In a recent Dhamma study the topic of robes was involved. After some reading I have noted that many of the related guidelines for the construction, style, and the repair of such robes (plus the importance of each) were outlined for the young Bhikkhu and how any candidate for ordination must have a set of robes before they can be admitted to the community as a Bhikkhu and should become content with any old robe cloth (within the guidelines) and hold no attachment nor disdain for such robe cloth.
I was working to consider application of the Buddha's intent to lay life and immediate answers seem to be the obvious such as lack of attachment to branding, appearance, etc of our clothing while maintaining their integrity through repair and washing.
One aspect that I am seeking clarification on is the allowance for the lay to wear simple robes. I have yet to find specific passages relating to the wearing of robes by the lay but have seen a number of discussions and statements claiming that they should not.
The first argument I have seen is that they could be misinterpreted as ordained which is understandable when in the public eye, similar to the idea of impersonating a police officer, but this does not cover life in seclusion or in private or regions where robes would have no significance to the public. Aside from this, other arguments discussed seem to be coming from a place of attachment to the uniform. There also appear to be some schools which do in fact provide robes to the lay as part of their program, seemingly as a means of a reminder of your dedication to the practice while wearing them.
To summarize is there any further instruction from the Buddha or practical reasoning relating to the wearing of simple robes in lay life, in seclusion, or in private life as a means to simplify clothing under the premise of lack of attachment to what is worn?
Upon reflection, as there seems to be no direct instruction, from a practical perspective the guidelines seem to be as follows.
If the lay person is Buddhist:
- Impersonation of a monk is immoral and unethical so should be avoided.
- Wearing full robes in the style of monk in communities where monks are commonplace it could be confusing and would be impersonating the appearance of a monk.
- It would be essentially impossible for a entry level practitioner to purchase or create robes without attachment to the appearance of a monk or the "idea" of the outfit.
- Robes in general are of no mind, only those that are intended to present oneself as a monk.
- If monk style robes or robe parts are presented by an instructor and used following their guidelines then it should be of no mind.
If the lay person is not Buddhist:
- If they live in a community where monks are commonplace and have societal meaning then wearing their clothing could be disruptive and confusing.
- Wearing robes in general (non monk style) should be of no mind.
- In communities where monks are uncommon there should be no impact to them wearing monk robes or portions of them but it would be highly unlikely for someone to do so (outside of specific circumstances such as halloween impersonations).