Monks are religious individuals who practice mental discipline and have taken vows of poverty or celibacy. Monasticism is both a religion and lifestyle, with practitioners hoping to make the world a better place. True to their mission and endeavors, monks have, over time, made an enormous contribution to how the world works. As such, this piece recognizes some of the most influential monks and highlights their achievements.

1. The 14th Dalai Lama

The first person that usually comes to mind when talking about influential monks is the incumbent Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso. Born from a humble family background on July 6, 1935, Tenzin started his monastic education when he was only 6. Before that, when he was 2 years old, Tenzin was recognized as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama.

His Holiness has accomplished numerous achievements throughout time, chief among them being the democratization of the Tibetan administration. The Dalai Lama has also participated in multiple peace treaties and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. Tenzin is accepted worldwide; he has visited more than 60 countries.

2. Thich Nhat Hanh

If you practice meditation or mindfulness, you must have come across some of the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh. He was more than a monk; he was a poet, peace activist, and spiritual leader. His achievements include being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and founding many institutions that teach about Buddhism, including the School of Youth and Social Service. Additionally, he started the Plum Village in France, where he taught about “living peace.”

Thich shared his ideologies with renowned world leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Although he passed away on January 22, 2022, his teachings remain.

3. Martin Luther

Whether Martin Luther was a priest or monk is usually hotly debated. According to historians and religious scholars, Martin Luther was initially a monk and a very influential one, for that matter. Born in 1483 AD, Martin’s father wanted him to pursue law, but the son had a strong urge to study theology, so he followed his heart.

Martin Luther joined a strict Augustinian friary in 1505 when he was only 22. There, he was introduced to the monastic lifestyle and wrote 95 theses criticizing the accepted norms of the Catholic Church. This led to his excommunication in 1521 by Pope Leo X.

4. Thomas Merton

As the most influential American Catholic author of the 20th century, Thomas Merton accomplished many things in his lifetime. He wrote more than 50 books revolving around social justice and spirituality, including The Seven Storey Mountain, his biography.

Thomas’s monastic life started in 1941 when he was ordained as a Trappist monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani. He then got into writing educative books that are still used to date. Apart from literature, Thomas also partnered with global leaders and was a staunch advocate for nuclear disbarment.

5. Ajahn Chah

Ajahn Chah was a Thai forest monk who spread this culture to the West and many other parts of the world. He is famous for founding the Wat Pah Nanachat monastery in Northeast Thailand. Ajahn kicked off his monastic journey while he was in his 20s.

His deep understanding of Theravada Buddhist Tradition is based on the fact that he spent many years alone in the forest. He meditated under trees and learned a lot from hermit spiritual teachers. Ajahn advocated for simplicity and being self-sufficient. He has and continues to guide many people with his teachings.

6. Padre Pio

Padre Pio was a mystic monk who lived in a remote village in Italy. The monk is also believed to have been the stigmata, which refers to the wounds of Christ. As a result, he would bleed from his feet, hands, and other parts of the body.

One of Padre Pio’s most famous accomplishments is that he is believed to have wrestled with the devil and could perform miracles. Padre Pio, which translates to Father Pius in Italian, was proclaimed a saint by the Catholic Church, and he was celebrated on September 23. During his lifetime, Padre Pio attracted many followers before his death in 1968.

7. Saint Benedict of Nursia

Saint Benedict was a Christian monk and writer famous for founding the 12 communities of monks in present-day Lazio, and is credited with coming up with the rule of Saint Benedict. He is believed to be the father of Monastic culture in Europe and the West. Saint Benedict Sabuilt several small monasteries to help spread messages of order, prayer, and simplicity. His teachings primarily focused on obedience, silence, and stability.

8. 1st Dalai Lama (Gedun Drupa)

The first Dalai Lama was called Gedun Drupa. He is said to be the best monk in Tibetan culture. The monk had many disciples because he perfected the art of monkhood. He wrote at least eight books about Buddhism, and his religious prowess extended beyond the Tibetan boundaries.

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Last Update: May 3, 2024