Is there a particular reason monks shave their heads?

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Is there a particular reason monks shave their heads?

Postby adamposey » Mon Oct 12, 2009 3:54 am

I'm legitimately curious about this. It seems like something that is done more traditionally, but buddhism doesn't (in my reading) have any tradition that exists for tradition's sake. So I am very curious about why this is done. Anyone?
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Re: Is there a particular reason monks shave their heads?

Postby appicchato » Mon Oct 12, 2009 8:21 am

The night (or shortly thereafter) the Buddha (to be) left his palace to lead the homeless life he cut his hair off...why?...good question...I believe (but am not certain) this is where the practice originated...
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Re: Is there a particular reason monks shave their heads?

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Oct 12, 2009 2:38 pm

adamposey wrote:I'm legitimately curious about this. It seems like something that is done more traditionally, but buddhism doesn't (in my reading) have any tradition that exists for tradition's sake. So I am very curious about why this is done. Anyone?


It was common for all shramanas (those going forth) even before Buddha's enlightenment to leave home and shave the head and perform ascetic practices. It is one less thing to be attached to. One less thing to identify with as a specific or permanent identity.

In the Buddhist Vinaya, the rule allows the hair to grow to a certain amount before the rule is 'violated.' I think it is around one inch or so, I forget the exact amount, but it need not be down to the skin at all times in Buddhism.
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Re: Is there a particular reason monks shave their heads?

Postby adamposey » Mon Oct 12, 2009 5:20 pm

Is it common for lay followers to follow this practice?
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Re: Is there a particular reason monks shave their heads?

Postby Jechbi » Mon Oct 12, 2009 5:37 pm

Not unless they want to be bald.
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
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Re: Is there a particular reason monks shave their heads?

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Oct 12, 2009 7:58 pm

adamposey wrote:Is it common for lay followers to follow this practice?


Rarely. Only a few lay people shave their heads, sometimes when going on retreat or when ordaining temporarily for a month or two.

Even the famous Anagarika Dharmapala never shaved his head (until just before passing away). He was an 8 precept lay man who worked hard to restore the Maha Bodhi Temple and to put it under Buddhist control. His picture:

Image
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Re: Is there a particular reason monks shave their heads?

Postby adosa » Mon Oct 12, 2009 9:45 pm

In my readings I've come across the shaving of the head is more of a symbol of renunciation than anything else. As was noted it was common prior to the Buddha going forth. In fact one of the four signs that spurred the Buddha on to the homeless life, was an ascetic dressed in an ochre robe with a shaven head.


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