Size of pillows, sections of robes and sugata spans

So i heard the Buddha made a restriction against pillows half the size of the body (Is it in regard to the entire body or just the torso?) And that it has to be the size of the head. Is a 32.5 x 16 centimeters pillow small enough or should i make it smaller?

According to the BMC, the sugata spans is 25 cms but i have read some posts on the site that asserts that it is more like 43 cms, is this agreed by many experts here?

Is the outer robe required to have at least 5 cut sections (Khandas) or is just 4 ok? Is it an offence in the vinaya to have 4 sections (Khandas) on the outer robe?

May we ask why you are asking? If you are in a monastic education program, these topics will possibly be touched on. If you aren’t in such a program and want to learn about these things, the first step would be to look for one. As it was me who first really pointed out the existence of the ~45cm sugata vidatthi to the English speaking crowd, I assume it is my earlier post(s) to which you are referring on this point.

I can’t recommend the BMC in general as an Indological text, 25cm is the Thai kheup measurement from the 1913 Vinayamukha, and not an Indian measure. The ~45cm is the Nanshan commentarial measure (based on the earlier tradition), as I have previously pointed out. AFAIK the sugata vidatthi was pinned to Chinese measurements as early as the 7th century CE, which makes it pretty easy to trace as Chinese kept extensive almanacs and records of weights and measures. This measure is actively in use in the vinaya schools in East Asia, opposed to the Thai kheup measure, which has always been mostly speculative, combined with the fact that this measure appears to be unknown to the Pali commentarial tradition itself.

I was once flashed by a monk who took the Thai kheup seriously and ended up exposing himself because his robe wasn’t big enough- hence the beginning of my concern about this issue.

To really have a good handle on the measurements, it’s good if the “expert” could please study the works of Daoxuan 道宣 (596–667) and Yijing 義淨 (635–713) first. If you want a second opinion, try these people (contact form for Yidesi temple) or Nanlin people, (address retracted after moderator request).

I just use the pillow from the shop?

The most meticulous way with the robe is to have at least five fully cut sections. You probably don’t want four because it needs to be an odd number to have a back panel. So it would need to be 5,7, or 9 sections. See the study linked:
6007Venerable Paññā Nanda (1).pdf (2.6 MB)

Not everywhere is meticulous about it (my guess is that the vast majority of places don’t really care due to a proliferation of commercially manufactured robes). The robes from the shops often have “faked” cut sections, meaning that there are actually only three or so cut pieces, but the overall visual effect is always a robe of at least five panels.

To get a good handle on robe related issues, I would recommend a stint as a monastic store officer. It forces you to think through robe sizes logically. I also briefly taught robe sewing to nuns. That’s the only reason I know so much about these things. If we think about the original reasons why there were restrictions on length and height, it’s good to remember that people in the Buddha’s time may have equated many pleats and a train on their clothing with status or sensuality: unless you actually have this type of abnormal mentality of the priestly or ruling classes that you want to set up a dancer’s outfit or a trailing cloak for yourself, everything that comes from the shops is pretty much ok in terms of size if used for its intended purpose (in fact, East Asian sitting cloths are often slightly larger than the skimpy Theravada versions).

There probably isn’t any harm in the laity choosing to wear clothing of moderate measurements, but unless you live in an area where some form of saree, lungee or shoulder cloth is normally worn, the benefits of using the vinaya measurements as a guide to do so seem limited. But there’s nothing to prevent individuals from adopting a degree of simplicity in their clothing in general, with respect also to its functional purpose.


Thank you for your detailed reply, bhikkhuni Suvira.
I am asking these questions since i am newly ordained and wish to adhere to the vinaya.

I cut up my original outer robe to follow the vinaya code: “Should any bhikkhu have a robe made the measurement of the sugata robe or larger, it is to be cut down and confessed. Here, the measurement of the Sugata’s sugata robe is this: nine spans — using the sugata span — in length, six spans in width. This is the measurement of the Sugata’s sugata robe.”
But then after cutting up my robe, i realise there were only 4 sections (Khandas) left, so i was wondering if the vinaya forbids having less than 5 cut up sections.

Ironically, only after i have cut up my robe that i came across your posts about the sugata spans being 45 cm.
Before that i was following the measurements in the BMC by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

I wanted to get down to the bottom of the sugata spans being 25 or 45 since i didn’t want to attend the Upossatha Parisudho with other Bhikkhu while one of my precepts is still in doubt.

(If anyone in my monastery knew that i cut up my robes, i could be in trouble, however, later on i may be force to wear the original size robe and it would calm my mind if the sugata spans is big enough that i dont have to cut up my robe in private while hiding it )

Thank you for giving me your answer.

1 Like

No worries: I’m happy to help appease the scrupulous. You could probably sew the section you cut back along the line with a flat felled seam with minimal visible join…not the craziest thing that’s ever happened in a monastery.

More specifically, it’s probably Ven. Benyin or Ven. Tianyin you want to talk to (actual legitimate experts in the Nanshan tradition), from the Nanshan Vinaya research group of the graduate school at Yidesi 南山律研究所. (address retracted after moderator request).


Thank you for your help, Bhikkhuni Suvira. I have just send a brief message and am awaiting their reply

1 Like

Great- be sure to tell them that you are a monk though, otherwise it’s pretty much guaranteed they won’t want to talk about vinaya things with you. :pray:

1 Like

Thanks for that advice, Bhikkhuni Suvira. I have just send a reply to inform them of that fact

1 Like

My advice to the newly ordained is that you need to rely on the standards of your community for the sake of harmony. If we don’t trust them enough on something like robe size, then what is the point of joining that community in the first place? If you have doubts about your precepts, you need to talk to your fellow monks, not people on an internet forum.

Socially it is going to be very difficult if you aren’t practicing the same vinaya. For one thing, you can’t confess to someone who has the same offense. Also, you will be directly indicating that your preceptor/elders don’t know what they are doing.

That’s why I think the Buddha said in AN 6.11: Paṭhamasāraṇīyasutta

Furthermore, a mendicant lives according to the precepts shared with their spiritual companions, both in public and in private. Those precepts are unbroken, impeccable, spotless, and unmarred, liberating, praised by sensible people, not mistaken, and leading to immersion. This too is a warm-hearted quality.

Obviously that doesn’t cover things like parajika. And of course I don’t know your personal situation. But the fact that you are concerned about people’s reaction to hearing that you have cut up the robe gives a clue.

Some things can be done privately in a way that feels more correct, sure. But robe size probably isn’t one of them. Especially if you only have 4 panels in your robe. It will be clear to everyone that sees it hanging on the line that you have done something to it.


Indeed. Just to expand on this point a bit, we need to understand that minor rules (like robe size) are (mostly) for the purpose of communal harmony and are not moral laws.

To ruin the harmony of your community in order to assiduously follow your own interpretation of a minor rule is to go against the spirit of the law, even if (and it’s a big if!) your interpretation is superior to your elders’ (which, again… is it?)

At a big monastery, I can just take a robe off the shelf confident that it’s good enough. To me, that’s the whole point of the minor rules: standardized e.g. robe sizes free me from having to worry about such things.



Thank you for your honesty ,Snowbird


Thank you for your explanation venerable bhikkhu Khemarato

1 Like