What are common qualities among communal ascetics (monastic orders)? What might be the motivation or catalyst for this type of religious or spiritual commitment?
There are many forms of communal ascetic living within many religious and philosophical traditions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, and various Pythagorean and similar philosophical communities.
Underlying their tendency towards asceticism is a form of soul-body dualism, in which the soul is seen as imprisoned in the body, and the body as an obstacle to salvation. In many communities, ascetics felt that such practices as eating meat or drinking alcohol clouded or coarsened the spirit. For other ascetic communities, sin, or separation from God, was in part caused by the inherent sensual desires of the flesh, and thus it was necessary to mortify the flesh to save the soul. Finally, groups that believed in forms of reincarnation or resurrection thought that the ultimate goal of humans was separation of the soul from the body and understood ascetic practice as the first stage in detachment from the needs and desires of the body as preparation for a death in which the soul no longer clung to the body.
Although ascetics in many traditions lived alone as hermits, others banded together either for practical purposes, forming small farming communities, for mutual support, or as part of a larger system of church discipline, which subordinated individual to hierarchy and stamped out potential heresy by strict regulation and supervision.