CHAPTER ONE

Personal Grooming

A bhikkhu should be clean, neat, and unostentatious in his appearance, as a reflection of the qualities he is trying to develop in his mind.

Bathing

Although Pc 57 forbids a bhikkhu from bathing at intervals of less than half a month, we noted in the discussion of that rule that it was apparently intended as a temporary disciplinary measure for bhikkhus who had inconvenienced King Bimbisāra when he wanted to bathe in the hot spring near Rājagaha. When the Buddha later added exemptions to the rule, he so relaxed it that he virtually rescinded it. In addition, Mv.V.13 explicitly rescinds the rule in all parts of the world outside of the central Ganges Valley.

In the time of the Buddha, bathing was done in a river, a bathing tank, a sauna, or a showering place. Instead of soap, people used an unscented powder called chunam, which was kneaded with water into a dough-like paste. Bhikkhus are explicitly allowed to use powdered dung, clay, or dye-dregs; according to the Commentary, ordinary chunam would come under “dye-dregs.” A bhikkhu with an itching rash, a small boil, or a running sore, or whose body smells bad (in the words of the Commentary, “with a body odor like that of a horse”) may use scented fragrant powders. At present, the Great Standards would allow soap under the allowance for clay, and scented soaps or deodorants under the allowance for scented powders for a bhikkhu with a strong body odor. Otherwise, the use of scents is listed among the bad habits prohibited by Cv.V.36 (see Chapter 10).

The etiquette when bathing in a group is that a junior bhikkhu should not bathe in front of an elder bhikkhu or, if bathing in a river, upstream from him. If one is able and willing (and, of course, if the elder bhikkhus are amenable), one may look after the needs of elder bhikkhus while they are bathing. An example of this, given in the Commentary, is scrubbing them. When scrubbing another or oneself, one may use one’s hand or a rope or pad of cloth. Sponges, which apparently were not known in the time of the Buddha, would probably be included under pad of cloth.

One is not allowed to rub one’s body with a wooden hand, a string of red powder beads—according to the Commentary, this means bathing powder mixed with powdered stone (cinnabar?) and formed into beads—or with a scrubber incised with a “dragon-teeth” pattern. A bhikkhu who is ill, however, may use an unincised scrubber. In the time of the Buddha, young men while bathing would rub their bodies against trees, against walls, against one another (this was called a “fully immersed massage”), or against rubbing posts (aṭṭhāna, which according to the Commentary, took their name from their being incised with a pattern like a chess board (aṭṭhapada)) in order to toughen their muscles. Bhikkhus are explicitly forbidden from rubbing their bodies in any of these ways. However, they are allowed to massage themselves and one another with their hands.

In another context—cleaning one’s feet before entering a dwelling—one is allowed to step on foot wipers made of stone, stone fragments, and pumice (“sea-foam stone”), so it would seem reasonable that the use of pumice or other stones to scrub off stubborn dirt while bathing would also be permitted.

When leaving the water after bathing, one should make way for those entering the water.

One is allowed to dry oneself with a water wiper—which the non-offense clauses for Pc 86 say may be made of ivory, horn, or wood—or with a piece of cloth.

Care of the teeth

Toothbrushes, dental floss, toothpaste, and tooth powders were unknown in the time of the Buddha. However, there is an allowance for tooth wood, which is the same thing as the tooth-cleaning stick discussed under Pc 40. The Buddha extolled the virtues of using tooth wood as follows: “There are five advantages in chewing tooth wood: It makes the mouth attractive, the mouth does not smell foul, the taste buds are cleaned, bile and phlegm do not coat one’s food, one enjoys one’s food.” At present, toothbrushes and dental floss would come under the allowance for tooth wood. Because tooth wood should not be less than four fingerbreadths long, many Communities extend this prohibition to include toothpicks less than four fingerbreadths as well. Toothpaste and tooth powder, because they are composed of mineral salts, would come under the allowance of salts for medicine.

Hair of the head

The hair of the head should not be worn long. It should be shaved at least every two months or when the hair has grown to a length of two fingerbreadths—whichever occurs first, says the Commentary. In Thailand there is the custom that all bhikkhus shave their heads on the same day, the day before the full moon, so that the Community can present a uniform appearance. Although this is not obligatory, a bhikkhu who does not follow the custom tends to stand out from his fellows.

A razor is one of a bhikkhu’s eight basic requisites. He is also allowed a whetstone, a razor case, a piece of felt (to wrap the razor in), and all razor accessories (such as a strop). At present, this allowance would cover all types of safety razors as well. The Commentary to Pr 2 insists that the razor case not be multicolored.

Unless ill—e.g., he has a sore on his head—a bhikkhu may not use scissors to cut his hair or have it cut. The question of using electric razors to shave the head is a controversial one. Because their cutting action—even in rotary shavers—is like that of scissors, many Communities will not allow their use in shaving the head.

A bhikkhu may not have gray hairs pulled out. (The wording of the Commentary here suggests that this prohibition covers hair of the body as well as hair of the head, but it goes on to say that ugly hairs growing, e.g., on the eyebrows, forehead, or beard-area may be removed.) He may not arrange the hair of his head with a brush, a comb, with the fingers used as a comb, with beeswax mixed with oil, or with water mixed with oil. Hair dressing mousse and creams would also come under this prohibition. The Commentary gives permission to use one’s hand to smooth down the curled-up ends of one’s body hair—for example, on the arm or chest—and to rub the head with a wet hand to cool it off or to remove dust.

Beard

The beard should not be grown long, although—unlike the hair of the head—there is no explicit maximum length, unless the two month/two fingerbreadth rule is meant to apply here as well. One may not dress the beard as a goatee, a rectangle, or in any other design. The moustache may not be dressed, e.g., by making its ends stand up. Because there is no prohibition against using scissors to cut the beard, electric razors are clearly allowed in shaving the face.

Face

One may not gaze at the reflection of one’s face in a mirror or bowl of water unless the face has a wound or a disease. According to the Commentary, mirror here covers any reflective surface; bowl of water, any liquid surface. The Commentary also gives permission to look at one’s reflection to check for any signs of aging to be used in meditating on the theme of impermanence. The Vinaya-mukha, noting that the prohibition against using a mirror comes in the context of rules against beautifying the face, argues that looking at one’s reflection for other purposes—for example, as an aid in shaving the head or the beard—should be allowed. Alternatively, it might be argued that the use of a mirror while shaving would lessen the danger of wounding oneself with the razor, and so should be allowed under the exemption made for “disease.”

Except in the case of an illness, one should not apply lotions, powders, or pastes to the face. The reference here is apparently to beautifying lotions, etc. Medicinal lotions, powders, and pastes are allowable (see Chapter 5). There is also a prohibition against applying a mark to the face (such as a caste mark or auspicious mark) with red arsenic. The Commentary interprets red arsenic as covering any coloring agent. The face and body are also not to be painted or dyed (e.g., with cosmetics, henna, or greasepaint). This rule would prohibit a bhikkhu from having his body tattooed as well, although any tattoos done before his ordination would not have to be removed (see Chapter 14).

Although medicinal eye ointments are allowed, the above rules would prohibit eye cosmetics as well.

Hair of the body

Nasal hairs should not be grown long. (In the origin story to this rule, people objected to bhikkhus with long nasal hairs “like goblins”). Tweezers are allowed for pulling them out; by extension, scissors should also be allowed for trimming them. The Vinaya-mukha notes that nasal hair performs a useful function in keeping dust out of the lungs, and so interprets this rule as applying only to nasal hairs so long that they grow outside the nostrils.

The hair of the chest or stomach should not be dressed. Hair in a “confining” region—which the Vibhaṅga to the bhikkhunī’s parallel rule, their Pc 2, identifies as the armpits and the pubic area—should not be removed unless there is a sore in those areas and a need to apply medicine.

Nails

Fingernails and toenails are not to be grown long.

Now on that occasion a certain bhikkhu with long nails was going for alms. A certain woman, on seeing him, said to him, ‘Come, venerable sir. Engage in sexual intercourse.’

“Enough, sister. That isn’t allowable.”

“But, venerable sir, if you don’t engage (in sexual intercourse), I’ll scratch my limbs now with my own nails and make a fuss: ‘I’ve been wronged by this bhikkhu!’”

“Do you know (what you’re doing) (§), sister?”

Then the woman, having scratched her limbs with her own nails, made a fuss: “I’ve been wronged by this bhikkhu!”

People, rushing up, grabbed hold of the bhikkhu. But they saw skin and blood on the woman’s nails. On seeing this, (and saying,) “This was done by this woman herself. The bhikkhu is innocent,” they let him go.

The nails should be cut even with the flesh—a nail clipper is allowed for this purpose—and may be polished only to the extent of removing dirt and stains. The Commentary interprets this last point as an allowance also to remove the dirt under the nails.

Ears

Instruments for removing dirt from the ears are allowed but may not be made of fancy materials. Allowable materials are bone, ivory, horn, reed, bamboo, wood, lac (resin), fruit (§) (e.g., coconut shell), copper (metal), or conch-shell. Under the Great Standards, plastic would currently come under this list as well. This list of ten items should be memorized, as it recurs frequently in the Khandhakas.

Ornamentation

The following ornaments are not to be worn (the Pali word for wear here—dharati—also means to keep or to own): an ear ornament (according to the Commentary, this includes any decoration of the ear, even a palm leaf), a chain, a necklace, an ornament for the waist (even a thread, says the Commentary), an ornamental girdle, an armlet, a bracelet, and a finger ring. None of these rules make an exception when one’s motivation is other than ornamentation. Thus a wristwatch worn for practical purposes, a copper bracelet worn for reasons of health, or mala beads worn for meditative purposes would all be forbidden under these rules.

Rules

Bathing

“I allow powders as medicines for one who has an itch, a small boil, a running sore, or an affliction of thick scabs; or for one whose body smells bad. I allow (powdered) dung, clay, and dye-dregs for one who is not ill. I allow a pestle and mortar.”—Mv.VI.9.2

“The body is not to be rubbed against a tree by a bhikkhu who is bathing. Whoever should rub it (in such a way): an offense of wrong doing.”—Cv.V.1.1

“The body is not to be rubbed against a wall by a bhikkhu who is bathing. Whoever should rub it (in such a way): an offense of wrong doing.”—Cv.V.1.2

“One should not bathe at a rubbing post. Whoever should bathe (there): an offense of wrong doing”…. “One should not bathe with a wooden hand. Whoever should bathe (with one): an offense of wrong doing”…. “One should not bathe with a string of cinnabar-powder beads. Whoever should bathe (with one): an offense of wrong doing.”—Cv.V.1.3

“One should not have a ‘fully immersed’ massage made [C: rubbing one’s body up against another person’s body]. Whoever should do so: an offense of wrong doing”…. “One should not bathe with a scrubber incised like dragon teeth. Whoever should do so: an offense of wrong doing”…. “I allow an unincised scrubber for one who is ill.”—Cv.V.1.4

“I allow a pad of cloth (or: a rope of cloth) (for scrubbing the body)”…. “I allow ordinary hand [C: massaging].”—Cv.V.1.5

“I allow three kinds of foot-wipers: stone, stone fragment(s), pumice (literally, ‘sea-foam stone’) (§).”—Cv.V.22.1

“I allow a water wiper, and to wipe oneself dry even with a cloth.”—Cv.V.17.1

“If one is able/willing, one may perform a service for the elder bhikkhus even in the water. One should not bathe in front of the elder bhikkhus or upstream from them. When coming out of the water after bathing, make way for those entering the water.”—Cv.VIII.8.2

Care of the Teeth

“There are five advantages in chewing tooth wood: It makes the mouth attractive (§), the mouth does not smell foul, the taste buds are cleaned, bile and phlegm do not coat one’s food, one enjoys one’s food. I allow tooth wood.”—Cv.V.31.1

“A long piece of tooth wood is not to be chewed. Whoever should chew one: an offense of wrong doing. I allow tooth wood eight fingerbreadths long at most. And novices are not to be flicked with it. Whoever should do so: an offense of wrong doing”…. “An overly short piece of tooth wood is not to be chewed. Whoever should chew one: an offense of wrong doing. I allow tooth wood four fingerbreadths long at the very least.”—Cv.V.31.2

Hair of the Head

“The hair of the head should not be worn long. Whoever should do so: an offense of wrong doing. I allow two-month (growth) or two fingerbreadths.”—Cv.V.2.2

“I allow a razor, a whetstone, a razor case, a piece of felt, and all razor accessories.—Cv.V.27.3

“One should not have the hair of the head cut with scissors. Whoever should do so: an offense of wrong doing. I allow that you have the hair of the head cut with scissors in the case of illness (origin story: a bhikkhu had a sore on his head and couldn’t shave)”…. “Hair of the nostrils should not be worn long. Whoever should do so: an offense of wrong doing”…. “I allow tweezers”…. “One should not have gray hairs taken out. Whoever should do so: an offense of wrong doing.”—Cv.V.27.5

“One should not arrange the hair of the head with a brush… with a comb… with the fingers used as a comb… with beeswax mixed with oil… with water mixed with oil. Whoever should do so: an offense of wrong doing.”—Cv.V.2.3

Beard & Hair of the Body

“The beard is not to be dressed. The beard is not to grown long. It is not to be dressed as a goatee. It is not to be trimmed as a rectangle. The hair of the chest is not to be dressed. The hair of the stomach is not to be dressed. (The translation of these last two statements follows the Commentary. An alternative translation, not supported by the Commentary, reads them as prohibitions connected with facial hair, in which the first one (parimukhaṁ) could be read as “moustache” and the second (aḍḍharukaṁ or aḍḍhadukaṁ) as “a mutton-chop beard.”) Whiskers are not to be arranged (made to stand up). Hair in a confining region is not to be removed. Whoever should do so: an offense of wrong doing”…. “I allow that hair in a confining region be removed in the case of illness.”—Cv.V.27.4

Face

“One should not gaze at the reflection of one’s face in a mirror or in a bowl of water. Whoever should do so: an offense of wrong doing”…. “I allow that, on account of a disease, one gaze at the reflection of one’s face in a mirror or in a bowl of water.”—Cv.V.2.4

“The face is not to be smeared (with lotion). The face is not to be rubbed with paste. The face is not to be powdered. The face is not to be marked with red arsenic. The limbs are not to be painted/dyed. The face is not to be painted/dyed. The limbs and face are not to be painted/dyed. Whoever should do so: an offense of wrong doing”…. “I allow that, on account of a disease, the face be smeared (with lotion).”—Cv.V.2.5

Nails

“Nails are not to be worn long. Whoever should do so: an offense of wrong doing.”—Cv.V.27.1

“I allow a nail-clipper”…. “I allow that the nails be cut down to the extent of the flesh”…. “One’s 20 nails should not be polished. Whoever should do so: an offense of wrong doing. I allow them to be polished away to the extent of dirt/stains.”—Cv.V.27.2

Ears

“I allow an instrument for removing dirt from the ears”…. “One should not use fancy instruments for removing dirt from the ears. Whoever should use one: an offense of wrong doing. I allow that they be made of bone, ivory, horn, reed, bamboo, wood, lac (resin), fruit (§) (e.g., coconut shell), copper (metal), or conch-shell.”—Cv.V.27.6

Ornamentation

“An ear ornament should not be worn. A chain should not be worn. A necklace… an ornament for the waist… an ornamental girdle (§)… an armlet… a bracelet… a finger ring should not be worn. Whoever should wear one: an offense of wrong doing.”—Cv.V.2.1