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Temple Clothes: Practice vs. Luxury
When student uniforms that typically costs around $70 had escalated up to $300, as ‘manipulated’ by few top retailers, people began to question the intent of these retailers who are little too eager to gain profit. Despite the fact that these uniforms were originally designed to create a sense of unity, their skyrocketing costs ended up distorting the original intent to create a better learning environment for students. .
The Buddhist gowns worn around the temples are no different. In the beginning, people wore Buddhist gowns in order to practice with ease, more so than for style. But, they are now made with expensive high-end fabrics such as silk and more flamboyant designs and colors. Concerned remarks began to emerge from temples as people began to wonder, ‘are they coming to boast their clothes or to practice?’ This is no surprise, as an average cost of a modern Buddhist gowns found around Insadong area were approximately $20 per set (top and bottom), but the robes made with natural dyes and expensive fabrics can cost well over $600. In some retail shops, taking photos are strictly prohibited due to ‘special handmade designs.’ It is commonly seen that when an employee shouts, “One of a Kind!” in a store, women in their 60~70s flock into the shop.
One of the reasons why such a simple and modest temple robe had turned into high-end fashion may be due to increased responsibilities of women around the temple. With increase in number of lay women Buddhists in temple choirs, traditional tea associations, and various other temple activities and meetings, their clothing also began to be take luxurious and flamboyant designs. Especially the chosen few, who present six special offerings during ceremonies, particularly during the Buddhist Birthday Ceremonies and Memorial Service for the Deceased Masters, resemble famous celebrities or pop stars. It is no coincidence that the temple clothes have become more polished and refined as the fashion trends have changed significantly in temples. At least in the past, women normally took off makeup when coming to temples, even if they wore it in ordinary life and changed into more conservative clothing. But, people are much more sensitive to trends and styles nowadays.
According to Ms. Moon (66) who had been coming to temples for the past 40 years states, the so called ‘core members’ flaunts their remarkably high quality robes every change in season. It appears that these women have the air of ‘I am the best in this temple,’ which very often lead people to frown.
However, these traditional temple clothes have a long history. Even as far as 60~70 years ago, temple robes existed when our grandmothers used to carry bags of rice up to the mountainous temples as offering. But, these robes were very conservative and simple robes, allowing elderly devotees to offer prostrations and sit in meditation at more ease. But, as all fashion trends change and develop, temple robes also began to take life of its own and began to change with more sophisticated designs and feel of luxury.
In the beginning, these temple clothes were modest and comfortable with long and baggy shirt and vest to cover women’s figure. But, young generations of women are coming to temples with short and fitted shirts, which is quite troublesome to watch when they make prostrations.
But, there is another side of these trendy clothes. More and more foreign tourists have been taking home these temple robes from traditional bazaars as a part of Korean souvenirs. At other times, tourists come with an ad saved on their cell phones, displaying a picture of people wearing temple robes and practicing in temples.
Temple robes are intended to help set down secular desires and allow Buddhists to practice with devotion and humbleness. Let the symbol of temple clothes reclaim its meaning and significance, and let each practitioner lay down their craving for luxury and desire to be boastful.
Original file from http://www.ibulgyo.com/news/articleView.html?idxno=132587