robe goes back to the Buddha's own time for, it was He who introduced
it to the early monks. The "triple robe" (tricivara)
comprises an inner garment or waistcloth (antaravasaka), an upper
robe (uttarsanga) and outer robe (sanghati) (Vin 1:94 289). In
addition to these, the nun also wears a vest or bodice (samkacchika)
and has a bathing-cloth (udakasatika) (Vin 2:272) which altogether
comprise her "fivefold robe".
often mention: "Then early in the forenoon, the Blessed One,
having robed himself and taking his bowl and (upper) robe, approach
. . . ". Those unfamiliar with monastic ways may wonder if
the Buddha only half-dressed on His alms-round.
to the Buddhist Scriptures and the Commentaries, in the early
monastic days, the monks would go out on their alms-round dressed
only in their waistcloth which was neatly worn, and carrying their
upper robe and bowl in their hands. When the monks were in the
vicinity of houses, they would put on their upper robe before
going to collect alms.
is about the size of a sarong, both the other robes measure about
2m by 7m (about 6 feet by 9 feet). The Vibhanga says that "A
monk should wear the waistcloth even all around, covering the
area of the navel and the area of the knees." It is secured
to the waist with a flat waistband.
robe, the outer robe (sanghati), is not often mentioned in the
Scriptures but was permitted by the Buddha for additional use
during the cold season. These robes measure about 2m by 3m (about
6 feet by 9 feet). Unlike the upper robe which is only of one
layer, the outer robe has two. This is the real meaning of the
term, "the triple robe".
to the Pali tradition, six kinds of cloth are allowed for making
the upper and outer robes: plant fibres, cotton, silk, animal
hair (e.g. wool, but not human), hemp, and a mixture of some or
all of them. The Buddha recommended that the robe design should
be cut in the pattern of the Magadha padi-fields.
The robe dye
is allowed to be obtained from six kinds of substances: roots
and tubers, plants, bark, leaves, flowers and fruits. They should
be boiled in water for a long time to get the dun dye. Saffron
and ochre (from the jackfruit's heartwood) are the most prevalent
colours today. Though there is a tendency amongst forest monks
to wear ochre and city monks to wear saffron, but this is not
always the rule.
a number of ways the monks wear their robes (depending usually
on their sect and country). The most universal one is that which
is worn for the alms-round when the robe is covering both the
shoulders. The two top corners are held together and the edges
rolled tightly together. The roll is then pushed over the left
shoulder, down the back, under the armpit and is pressed down
with the left arm. The roll is parted in front through which protrudes
the right arm.
monastery or residence and when having an audience with a more
senior monk, a simpler style is adopted (as a gesture of respect
and to facilitate work). The right side of the robe is pushed
under the armpit and over the robe on the left leaving the right
monastic robe is so versatile that it can be used, besides what
is already mentioned, as a blanket, a seat-spread, a groundsheet,
a head-cover, a windbreak, etc. It is easy to clean and repair.
It is perhaps the oldest style of dress still in fashion after
serve not just as a kind of uniform to remind the wearer that
he or she is a member of a larger universal community, but is
itself an object of reflection to be worn "properly considering
them: only to ward off cold, to ward off heat, to ward off the
touch of insects, wind, sun and reptiles; only for keeping myself
decent" (M 1:10). Above all, they remind the wearer that
he or she has committed him or herself to high spiritual ideals
to master the Dharma, liberate oneself and show others