Saturday, July 30, 2011

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle was decreed 2600 years ago

“Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” are the three great affective waste management techniques in modern times. Waste is that what is discarded, rejected or abandoned and released to the environment. On the other hand reuse and recycle is required when rejection is high. Therefore reducing and reusing is to minimize recycling.

Environmental science believes that the economically developed status, the supreme bliss that everyone strives to achieve, is to over consume earth’s resources. Those of us born in the 50’s and grew up in the 60’s and early 70’s in a so called under-developed country would recall the ubiquitous school uniform that was accepted at all occasions be it a wedding, funeral, party , social function etc. Now in a developing state it is different, we have a dress code for each occasion; our thinking changed to individualism and over consumption. 

2600 years ago in the month of Vesak Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment. He renounced all worldly belongings to bear minimum. His disciples traveled about preaching and their clothing needed to be modest since they encountered people and be identified as followers of Buddha from the ascetics who were nearly nude. Buddha instructed that their clothes to be of "pure" cloth; which meant cloth that no one wanted. This included cloth that were scorched by fire, chewed by oxen, burial shrouds scavenged from rubbish heaps and cremation grounds. These clothes were stitched  with the unusable parts trimmed off, followed by washing and dyeing with vegetable matter, root and bark that gave an earthly color of yellow-orange called Kashaya in Sanskrit.  It was tradition for those who followed the Buddha and the Buddha himself to wear such mendicant clothing during that time. 

Buddhist King Bimbisara once wanted to pay homage to the monks and found it difficult to identify them from other mendicants and requested Buddha to make a distinctive robe for his monks. One day while walking by the rice paddies in the province of Magadha, Buddha asked Ananda his personal attendant to design a robe in the orderly pattern of the rice paddies. Thus the present robe worn by monks came into being. With time the townsmen and the rich got in the habit of offering sewn robes from discarded finest fabric and the Buddha had to decree on those greedy monks, that the fabric is not a status symbol.

Monks now had to carry the gifted robes with them and it was to be seen as an attachment to material things which is opposed to the doctrine of the Buddha. Many are the decree issued on the usage and possession of the robe and the offering bowl in the Vinaya Pitaka. Of them, Buddha decreed that a monk could use only three robes. The Uttarasanga the most prominent robe, also called the kashaya robe. It is a large rectangular cloth of about 6 feet by 9 feet, sewn in the pattern of the rice paddy and is wrapped to cover both shoulders. In general usage wrapped to cover the left shoulder but leave the right shoulder and arm bare. The Antaravasaka robe is worn under the Uttarasanga and is wrapped around the waist like a sarong, covering the body from waist to about the knees. The third is the Sanghati robe an extra robe to be used to cover the upper body for warmth and is sometimes folded and draped over the shoulder when not in use.

When the robes became tattered and not wear worthy they were to be used as bed spreads and bed covers. When it could no longer be used in this purpose they became dusters and pillow case. The pillowcase was to become a doormat or a foot mat at the bedside. Finally when it could not even serve this purpose, it was shredded and used as patch material with mud in the walls of the monasteries during the rainy season. Nothing was to be wasted. Similarly a monk could possess only one offering bowl which could be renewed only when it contained five patches making it devoid of use. 

Robes and offering bowls are the only worldly belongings of the monks and nuns. The Buddha said, "Just as a bird takes its wings with it wherever it flies, so the monk takes his robes and bowl with him wherever he goes."

No comments:

Post a Comment