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Buddhism: Dress code | 10

Buddhism: Dress code

Dress code

The most distinct mode of dress in the Buddhist world is the robes worn by monks and nuns:

The symbolic significance of this form of dress can be easily seen in the common phrase for becoming a monk, “taking the robes.”

Although the colour and style of robes varies considerably from country to country, as well as from school to school, all monastics wear robes.

Not only does the robe physically mark the monk as distinct from the layperson, but it also serves as a physical reminder of the monk’s ascetic lifestyle.

The Buddha himself fashioned his own robe out of donated scraps and recommended that his followers do the same.

Buddhist robes continue to be symbolically constructed in the same manner, sewn together out of many smaller pieces of cloth (although not usually actual scraps).

Robes are most often saffron in colour, although the range of colours goes from yellow to red, depending on the monastery.

On auspicious days throughout the Buddhist world, particularly full-moon days (Uposatha Days), pious laypeople will often wear special clothing, usually all white, to signify their purity and taking of the pañcha śīla (five ethical vows).

In Śrī Lanka the reformer Anagārika Dharmapāla (1864–1933) formalized this mode of dress by proposing a special kind of ascetic layperson (called anagārika) who always adhered to the Buddhist ethical guidelines and always wore the simple, all-white garb.