A permanent manner or mode of life in which religious oblige themselves to strive for Christian perfection by the observance of the evangelical counsels.
This obligation is assumed by the taking of the public vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
It is a permanent mode of life because once entered upon it cannot be renounced except for grave reasons, and then only with consent of competent superiors.
As it exists today, the religious state includes some form. of community life, obedience to a rule and constitution, submission to a superior.
Essentially, that is in the observance of poverty, chastity, and obedience, the religious state was instituted by Christ, both by His example and the evangelical counsels; accidentally, that is in the degree and manner of observing poverty and obedience, it is of human origin, such observance depending upon the will and intention of the founders of the religious institutes.
New Catholic Dictionary