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"Look at that colour."
You are a Monk?|
"the ORIGIN OF THE YELLOW ROBE
Hsihu Center, Formosa Dec. 31, 1995.
I heard that people who wear yellow clothes have fewer chances of being possessed by
the devil. Even if they were possessed, they would become yellow demons, (laughter)
instead of the (yellow) Maya King. (The words for yellow and king in Chinese are similarly
No wonder the monks in ancient times always wore yellow clothes. (Laughter) Even the
kings wore yellow clothes - they dreaded being possessed! (Laughter) It seems that the
color yellow is quite useful in expelling evil. Perhaps the devil absolutely hates yellow
because it is ugly! (Master and everyone laugh.) Should you wish to become ugly, then
wear yellow clothes. People who are possessed may wear yellow clothes. Also, face south when you meditate, and do the same when you sleep. I mean head to the north and feet to
the south. This helps a little bit. In addition to reciting the Holy Names and meditating, find
several persons to help you chant the Holy Names. After having been purified, then put on
yellow clothes. (Master and everyone laugh.) I fear that our Center will be full of yellow
clothes later. (Master and everyone laugh.) Even my eyes will become yellow, including
Wearing yellow and sleeping with your head pointing the north is not good enough; you
have to elevate your morality, and especially your wisdom. We should know that within us is the Buddha-heart, the quality of God; it is impossible to have anything diabolical inside.
Do you understand? (Answer: Understand.)
However, we tend to forget when we sleep, so the devil will sometimes come to annoy us.
Perhaps we had some animosities with him last life. To avoid this, we can wear yellow
clothes when we sleep, (laughter) and face south. However, do this only for a period of
time. Otherwise, your family will be horrified, and say: "My God, he is already wearing yellow clothes, only his head is not shaved yet. What if he were to become a monk?" (Master and
everyone laugh.) You don't have to do this all the time.
My opinion is that the ancient people wore yellow to expel evil, but the later generations do
not properly understand. In some places, the monks wear red; in other places they wear
white or blue. It is due to the different traditions in different places. They have forgotten the
ancient and original reason.
In olden times, there was originally no monastic tradition, only some spiritual people who
grouped together to practice their method - ways to expel the devil, or summon the rain and wind, and so on. Or, they only longed for tranquillity, and contact with God. On and on,
people who wanted to leave home imitated them by living together to avoid sexual relationships. They thought this was more effective.
Some practicing methods demanded abstinence from sexual relationships, some
abstinence from eating meat, some abstinence from taking certain kinds of food or alcohol, some of them wanted to prevent their morality from sinking. Later, when people observed
that they got some results by practicing together, they realized the color yellow must have some effect in withstanding carnal influences. Therefore, they also wore yellow. When other
people saw that they looked radiant and spiritual this way, they too followed their dress
Therefore, since ancient times, the monks always wore yellow clothes. However, when
Shakyamuni Buddha came, He told His disciples: "It is all right, as the customs and
traditions in each country are different, wherever you go, follow the people there and wear
what they wear."
From then on, disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha wore different clothes when they went out.
In Tibet, their clothes wear red, with only a little yellow on top. (Master laughs.) In China,
they wear black, or blue if they are more advanced in their practice. When they become a
senior monk, then they can wear the yellow robe.
Infact, the color yellow was only meant for expelling evil. The robe was not something to be awarded to advanced practitioners. Afterwards, people regressed in their practice,
but clung to their clothes instead. They said, "Hey! Only a senior monk can wear the yellow
It remains the same in many places. Being a newcomer, you can only wear black. With a
little promotion, you can wear brown; further up then you wear blue. (So you went from black to blue!) You can wear the yellow robe only when you have reached the status of Head
Monk. When I just began to practice, I met several Buddhist monks and nuns in Germany. I said, "Your clothes are so beautiful and fresh looking. May I wear some like them for a
while?" (Master and everyone laugh.)
My female master told me, "Hey! Don't talk nonsense! (Master and everyone laugh.) How
can you wear our clothes? Do you know how many years we had to practice before we
could wear these clothes?"
I said, "Oh! I see!" (Laughter) There are many other traditions. For instance, wow! A patched monk's robe made of six strips of cloth is great, while one made of four strips is nothing.
Being a female, I can never wear a patched robe in Au Lac. Fortunately, I took vows here in
Formosa China and can wear it. (Laughter) One becomes a Master very quickly in
Formosa. (Laughter and applause.)
Previously, when I was ordained in Formosa I wore the patched robe. That was why I
became a Master so quickly in Formosa. I would never have made it in Au Lac!
(Master laughs.) There, females are never allowed to wear the patched robe.
In ancient times there were no such dress codes. Being new monastic disciples,
Shakyamuni Buddha told all His monks and nuns to dye their clothes, and that they must
not wear white.
Later, many of them went to preach in other countries, and they reported to Shakyamuni
Buddha after they came back: "When we went out wearing yellow clothes, people felt that
we were strange, and would not listen to our preaching. Observing our bald heads and
yellow clothes, people treated us like monsters, and fled when they saw us."
Therefore, Shakyamuni Buddha said: "It is all right, just follow the traditions and customs of that country."
The truth is, as they practiced longer, so it was no longer important whether they wore
yellow or not. They had sufficient power, so there was no need to expel evil with the yellow
clothes. Shakyamuni Buddha said that it was not important. As long as they could go out to preach meant they were okay. Any clothes they wore were okay! However, the troublesome
thing is, later people kept hanging on to those clothes and forget the essence of spiritual