Why do Buddhists shave their heads?
Shaving the head is an ancient practice in Buddhism. It is therefore common to see Buddhist monks and nuns depicted as bald as in this selection.
It is natural to wonder why Buddhist monks shave their heads. Of course, shaving your head is part of the code of conduct for monks. But do you know why the monastic orders have made this rule an integral part of their code of conduct?
Find out what the practice of shaving really represents in Buddhism.
To be a Buddhist monk means to accept an ascetic lifestyle. Therefore, the monks shave their heads as a symbol of letting go of outer attachments.
Moreover, in India, long hair shows that one belongs to a high social class. These attachments are considered to be what keep people away from true happiness.
Hence, it is necessary to free oneself from physical attachments in the pursuit of enlightenment.
Buddhist monks will therefore shave their heads when ordained to symbolize the life they have chosen to live. Moreover, the Buddha himself, before being enlightened, had to cut his hair.
He did so after running away from the palace where he was a prince. By this act, he gave up his life as a king to seek enlightenment. And, while shaving his head, he denounced his social class.
We will focus mainly in these lines on the importance of shaving the head for Buddhist monks. Answering the question thus: "Why do Buddhist monks shave their heads?"
The symbolism of the monk
When an individual vows to become a monk, his head is shaved. This practice is the symbol that denounces worldly attachments. Shaving the head thus shows the freedom of a monk over the terrible hold of human desires.
The newly ordained monk will therefore appear as his elder monks after shaving and will begin to perform his monastic duties.
More importantly, the shaving of the head as a symbol also shows the lack of personal interest of the monks. It proves that Buddhist monks pay close attention to themselves . They focus more on the path to enlightenment without worrying about the physical attachments that can take away from awakening.
Reduce attachment to appearance
When Buddhist monks shave their heads, they limit the attention given to their appearance by others. There is no need to worry about the next trendy hairstyle. This means that their physical appearance no longer matters. They can therefore fully concentrate on the values of Buddhism and their progress towards enlightenment.
Always thinking about our appearance is stressful. This stress robs us of happiness. And this is far from being the goal of Buddhism. The monks therefore decided to shave their heads because without having to cultivate a unique look, they can fully accomplish their monastic duties.
To reduce confusion
If we are so careful with our hairstyles, it is in order to meet the demands of our society. Having this thought keeps us confused. For example, we always think of the trendy hairstyle. Or, perhaps, how to improve our look to stand out from the crowd or precisely stay classic to show our social rank. All of this is confusing. We spend a tremendous amount of time deciding how to appear physically in front of others and it does nothing to promote spiritual development
To prevent this from interfering with monastic life, Buddhist monks shave their heads. At least without hair, the time a monk spends thinking about it will be eliminated and funneled into more important things.
To imitate the Buddha
Buddhists believe that after abandoning his statue of prince, the Buddha shaved his head and that his hair never grew back. Following this, the Buddhist monks shaved their heads to get closer to their model, the Buddha. Since the Buddha himself did and achieved nirvana, why not them?
Buddhist monks really follow in the footsteps of the Buddha . They see the Buddha as a role model. Thus, they shave their heads to live the Buddha's lifestyle.
Tales of Jataka say that the Buddha cut his hair with a sword. Then it is set out in search of the search for enlightenment. His hair has remained the length of two fingers and that is what Buddhist monks try to emulate today.
To demonstrate the fervor of a monk
A truly dedicated Buddhist monk shouldn't care about his outward appearance. He should focus on being a better monk. Therefore, shaving the head is a way of showing humility and willingness to be a monk. Above all, it also shows his dedication to monastic life.
In other words, being a monk is not about trying to have the power to control things. Nor, to rule over others. Rather, it is about showing commitment and compassion towards others. Thus, a monk will shave his head since he is not trying to prove that he belongs to a social class.
Other important facts about Buddhist shaving
We have seen the reasons for shaving the head by Buddhist monks in the previous lines.
But there are also other important facts to keep in mind. These facts can be seen in the Khandhaka , a section of the Vinaya- Pitaka . It contains the rules guiding the shaving of the head by monks. Most importantly, these rules control why and how Buddhist monks shave their heads.
Here are some examples of the rules governing the shaving of monks.
A monk's hair should not grow beyond a specified length or period of time.
As a rule, a monk shaves his head once his hair has reached the length of two fingers. Or, at least, two months apart.
The head should be shaved with a razor blade
This is another rule contained in the Khandhaka. It is said that a monk must cut his hair with a razor blade. That is, no other tool can be used. However, there may be an exception when the person has a head injury. And that needs to be given proper consideration.
Even today, the favorite head shaving tool is still a razor. Most Buddhist schools prohibit electric razors.
A monk must leave his gray hair in peace.
When a Buddhist monk has gray hair, he should not dye it or pull it out. He should keep it natural and continue with the routine shaving.Besides, Buddhist monks never look at them in a mirror, so it is unlikely that they will even notice that they have gray hair!
Do not comb or brush the hair
A Buddhist monk cannot have their hair combed or even brushed All the more reason for Buddhist monks to always shave their heads!
Any hair treatment is prohibited
Buddhist monks cannot apply hair oil. And, of course, they cannot use any type of shampoo for the purpose of treating them. It goes against monastic rules. You will understand, he has no real choice and only has to shave his head as indicated in the Khandhaka of Vinaya-Pitaka.
Shaving Buddhist monks: Conclusion
The practice of shaving the head by Buddhist monks is an obligation that they must respect. As you may have read in this article, it is not about a simple monk look or a fashion of Buddhist monasteries but a strong spiritual act and governed by strict rules.
Note also that the shaving of the head does not apply not to the secular community.