Interview about Buddhist Robes

Bhante, Nyom, Nyom,

my person would like to ask in regard of the “burmese color” of robes. Although currently popular under, especially young monks in other countries… (removed by moderator) red.

How does it came about that this color dark violet till red came to be used and how is it’s use argued by the Vinayas interpretation.

Maybe for some useful feedback: usually cotton robes, if using only three robes (meaning permanent in use) and mooetely in the wild (walking much, rain, sun… extreme climate, sun being the most destructive issue) they can seldom be used longer then 2,5 year and would then start to get extreme porous so that batching would be a permanent issue.

Popular nylon robes may last 4, 5 years till getting to much damaged by sun, as for merely forest monks use.

It might be different for merely monastery monks.

As a monastic, you should read the BMC I and BMC II which are Theravada vinaya books, yet influenced by the Thai Tradition.
Unallowable is usually, white, blue, green, grey and black.
Here you can see the following quote:

Making Robes: Dyeing. Robes of the following colors should not be worn: entirely blue (or green — the Commentary states that this refers to flax-blue, but the color nTla in the Canon covers all shades of blue and green), entirely yellow, entirely blood-red, entirely crimson, entirely black, entirely orange, or entirely beige (according to the Commentary, this last is the “color of withered leaves”). Apparently, pale versions of these colors — gray under “black,” and purple, pink, or magenta under “crimson” — would also be forbidden. As white is a standard color for lay people’s garments, and as a bhikkhu is forbidden from dressing like a lay person, white robes are forbidden as well. The same holds true for robes made from patterned cloth, although the Vinaya-mukha makes allowances for subtle patterns, such as the ripple pattern called “squirrel’s tail” that Thais sometimes weave into their silk. The Commentary states that if one receives cloth of an unallowable color, then if the color can be removed, remove it and dye the cloth the proper color. It is then allowable for use. If the color can’t be removed, use the cloth for another purpose or insert it as a third layer inside a double-layer robe.

The standard color for robes is brown, although this may shade into reddish, yellow-, or orange-brown. In an origin story, bhikkhus dyed their robes with dung and yellow clay, and the robes came out looking wretched. So the Buddha allowed six kinds of dye: root-dye, stem (wood) dye, bark-dye, leaf-dye, flower-dye, fruit-dye. The Commentary notes, however, that these six categories contain a number of dyes that should not be used. Under root dyes, it advises against turmeric because it fades quickly: under bark dyes, Symplocos racemosa and Mucuna pruritis because they are the wrong color: under wood dyes, Rubia munjista and Rottleria tinctora for the same reason: under leaf dyes, Curculigo orchidoidis and indigo for the same reason — although it also recommends that cloth already worn by lay people should be dyed once in Curculigo orchidoidis. Under flower-dyes, it advises against coral tree {Butea frondosa) and safflower because they are too red. Because the purpose of these dye allowances is that the bhikkhus use dyes giving a fast, even color, commercial chemical dyes are now accepted under the Great Standards.

Most forest monks I know prefer cotton because it is listed as an allowable cloth directly without the need for the great standards (but allowable because of great standards).

From BMC II

The robes may be made from any of six types of robe material: linen, cotton, silk, wool, jute, or hemp. As noted under the discussion of NP 1, the Sub-commentary to that rule includes mixtures of any or all of these types of cloth under “hemp.” There are separate allowances for cloaks, silk cloaks, woolen shawls, and woolen cloth, but these apparently predated and should be subsumed under the list of six. Nylon, rayon, and other synthetic fabrics are now accepted under the Great Standards.

1 Like

Appreciate for Bhantes care and try in short to approach the questions.

Perceptions, knowledge, investigations are differently. My person is well familiar of all kinds of translations and ideas transported into western’s various languages, but thought that Bhante might be integrated in a living traditional culture, familar with Burmese, the culture, the scripts, the translations from Pali, Pali, commentary…
The colors, for example, aren’t simple signs but as usual in Indo-German and Mon-Khmer languages use similes known by many, from daily life, custmos, nature. So for example “gray”-word in Pali lit. means elefant-foot-color, what many translate as black (causing most troubles for scholars outside) means in Pali lit. " centipede", what is translated as red comes as “pig-blood-color”…
It would be hardly possible to get, what Bhante maybe perceives as classical-theravada good understood without any cultural understanding, simply by western and modern translation.

Just if Bhante likes to get more into relaxe gained perceptions toward understanding causes more broad, my person would try to make further feed-forwards so that he could add possible traced from his spheres. In no way my person likes to disturb him wishing to hold on certain perceptions he had already firm developed around it.

Maybe in regard of garment and allowed dye (chemical dyed Nylon), just as a maybe releasing question: what makes him think that material of robes as well dye can be allowable in regard of the Great Standards.

(My person would also carefully suggest to do not perceive written as worthy to censure before not sure that it might simply be out of one’s perception, knowledge and understanding, as well it’s meant purpose, but of course does not claim any demands or even rights.)

Lohita is blood and also red, but we have many words with two or more meanings in English. It does not matter.

Lohita is also part of the words for relatives in Pāli and also many languages including English. Have you heard of “bloodlines”…?

I’m not sure where you got pig-bood from. Perhaps you are mixing your own language. It does not matter though.

You cannot break up “understand” into “under” and “stand” and conclude it means to stand underneath something.

Someone can be blue , the sky can be blue.

We have the word “yellow fever”.
Someone with liver problems or an alcoholic has yellow skin.
Sickness is often associated with a yellow color.
Shall we conclude that yellow (your robe color) is bad ?

It does not matter.

The Buddha said these colors were allowable. That is enough. It depends on the monastery or rules of the monastery or the individual who chooses such places . The Buddha’s allowances are enough .

1 Like