The Monk In A Beautiful Robe And The Teachings From Buddha

Update: 05/04/2015
Supposedly, the Monks and nuns always keep the vow of “sacrifice of their beauty to maintain the home-leaving Buddhists’ dignity” by shaving their hair and wearing brown robes, keeping their pure living and noble action to develop a strong spirit and achieve the full wisdom.

The Monk In A Beautiful Robe And The Teachings From Buddha


The fact is that the monk’s beauty comes from the pure living and noble action, not from the robes with bright colors or appearance.


From the Buddha’s times to now, the monk’s traditional color of monks’ robes is still brown. The brown is described as a neutral colour,  not flashy compared with the other colours. For the monks, it makes them look more simple and austere but decent and less attached to wealth.

 However, there have been still some monks including monks of ancient and modern time taking care too much about physical appearance by wearing beautiful robes with the bright color and shoes with gold rim in order to make themselves standing out as well as attracting others. This matter had been warned and blamed strictly by Buddha. Venerable Nanda is an example.

 Once, the World-Honored One was in SāvatthÄ«,   Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapindika’s monastery. At that time, Venerable Nanda was wearing a beautiful bright- colored robe, gold-rimmed shoes with painted eyes, carrying an alms bowl heading towards SāvatthÄ« for alms-giving.

Also at that time, having seen Venerable Nanda in a bright color robe be , many Bikkhus went to meet the Buddha, bowed to him, sat down to one side and said to him:

- World-Honored One! Ven. Nanda has just been seen to be wearing a beautiful robe with bright color entering Sāvatthī for alms-giving.

Having heard that news, the Buddha told the monk:

-  Come and get him now, please.

- Yes, World-Honored One!

Then the monk came to Ven. Nanda and told him:

-The Buddha would like to talk to you.

Getting message from the monk, Ven. Nanda went to meet the Buddha immediately, bowed to him and sat down to one side. Then the Buddha asked Nanda:

- Why are you wearing such a beautiful robe and gold-rimmed shoes entering Sāvatthī for alms-giving?

Ven. Nanda kept silent.

Then the Buddha added:

- Nanda,  you place  strong faith on cultivation, don’t you?

He replied:

- Yes, World-Honored One.

The Buddha continued:

- You might have belonged to the noble family so you have not followed the rules. You decided to follow the spiritual practice because of the strong belief in my teachings but why you have enhanced your appearance  with such nice clothes and cosmetic  while begging  for alms-giving. Therefore, you are not supposed to be different from the laymen and ordinary people, aren’t you?

Then the Buddha read some verses:

 I am delighted to see Venerable Nanda

Holding up the tranquility,

Being happy with the purity of mind,

Thereby getting full liberation.

So, Venerable Nanda, you shouldn’t do such kinds of deed!

After hearing the Buddha’s teachings, Ven. Nanda and four Buddha’s kinds of disciples perceived and followed the teachings joyfully.

 (Ekottarikàgama, volume I, part Shame)


Clearly, that is the Buddha’s moral teachings about monks’ luxurious clothes: â€œYou are monks but don’t keep the rules when trying to enhance your appearance with such nice clothes and cosmetics, which makes you look like any laymen and ordinary people”.  Through the story we can learn that the Buddha was not only strict but also merciful and it makes us think of monk’s image in the present situation­- the time which most of monks focus on appearance.

 We may know that material is just a mean to achieve a goal and it’s necessary for some ceremonies but they shouldn’t overindulge in it which may cause them to lose the monk’s image of â€œshaved head, wrapped robe”; this naturally creates a simple manners and austerity for Monks.

 The Buddha’s advice â€œyou shouldn’t do such kinds of deed!” still keeps its value over thousands of years. Venerable Nanda and the four kinds of disciples of Buddha had followed the teachings in joyfulness, so how about us? Do we have enough compassion, wisdom and bravery to carry out the Buddha’s teachings?

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