Why do monks shave their head?

+59 votes
asked Aug 1 in Culture & Society by RefugioG7423 (300 points)
edited Aug 2
It seems like monks in most religions will shave their head. Be the Buddhist ones, or even the Christian one with the funny looking haircut. What’s up with that? Is the Christian one supposes to mimic a halo? Does shaving symbolize their decision to leave their material possession? Anyway, why do monks shave their head?

2 Answers

+22 votes
answered Aug 7 by CatherineRet (380 points)
edited Aug 11
Practice of shaving or cutting most of the hair on your scalp is called tonsure. It is a sign of humility and religious devotion. Tonsure in the past was only used for the description of olden days Catholicism, where the peculiar hair styles come from. In general, it is the symbol of renunciation from worldly esteem and fashion. Apparently by tradition, the disciples of Jesus Christ observed the Torah command, where you are not allowed to shave one side of the hair.

There are three types of the style commonly used back on its conception, the Oriental, the Celtic and the Roman. The Oriental consist of the now classic full bald. The Celtic doesn't cut them fully to form sort of an arc from ear to ear on the top of their head. Then the Roman style that is most often depicted in western medieval movies, where the only the top part of the hair is shaved to form a crown. So why the weird choice of hairstyles for the Celtic and the Roman… It is to resemble the head of chief apostle Peter, who on his journey to spread the teaching of Jesus, would have people who do not believe his preach to shave his head in mockery. Jesus Christ blesses his head and so changing the view of the hair to be that of honor and praise. Or so the legend goes. But yeah, shaving the head is mostly a sign of abandoning the worldly desires.
+1 vote
answered Aug 9 by JonnaSzn3363 (170 points)
edited Aug 14
Yeah, so why do monks shave their head… We’ll look at the Buddhist practice for the general understanding of it since reasons for religious tradition is often similar to others. The head shaving is symbolic in the way that it means you are letting go all of your material attachments and that self-obsessing ego. In tradition, only the ones pursuing to be a priest or monk would undertake the shaving. From a friend I had from Thailand, being a monk is about discipline. To be a Buddhist is a serious business there. You would need to memorize chants and religious scriptures just to join, then get used to the monk way of living, which means only eating once a day at the set amount of time, then praying for the rest of the days, teaching or cleaning the temple grounds. Imagine military regiment but for religion, it is what it basically is (both required head shaving too). In modern times, it’s the discipline and the symbolism that you will live your normal life in comfort to pursue spiritual happiness.
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