Upper body clothing ...

dlusthau at mailer.fsu.edu dlusthau at mailer.fsu.edu
Wed Oct 2 16:57:37 UTC 1996

Leaving the right shoulder uncovered is indeed prescribed for monks and nuns 
in the vinaya, and is usually understood as a "middle way" between the 
"sky-clad" non-attire of the Jains and nonrenunciant dress. Clerical attire 
was/is prescribed in great detail, from the types of robes and 
undergarments, to the color (saffron), to whether sandals could be worn (at 
first, no sandals, then sandals were allowed). I'm not familiar with any 
sutras that specifically say that someone bared their shoulder to ask a 
question, but in may have done as sign of respect for sramana-hood.

Incidentally, when Buddhist monks began entering China, the Chinese found 
the bare shoulder scandalous, tantamount to parading around naked in public. 
As a result the dress code came to be modified in East Asia. Tibetan monks 
also leave the shoulder uncovered by their main robe, but wear an 
undergarment (usually of a different color) that keeps their shoulder and 
chest warm.

Dan Lusthaus
Department of Religion
Florida State University
Tallahassee, FL  32306-1029
Ph: (904)644-0210
Email: dlusthau at mailer.fsu.edu
Fax:  (904)644-7225

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