The fact that certain cultures and religions produced a way of life which, for the sake of self-perfection, expected its adherents to withdraw from various obligations to the world and to enter into the organisational structure of a monastic community obviously represents a constant anthropological foundation. The spectrum of monastic life within these various cultures was extremely diverse in its manifestations. It was the result of a high degree of flexibility in the face of constantly changing ideas about piety, social needs and concepts of community and individuality.
However, an interreligious study with the aim of a scholarly analysis of comparable key elements across different monastic cultures does not exist yet. The editors as well as the authors of this volume are particularly interested in how monastic life was realised communally in many ways according to fixed norms and rules, how it shaped the understanding of community and civilisation and therefore made a decisive contribution to the formation of our cultural identity.