What are the rules on how to wear a robe?


I was trained in Mahayana tradition (Vietnamese Zen). Our robes are made by the laity, and in a style that I would consider “modest”. Meaning, only our heads, neck, and feet show with the encouragement that both nuns and monks wear socks!

There is no particular way to wrap our robe because it is secured by buttons and clasps. We’re allowed to wear jackets the color of our robes or neutral colors, but not too extravagant. We’re also allowed to wear plain hats/beanies.

It is hot in the summer and cold in the winter given that the fabric is usually on the less expensive side. I took up the robe as a practice of tolerance in all temperatures and weather conditions. Now, it’s not so bothersome, and luckily the fabric dries quickly!


My son, who has done time as a novice, is currently writing a report for school on Thai monastic life, and we just so happened to be looking for more detail about robe-wearing etiquette. So, this is quite timely, as well as very informative: thank you.

If I may add two questions, though:

  • What rules govern the sort of one-shouldered undershirt which Thai monks (and, I believe, only Thai monks) wear?
  • Also, what rules govern the outer robe? (I don’t think I’ve ever seen it worn except ceremonially: i.e., folded and draped over the shoulder.)


Many Sri Lankan monks wear the one shoulder shirt (in Sinhala called an angsakata). I don’t believe it is officially mentioned in the Vinaya.

Monks who keep to three robes only will use the outer robe just like they do the regular upper robe, needing something to swap out with when they do laundry. But one can’t tell by looking which one they are wearing, so it may give the impression that they never wear it.

Traditionally in Sinhala monastic culture, monks will bring all three robes with them for the Patimokkha recitation. I believe Thai monks as well. But that’s not in the Vinaya.


It is not spelt out but implied by the expectations around the ‘triple robe,’ which every bhikkhu must have and look after.



I’ve never seen where it is even implied that one should have all three robes for the Patimokkha recitation. The requirements around the Patimokkha are spelled out in detail as an official sangha kamma. It says nothing about the robes. But if folks can show where it is, I’d love to learn.


I think what Ajahn @brahmali describes in the post below answers why monks usually have the full set of three robes with them at the Patimokkha recitations: these usually start before dawn.

I remember thinking how silly it all seemed when I first heard of monks taking their saṅghāṭis along when they went out to urinate around dawn. It seemed like a typical example of keeping the letter of a rule, but without questioning whether their actions were sensible. This led me to investigate whether this rule perhaps should be interpreted differently.

I then realised that the Vibhaṅga does not actually say you have to be with you three robes at dawn, but that the offence occurs at dawn. This is quite different. The offence occurring at dawn is a standard description in the vinaya to show when the offence occurs given that other conditions are fulfilled. For example, one commits a nissaggiya pācittiya under bhikkhu NP1 at dawn on the tenth day. The important point is not what you do at dawn, but what you have done in the previous ten days. And there are a number of similar instances in other rules. Based on this, it seems likely that the stipulation of dawn in NP2 does not relate to what you do at dawn.

Indeed, the rule itself says that you commit an offence if you are separated from your robe for one night/day. On the face of it, it is a bit curious to interpret this to mean dawn. Rather, if we assume the normal meaning of ratta as a period 24 hours, then the offence is incurred at dawn only if you have been away from your robe for the preceding 24-hour period. To me this gives a far more satisfactory interpretation of the rule, which also happens to agree with the meaning of dawn in the other rules. In practice, you would then have to check on your three robes at least once in every 24-hour period, which often might mean staying with your robes at night. In this way we avoid the standard rather artificial and often inconvenient interpretation.


Thanks for sharing this.

Really? Patimokkha is usually done in the day time or in the evening. The whole idea is that it should be completed before dawn of the next day, so that doesn’t make any sense. Of course if a resident monk was expected to arrive, at say 3 in the morning, the community might plan to wake at 4 am to do the patimokkha. But otherwise it’s usually completed well before dawn. Unless I’m missing your point.

Honestly, I think having all three robes at the patimokkha is just a tradition, not based on any rule. It does have some “truthyness” so that helps it stick. :slight_smile:


All patimokkha recitations I have witnessed in dhammayut forest hermitages took place before dawn.

Interesting to learn that’s not the case everywhere.

I wonder at what time the bhikkhus in Bodhinyana do it? Maybe ajahn @brahmali could tell?


We normally do it in the evening, at 7.15. But it varies a bit depending on what is convenient. The pātimokkha does not have to be recited at any one particular time.


Ah. OK, that’s the reason. Yes, of course if you are doing it then, then you would have to have it with you, but that’s because of dawn. I can tell you doing it at that time is not a Sri Lankan thing. The Ajahn Cha monasteries I have been at never did it then either. I can see the logic in doing it then, but I’ve not heard about communities doing that till now. Glad to learn something new. :slight_smile:


In Sri Lanka, bhikkhunis often do the patimokkha recitation after lunch dana. That allows bhikkhunis who have traveled from further away to participate, to get back home before it gets dark.

In my arama, we have also sometimes done it in the evening.


That is also the time we do it here at Wat Yan. It doesn’t really jive with my romantic image of the patimokkha being recited at night, but it is quite convenient since many of the monks residences are quite far from the main halls.


Is it a dhammayut wat?


yes it is


Venerable, can you confirm with your peers what I witnessed makes sense? (Some monks doing it before dawn, from 4-5am?) Thanks! :anjal:


That was the time we did it at Wat Pa Baan Taad.


There are, but generally a monk/nun will have no separate sets. I have a very thick sanghati (=double layer robe) that I often wear in winter. It’s somewhat clumsy, but I like it because that must be what the sanghati originally was meant for. (For winter, I mean… Not for being clumsy!)

As someone said, many monks use a sanghati only ceremonially. And most sanghatis Ive seen aren’t much thicker than the usual robes. But that’s probably because in some countries it’s rarely cold enough to have different kind of robes.

Here’s volume II of the The Entrance to The Vinaya, a Thai vinaya commentary. I belief it is quite influential in Thailand. On robes see page 11 and following. Lots of tedious info on how to make them, but also some more interesting info on how to wear them, and some (speculative) historical background on them. There’s also pictures! :smiley:

(Oh, I’m unsure whether the book is still in copyright, and I’m not the one who uploaded it. I’m just pointing you to it. :nerd_face: )

Robes are pretty cool too, actually. I used to get heat related rash when wearing pants, but not half as much with the robes. So HURRAH to skirts! And if you’re really heat sensitive you can always look for the thinnest of thinnest robes. It’s less thick, so it’s even more renunciative in a way…

PS. @akaliko nice stuff! Is that really a 40 minute video of a monk showing how to wear robes? haha!

PPS. Whaha I just found this smiley I have to share: :crazy_face: :crazy_face:

Edit: whuhaha I made it my icon!