Question About Monks Shaving Head

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Question About Monks Shaving Head

Postby Nosta » Wed Nov 28, 2012 11:24 pm

I know that shaving head and face is a way to give create more order and self discipline, but if you are a monk living in a forest and not using tools (only the really necessary ones, like food or perhaps medication when in need of it), why and how would you shave yourself? If you are willing to give more attention to meditation, wouldnt make more sense to shave only once in a while or even never? Besides, if you are living in poverty how would get razors everyday (even if you re-use the razor, after somedays it would get useless)? An how would you shave without a mirror?
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Re: Question About Monks Shaving Head

Postby tomamundsen » Wed Nov 28, 2012 11:34 pm

From what I understand, they don't shave daily. The vinaya calls for hair under a certain length, which is not like a millimeter, its like the width of two fingers or something around there.
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Re: Question About Monks Shaving Head

Postby Konchog1 » Wed Nov 28, 2012 11:53 pm

I believe the primary reason is to prevent lice.

I wonder why some monks have beards though.
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Re: Question About Monks Shaving Head

Postby Huifeng » Thu Nov 29, 2012 7:46 am

The main reason is that in ancient cultures, most people - men and women - have long hair. Cutting off one's hair is a drastic step away from social norms. Much identity is attached to hair and hairstyles, and so removing it also has this symbolism. Likewise for beards.

The Vinaya specifies no more than two finger widths. However, cases are known where monastics hair grew quite long. eg. one sutra in which Mahakasyapa emerges from some time in the forest with long hair and beard, other younger monks criticize him, and then the Buddha asks Mahakasyapa to share his seat and praises him. Likewise, the practice in India of not shaving or cutting fingernails during religious practice (also found in other cultures), and so monastics coming out of long retreats with long hair and beard.

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Re: Question About Monks Shaving Head

Postby Indrajala » Thu Nov 29, 2012 8:09 am

Huifeng wrote:The main reason is that in ancient cultures, most people - men and women - have long hair. Cutting off one's hair is a drastic step away from social norms. Much identity is attached to hair and hairstyles, and so removing it also has this symbolism. Likewise for beards.


With the conventions having changed to the opposite (men generally keep their hair quite short and remain clean shaven), I wonder if having beards and long hair, now thought of as ugly and unfashionable, wouldn't be in line with the spirit?
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Re: Question About Monks Shaving Head

Postby tomamundsen » Thu Nov 29, 2012 8:59 am

Huseng wrote:
Huifeng wrote:The main reason is that in ancient cultures, most people - men and women - have long hair. Cutting off one's hair is a drastic step away from social norms. Much identity is attached to hair and hairstyles, and so removing it also has this symbolism. Likewise for beards.


With the conventions having changed to the opposite (men generally keep their hair quite short and remain clean shaven), I wonder if having beards and long hair, now thought of as ugly and unfashionable, wouldn't be in line with the spirit?

I think so. :thumbsup:

Maybe one day I will be fortunate enough to receive a hair empowerment. Image
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Re: Question About Monks Shaving Head

Postby Huifeng » Thu Nov 29, 2012 10:52 am

Huseng wrote:
Huifeng wrote:The main reason is that in ancient cultures, most people - men and women - have long hair. Cutting off one's hair is a drastic step away from social norms. Much identity is attached to hair and hairstyles, and so removing it also has this symbolism. Likewise for beards.


With the conventions having changed to the opposite (men generally keep their hair quite short and remain clean shaven), I wonder if having beards and long hair, now thought of as ugly and unfashionable, wouldn't be in line with the spirit?


I doubt it.

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Re: Question About Monks Shaving Head

Postby Indrajala » Thu Nov 29, 2012 2:05 pm

Huifeng wrote:I doubt it.

~~ Huifeng


Really? If as you say, "Cutting off one's hair is a drastic step away from social norms," then by contemporary standards having long unkept beards and long hair would be a drastic step away from social norms, especially in much of Asia where very few men now have beards and long hair. Having a buzzcut and clean shave is perfectly normal and considered good looking, whereas being a scruffy long-haired type is now less than fashionable.

The sadhus in India demonstrate the principle quite well.

Image


On the other hand, being neat and tidy in tailored outfits with proper grooming is a far cry from the early sangha when monks wore cloth made from discarded menstrual rags and corpse shrouds.

So is the spirit of renunciation inherently about shaving one's head, or not being attached to one's own form and appearance?
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Re: Question About Monks Shaving Head

Postby Nosta » Thu Nov 29, 2012 5:36 pm

I think that if i decided to live in forest, living only for Dharma and in poverty, shaving head would not be possible. I would even be a thing to do: would you be always seeking for money to buy some razors?
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Re: Question About Monks Shaving Head

Postby Sherlock » Thu Nov 29, 2012 5:38 pm

I think it's interesting to note that short hair and shaved beards often became popularized after periods of war, especially involving conscription. Alexander's conquests, then the Romans up till the late Empire with Julian bucking the trend, the Napoleonic period, then WWI and WWII are all clear examples.

Still, I prefer keeping short hair myself. It's easier to clean.
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Re: Question About Monks Shaving Head

Postby floating_abu » Thu Nov 29, 2012 7:10 pm

Shaving or not shaving is symbolic, and yet of course symbolism means something. To us, to society, to an individual etc. But what we should not forget is these are just still social or cultural norms - the practice is one of the heart so one's monastic-hood or layperson-hood's standard is there: not just in the trappings - which are fine by themself also as long as one is clear of this boundary also.
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Re: Question About Monks Shaving Head

Postby Sherab Dorje » Fri Nov 30, 2012 12:12 pm

Huseng wrote:Really? If as you say, "Cutting off one's hair is a drastic step away from social norms," then by contemporary standards having long unkept beards and long hair would be a drastic step away from social norms, especially in much of Asia where very few men now have beards and long hair. Having a buzzcut and clean shave is perfectly normal and considered good looking, whereas being a scruffy long-haired type is now less than fashionable.
Here in Greece the same principle is at work with the Orthodox clergy:
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Re: Question About Monks Shaving Head

Postby jmlee369 » Mon Dec 03, 2012 12:36 am

It is worth bearing in mind that bhikkhus were required to have a razor as part of the eight requisites, namely the three robes, a belt, an alms bowl, a razor, needle and thread, and a water filter. Bhikshus with certain bodhisattva precepts were expected to have even more requisites related to their practice.
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Re: Question About Monks Shaving Head

Postby Huifeng » Mon Dec 03, 2012 1:37 am

There are a number of reasons why shaving off hair (and beard) is preferable to growing hair (and beard) long (and unkempt).

1. While the argument of "by contemporary standards having long unkept beards and long hair would be a drastic step away from social norms" may stand for men, it may not for women. Women having long hair is perfectly normal in many parts of the world. Monasticism isn't just about men.

2. Again, not all ethnic groups can really grow beards, even if they want to.

3. There would be differences between those men of different age groups. Young sramaneras may not be able to grow beards at all. And, those who are quite old (or maybe some not so old) may be growing bald.

4. End result: There would still be a fair amount of difference between men and women monastics, the young and old, and those of different ethnic groups. The basic idea of the sangha being in general equal would thus be in doubt.

5. Having hair (and beard) can still be a basis for all sorts of comparisons (as above). Does having longer hair (or beard) make one more holy or wise? Does having it all matted up and dread locked make one more holy or wise? Thus, the potential to spend attention trying to make one's hair look the part would be present, defeating the original purpose.

None of these occur when the standard is a shaved head and beard, for there is nothing to compare, and men and women, young and old, can all equally have a shaved heard and shaved face (or original absence of facial hair).

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Re: Question About Monks Shaving Head

Postby Nosta » Mon Dec 03, 2012 11:38 pm

Great observations! They make perfect sense and give a good answer to the questions debated here. Thanks Huifeng :twothumbsup:
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Re: Question About Monks Shaving Head

Postby floating_abu » Fri Dec 07, 2012 12:07 pm

"When a person has shaved his hair and beard and put on the ochre robe, that's the symbol of his state as a monk. But it counts only on the external level. Only when he has shaved off the mental tangle — all lower preoccupations — from his heart can you call him a monk on the internal level.

"When a head has been shaved, little creeping insects like lice can't take up residence there. In the same way, when a mind has gained release from its preoccupations and is freed from fabrication, suffering can't take up residence at all. When this becomes your normal state, you can be called a genuine monk."

- Ajahn Dune Atulo


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Re: Question About Monks Shaving Head

Postby Red Faced Buddha » Tue Dec 18, 2012 6:10 am

tomamundsen wrote:
Huseng wrote:
Huifeng wrote:The main reason is that in ancient cultures, most people - men and women - have long hair. Cutting off one's hair is a drastic step away from social norms. Much identity is attached to hair and hairstyles, and so removing it also has this symbolism. Likewise for beards.


With the conventions having changed to the opposite (men generally keep their hair quite short and remain clean shaven), I wonder if having beards and long hair, now thought of as ugly and unfashionable, wouldn't be in line with the spirit?

I think so. :thumbsup:

Maybe one day I will be fortunate enough to receive a hair empowerment. Image


Image

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