THE FOUR DIFFERENT KINDS OF DISCIPLES: THEIR MANNER OF DRESS
By American Upasika Kuo Ts’an Epstein
To become a Buddhist disciple one must "take refuge" with the Triple Jewel: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. Those who have taken refuge have vowed to save the infinite number of beings, to cut off the endless afflictions of the mind, to study the unlimited number of ways to understand the teachings, and to attain the unsurpassed Buddhahood.
Disciples of Buddhism are divided into four categories. The first two, which make up the Sangha, include men who have left the home life and received full ordination, who are called Bhiksus, and women who have left the home life and receiver full ordination, who are called Bhiksunis. Laymen or "at home" disciples make up the other' two categories. Laymen are called Upasakas and laywomen are called Upasikas.
The manner of dress of those in the Great Hall has definite significance and purpose. One puts on pure, clean clothes when participating in Buddhist ceremonies or listening to the Dharma. Wearing a robe also breaks down the differences between people and, therefore, reduces false thinking. It is a reminder to its wearer to be respectful and sincere. The Great Hall is a special, sacred place; for that reason, one wears special clothes when within it. The merit involved in this practice is inconceivable.
Those who have taken the five precepts or more, vowing not to lie, kill, steal, take intoxicants, or engage in sexual misconduct, wear a brown, five-piece precept sash. The sash is a constant reminder to its wearer that he has taken the precepts. The men and women, who have shaved their heads and have taken the complete precepts, 250 for men and 348 for women, are Bhiksus and Bhiksunis. They wear seven-piece brown robes in the Great Hall. The Dharma Master who is lecturing Dharma or acting as Dharma Host wears a twenty-five piece red robe.
We should have a sense of responsibility in everything we do. We should carry out our duties to the utmost. It is most important, neither to ignore responsibility, nor to conduct affairs in a slack or partial manner, nor to be remiss in fulfilling commitments.