Cīvara (monk’s robe)


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Cīvara (monk’s robe)

The two Pali words for monk robe cloth (चीवर): paṃsukūlacīvara (coarse robes) and lūkhacīvara (wearing coarse robes); imply cloths created from poor quality rags, from lowly origins: embalming cloths, carcass wrappers, thrown-away rubbish rags that may have been used for many unknown reasons, wound bandages, menstrual pads, cloths used in cleaning after childbirth, etc. These are picked up, washed, dyed, cut up and reassembled to make the monks' robes.

To be able to put on this monk's robe, one must have total disregard for your own body, to consider it as something even worst than garbage, and to have enough courage, humility and formidable psychological reconditioning. Once a person is able to wear this cloth, he is like someone already has one foot in the coffin, he has no more fear. A person who has fear of death, therefore still holds high value for his own body, would not be able to pick up a dirty bloodied piece of rag home to wash, dye and stitch up and put on. We are not talking about those who know no Dharma but are in absolute destitute and have no other choice but to wear clothes made this way. These may wear coarse clothing but once they have enough money, they will quickly drop it and never want to wear it again. These people are not worth talking about. The people who can for the rest of their lives wear these cloths and not get sick or tired of it are truly lūkhacīvara.

The ability to wear rag cloth is a courage worth kowtowing to. Same applies to the courage to take alms in the begging bowls. When you first think about it you may say what's so amazing about it. Well, do you know what kinds of stuffs can be put into those bowls? Please do not look into those bowls during the festivals or ceremonies, because during those events people give decent things into the monk's begging bowls. In Vietnam, during the festivals you know what kind of money and food go into the bowls and where those things came from. But in remote areas, the begging monks would get given god-knows what. As an example, when people go to work on rice fields, they may have some rice left and when the monks come by, they may just put that left over rice into the begging bowls. But many a time the rice has gone off with foul smelly mucus leaking from it and lay people may not be aware and chuck that bad rice into the monks' bowls. The monks would have no idea what kind of left over food that is chucked into their bowls. With the knowledge of modern food health, nutrition and microbiology, we have to kowtow to these monks whose courage can only be seen as heroic.

For a genuine Buddhist practitioner or ascetic monk, the manner with which he eats and wears requires a great psychological foundation, and an amazing mindset - something cannot be obtained easily. Those who can wear the poor quality cloth of the most lowly origin are those deserve the bowing of our heads.


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