Is there any significance to shaving the head?
: ทำไม พระจึงโกนหัว
We had a few drops of rains last night, so I had a little more time this morning. I used spare time to find answers or learn about (little) things. Today, I ask why Buddhist monks shave their head. I looked through a lot of comments on the subject. They range from a sign of commitment to "giving up home and physical image", "hygiene reasons", "more time to look after mind and meditation",... "to distinguish His followers from other ascetic (samanas) that wear long hair at the time"...
The monastry rules specify shaving at least every 2 months or before hair is a breadth-of-2-fingers long.
I came across a page:
Is there any significance to shaving the head?
with a comment saying monks shaved their head but the Buddha kept long hair himself.
A picture from the Internet supports this comment (my apologies I lost the url while composing this post) . So the same view is generally held among Thai Buddhists.
[A Buddha statue in India]
[A Buddha statue in Japan]
[A Buddha statue in Sri Lanka]
Buddha statues from other Buddhist countries show different views of the Buddha's hair.
This picture shows the Buddha with shaven head -- as described in Vasala-sutta [of the Tipitaka see below]. (Added 23 February 2016: from มาฆบูชา by โสภณ เปียสนิท https://www.gotoknow.org/posts/601978)
Searching the Tipitaka for answers, I found this 'vasala sutta' and a word that should clear up the misconception. Here are some excerpts:
KN Sn, 1. uragavaggo, 7. vasalasuttaṃ (KN 5.7), para. 2 ⇒
...addasā kho aggikabhāradvājo brāhmaṇo bhagavantaṃ dūratova āgacchantaṃ. disvāna bhagavantaṃ etadavoca — “tatreva, muṇḍaka; tatreva, samaṇaka; tatreva, vasalaka tiṭṭhāhī”ti...
Vasala Sutta: Discourse on Outcasts
(SN 1.7 translated from the Pali by Piyadassi Thera ©1999):
...On one occasion the Blessed One was living near Savatthi at Jetavana at Anathapindika's monastery. Then in the forenoon the Blessed One having dressed himself, took bowl and (double) robe, and entered the city of Savatthi for alms. Now at that time a fire was burning, and an offering was being prepared in the house of the brahman Aggikabharadvaja. Then the Blessed One, while on his alms round, came to the brahman's residence. The brahman seeing the Blessed One some way off, said this: "Stay there, you shaveling, stay there you wretched monk, stay there you outcast." When he spoke thus the Blessed One said to the brahman: "Do you know, brahman, who an outcast is and what the conditions are that make an outcast?" "No, indeed, Venerable Gotama, I do not know who an outcast is nor the conditions that make an outcast. It is good if Venerable Gotama were to explain the Dhamma to me so that I may know who an outcast is and what the conditions are that make an outcast."...
So ...the Buddha gave to Aggika-Bhaaradvaaja a pretty neat sermon about it, and the Vedic Brahmin decided to follow Him as a lay disciple.
The Buddha replied that the brahmin knew neither the meaning of vasala, nor what makes a man such. At the request of the brahmin he preached this sutta, the burden of which is that it is not by birth that one is an outcaste or a brahmana, but by one's deeds (SN., pp. 21f).
...the Brahman Aggikabharadvaja also called Him 'vasalaka'...
Vasala , in Pali, comes from the vedic vrsala, Diminutive of vrsan, litterally "Little Man" ( Source: Pali Text Society, Pali English Dictionary).
muṇḍaka: a shaveling; shaven-headed. (m.)
From Royal Institute Dictionary (2542 Th-Th)
มุณฑะ [มุนดะกะ, มุนดะ] ว. เกลี้ยง, โล้น, (ใช้แก่หัว). (ป., ส.).
มุณฑกะ [มุนดะกะ, มุนดะ] ว. เกลี้ยง, โล้น, (ใช้แก่หัว). (ป., ส.).
[Should be a proper noun for 'one with shaven head']
vasala: an outcast; a person of low birth. (m.) PTS
วสละ [วะสะ-] น. คนชั่ว, คนถ่อย, คนต่ำช้า, คนชั้นต่ำ. (ป.; ส. วฺฤษล).
NB. vasala from vrsala: little or small; vasalaka: lttle man or small man
[MyNote: This is one evidence that supports the Buddhism concept of 'equlity' and rights - not by birth but by deed.
I refer to วสลสูตร พระไตรปิฎก เล่มที่ ๒๕ พระสุตตันตปิฎก เล่มที่ ๑๗
http://www.84000.org/tipitaka/attha/v.php?B=25&A=7... for details of the discourse in Thai. ]
And here is my response to that uninformed comment.
(I can't comment on this "...it is interesting to note that once you become enlightened you don't worry about such small things. Although Siddhartha cut his hair, Buddha kept long hair himself. – TheDarkKnightRules Nov 15 '14 at 9:48..." because of some silly rules of this website. But I would like to clear up a point that 'Buddha kept long hair himself.')
In vasala sutta (story heard) in the Tipitaka, a brahman said this to the Buddha "“tatreva, muṇḍaka; tatreva, samaṇaka; tatreva, vasalaka tiṭṭhāhī”ti. (Stop right there shaven-head, stop right there monk, stop...) The Pali word "muṇḍaka" means "a shaveling; shaven-headed".
There we have it. The Buddha had his head shaven too. No exception for Himself!