Why do monks cut their hair?

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Why do monks cut their hair?

Postby Still Searching » Sun Dec 23, 2012 8:31 pm

I never knew or understood this.
Can anybody explain to me why this is done and/or what the concept of this is?
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Re: Why do monks cut their hair?

Postby cooran » Sun Dec 23, 2012 8:53 pm

Hello Ss,

Q. 15: Why do monks shave their heads?

A: When the prince who was to become the Buddha left his palace to seek a way beyond ageing, sickness and death, it is said that one of the first things that he did was to shave off his hair and beard and put on the yellow cloth . Buddhist monks always completely shave their head and beard, showing their commitment to the Holy Life (Brahmacariya) of one gone forth into the homeless life. (In India some ascetics tear out their hair, while others never touch it so that it becomes a tangled mass.) A rule states that a bhikkhu should not allow his hair to grow beyond a certain length or time, so he will shave usually at least once a fortnight or month, sometimes more frequently. To do this he uses his razor, which is also one of his requisites. 'Hair-of-the-head' (kesa) is one of the five parts of the body mentioned in the ordination ceremony and is used to recollect the true nature of the body. The bhikkhu is also not allowed to dye or pluck out any grey hairs, for they are useful reminders of old-age and impermanence. (Just consider how much time and money is wasted by people trying to make their hair remain beautiful and young-looking.)

http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/bud ... qmonks.htm

Buddhist Monastic Code - Chapter One - Personal Grooming
Hair of the head. The hair of the head should not be worn long. It should be shaved at least every two months or when the hair has grown to a length of two fingerbreadths — whichever occurs first, says the Commentary. In Thailand there is the custom that all bhikkhus shave their heads on the same day, the day before the full moon, so that the Community can present a uniform appearance. Although this is not obligatory, a bhikkhu who does not follow the custom tends to stand out from his fellows.

A razor is one of a bhikkhu's eight basic requisites. He is also allowed a whetstone, a razor case, a piece of felt (to wrap the razor in), and all razor accessories (such as a strop). At present, this allowance would cover all types of safety razors as well. The Commentary to Pr 2 insists that the razor case not be multicolored.

Unless ill — e.g., he has a sore on his head — a bhikkhu may not use scissors to cut his hair or have it cut. The question of using electric razors to shave the head is a controversial one. Because their cutting action — even in rotary shavers — is like that of scissors, many Communities will not allow their use in shaving the head.

A bhikkhu may not have gray hairs pulled out. (The wording of the Commentary here suggests that this prohibition covers hair of the body as well as hair of the head, but it goes on to say that ugly hairs growing, e.g., on the eyebrows, forehead, or beard-area may be removed.) He may not arrange the hair of his head with a brush, a comb, with the fingers used as a comb, with beeswax mixed with oil, or with water mixed with oil. Hair dressing mousse and creams would also come under this prohibition. The Commentary gives permission to use one's hand to smooth down the curled-up ends of one's body hair — for example, on the arm or chest — and to rub the head with a wet hand to cool it off or to remove dust.

Beard. The beard should not be grown long, although — unlike the hair of the head — there is no explicit maximum length, unless the two month/two fingerbreadth rule is meant to apply here as well. One may not dress the beard as a goatee, a rectangle, or in any other design. The moustache may not be dressed, e.g., by making its ends stand up. Because there is no prohibition against using scissors to cut the beard, electric razors are clearly allowed in shaving the face.

Face. One may not gaze at the reflection of one's face in a mirror or bowl of water unless the face has a wound or a disease. According to the Commentary, mirror here covers any reflective surface; bowl of water, any liquid surface. The Commentary also gives permission to look at one's reflection to check for any signs of aging to be used in meditating on the theme of impermanence. The Vinaya-mukha, noting that the prohibition against using a mirror comes in the context of rules against beautifying the face, argues that looking at one's reflection for other purposes — for example, as an aid in shaving the head or the beard — should be allowed. Alternatively, it might be argued that the use of a mirror while shaving would lessen the danger of wounding oneself with the razor, and so should be allowed under the exemption made for "disease."

Except in the case of an illness, one should not apply lotions, powders, or pastes to the face. The reference here is apparently to beautifying lotions, etc. Medicinal lotions, powders, and pastes are allowable (see Chapter 5). There is also a prohibition against applying a mark to the face (such as a caste mark or auspicious mark) with red arsenic. The Commentary interprets red arsenic as covering any coloring agent. The face and body are also not to be painted or dyed (e.g., with cosmetics, henna, or greasepaint). This rule would prohibit a bhikkhu from having his body tattooed as well, although any tattoos done before his ordination would not have to be removed (see Chapter 14).

Although medicinal eye ointments are allowed, the above rules would prohibit eye cosmetics as well.

Hair of the body. Nasal hairs should not be grown long. (In the origin story to this rule, people objected to bhikkhus with long nasal hairs "like goblins"). Tweezers are allowed for pulling them out; by extension, scissors should also be allowed for trimming them. The Vinaya-mukha notes that nasal hair performs a useful function in keeping dust out of the lungs, and so interprets this rule as applying only to nasal hairs so long that they grow outside the nostrils.

The hair of the chest or stomach should not be dressed. Hair in a "confining" region — which the Vibhaṅga to the bhikkhunī's parallel rule, their Pc 2, identifies as the armpits and the pubic area — should not be removed unless there is a sore in those areas and a need to apply medicine.


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... .ch01.html

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Re: Why do monks cut their hair?

Postby Annapurna » Mon Dec 24, 2012 7:17 am

I've always wondered if it had to do with practical reasons, such as, head lice, and since monks are not allowed to kill them, this would be a good preventive.

I have long hair, and it's probably less work than shaving to wash it every few days and take the scissors and trim the lenght, every few months....it saves me a cap and a scarf in the winter...hm...

but I'm no nun.
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Re: Why do monks cut their hair?

Postby David2 » Mon Dec 24, 2012 10:19 am

Annapurna wrote:I've always wondered if it had to do with practical reasons, such as, head lice, and since monks are not allowed to kill them, this would be a good preventive.

I have long hair, and it's probably less work than shaving to wash it every few days and take the scissors and trim the lenght, every few months....it saves me a cap and a scarf in the winter...hm...

but I'm no nun.


One advantage of shaving the hair is that you spend less time thinking about your hair. You get less sensual input from short hair - there's nothing falling from one place to the other when it's windy, and there are less likely itchy (or something like that) sensations on your head- that's at least my experience.
Plus it really takes few time to shave every few weeks and you never have to buy shampoo. (I know, its easier for men to prefer short hair than for women. :)
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Re: Why do monks cut their hair?

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Dec 24, 2012 11:00 am

It is well worth remembering that there were several forms of ascetic in india and the shaved head was one of several ways different groups wore their hair. some were matted some shaved.
In this regard it is also part of the uniform. the banner of the arahants.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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Re: Why do monks cut their hair?

Postby Annapurna » Mon Dec 24, 2012 2:59 pm

David2 wrote:
Annapurna wrote:I've always wondered if it had to do with practical reasons, such as, head lice, and since monks are not allowed to kill them, this would be a good preventive.

I have long hair, and it's probably less work than shaving to wash it every few days and take the scissors and trim the lenght, every few months....it saves me a cap and a scarf in the winter...hm...

but I'm no nun.


One advantage of shaving the hair is that you spend less time thinking about your hair. You get less sensual input from short hair - there's nothing falling from one place to the other when it's windy, and there are less likely itchy (or something like that) sensations on your head- that's at least my experience.
Plus it really takes few time to shave every few weeks and you never have to buy shampoo. (I know, its easier for men to prefer short hair than for women. :)


Yes. That's true. I like having long hair, it also doesn't get in the way, I either let it hang down and warm my back and shoulders, or in the summer I pin it up, or braid it, or have a ponytail.

It's funny, last night I dreamt I somehow ended up at a hairdresser friend and since I was already there, and was offered highlights, I thought, yeah, what the heck. She then left the chemicals on way too long and served someone else.

When I looked in the mirror again my blonde hair was dyed black, with green and pink streaks.

I was furious and thought about shaving my head...

Interesting, probably induced by this conversation... :lol:
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Re: Why do monks cut their hair?

Postby Annapurna » Mon Dec 24, 2012 3:02 pm

Cittasanto wrote:It is well worth remembering that there were several forms of ascetic in india and the shaved head was one of several ways different groups wore their hair. some were matted some shaved.
In this regard it is also part of the uniform. the banner of the arahants.


And how is matted?
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Re: Why do monks cut their hair?

Postby Still Searching » Mon Dec 24, 2012 9:17 pm

You'd still have to wash your hair, even if you are bald or have a buzz cut :jumping:
Scalps produce oil which makes hair greasy so if you're bald or just have a shaved head, you'd still need to wash your head regardless and yes, I agree about the lice thing, that'd be a good point.

Most monks are older though, there are a few youngsters but it's unlikely they'd catch head lice.

They could just remove them with a lice comb and let them free if they did keep their hair but still, that is a good point about the lice.
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Re: Why do monks cut their hair?

Postby Sylvester » Tue Dec 25, 2012 8:28 am

cooran wrote:
Beard. The beard should not be grown long, although — unlike the hair of the head — there is no explicit maximum length, unless the two month/two fingerbreadth rule is meant to apply here as well. One may not dress the beard as a goatee, a rectangle, or in any other design. The moustache may not be dressed, e.g., by making its ends stand up. Because there is no prohibition against using scissors to cut the beard, electric razors are clearly allowed in shaving the face.

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Ahh! Now I see why the abbots in film depictions of Shaolin kungfu are invariably shown bearded (including the obligatory long eyebrows running down the face)...

Better the beard thingy, than the opulent silk robes these days.
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Re: Why do monks cut their hair?

Postby ricebowl » Tue Dec 25, 2012 2:39 pm

I think the challenge here lies in a human being's attachment to his own grooming features, hair for instance is a facial feature that defines some men, and as awkward as it may seem initially shaving off the hair from a young man -- i had that experience when i entered army and became bald it was very liberating -- it makes me admire women renunciants more than male renunciants as there are many monks who looked fine without hair while women's hair is probably an area of solace of her feminity :oops:
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Re: Why do monks cut their hair?

Postby Annapurna » Sat Dec 29, 2012 9:41 am

ricebowl wrote:it makes me admire women renunciants more than male renunciants as there are many monks who looked fine without hair while women's hair is probably an area of solace of her feminity :oops:


An area of solace? :smile: How so?
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Re: Why do monks cut their hair?

Postby ricebowl » Sun Jun 16, 2013 1:54 pm

Annapurna wrote:
ricebowl wrote:it makes me admire women renunciants more than male renunciants as there are many monks who looked fine without hair while women's hair is probably an area of solace of her feminity :oops:


An area of solace? :smile: How so?

In front of this desk where this laptop is placed there is a Taiwanese DVD drama about a handsome young man who is also the eldest son of the owner of a hotel, while he fell in love with a girl who was the cleaner of his luxurious suite office.

The cleaner girl, reminiscent of the Buddha's disciple Venerable Upali, had come from a poor Cinderella-ish family, draws less than a percent of the hotel owner's son's income monthly, while her beautiful long hair, radiant smile, healthy energy, and youthful charm possibly is barely a solace as far as a theravadin follower is rightly concerned over, it made me watch the DVD from episode 1 to the end.

Heck maybe her hair is solace towards a guy more than herself.

:tongue:

I don't wanna say sorry, I won't wanna say oops.. it's just nice at a certain age watching DVDs about girls with long hair than girls with less hair. It was quite embarrassing when I told a nun I liked her months ago, works easier telling a lay householder girl that I liked her. Yes the long hair, that is likable too. This is soo mundane, and soo silly, yet this is soo truthful a personal truth that comes with a tinge of dukkha

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Re: Why do monks cut their hair?

Postby Nippapanca » Mon Jun 17, 2013 12:10 am

I think the main reason why monks shave their head (and face) is that in ancient India, rather like in ancient Greece, men usually had long hair and beards. In fact I've read that in the Buddha's time one could tell what clan a high-caste man belonged to by the intricate braids, etc., in his hair. So cutting off the hair and beard was a symbolic act of cutting oneself off from society. If the Buddha were alive and starting a Sangha of monks nowadays in Western culture, where men usually have short hair and no beard, monks might be the other way round and look like Rasputin.
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Re: Why do monks cut their hair?

Postby lyndon taylor » Mon Jun 17, 2013 11:01 am

I remember clearly being taught, but I'm not absolutely sure if it was from monks at the temple or in reading, that the hair was/is looked at as what gives us beauty and makes us attractive, and also makes us vain and conceited about our looks. In shaving our heads and bodies we are cutting off our attachements to vanity, and giving up much of our beauty to be humble, and one thing I'm thinking but don't remember being taught, there is that certain sameness about all monks and nuns having no hair, that builds a kind of camaraderie among the monks in that they all look similar. Imagine all the competition that would be involved in different monks haircuts if they didn't shave their heads, one monk would get jealous about another monk haveing better or longer hair, etc etc etc

So a lot to establish a sense of sameness between all the monks, and to establish an obvious differentness from the laypeople

Last I might postulate a shaved head doesn't look pretentious like a fancy haircut, shaved looks down to earth, humble simple.
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community that has so generously given me so much, sincerely former monk John
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Re: Why do monks cut their hair?

Postby rilyreally » Thu Apr 03, 2014 5:23 am

Hey I'm actually very interested in this topic and I went through all the hassle to register an account just to post this.

Apparently hair is an extension of ones nervous system and that growing your hair long will help with your spirituality? If that's the case why do monks shave their heads?

http://www.rense.com/general95/hair.htm
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Re: Why do monks cut their hair?

Postby appicchato » Thu Apr 03, 2014 9:38 am

...growing your hair long will help with your spirituality.


<chuckle>
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Re: Why do monks cut their hair?

Postby rowboat » Fri Apr 04, 2014 8:43 am

Image from a Dunhuang scroll of a new monk having his head shaved.

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Re: Why do monks cut their hair?

Postby indian_buddhist » Fri Apr 25, 2014 1:29 pm

Since Celibacy is a requirement being a Monk I guess it could have been to avoid unnecessary attraction happening due to the presence of hair.
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Re: Why do monks cut their hair?

Postby TheNoBSBuddhist » Fri Apr 25, 2014 2:17 pm

rilyreally wrote:Hey I'm actually very interested in this topic and I went through all the hassle to register an account just to post this.


And after one post, promptly disappeared ....?

Apparently hair is an extension of ones nervous system and that growing your hair long will help with your spirituality? If that's the case why do monks shave their heads?

Because otherwise, as ordained monks, it would give them a spiritual advantage over Cousin It..and that would be unfair....

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-mQi1FK5ZXsw/U ... sin-it.png

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Re: Why do monks cut their hair?

Postby waterchan » Fri Apr 25, 2014 2:18 pm

Welcome to the site!

rilyreally wrote:
Apparently hair is an extension of ones nervous system and that growing your hair long will help with your spirituality? If that's the case why do monks shave their heads?

http://www.rense.com/general95/hair.htm


That article looks fishy and very unscientific.

Besides, I do not remember reading about Rapunzel in the Therigata.
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur
(Anything in Latin sounds profound.)
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