My new sanghati

I thought I’d let you know an exciting bit of information – I got a new saṅghāti yesterday!

The sanghati is the ‘outer robe’, the third of the three robes of bhikkhu. The other two are the lower robe, like a sarong (in Pali, antaravāsaka) and the upper robe (uttarasaṅga), which is the main robe you’ll see monks and nuns wearing.

Bhikkhunis have an extra two robes. They have a ‘bathing cloth’, which is used mainly for bathing outdoors. And also the somewhat mysterious ‘saṅkacchika’, which is a cloth that covers the breasts. Some regard this as a ‘vest’, but I’ve never seen a woman wearing a vest in ancient Indian artwork. Women in ancient India usually went topless, but it seems a simple cloth was sometimes tied across the breasts. See, for example, the woman on the right in this ancient fresco from Sri Lanka, or this Indian sculpture (pg. 96).

The sanghati is double-layered, and is used to provide extra warmth and protection. Often, the sanghati is hardly used, although in some strict Vinaya traditions they will wear the sanghati outside the uttarasanga when in the village, or just when on alms-round. Otherwise it’s used like a cloak for warmth, or as a bed sheet. In Thailand, the sanghati is used almost entirely for ceremonial purposes: you’ll see the Thai monks when in formal occasions have a folded robe draped over their left shoulder – that’s the sanghati.

I got my sanghati when I was in Bodhinyana, about 13 years ago. It’s been with me ever since. Now, it’s just looking too sad. There comes a point when the cloth just wears out, and patching really doesn’t work any more. Luckily, we had one in our stores that is suitable, so that’s it.

When we’re finished with our old robes, we don’t throw them away. They can have plenty of uses: as a bedsheet, a rag, stuffing for a cushion… Everything is recycled.

11 thoughts on “My new sanghati

  1. Dear Bhante

    May I be so bold as to request that you save a piece of your old saṅghāti for me?

    Hee, hee, your experience in Thailand should inform you what luksits do when they make such requests. Trying to get around the rule occassioned by the Prince Bodhirajakumara incident… 🙂

    • Dear Sylvester,

      ahem, yes. Best keep the robe for the purposes mentioned at the end of the First Council Khandhaka:

      13. Now at that time king Udena was enjoying himself in the park together with the ladies of his palace. And the ladies heard that their teacher, the venerable Ânanda, was seated at the foot of a tree not far from the park. And they said to king Udena:

      ‘They say that our teacher, the venerable Ânanda, is seated at the foot of a tree not far from the park. We desire, Lord, to go and see him.’

      ‘Go, then, and see the Samana Ânanda.’ And they went and saluted the venerable Ânanda, and took their seats on one side. And he. instructed, and aroused, and incited, and gladdened them with religious discourse. And when that discourse was concluded, they presented the venerable Ânanda with five hundred robes, and exalted and thanked him for his discourse, and arose from their seats, and saluted him, and keeping him on their right sides as they passed him, they departed thence.

      14. And king Udena saw the ladies coming from the distance. And on seeing them he said to them:

      ‘Well, did you succeed in seeing the Samana Ânanda?’

      ‘We saw him, Sire.’

      ‘Did you present the Samana Ânanda with any gift?’

      ‘We gave, Sire, to the venerable Ânanda five hundred robes.’

      Then king Udena was indignant and annoyed, and became angry, saying:

      p. 383

      ‘How can the Samana Ânanda accept so many robes? Would he set up as a hawker in cloths, or would he open a shop 1?’

      And king Udena went to where the venerable Ânanda was, and after exchanging with him the greetings and compliments of friendship and civility, sat down by his side. And when he was so seated, he said to him:

      ‘Did our ladies come hither, Ânanda?’

      ‘Yes, great king.’

      ‘Did they give anything to your reverence?’

      ‘They gave me, great king, five hundred robes.’

      ‘And what does your reverence intend to do with those five hundred robes?’

      I shall divide them, great king, among those of the Bhikkhus whose robes are worn out.’

      ‘And what do you intend, Ânanda, to do with the worn-out robes?’

      ‘Of those, great king, we shall make counterpanes.’

      ‘And what do you intend to do, Ânanda, with the old counterpanes?’

      ‘Of those, great king, we shall make bolster cases.’

      ‘And what do you intend to do, Ânanda, with the old bolster cases?’

      ‘Of those, great king, we shall make carpets.’

      ‘And what do you intend to do, Ânanda, with the old carpets?’

      ‘Of those, great king, we shall make towels for the washing of the feet.’

      ‘And what do you intend to do, Ânanda, with the old towels?’

      p. 384

      ‘Of those, great king, we shall make dusters.’

      ‘And what do you intend to do, Ânanda, with the old dusters?’

      ‘Those, great king, we shall tear in shreds, and beat up with mud, and use them for making flooring of clay.’

      Then king Udena thought: ‘These Sakyaputtiya Samanas make general use of everything in a conscientious way, and take nothing as one man’s peculiar property 1.’ And he presented other five hundred pieces of cloth to the venerable Ânanda.

  2. Speaking of bathing Bhikkunis. I’m curious…..what are the rules for monks and nuns regarding having a swim in the ocean? Being one who loves the sea, I think that would be a particulary difficult thing to renounce.

    • There’s no specific rule about bathing in the ocean. The Vinaya has a rule against ‘udake hāsadhamme’, which literally means ‘larking about in the water’. There are some in Australia who see surfing as a path to enlightenment, in which case this rule would not apply….

  3. Oh, I am so relieved to hear! A spiritual path that allows swimming in the ocean and eating chocolate is surely the path to bliss 🙂

  4. I was curious how such a saṅghāti actually looks like, so I searched the internet and came up with these:
    (including pronounciation)

    and here’s a picture with unwrapped sanghatis:

    So I guess that it’s basically a sheet of clothing, but what shape does is have when it’s unfolded? Square with sleeves?

    • Hi Alexander,

      Like all the robes, the sanghati is a rectangle. None of the basic robes has sleeves, although they may have been adapted in that way in later times.

      The size of the robes is controversial. These days a sanghati or uttarasanga is around 2M x 3.5M.

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