“Continuity in Buddhist culture is not just a textual, ideological, or mystical transmission. It has a substantial institutional basis, the monastic Sangha. All Buddhist cultures have had both lay and monastic wings, and they always will, or else they will stop being recognizable forms of Buddhism. But the monastic Sangha is not just a community of spiritual seekers: it is a screen for the projection of Buddhist dreams.”
~ Bhikkhu Sujato, On Using Jung
Monastics are Buddhist people (men and women) who decide they wish to devote themselves to Buddhism by living a life of contemplation and meditation and living extremely simply. Monastic life provides ideal conditions for seeking the path of awakenings without the many worldly responsibilities and commitments that householders have, so that one can easily get Samadhi, devote oneself to serving the community (people with families, mortgages and jobs have less time for this), deep study, realisation, translation and transmission of Buddhism as a living tradition of awakening.
Buddhist monks and nuns follow the Vinaya, the code of vows laid down by the Buddha. A novice monk/nun has 10 vows and a fully ordained monastic has several hundred. Bhikshus are fully ordained monks, Bhikshunis are fully ordained nuns and Shramaneras are novices. Traditional monastic ordination is different to the ordination of Japanese Zen Priests who can still wear lay clothes and hold lay jobs, and get married. They usually live a disciplined and inspiring life, however the Vinaya practice was lost in Japan. Ngakmas and Ngakpas are the ordinations for those wishing to live as married yogis and practice Vajrayana. These people sometimes live their life in retreat, or sometimes due to necessity they hold lay jobs.