Why did the Buddha's monks shave their heads & beards?

Discussion of ordination, the Vinaya and monastic life. How and where to ordain? Bhikkhuni ordination etc.
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Re: Why did the Buddha's monks shave their heads & beards?

Post by JMGinPDX »

From my experience, the answers regarding "dropping ego identity and sense of self" are the most accurate - hairstyles, grooming of all sorts helps people create an identity based on physical appearance (e.g. if I as a white male have a flat-top buzzcut, or I have 3-foot long purple-dyed dreadlocks in a mohawk cut, I'm sending a specific message as to my personality and preferences and sense of identity). Shaving hair and beard doesn't allow me to use that tool for self-differentiation to create an ego identity (similarly, monks wear robes and in the Buddha's day even made them from death cloths harvested from charnel grounds).

I started shaving my head after years of switching hairstyles/cuts to convey whatever identity I was trying to reinforce at that time, and let me tell you, my ego doesn't like it and fights me daily on it :) So for me it's an "austerity" practice related to chipping away at sense of self.
Right now, it's like this...
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Re: Why did the Buddha's monks shave their heads & beards?

Post by Bhikkhu_Jayasara »

In addition to what Ajahn has already posted directly from the Vinaya, I think the easiest answer is that this was the tradition of the samanas of the time.

The Brahmins had the long hair(the householders), those who sought to find another way, cut off their hair , and went into the woods. you can find the term " shavelings" in the suttas as an insult to the Buddha and the monastics, but those following the Buddha were just one of many types of samana inhabiting the wilds of northern India.

as Ajahn has already shown, the rule for hair is no longer then two fingers width, and as far as I know there is no rule for facial hair length.
Bhikkhu Jayasāra -http://www.youtube.com/studentofthepath and https://maggasekha.org/
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