What Do Buddhists Wear?

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Buddhist monks and priests wear clothing that varies greatly, ranging from saffron robes that are worn by monks in Sri Lanka and Thailand to headdresses and elaborate robes worn by the Tibetan lama. The clothing worn by monks shares a basic idea and similar origin, making them recognizable as Buddhist robes.

The saffron robes that monks wear dates back many centuries. Buddhists chose orange because it was the only available dye at the time, and they decided to continue using that color. With the exception of Tibetan monks who use a maroon color, Buddhist followers in many parts of South East Asia stuck to orange, and that has remained the color of choice today. The robes that Buddhists wear symbolize detachment from materialism and simplicity. Monks also shave their hair as a symbol of simplicity and detachment of materialism.

The historical Buddha is believed to have worn a humble robe that was made from pieces of patched clothes that were donated by people throughout his life. Pictures and carvings depict him wearing such a robe draped over his body, often leaving the right side of his shoulder bare. However, due to climatic and geographical factors, the robes worn by Mahayana Buddhist monks varied considerably. They wore silk robes that were beautifully embroidered. However, most monks, particularly those from Japan, China and Korea, wore more austere robes that featured a simple collar suspended around the neck.