A religious order is a lineage of communities and organizations of people who live in some way set apart from society in accordance with their specific religious devotion, usually characterized by the principles of its founder's religious practice. It is usually composed of laypeople and, in some orders, clergy. Such orders exist in many of the world's religions.
In Buddhist societies, a religious order is one of the number of monastic orders of monks and nuns, many of which follow a certain school of teaching—such as Thailand's Dhammayuttika order, a monastic order founded by King Mongkut (Rama IV). A well-known Chinese Buddhist order is the ancient Shaolin order in Ch'an (Zen) Buddhism; and in modern times, the Order of Hsu Yun.
A Catholic religious institute is a society whose members (referred to as "religious") pronounce vows that are accepted by a superior in the name of the Catholic Church,  who wear a religious habit and who live a life of brothers or sisters in common.  Catholic religious orders and congregations are their two historical categories. Religious institutes are distinct from secular institutes, another kind of institute of consecrated life, and from lay ecclesial movements.
In the Catholic Church, members of religious institutes, unless they are also deacons or priests in Holy Orders, are not clergy but belong to the laity.  While the state of consecrated life is neither clerical nor lay, institutes themselves are classified as one or the other, a clerical institute being one that "by reason of the purpose or design intended by the founder or by virtue of legitimate tradition, is under the direction of clerics, assumes the exercise of sacred orders, and is recognized as such by the authority of the Church". 
Well-known Roman Catholic religious institutes, not all of which were classified as "orders" rather than "congregations", include Augustinians, Basilians, Benedictines, Bethlehemites, Bridgettines, Camaldolese, Carmelites, Carthusians, Cistercians, Conceptionists, Crosiers, Dominicans, Franciscans, Hieronymites, Jesuits, Minims, Piarists, Salesians, Olivetans, Theatines, Trappists and the Visitandines.
Several religious orders evolved during the Crusades to incorporate a military mission became "religious military orders", such as the Knights of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, the Knights of the Order of the Temple and the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre.
Non-monastic religious institutes typically have a motherhouse or generalate with jurisdiction over any number of dependent religious communities, whose members may be moved by their superior general to its other communities as the institute's needs require.
In accordance with the concept of independent communities in the Rule of Saint Benedict, the Benedictines have autonomous abbeys (so-called "independent houses"). Their members profess "stability" to the abbeys where they make their religious vows; hence their abbots or abbesses may not move them to other abbeys. An "independent house" may occasionally make a new foundation which remains a "dependent house" (identified by the name "priory") until it is granted independence by Rome and itself becomes an abbey. Each house's autonomy does not prevent it being affiliated into a congregation—whether national or based on some other joint characteristic—and these, in turn, form the supra-national Benedictine Confederation.
In the Eastern Orthodox Church, therre is only one type of monasticism. The profession of monastics is known as tonsure (referring to the ritual cutting of the monastic's hair which takes place during the service)   and is considered by monks to be a Sacred Mystery (Sacrament).  The Rite of Tonsure is printed in the Euchologion (Church Slavonic: Trebnik), the same book as the other Sacred Mysteries and services performed according to need.
Martin Luther had concerns with the spiritual value of monastic life at the time of the Reformation.  After the foundation of the Lutheran Churches, some monasteries in Lutheran lands (such as Amelungsborn Abbey near Negenborn and Loccum Abbey in Rehburg-Loccum) and convents (such as Ebstorf Abbey near the town of Uelzen and Bursfelde Abbey in Bursfelde) adopted the Lutheran Christian faith. 
Other examples of Lutheran religious orders include the "Order of Lutheran Franciscans" in the United States. Also, a Lutheran religious order following the Rule of St. Benedict, "The Congregation of the Servants of Christ," was established at St. Augustine's House in Oxford, Michigan, in 1958 when some other men joined Father Arthur Kreinheder in observing the monastic life and offices of prayer.  This order has strong ties to Lutheran Benedictine orders in Sweden (Östanbäck Monastery) and in Germany (Priory of St. Wigbert).
Religious orders in England were dissolved by King Henry VIII upon the separation of the English church from Roman primacy. For three hundred years, there were no formal religious orders in Anglicanism, although some informal communities – such as the Little Gidding community – occasionally sprang into being. With the advent of the Oxford Movement in the Church of England and worldwide Anglicanism in the middle of the 19th century, several orders appeared. In 1841, the first order for women was established. The first order for men was founded 25 years later.
Anglican religious voluntarily commit themselves for life, or a term of years, to holding their possessions in common or in trust; to a celibate life in community; and obedience to their Rule and Constitution. 
There are presently thirteen active religious orders for men, fifty-three for women, and eight mixed gender.
The Methodist Church of Great Britain, and its ancestors, have established a number of orders of Deaconesses, who are ordained as both regular and secular clergy. The Methodist Diaconal Order (MDO) currently admits both men and women to the Order. Since the functions of a deacon are primarily pastoral, the MDO may therefore be regarded as an order of Regular clerics.
The Order of Saint Luke is a religious order in the United Methodist Church dedicated to sacramental and liturgical scholarship, education, and practice.
Some Protestant religious orders follow Anabaptist theology. These would include the Hutterites and Bruderhof, who live in full community of goods  and living as a peace church. 
Among their corporations, the Religious Order of Jehovah's Witnesses cares for matters specific to Jehovah's Witnesses special full-time servants. In a particular branch, traveling overseers, special pioneers, and branch staff are considered members of the Order of Special Full-time Servants and the Bethel Family.  Globally, their order is the Worldwide Order of Special Full-Time Servants of Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Male and female members of such religious orders typically make a formal vow of poverty and are granted certain status and exemptions by many governments. While Jehovah's Witnesses do not consider members of their religious orders to be a clergy separate from other Witnesses, who are also ordained ministers, they do recognize that a government may consider them such for administrative purposes.
Jehovah's Witnesses do not have a separate clergy class, but consider an adherent's qualified baptism to constitute his ordination as a minister.  Governments have generally recognized that Jehovah's Witnesses' full-time appointees qualify as ministers  regardless of sex or appointment as an elder or deacon ("ministerial servant"); the religion itself asserts what is sometimes termed "ecclesiastical privilege" only for its appointed elders.
A tariqah is how a religious order is described in Sufism. It especially refers to the mystical teaching and spiritual practices of such an order with the aim of seeking ḥaqīqah "ultimate truth". Such tariqas typically have a murshid (guide) who plays the role of leader or spiritual director. Members and followers of a tariqa are known as murīdīn (singular murīd), meaning "desirous", viz. "desiring the knowledge of knowing God and loving God" (also called a faqīr فقير). Tariqas have silsilas (Arabic : سلسلة) which is the spiritual lineage of the Shaikhs of that order. Almost all orders trace their silsila back to the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Tariqas are spread all over the Muslim world.
Among Shias, Noorbakshia Islam is an order that blends Sufi principles with Shia doctrine. It claims to trace its direct spiritual lineage and chain (silsilah) to the Islamic prophet Muhammad through Ali, the first imam of Shia Islam.
There is some historical connection between certain schools of Sufism and the development of Wahhabism and Salafism due to the history of these denominations.
Ibn Abd al-Wahhab was inspired by Ibn Taymiyyah, a 14th-century scholar and dedicated Sufi, who is however remembered mainly as an outspoken critic of the excesses of certain schools of Sufism during his time. 
A form of ordered religious living is common also in many tribes and religions of Africa and South America, though on a smaller scale, and some parts of England.[ citation needed ] Due to the unorganized character of these small religious groups, orders are not as visible as in other well-organised religions.
The monastery is mentioned for the first time in 1197. It belongs to the group of so-called Lüneklöstern (monasteries of Lüne), which became Lutheran convents following the Protestant Reformation. […] It is currently one of several Lutheran convents maintained by the Monastic Chamber of Hanover (Klosterkammer Hannover), an institution of the former Kingdom of Hanover founded by its Prince-Regent, later King George IV of the United Kingdom, in 1818, in order to manage and preserve the estates of Lutheran convents.
An abbey is a type of monastery used by members of a religious order under the governance of an abbot or abbess. Abbeys provide a complex of buildings and land for religious activities, work, and housing of Christian monks and nuns.
The Benedictines, officially the Order of Saint Benedict, are a monastic religious order of the Catholic Church following the Rule of Saint Benedict. They are also sometimes called the Black Monks, in reference to the colour of their religious habits. They were founded by Benedict of Nursia, a 6th-century monk who laid the foundations of Benedictine monasticism through the formulation of his Rule of Saint Benedict.
A monastery is a building or complex of buildings comprising the domestic quarters and workplaces of monastics, monks or nuns, whether living in communities or alone (hermits). A monastery generally includes a place reserved for prayer which may be a chapel, church, or temple, and may also serve as an oratory, or in the case of communities anything from a single building housing only one senior and two or three junior monks or nuns, to vast complexes and estates housing tens or hundreds. A monastery complex typically comprises a number of buildings which include a church, dormitory, cloister, refectory, library, balneary and infirmary, and outlying granges. Depending on the location, the monastic order and the occupation of its inhabitants, the complex may also include a wide range of buildings that facilitate self-sufficiency and service to the community. These may include a hospice, a school, and a range of agricultural and manufacturing buildings such as a barn, a forge, or a brewery.
Clergy are formal leaders within established religions. Their roles and functions vary in different religious traditions, but usually involve presiding over specific rituals and teaching their religion's doctrines and practices. Some of the terms used for individual clergy are clergyman, clergywoman, clergyperson, churchman, and cleric, while clerk in holy orders has a long history but is rarely used.
A nun is a woman who vows to dedicate her life to religious service, typically living under vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in the enclosure of a monastery or convent. The term is often used interchangeably with religious sisters who do take simple vows but live an active vocation of prayer and charitable work.
The dissolution of the monasteries, occasionally referred to as the suppression of the monasteries, was the set of administrative and legal processes between 1536 and 1541AD by which Henry VIII disbanded monasteries, priories, convents, and friaries in England, Wales, and Ireland, expropriated their income, disposed of their assets, and provided for their former personnel and functions. Although the policy was originally envisaged as increasing the regular income of the Crown, much former monastic property was sold off to fund Henry's military campaigns in the 1540s. He was given the authority to do this in England and Wales by the Act of Supremacy, passed by Parliament in 1534, which made him Supreme Head of the Church in England, thus separating England from papal authority, and by the First Suppression Act (1535) and the Second Suppression Act (1539). While Thomas Cromwell, vicar-general and vicegerent of England, is often considered the leader of the dissolutions, he merely oversaw the project, one he had hoped to use for reform of monasteries, not closure or seizure. The dissolution project was created by England's Lord Chancellor Thomas Audley, and Court of Augmentations head Richard Rich.
A convent is a community of monks, nuns, religious brothers or, sisters or priests. Alternatively, convent means the building used by the community. The word is particularly used in the Catholic Church, Lutheran churches, and the Anglican Communion.
Ordination is the process by which individuals are consecrated, that is, set apart and elevated from the laity class to the clergy, who are thus then authorized to perform various religious rites and ceremonies. The process and ceremonies of ordination vary by religion and denomination. One who is in preparation for, or who is undergoing the process of ordination is sometimes called an ordinand. The liturgy used at an ordination is sometimes referred to as an ordination.
A monk is a person who practices religious asceticism by monastic living, either alone or with any number of other monks. A monk may be a person who decides to dedicate their life to serving other people and serving God, or to be an ascetic who voluntarily chooses to leave mainstream society and live their life in prayer and contemplation. The concept is ancient and can be seen in many religions and in philosophy.
Christian monasticism is the devotional practice of Christians who live ascetic and typically cloistered lives that are dedicated to Christian worship. It began to develop early in the history of the Christian Church, modeled upon scriptural examples and ideals, including those in the Old Testament, but not mandated as an institution in the scriptures. It has come to be regulated by religious rules and, in modern times, the Canon law of the respective Christian denominations that have forms of monastic living. Those living the monastic life are known by the generic terms monks (men) and nuns (women). The word monk originated from the Greek μοναχός, itself from μόνος meaning 'alone'.
In the Catholic Church, a religious order is a community of consecrated life with members that profess solemn vows. They are classed as a type of religious institute.
Lay brother is a largely extinct term referring to religious brothers, particularly in the Catholic Church, who focused upon manual service and secular matters, and were distinguished from choir monks or friars in that they did not pray in choir, and from clerics, in that they were not in possession of holy orders.
In Christianity, an oblate is a person who is specifically dedicated to God and to God's service.
A religious is, in the terminology of many Western Christian denominations, such as the Catholic Church, Lutheran Churches, and Anglican Communion, what in common language one would call a "monk" or "nun". A religious may also be a priest if he has undergone ordination, but in general he is not.
Enclosed religious orders or cloistered clergy are religious orders whose members strictly separate themselves from the affairs of the external world. In the Catholic Church, enclosure is regulated by the code of canon law, either the Latin code or the Oriental code, and also by the constitutions of the specific order. It is practised with a variety of customs according to the nature and charism of the community in question. This separation may involve physical barriers such as walls and grilles, with entry restricted for other people and certain areas exclusively permitted to the members of the convent. Outsiders may only temporarily enter this area under certain conditions. The intended purpose for such enclosure is to prevent distraction from prayer and the religious life and to keep an atmosphere of silence.
New Monasticism is a diverse movement, not limited to a specific religious denomination or church and including varying expressions of contemplative life. These include evangelical Christian communities such as "Simple Way Community" and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove's "Rutba House," European and Irish new monastic communities, such as that formed by Bernadette Flanagan, spiritual communities such as the "Community of the New Monastic Way" founded by feminist contemplative theologian Beverly Lanzetta, and "interspiritual" new monasticism, such as that developed by Rory McEntee and Adam Bucko. These communities expand upon traditional monastic wisdom, translating it into forms that can be lived out in contemporary lives "in the world."
A religious brother is a member of a Christian religious institute or religious order who commits himself to following Christ in consecrated life of the Church, usually by the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. He is a layman, in the sense of not being ordained as a deacon or priest, and usually lives in a religious community and works in a ministry appropriate to his capabilities.
A religious institute is a type of institute of consecrated life in the Catholic Church whose members take religious vows and lead a life in community with fellow members. Religious institutes are one of the two types of institutes of consecrated life; the other is that of the secular institute, where its members are "living in the world".
Ludovico Barbo, O.S.B. (1381–1443), also referred to as Luigi Barbo, was a significant figure in the movement to reform monastic life in northern Italy during the 15th century. Originally a canon of the community which became the Canons Regular of San Giorgio in Alga, he died a Benedictine abbot and Bishop of Treviso (1437–1443).
A religious community is a community who practice the same religion. The term is used to refer to members of a religion who live within a community, but not segregated from others and not dedicated solely to their faith. They worship together in a religious venue such as a temple, synagogue, church or mosque. In many religions, a group worshipping in common is called a congregation. In a narrower sense, a religious community is a group of people of the same religion living together specifically for religious purposes, often subject to formal commitments such as religious vows, as in a convent or a monastery. Most religious communities are part of the way religions are organized, and most religions have some form of Religious order.