries. And in monasteries, there was time to meditate, but there were also other duties in the course of the day. There was work to be done. You had to interact with the other people in the monastery to at least some extent. And in the course of that work and those interactions, you learned a lot about the Dhamma: the Dhamma of generosity, the Dhamma of virtue, the Dhamma of patience, equanimity, goodwill—all these other virtues that are an essential part of training the mind.

The idea of creating meditation retreats came basically in the late 19th or early 20th century, the same time when the assembly line was invented, breaking jobs down into little tiny parts that you do repetitively. This approach to physical work was efficient and effective, so it became the model for a lot of meditation retreats and for the methods taught on those retreats. You take one method and you just apply it again and again and again. But a lot gets left out in that approach. It’s like exercising only one muscle in your body, so that the muscle gets strengthened all out of proportion to the rest of your body. And that can’t be healthy.

It’s better to think of meditation as a training for the whole mind, as exercise for the whole mind. You have to train the whole mind in all the virtues of maturity and heedfulness. In other words, you need to develop the ability to anticipate dangers, particularly dangers in your own behavior, and to figure out what you can do to prevent them."

~ Thanissaro Bhikkhu "Working at Home" https://www.dhammatalks.org/books/Meditations5/Section0017.html


This question is very general because there is obviously no uniform characteristics of a meditation centre. My general impression is:

  • Living in a meditation centre would generally involve living with uptight overly serious laypeople and having to rigidly conform with the meditation schedule. The place would probably be pedantic about what foods to eat & possibly have communist fantasies. If you have work duties, you probably have to deal with meditation newbies having nervous breakdowns & other forms of worldly neurosis. If you want to avoid work duties & just meditate, a meditation centre is good for intensive meditation however it will generally cost you money.

  • Living in a monastery means you join in activities with the monks and experience the interactions between monks & laypeople, including offerings of food & ceremonies. One will come to understand Buddhist culture better. While having to join in work, chanting & ceremonial routines, you will probably have more free time for personal activities & meditation. Living in a monastery will generally not cost you money. In a monastery, there are no arguments and no social management crisis responsibilities for the layperson.

  • 1
    My experience with the first point is near spot on, except maybe the communist fantasies.
    – Remyla
    Jul 28, 2023 at 9:23

Simple answer is that a monastery is a centre for people who have gone forth into a mendicant life of homelessness, who then live in a community of like minded people (ordained sangha) For what I would assume is communal benefit.

A meditation centre is essentially the same, but either is including, specifically only, or also revolves around laity.

Personally I have lived in a meditation centre in a specific tradition as a lay person, where the day to day life and communal living was focused upon Buddhist ideals, rather than the normal idle society ideals.

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