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EMIC UNDERSTANDING OF MONKS INVOLVEMENT IN THE ECONOMY AND WORK ASSIGNMENTS: EVIDENCES FROM MÄNDABA MÄDHANËĀLÄM MONASTIC COMMUNITY IN LAKE TANA, NORTHWEST ETHIOPIA [Abstract ID: 1303-01]
Socioeconomic aspect of monastic life is an area that has been neglected attention and has not been addressed previously by academics and researchers. Dozens of previously written materials promoted the unscientific labeling of monks as socially isolated, economically idle, culturally defunct and spiritually absurd. Monks’ involvement in the economy and work assignments also remained controversial and under-research in the scholar’s inquiries. The present study is thus, one instance that attempts to fill the knowledge gaps and to understand enhancements of monks’ engagement in the economy and work assignments based on emic rationalization. To meet this aim, a qualitative research approach has been used within which ethnographic research design has been adopted. Thirty-three informants were recruited using purposive sampling method. Informal conversations, key informant interviews, focused group discussions and systematic observation were used to collect primary data. Besides, secondary sources were used to supplement the primary data. The study found that monks’ engagement in the economic activities is unavoidable as it is embedded with the coherent religious life. The notions of self-government, deprivation of previous economic privileges, rendering of social services, self-reliance and industrious traditions of the monastic community have been identified as endowing factors for the inevitability of economic engagement. Monks involvement in the economic activities does not infringe the spiritual missions as they pursue a low consumption pattern, moral values, internal supervision, religious practices and rules of the monastery, which are regulating. Work is the integral and obligatory part of monastic life like prayer and fasting, although it cannot substitute the worth of prayer. Apart from livelihood significance, work has also social, religious, personal and institutional values. There is always working in the monastery without material and economic ambition. Thus, monastic work shows the junction point where religious order and socio-cultural values simultaneously work together and exist. It can be concluded that the socioeconomic life of monks is uniquely embedded with other aspects found within a fixed religious order, but can only be effective when it is interpreted based on the insider’s views.