Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Buddhist monks and nuns were robes (civara or kasava) rather than conventional lay clothes. This attire consists of three parts; a smaller rectangular robe wrapped around the waist (antaravasaka), a belt used to secure it (bandhara) and a larger rectangular robe (uttarasanga) draped around the whole body, over the left sholder and under the right arm. A double-layered robe (sanghati) is used in cold weather. Robber could be and still are made out of linen, cottern, silk, wool, sana fiber, or hemp fiber. The under and upper robber are tailored out of pieces of cloth into a pattern or ulternating rectangles each with a border around it. it is not certain when or why this pattern evolved but a story in the Vinaya has the Buddha saying that the robes should have a pattern similar to the ‘fields of Magadha’ (Magadha kettha). This pattern probably evolved from the odd rags that the first monks’ robes were made out of.
As for the color, the term ‘saffron robe’ is a misnomer. Saffron is not a fast dye and has never been used to color fabric. It has also always been far too expensive to use as a dye. The correct color or colors range from bright orange (popular in Thailand) to tawny brown (common in Sri Lanka) and sometimes browny-purple (standard in Burma). Orange/yellowish has always been the color of death or renunciation in Indian culture. Some modern monks are very conscious of the color of their robes. In the 70’s and 80’s monks at Sri Lankan universities who were playing at being Maxists (i.e. most of them) wore bright red robes. Forest-dwelling monks, or those who want to give the impression of being meditators, favor a dark brown color. This is considered very ‘chic’ by young Thai monks. The matching bowl with designer carring bag is an essential accessory. I recall once listening to a Thai monk grumble that the expensive bag he had been given was a slightly different color from his robe.
Still, I think its unfair! We Buddhist monks have to be content with a simple monotone robe costing 20 or 30 dollars tops while Catholics clerics are able to adorn themselves in the most elaborate and expensive silk and satin gowns especially designed for them. And they are even able to have a matching hat! I think its unfair! If you haven’t seen it before check out Fellini’s ecclesiastical fashion show from his Roma and have a chuckle. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CYzRL9YIswQ


alimin said...

...and for that reason alone, Bhante, I respect Buddhist monks more. Contentment with simple life = happiness.

Viriya said...

Imagine all buddhist monks or nuns have to walk around and few lay people help to lift their robes hahaha


Samsara said...

Welcome back Venerable!!

Well..... life is never fair.

Maybe, Buddhist monks can work harder on shoes.... I think Crocs goes quite well with the robes, and Crocs has maybe ten thousand colors to match with the bag, bowl and robes.

What about hats?

bobzane said...

Maybe the greatest 9 minutes and 51 seconds in film history.

Viriya said...

The theravada monks from the Thai tradition wears a type of 'singlet' too in their monastery. Is that a latter 'invention'?


David (TheDhamma.com) said...

Excellent video! Just in time for Haloween; I'm scared already.

RMV's Colleague said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RMV's Colleague said...

Dear Bhante Dhamika,

I have been searching for Buddhist's book and I found a book named: From Buddha to Jesus. There also a blog comment that attack you. I just wonder that have you know about that and already responded to that or not? Please go to the link below: http://buddhabook.org/bookblog/


Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear RMV’s Colleagues,
Please have a look at my post of the 19th of April 2009. You will notice that I let my readers read both my review and Rev. Cioccolanti’s response, something he is unwilling to give his readers. I wonder why!

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear Viriya,
Not only Thai monks but also those in Sri Lanka and Burma all ware some kind of singlet/T-shirt kind of thing. I know of nowhere in the Vinaya that allows such a garment.

Viriya said...

Dear Bhante
Just a brief intro of myself
I am a 45yo chinese,living in a small town, Kampar, in Malaysia.

Oh yes i find the article about How Buddha wears his robe in your blog but I think the photos are too few to really actually for me to get a good idea of how it is done. Maybe a more detail step by step photos can give a better idea of how it is done.



Anonymous said...

I can't help but admire his hot red shoes.

wizwman said...

Dear Bhante
I've seen Mahayana monks wear berets or caps completing the look with sun shades as they walk thru cheering crowds of devotees. Did Buddha say anything about monks' covering up their shaven heads?
And I have been wondering how monks or anyone could chant the Metta Sutta and radiate loving kindness to all beings while wearing silk garments and leather footwear?

Aaron said...

Dear wizwman,

I don't think radiating metta has much to do with wearing silk or leather, although I would say that a preference for silk and leather means that person is unlikely to be freed from dukkha, which is the real goal of being a practising buddhist.

wizwman said...

Hi Aaron,
Metta Sutta: ...May all beings be well, be happy, free from mental and physical suffering...
Silk - 60 to 80 silkworms in their cocoons boiled alive to yield one sq. inch of silk.
Leather - understand that to get good quality leather the animal has to be skinned while still alive.
What I tried to point out is the hypocrisy in chanting the Sutta when at the same time we cause living creatures to be killed to feed our demand for their body parts.
I know one can be like Angulimala and gain enlightment but still that is achieved after he heeded Buddha’s advice to stop killing.

Aaron said...

Hi wizman,

You have a good point, and this is something that's very hard to reconcile for most people. :)

However, no matter what we do, we are always going to be indirectly responsible for killing one way or another. No matter how careful you walk, you might accidentally crush an ant or small insect. Even if you are vegetarian, for you to get your vegetable, lots of insects would have perished at the hands of the farmer. There is no one who can be free from indirect killing as long as one exists in this unsatisfactory state of existence. It is based on the above logic that I conclude practising metta has nothing to do with wearing silk or leather, for it is impossible not to be responsible for indirect killing.

However, that we can never escape being responsible for indirect killing is not a licence for indulgence in material items because that will lead to craving, which is one of the chief reasons for dukkha. I generally do not doubt intentions of people, and I do think that even monks who wear silk and leather footwear are genuinely kind and compassionate, provided that they did not procure or do anything to make others procure such items for them. After all, if someone offers such items to a monk out of kindness and if the monk rejected it outright, that's going to cause the person offering the items to go into a negative state of emotions, which isn't a good thing.

What those monks could have done, though, was to accept, donate these items away to the less fortunate since these items are not necessities for them, and explain to the donor that they are simple folks who have no good use for these things and it is far more meritorious to give these items to people who need these items and have better use for these items.

If the monks kept the items of luxury, I think it says more about the monks' inability to rein in their craving to material pleasures than their state of metta. I believe this is the same logic behind the Buddha not insisting on strict vegetarianism as a pre-requisite for Buddhist practice. The chief problem is not hypocrisy in practising metta (although this can be an issue at the same time), but the inability to restrain one's craving for sensual desires.

Just my 2 cents worth!

Unknown said...

I think there is a sutta where the Bhagavan compares an approaching group of mallan youths, dressed in colourful cloths, to the devas of the Trayastrimsa heaven, in a very positive manner !!
In the National Geography magazine there was a picture of from a Balinese religious festival where they have a procession of some venerable, highly regarded persons in much similar kind of fancifull head dresses that we find in tantric buddhism.
The cause for this kind of phenomena is the way that devas dress themselves in their various heavens. Hopefully this is clear without further elaboration ?
There is the practice of six anusmrti, this phenomenon of colourful religious dresses should be seen as remembering, being mindful of the devas, or of the divine state, as some prefer to translate it.

Honsing said...

Yes it is "unfair" indeed. With nicer robes, it becomes harder to overcome craving.

Having said that however, I think Buddhist robes are humble because it shows the resolve to end craving. In some other religions, the nice clothings are to glorify their God. Therefore with different motivation, naturally different outcomes materialize. Hence there is no "wrong" in all these.

Celestial Horizon said...

This is definately something important which most of us have not noticed before!