What is the meaning of a monk cutting his hair?

February 20, 2009

I’ve been thinking about being a monk lately, and writing about it, so I thought I’d share one more tidbit from the book “Only Don’t Know”, by the late Zen Mast Seung Sahn (ZMSS). This part involves the question, “What is the meaning of a monk cutting his hair?”

ZMSS answers this question like this:

“The Buddha taught that hair is ‘ignorance grass’, so cutting is necessary. If your hair is long, maybe your ignorance is long. When you have hair, you always worry how it looks … We put so much concern and time and effort into keeping this hair the way we like it. So this hair is always pulling our minds around. Being a monk or nun means cutting off all attachments and becoming a completely free person. Being attached to your hair cannot help you do this, so we cut it.”

ZMSS writes about this for a little while longer, but I think that excerpt gets the point across. And I just love the phrase, “hair is ignorance grass”. I think it captures the feeling perfectly.

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