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The Distinctive Marks of the Bhikkhu

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The distinctive marks of the bhikkhu in all the Buddhist countries are the shaven head and the saffron robes. The reason the bhikkhu adopts this appearance is rooted in the very nature of his calling. The Buddhist monk seeks to realize the truth of anatta, of selflessness. This means the relinquishing of one’s claims to stand out as a special individual, to be a "somebody". The aim of the bhikkhu is to eliminate the sense of ego of self identification. Our clothes, hairstyle, and beard often become subtle ways by which we assert our sense of identity or express our self image. Bhikkhus give up their personal identity and blend into a larger body the Sangha. The robe and the shaven head is also the theme for their daily reflection. "My life is different from that of worldly people". Unlike the common people, he leads a life of restraints self-control, and inner cultivation. The robe also serves to make others aware of the Buddha’s teaching. His conduct has the effect of impressing on others the fruits of the Buddha’s teaching. Another special aspect of the lifestyle of the Buddhist monk is that he lives in dependence on the offerings of others. He does not work for his living, he does not receive payment for his religious services, but he lives entirely in dependence on the support of the laity. Those who have confidence in the Dhamma provide him with the basic requisites, his robes, food, dwelling place, medicines, and whatever other simple material support he might need.

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