A religious habit is a distinctive set of garments worn by members of a religious order. Traditionally some plain garb recognisable as a religious habit has also been worn by those leading the religious eremitic and anchoritic life, although in their case without conformity to a particular uniform style.
- Origin and construction
- Kya in Indian Buddhism
- Jish in Chinese Buddhism
- Kesa in Japanese Buddhism
- Eastern Orthodoxy
- Roman Catholicism
In the typical Roman Catholic or Anglican orders, the habit consists of a tunic covered by a scapular and cowl, with a hood for monks or friars and a veil for nuns; in other orders it may be a distinctive form of cassock for men, or a distinctive habit and veil for women. Modern habits are sometimes eschewed in favor of a simple business suit. Catholic Canon Law requires only that it be in some way identifiable so that the person may serve as a witness to Gospel values. This requires flexibility and creativity. For instance in Turkey, where religious garb is not allowed in public, a Franciscan might wear street clothes.
In many orders, the conclusion of postulancy and the beginning of the novitiate is marked by a ceremony, during which the new novice is accepted then clothed in the community's habit by the superior. In some cases the novice's habit will be somewhat different from the customary habit: for instance, in certain orders of women that use the veil, it is common for novices to wear a white veil while professed members wear black, or if the order generally wears white, the novice wears a grey veil. Among some Franciscan communities of men, novices wear a sort of overshirt over their tunic; Carthusian novices wear a black cloak over their white habit.
In some orders, different types or levels of profession are indicated by differences in habits.
Kāṣāya (Sanskrit: काषाय kāṣāya; Pali: kasāva; Chinese: 袈裟; pinyin: jiāshā; Cantonese Jyutping: gaa1saa1; Japanese: 袈裟 kesa; Korean: 袈裟 가사 gasa; Vietnamese: cà-sa), "chougu" (Tibetan) are the robes of 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
Buddhist kāṣāya are said to have originated in India as 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 fit over the body in a specific manner. The three main pieces of cloth are the antarvāsa, the uttarāsaṅga, and the saṃghāti. Together they form the "triple robe," or tricīvara. The tricīvara is described more fully in the Theravāda Vinaya (Vin 1:94 289).
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 neck, 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.
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 an outer robe used for various occasions. It comes over the upper robe (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:
Kāṣāya in 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.
Between 148 and 170 CE, the Parthian monk An Shigao came to China and translated a work which describes the color of monastic robes utitized in five major Indian Buddhist sects, called Dà Bǐqiū Sānqiān Wēiyí (Ch. 大比丘三千威儀). Another text translated at a later date, the Śariputraparipṛcchā, contains a very similar passage corroborating this information, but the colors for the Sarvāstivāda and Dharmaguptaka sects are reversed.
In traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, which follow the Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya, red robes are regarded as characteristic of the Mūlasarvāstivādins.
According to Dudjom Rinpoche from the tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, the robes of fully ordained Mahāsāṃghika monastics were to be sewn out of more than seven sections, but no more than twenty-three sections. The symbols sewn on the robes were the endless knot (Skt. śrīvatsa) and the conch shell (Skt. śaṅkha), two of the Eight Auspicious Signs in Buddhism.
Jiāshā in Chinese Buddhism
In Chinese Buddhism, the kāṣāya is called jiāshā (Ch. 袈裟). 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. 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.
Kesa in Japanese Buddhism
In Japanese Buddhism, the kāṣāya is called kesa (Jp. 袈裟). In Japan, during the Edo and Meiji periods, kesa were even sometimes pieced together from robes used in Noh theatre.
The Eastern Orthodox Church does not have distinct religious orders such as those in the Catholic Church. The habit (Greek: Σχήμα, Schēma) is essentially the same throughout the world. The normal monastic color is black, symbolic of repentance and simplicity. The habit of monks and nuns is identical; additionally, nuns wear a scarf, called an apostolnik. The habit is bestowed in degrees, as the monk or nun advances in the spiritual life. There are three degrees: (1) the beginner, known as the Rassaphore ("robe bearer") (2) the intermediate, known as the Stavrophore ("cross bearer"), and (3) the Great Schema worn by Great Schema Monks or Nuns. Only the last, the Schemamonk or Schemanun, the monastic of the highest degree, wears the full habit.
The habit is formally bestowed upon monks and nuns at the ceremony known as the tonsure. The parts of the Eastern Orthodox habit are:
The portions of the habit worn by the various degrees of monastics is as follows:
Female ascetics and Svetambara male monks always wear un-stitched or minimally stitched white clothes. Digambara Jain monks do not wear clothes. A loin cloth which reaches up to the shins is called a Cholapattak. Another cloth to cover the upper part of the body is called Pangarani (Uttariya Vastra). A cloth that passes over the left shoulder and covers the body up to a little above the ankle is called a Kïmli. Kïmli is a woolen shawl. They also carry a woolen bed sheet and a woolen mat to sit on. Those who wear clothes have a muhapati, which is a square or rectangular piece of cloth of a prescribed measurement, either in their hand or tied on their face covering the mouth. Svetambara ascetics have an Ogho or Rajoharan (a broom of woolen threads) to clean insects around their sitting place or while they are walking. Digambara ascetics have a Morpichhi and a Kamandal in their hands. This practice may vary among different sects of Jains but essential principle remains the same to limit needs.
Pope John Paul II in his Post-Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata (1996) says concerning the religious habit of consecrated persons:
§25 … The Church must always seek to make her presence visible in everyday life, especially in contemporary culture, which is often very secularized and yet sensitive to the language of signs. In this regard the Church has a right to expect a significant contribution from consecrated persons, called as they are in every situation to bear clear witness that they belong to Christ.
Since the habit is a sign of consecration, poverty and membership in a particular Religious family, I join the Fathers of the Synod in strongly recommending to men and women religious that they wear their proper habit, suitably adapted to the conditions of time and place.
Where valid reasons of their apostolate call for it, Religious, in conformity with the norms of their Institute, may also dress in a simple and modest manner, with an appropriate symbol, in such a way that their consecration is recognizable.
Institutes which from their origin or by provision of their Constitutions do not have a specific habit should ensure that the dress of their members corresponds in dignity and simplicity to the nature of their vocation.
The religious habit of Roman Catholic nuns typically consists of the following elements:
Different orders adhered to different styles of dress; these styles have changed over time. In the 12th century the German abbess Hildegard von Bingen, for example, advocated a style for her nuns that included extravagant and lavish white silk habits worn with golden head pieces designed to present the nun to Christ in her most beautiful form.
In Japan, various types of very traditional dress are worn by Shinto priests, often dating to styles worn by nobles during the Nara period or Heian period.