Why do monks wear patched robes?

Buddhist monks are homeless and do not have any valuable personal belongings. Originally they had to collect discarded pieces of cloth wherever they could be found, and wash and sew them together. Then the robe was dipped in natural dye from bark or the pith of a tree. The robes were mostly brownish in color. The different shades of the color did not signify the strictness of the wearers at the time of the Buddha, nor do they today.

Venerable Ananda, the Buddha’s cousin and personal attendant, designed the robe at the request of the Buddha. The pattern of the robe was taken from the pattern of the paddy fields in the Magadha Kingdom. It was accepted by the Buddha and had become standardized since then.

In Thailand, usually the darker robed monks tend to be forest monks. However, there are some monks living in the city who also prefer wearing darker brown robes.

The reason why the Buddha accepted a patched robe was to distinguish monks’ robes from lay people’s clothing and to discourage thieves.