Kasaya (clothing)

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Kasaya (clothing)
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{{short description|Robes worn by fully-ordained Buddhist monks and nuns}}{{Italic title|reason=(:Category:Japanese words and phrases)}}
missing image!
- Central Asian Buddhist Monks.jpeg -
upMonks from Central Asia and China wearing traditional kāṣāya. Bezeklik Caves, eastern Tarim Basin, 9th-10th century.
Kāṣāya (; ; ; {{CJKV|c=|p=jiāshā|} kesa|k=가사 gasa|v=cà-sa|j=けさ kesa}}, {{bo|t=ཆོས་གོས|s=chögö}}) are the robes of fully ordained Buddhist monks and nuns, named after a brown or saffron dye. In Sanskrit and Pali, these robes are also given the more general term cīvara, which references the robes without regard to color.

Origin and construction

missing image!
- Gandhara Buddha (tnm).jpeg -
upAn early representation of the Buddha wearing kāṣāya robes.
Buddhist kāṣāya are said to have originated in ancient India as a set of robes for the devotees of Gautama Buddha. A notable variant has a pattern reminiscent of an Asian rice field. Original kāṣāya were constructed of discarded fabric. These were stitched together to form three rectangular pieces of cloth, which were then fitted over the body in a specific manner. The three main pieces of cloth are the antarvāsa, the uttarāsaṅga, and the {{IAST|saṃghāti}}.Kieschnick, John. The Impact of Buddhism on Chinese Material Culture. Princeton University Press, Oxfordshire, 2003. p. 90. Together they form the "triple robe," or ticīvara. The ticīvara is described more fully in the Theravāda Vinaya (Vin 1:94 289).

Antarvāsa (Antaravāsaka)

The antarvāsa is the inner robe covering the lower body. It is the undergarment that flows underneath the other layers of clothing. It has a large top, and almost entirely covers the torso. In representations of the Buddha, the bottom of the antarvāsa usually protrudes, and appears in the rough shape of a triangle. This garment is essentially a skirt, which was common enough as ancient menswear. When needed, its height could be adjusted so it did not hang as low as the ankles.


A robe covering the upper body. It comes over the undergarment, or antarvāsa. In representations of the Buddha, the uttarāsaṅga rarely appears as the uppermost garment, since it is often covered by the outer robe, or saṃghāti.


The saṃghāti is a double layers robe of Bhikkhus or Bhikkhunis used as an outer cloak for various occasions. It comes over the upper robe ({{IAST|uttarāsaṅga}}), and the undergarment (antarvāsa). In representations of the Buddha, the saṃghāti is usually the most visible garment, with the undergarment or uttarāsaṅga protruding at the bottom. It is quite similar in shape to the Greek himation, and its shape and folds have been treated in Greek style in the Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhāra.


Other items that may have been worn with the triple robe were:
  • a waist cloth, the kushalaka
  • a buckled belt, the samakaksika
missing image!
- Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita Victory Over Mara.jpeg -
Indian depiction of the Buddha wearing red robes. Sanskrit manuscript. Nālandā, Bihar, India. Pāla period.

Indian Buddhism

In India, variations of the kāṣāya robe distinguished different types of monastics. These represented the different schools that they belonged to, and their robes ranged widely from red and ochre, to blue and black.Kieschnick, John. The Impact of Buddhism on Chinese Material Culture. Princeton University Press, Oxfordshire, 2003. p. 89.Between 148 and 170 CE, the Parthian monk An Shigao came to China and translated a work which describes the color of monastic robes used in five major Indian Buddhist sects, called Da Biqiu Sanqian Weiyi (Ch. 大比丘三千威儀).Hino, Shoun. Three Mountains and Seven Rivers. 2004. p. 55 Another text translated at a later date, the Śāriputraparipṛcchā, contains a very similar passage corroborating this information, but the colors for the Sarvāstivāda and Dharmaguptaka sects are reversed.Hino, Shoun. Three Mountains and Seven Rivers. 2004. pp. 55-56Bhikku Sujato. Sects & Sectarianism: The Origins of Buddhist Schools. Santi Forest Monastery, 2006. p. i.{| class="wikitable"! Nikāya! Da Biqiu Sanqian Weiyi! Śāriputraparipṛcchā
Sarvastivada>Sarvāstivāda Deep Red Black
Dharmaguptaka >| Deep Red
Mahāsāṃghika >| Yellow
Mahīśāsaka >| Blue
Kāśyapīya>Kaśyapīya Magnolia Magnolia
In traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, which follow the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya, red robes are regarded as characteristic of the Mūlasarvāstivādins.Mohr, Thea. Tsedroen, Jampa. Dignity and Discipline: Reviving Full Ordination for Buddhist Nuns. 2010. p. 266According to Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje, the robes of fully ordained Mahāsāṃghika monastics were to be sewn out of more than seven but no more than twenty-three sections.Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje, Perfect Conduct: Ascertaining the Three Vows. 1999. p. 16 The symbols sewn on the robes were the endless knot (Skt. śrīvatsa) and the conch (Skt. śaṅkha), two of the aṣṭamaṅgala, auspicious symbols in Buddhism.Dudjom Rinpoche Perfect Conduct: Ascertaining the Three Vows. 1999. p. 16

Jiāshā in Chinese Buddhism

In Chinese Buddhism, the kāṣāya is called jiāshā (}}). During the early period of Chinese Buddhism, the most common color was red. Later, the color of the robes came to serve as a way to distinguish monastics, just as they did in India. However, the colors of a Chinese Buddhist monastic's robes often corresponded to their geographical region rather than to any specific schools.Kieschnick, John. The Impact of Buddhism on Chinese Material Culture. Princeton University Press, Oxfordshire, 2003. p. 89. By the maturation of Chinese Buddhism, only the Dharmaguptaka ordination lineage was still in use, and therefore the color of robes served no useful purpose as a designation for sects, the way that it had in India.During the Tang dynasty, Chinese Buddhist monastics typically wore grayish-black robes, and were even colloquially referred to as Ziyi (), "those of the black robes."Kieschnick, John. The Impact of Buddhism on Chinese Material Culture. 2003. pp. 89-90 However, the Song dynasty monk Zanning (919–1001 CE) writes that during the earlier Han-Wei period, the Chinese monks typically wore red.Kieschnick, John. The Eminent Monk: Buddhist Ideals in Medieval Chinese Hagiography. 1997. p. 29

Kesa in Japanese Buddhism

File:JapaneseKesaofMabury.jpg|thumb|Japanese Buddhist priest’s Mantle (kesa), 1775-1825. LACMALACMAJapanese buddhism (:ja:袈裟|kesa(袈裟)) is it used to be worn to cover the entire body, including both shoulders, but now it is worn with the right shoulder out, except in special cases(=偏袒右肩 Hendan-uken). This is to show the worship and reverence for Buddha, as opposed to the ones worn by Tathāgata covering both shoulders(=通肩 Tsuken).


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