Upāsaka and Upāsikā - Ceremonial Dress

Ceremonial Dress

Traditionally, in India, upāsakas wore white robes, representing a level of renunciation between lay people and monastics. For this reason, some traditional texts make reference to "white-robed lay people" (avadāta-vassana). This practice can still be found in contemporary Theravadin temples, especially during the occasion when a non-Buddhist converts to Buddhism or when one is observing the Eight Precepts on an uposatha day.

In the Chinese tradition, both upāsakas and upāsikās are permitted to wear robes for temple ceremonies and retreats, as well as home practice. Upāsakas and upāsikās wear long sleeved black robes called haiqing (海清), symbolic of their refuge in the Triple Jewel. A brown kasaya called a manyi (缦衣) worn outside the black robes is symbolic of their upholding of the precepts. Unlike monastics, they are not permitted to regularly wear robes outside functions other than temple activities or Buddhist disciplines.

Some Japanese laity can also be seen wearing a rakusu, a short cloth worn around the neck of Zen Buddhist laity. Another form is the wagesa, a short surplice in the form of a strip of brocade fabric worn around the neck, with the temple mon emblazoned on it. It also acts as a simplified type of kasaya.

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Ceremonial Dress

Ceremonial dress is the clothing worn for very special occasions, such as coronations, graduations, parades, religious rites, and trials. In the hierarchy of dress codes (e.g., Dress code (Western)), ceremonial dress is the most formal and offers almost no room for personal expression. Examples of ceremonial dress include:

  • the ermine lined cloak, crown and scepter of a king or queen
  • tribal or other dress reserved for the most formal occasions
  • the full dress uniforms of military officers
  • ceremonial suit of armour, often highly decorated
  • the traditional white dress worn once by brides and then never worn after the wedding
  • the liturgical robes of many religions
  • academic dress
  • court dress, such as the robe and wig worn by British judges

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