Ultra Minimalists, Part 3

For the Ultra Minimalists, Part 1, click here.

More Historic Minimalists – religious wanderers

Japanese_pilgrimWandering Monks part 1 - The Buddhist monks that travel much of the year throughout Asia are about as minimal as one can reasonably get.  Early Buddhist monks were instructed to own, as based on the Pali Canon, a very simple set of eight items.  Things have, of course, changed over time and religious wanderers have changed with it.

  • outer robe
  • inner robe
  • thick double robe for winter
  • alms bowl for gathering food and eating
  • razor for shaving
  • needle and thread for repairs
  • belt
  • water strainer for removing impurities from drinking water
  • Everything thing else was communal or gifted to them, including food.

ThaiMonkWandering Buddhist Monks part 2 - A revised and more modernized version, adds a few more necessities (not everyone is up to the task of living in real poverty):

  • Bowl
  • Three robes, inner, outer, and warm
  • Bathing cloth
  • Umbrella, some mention a small tent here
  • Mosquito net
  • Kettle for water
  • Water filter
  • Razor
  • Sandals
  • Small candles
  • Candle lantern

It should be remembered, these monks were part of a Sangha (intentional community of Buddhists) so there were communal objects for the rainy season when they weren’t traveling and there is a long tradition of charity towards holy men that we don’t really have any longer in the West (other than tax exemption).

PilgrimslargeWandering Buddhist Monks part 3 - Of course, the world changes and the esoteric lifestyle adapts with it.  Modern Buddhist mendicant monks might carry a few extra things in order to live reasonably within the modern world.  This is a very realistic list for the modern traveler.  Over many centuries, it became apparent that being acceptable and able to fit into society in general was an important thing too.  Good appearance, cleanliness, and preparedness helps one not be a burden on the community.  I understand the need to fit-in and remain incognito when appropriate.  After all, isn’t that what our daily costumes achieve?

Later realists again modified the kit of the wandering Buddhist mendicants in eight types of personal utensils or belongings (adapted, in part from RAHU website, Singapore).  There are a total of 8 necessary requisites of the Buddhist monk garments and utensils. I big part of the teachings of the Buddha are concerned with an intentional, non-harmful, and simple life.

  • Mantle Robe – Traditionally made by the acolyte himself, but may also be a gift.
  • Sarong (Sabong) – This is a simple, unadorned under garment and is worn 24 hours a day.
  • Cotton Belt or Girdle
  • Shoulder Scarf – It is a long thick brownish-yellow scarf and regarded as a monk’s multipurpose cloth and is generally large enough to use as a blanket in winter. During a long trip or visit, this thick Sangkati can be folded and used as a cushion.
  • Black Alms Bowl with Lid
  • Razor
  • Needle and Thread
  • Water-strainer

Besides the initial eight things, some items have been added for comfort and convenience as monks might find themselves as guests in a temple, in major cities, suburban settings, or even the wilderness.

  • Three amenities are added for convenience: undershirt,  a small bathing loincloth for modesty, and a bath towel bath towel.  One cannot be filthy in a tight, modern setting.
  • Bedding – Still considered luxury items for the monk: grass mat, pillow, blanket, mosquito net, and a cushion for sitting.
  • Necessities for the traveler: hand bag (for carrying all this stuff), handkerchief, knitted hat, palm leaf fan, umbrella (for sun as much as rain), and sandals.
  • Eating utensils: Dish, Bowl, Spoon & Fork, Hand Towel, A set of Food Trays containing plates and bowls, Tiffin Carrier.
  • Hygiene – Drinking water must be cleansed of dirt and germs.  This is critical for good health.  Water is the only thing a monk can freely ask for or take as needed.  In that vein, several other tools are allowed and encouraged: stove, pot for boiling water, mug for hot water/tea, water glass, water jug/bottle, tea kettle, Thermos bottle for ice or hot water as needed.
  • Toiletries – Buddhist monks should be clean and have pleasant personalities. They need some necessary objects, the same as other people water container, soap, soap container, tooth brush, tooth paste, body towel, tissues, spittoon, medicinals.
  • Domestic Objects: These items should be available to help monks in case of emergency. lantern or electric lamp, flash light, alarm clock or watch.

The latter list is a very complete list of real essentials.  Having a codified list to pack from can be comforting, just like the lists the Boy Scouts still make for High Adventure programs.  Looking at a little knowledge gained by our predecessors goes a long way.

RuspilgrimWhy look at the Buddhists? Europeans have our own traditions, just without as much documentation.  We’re a free-form lot.  These folks certainly can sleep rough as need arose on a holy pilgrimage and don’t appear to be overburdened with stuff.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all report that Jesus taught his disciples; “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven”.  If only we had some Christians in this country…

Coming next – Minimalism applied in a modern setting.

About Paleotool

archaeologist, archer, primitive technologist, and wannabee fiddler...mostly
This entry was posted in minimalism, money, Philosophy, survival and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Ultra Minimalists, Part 3

  1. Rita says:

    Life gets considerably more cluttered when there is:
    Self employment
    Guests for dinner or overnight
    Children
    Formal occaisions
    Gardening
    Wood heat or even other fuels
    Gifting!!!
    Inheritances
    Handicaps
    Animals
    Cold, snowy or rainy weather
    Anything other than spending all your time sitting around or on the road

  2. Rita says:

    Yes. And I would like to live that lightly myself. One thing about monks that you mentioned is that they receive alot of support. Perhaps if todays homeless beggars looked like monks, I would feel better about giving them my spare change. I offered one of them some almonds recently and he very nearly declined.

  3. Robert Mitchell says:

    Excellent series! I’ve been slowly minimizing for years – a compartment wardrobe with the bare minimum number of items was a notable step – and making do with less has had huge positive effects on my spirit and outlook. I used to feel guilty about all my books, and about my laptop too, and recently my tablet, but as a writer of books and eBooks, I came to see these things as my tools. These are my necessities. But, in the true spirit of minimalism, I do not clutter them (or my head!) with games and time-wasting apps and virtual gunk. Minimalism is relative. It’s about the process. And the mindset.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s