Razors and Switchblades

Razors and Switchblades
These are the types of razors that most monks use in Myanmar. I used one of these for about eight years with one of the sides modified so it did not having the safety bar. We called the sides; "safety side" and "dangerous side." With the dangerous side, one can wait a week or even 4 weeks before shaving. The safety bar is what causes the blade to clog and the "dangerous side" removes "clogging" from the formula. Normally people shave their heads every week or every two weeks at Pa-Auk.

It was not until eight years later that I decided to switch to the triple blade system most of the world uses today (maybe five blades now). One needs to shave every three days with this system or else the razor will endlessly keep clogging.

In Sri Lanka, we must shave the head and beard at the same time since the Pāli word used together with the word "shaving" is a compound which means "HairAndBeard". This is one of the reasons why I walk around with stumble on my face…well depending on what day you catch me. If I shave only my face, then I am trying to make myself look good, "like a layperson," so I see the wisdom in the Sri Lankan way. In Sri Lanka monks need permission to shave from their teachers. This rule is disputed in Myanmar to mean "permission to shave (another's) hair and beard." According to Pāli grammar, we do not know who is right and during that time, the "dangerous side" or "a sharp knife" was the only choice they had and one needed to be skilled in shaving.
The same is true with clipping the nails. Imagine clipping your nails with a knife!

At Nauyana, sometimes a nice gift would be arranged for all of the monks at Nauyana from Malaysia or Singapore. A "sharp knife" is listed as part of the 8 standard requisites, but today we use shavers and nail clippers instead. The funny part is that this "Sharp knife" requisite was taken literally from the donors, and each of the monks at Nauyana received their own switchblade knife! I am not sure how they brought these "weapons" through customs, but they arrived. As far as switchblades are concerned, these seemed to be high quality. I gave my knife away since I already had a razor.



Article by Bhikkhu Subhuti

Bhikkhu Subhuti is an American Buddhist Monk with roots in both Sri Lanka and Myanmar Forest Traditions. He currently resides in Myanmar but his heart sometimes floats back to Kauai, HI where he spent six months in 2015.