Is there any attire prescribed as the suitable attire to be worn to a place of worship?
Posted on March 30th, 2011

Sasanka De Silva, Pannipitiya.

Is there any attire prescribed as the suitable attire to be worn to a place of worship?

Perhaps some other religions may have such prescriptions but surely not in Buddhist doctrine.

Recently I was taken aback after seen a big notice put up in front of one of the prominent Temples in the city.

According to that notice even the Pants many of us wear too are unsuitable to be worn.

There were many other garments both men and women usually wear to such places too have been placed in the unsuitable list.

I am surprised why devotees who regularly patronize this Temple and the religious authorities allow such ridiculous things to be displayed.

Try to have control over one’s mind and please do not allow and or encourage a few disgruntled and militant monks to Talibanaize Buddhism.

13 Responses to “Is there any attire prescribed as the suitable attire to be worn to a place of worship?”

  1. Nihal Fernando Says:

    Sometimes, you might get an invitation to a party – Attire: Smart casual. There is a difference between smart casual and casual. You can’t just go to a party wearing short pants as smart casual. It has to be a long pants with a shirt or a T-shirt.

    Buddhist doctrine may not have a dress code to a place of worship but it is our obligation to visit such places, attired in a descent dress that does not reveal much of your body parts. Trying to have control over one’ mind is something else. It doesn’t mean that females can come to a Buddhist temple scantily dressed that they might provoke our feelings but we should try to control our minds. Even in certain cricket matches in the recent past scantily dressed cheer leaders (female) were banned. Then, what is there to talk about how to visit a Buddhist place of worship?

  2. radha Says:

    Just like Sasanka gets offended by the notice, there are other people who get offended by people wearing clothes revealing their sexual assets, buttock trenches and sweaty body odours in public. Temple is a public place where people go for their spiritual practices and they want to feel tranquil in mind as part of their rituals, whatever they practise individually. Not every person who goes to a temple is a saint or a PhD in Buddhist scripture; most are average people and so can easily get offended, so ruining their purpose. It is that simple and there is no need to split hair over Buddhist teaching here. Those who went to Sunday schools as kids know what correct attire for a temple visit is. With all sorts of foreigners desending on us as tourists, it is about time that local customs are publicly stated on a board for the ignorant. I am astonished to read this local asking such silly questions.

  3. M.S.MUdali Says:

    Last year the Jaffna Mayor Mrs. Yogeswary Patkunam too imposed a dress code in the Nallur Hindu Temple. Many barked and tried to redicule the order in the name of freedom and so on.

    Temples are not super markets or night clubs. Are these people thinking FREEDOM and other stuffs come when you dress like WHITE CHRISTIANS?

    Temples are temples. They have their rights to impose rules.

  4. KingSasanka Says:

    I did not agree then when one of my friends told me that reading between lines, shooting off the hip and barking at the wrong tree are some of our national pastimes but I totally agree with him now when I read the comments posted above.
    One of the garments included in the list was trousers and other one was Shalwar-khamiz.
    Therefore, it is very much evident that they were included not because they fall into revealing cloths category.
    Scantily dressed has no acceptable definition but just a perception in the individual’s mind only.
    Surprisingly, every time when this word being used, it always refers to one particular gender only.
    Why is it so?
    This was the typical medieval times thinking and I do not think that Buddhist doctrine has no place for such thinking or segregation.
    By encouraging such medieval thinking and practices creep in to Buddhism, many think that they are doing a great favour to the religion but they do not.
    Instead they allow the sublime nature of the doctrine to get diluted.
    Whether one has a PHD in Buddhist Doctrine or not or has attended Sunday school or not, isn’t it better to have control over one’s mind than to control others.
    This reminds me of an old English saying that “Everything is vulgar to vulgar mind”.
    Temples are places of worship and I do not think that no one have any rights to impose something beyond the given limits of the doctrine.
    But if you practices Talibanizm then you can impose anything that suits your small mind.

  5. Lorenzo Says:

    Guys, read what the writer has to say. Don’t jump into wrong conclusions based on half understanding. He is not saying you can wear anything to a temple. He is talking about the other extreme. There should be a limit on limiting the attire. Common sense should prevail. That is what the writer says. As long as you go to places of religious worship in a decent attire, decent enough for similar places in Sri Lanka, they should be perfectly alright.

    e.g. If a dress is considered decent at the Kelaniya temple is decent for the temple in question.

    Some readers have not read the article fully and have jumped into conclusions.

  6. radha Says:

    If Sasanka said in the first place “What is wrong with wearing a Shalwar Kamiz to a temple?” I would have said, “Sure, I cannot see what is wrong with it.” Mixing your personal experience with Buddhist doctrine or Talibanism is really barking up the wrong tree and posting a half baked, incomplete story is an open invitation to others to interpret your information the way they percieve. That’s life and no need to get offended. As said before, attire at public places, especially at temples (and for that matter in courts or House of Parliament) is a social, cultural and conventional issue, and no need to complicate it here with Buddhist teachings on individual mind control. Not every Buddhist has that ability; they are trying but has not got there yet. For instance why did n’t you control your mind over the notice board that was offending you, before posting your brilliant article.

  7. KingSasanka Says:

    I am surprised as to how some readers have initially missed the “Pants” and latched on to “Shalwaz-kamiz” later on.
    Having control over one’s mind is not to out- rightly ban and or destroy all one does not wished to be seen or heard without giving any satisfactory explanations but to subject such contentious topics / issues to public forums like this hoping that others would see the damage such acts would do the doctrine / society.
    One of the best examples I can think of in the recent past is the destruction of the Bahamian statues in Afghanistan.

  8. Fran Diaz Says:

    Sasanka says : “According to that notice even the Pants many of us wear too are unsuitable to be worn.
    There were many other garments both men and women usually wear to such places too have been placed in the unsuitable list”.

    We have some questions on this matter to Sasanka :

    (1) What are the garments referred to on that particular notice at the Temple ? Please reproduce the EXACT words on the notice at the Temple.
    (2) Which language/s are used on the notice ? If in English, is the word “pants” used ? Does the word ‘kota kalisang’ appear in Sinhala ? It is highly likely that any translation from Sinhala into English or even Tamil may be inaccurate. We like to know the Sinhala version first, please, as that should be treated as the correct version. Sometimes, absurdly inaccurate words are used in direct translation, particularly into English.

    I recall visiting a Church in Austria while on holiday way back in the late 1970s, and happened to be wearing a pair of shorts, and was told curtly to stand outside till my friends saw the inside of this church and came out to join me !

    We think the Lankan Temple authorities have every right to place such a notice at the Temple, provided it is not unreasonable, particularly as there are many tourists visiting Lanka, and they are usually dressed for holidays and not for Temple visits which demands proper attire. For tourists, Temples are a place to visit out of curiosity, not for worship. We suggest that such tourists be allowed to borrow a cloth to wrap around their waists for the sake of decency.

    We are glad that Buddhist Temples are now more assertive and requesting any one entering these Temples treat the Temples with respect. Lately, there have been a few news items reporting disrespect toward the word “Buddha” abroad. Past destruction of the Bahmian Buddha statues too have pained Buddhists all over the world.

  9. KingSasanka Says:

    This was not a case of meaning lost in the translation.
    It was all pictorial.
    We should expose our minds to all possible conditions and that way only we would be able to learn to have control over our senses.
    Imposing such ridiculous proclamations which have no endorsement from the doctrine only gives us a falls sense of security.
    But the day when the big stress test comes along, those who seek refuge in such bogus proclamations and not in the true doctrine would definitely bound to fail.
    I still strongly believe that the choice of what is to be worn should only be with the wearer and with no one else.
    If one does not like what he or she sees then look the other way and continue with the activities that are related to one’s spiritual uplifting and purification process.

  10. Fran Diaz Says:

    Sasanka : do you mean that a person should be able to dress in any way and still be allowed to enter a Temple or Church ? Women tourists especially will dress very inappropriately and enter Temples or churches without any scruples.

    I respect the fact that I was not allowed to enter the Austrian church wearing shorts and having thought about such matters have concluded that it is improper to enter any place of worship wearing shorts. It is construed as a sign of disrespect. However, at that time, we never planned to enter any places of worship and it was an on the spot decision to do so. So I forgive myself.

    Sasanka, you are looking at the problem from the point of view of a highly disciplined person who will not look at improperly dressed young women ! Since procreation is in the human genetic system itself, it is unfair to expect any normal men not to look at such young women, in Temple or Church.

    It is better by far, we think, for some notice about proper attire be displayed in any place of worship, so that dressing properly for entry into these places will become second nature to Lankans in general, and Tourists in particular.

    I am adding that rape cases are predominant where women have gone jogging wearing bare essential jogging gear.

  11. KingSasanka Says:

    Dear Sir,
    My answer to your question is YES.
    The choice should always and only be with the wearer and no one else.
    As for me I do not think I am a highly disciplined person but I subject my senses to various conditions and I am not ashamed to admit it in public that my rate of success is much far below than the expected range.
    When a failure occurs, I only ask myself, is because of any external factors or of my own deficiencies. Then I try to correct myself and try to crawl back to where I was before.
    The path was shown and it is abundantly clear and why are we not treading on it?
    How long are we going to hide behind various bogus reasons and blame others for our own failings?
    I hope not until we get a private audience with the Maithri Buddha.
    I am surprise to see tourist and young women are being dragged in to this to prove many of the writers’ arguments.
    The Temple in question has no historical or religious significance and therefore I do not think that any foreign tourist has ever visited it.
    But recently it has acquired certain amount notoriety by spewing venomous sermons which are not in line with the doctrine and causing disharmony in the society and fears among various other ethnic and religious groups in the country.
    Many laymen are happy to join the band of militants in saffron robes so that they can procrastinate their search for the truth and pin their own failures on other.
    Surprisingly the “Kota Kalisama” that you have mentioned earlier was conspicuously missing in the No Go list and so was the ever-present mobile telephones.
    What next is the important question?
    The colour of our skin, the hair do, the Perfume worn, the way one walks etc.
    The list is long and has no end.
    Are those proclamations in line with the Doctrine or are they here to satisfy a few with distorted understanding.
    Finally, to answer your question posed regarding rapes cases, according to my research that there are some ethnic groups still living in many parts of the world who are only wearing a thread around their waist but among them there are no rapes or molestation.
    Then the question one has to answer here now, is it because of the dress or the mind?

  12. Fran Diaz Says:

    Sasanka : You have inadvertently answered my puzzling over your protest re the notice on dress code at this particular Temple. When you say ” But recently it has acquired certain amount notoriety by spewing venomous sermons which are not in line with the doctrine and causing disharmony in the society and fears among various other ethnic and religious groups in the country”. That, presumably is the REAL reason for your protest about this Temple. I too would join you in the protest if any priest goes to the extent of spewing venomous sermons !
    If you said that in the first place, without referring only to the dress code required at places of worship, we would have agreed with you right away.
    A case of article misunderstood, as the real problem was unstated.
    But, I still re-iterate, that a Temple or church is free to put up a notice on the dress code required, if they wish to do so !
    I am closing my side of the argument.

  13. KingSasanka Says:

    Spewing out venomous sermons was the starter, followed by the questionable dress code.
    What next?
    I am glad that we are still free to exchange our opinions without fearing prosecutions or ostracize.
    But if the things are allowed to unroll as the way they are now, soon we will be the minority.
    Good luck & I too rest my case.

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