Why Do Buddhist Monks Wear Robes?
- By Alison Lesley --
- 31 Jul 2014 --
Why Buddhist Monks Wear Robes – An Insight into Modern Zen Buddhism
Interestingly, modern Buddhist monks’ attire goes way back to Buddha’s times when the Monastic robes were simple pieces of cloth primarily made of bits of rags and discarded shroud adorned by both the males and females. Buddhist monks’ clothing, though freshly made today, still remains simple to represent the simple spiritual lifestyle that each one of them has vowed to keep. A deeper insight in the personal experiences of the monks reveals more truths behind their outward appearance.
What Purpose do the Robes Serve?
According to the Buddhist monks, the Buddhist clothing creates a visible way of uniformity and intention to the world. While it covers you from neck to the ankle, it strips down all the personal attributes and aspects that one would easily use to define you or identify who you are. It makes it clear that what you wear does not announce who you are before you can even speak. The robe also serves the purpose of reminding the monks of their vocation which is to live apart from the world so they may be able to save and heal without getting trapped in temptations.
Why Do People Want to Become a Buddhist Monk?
Personal life experiences of the Buddhist monks reveal that most of them join the monastery from curiosity-driven instincts. With so much mystery in this world, the desire to discover why things are the way they are, why people are born to die or why the sun rises in the east, these among life’s other challenging mysteries attracts the monks to the life of Buddhist teachings.
Some of them will confess to having lost a loved one in unexpected drastic situations that left them powerless and in a quest to find the reason why. Through the process of trying to find that answer, many find Buddhism which helps guide their perspective to such questions while providing the opportunity to lead a life free of hurt, difficulties, challenges and complications that Buddhism offers. This is because Buddhism teaches that the ups and downs of life don’t have to necessarily control your state of joy.
The Worthwhile Challenges?
The monks’ choice to abandon their distinguished lifestyles – to strip off completely their defining characteristics, like shaving off full heads of hair for the women – shows the intensity of their commitment to the Buddhist faith. At first it may feel strange, especially having to a wear the robe which forces the wearer to be cautious of how to move or be sloppy and trip over it. While this might be a challenge at first, wearing the uniform eventually creates awareness, presence, and grace which ultimately define their calling.
Embracing the Appearance
Interestingly, as a requirement the monks eventually learn to sew their own robes. In fact each one wears a robe that carries an embodied calligraphy of their name. This gives them a sense of ownership, and the depth of renowned attachment they hold to their uniforms is surprising. By the end of the day they consider the robe as just a piece of fabric that could be dismantled by a single match stick. What is important is what happens to the mind of the one wearing the clothing. The robe is only an outward expression.
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