WHY DO BUDDHISTS SHAVE THEIR
Buddhists no more shave their
heads as a general thing than Christians dress
as monks and nuns and walk around burning incense.
Some Buddhist monks belong to orders that traditionally
shave their heads, but then so do some Christian
monks. Hollywood has seized on this (head shaving)
as a traditional thing for Buddhists to do (like
bad cowboys wearing the black hats). In the
real world most Buddhists (and bad cowboys)
are hard to tell from anyone else. They dress
like everyone else in their local culture, groom
themselves in the same way, and behave like
Head shaving in Buddhism is symbolic of letting
go of material attachments and the self-obsessed
ego, and in most authentic streams of tradition
(i.e. "sect's") it is an act undertaken
only when an individual is being ordained as
a priest, monk/nun or minister.
The Japanese word for 'ordination' is "tokudo"
and this means "going to the other side
(of the river)". Tonsure (head shaving)
confirms this commitment. In our Jodo Shinshu
tradition the person ordained is then permitted
to let their hair grow back into any style the
wish but in some other traditions they are expected
to keep the shaved head look and not let it
get to more than two fingers width in length.
In the Jodo Shinshu tradition and even at tokudo
ladies are not required to shave their whole
head and instead just have the back of their
necks shaved so that no hair touches the collar
of their robes.
Symbolic Head Shaving at the Kikyoshiky Ceremony.
Kikyoshiki is not ordination (see attendant
article "Tokudo") - but this does
not mean it is not a very important step in
the individual's journey on the Buddhist Way.
Participation in the Kikyoshiki Ceremony simply
confirms that the individual is ready to become
'a disciple of Shakyamuni Buddha' - and the
individual should decide for themselves if or
when they wish to make this commitment.
In the Jodo Shinshu tradition participant in
the Kikyoshiki Ceremony undergo a symbolic head
shave wherein, from behind, the head of the
candidate is gently touched three times (left,
right, centre) with a blunt blade. I repeat,