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Question of the Day - Why Do Buddhist Monks Shave Their Heads?

The Dalai Lama is coming to the UK for a ten-day tour. But why is he bald?

Welcome to Question of the Day. It gives interns something to do!

One time my dad and sister went to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama give a talk in Toronto. A huge line of people gathered to ask one question each. A man stood up and told a long story about his idyllic life, how he had the home and 2.5 kids and job that he had always wanted, and yet wasn't happy.

"Why aren't I happy?" he asked. The wise ol' dude replied, "I have


idea," to the fraught man. Then did his perfect laugh. Existential crisis? ExistentLOL crisis, more like! If you yourself fancy being laughed at by a kind, elderly Tibetan who was ripped from his home as a small child to train forever to become a spiritual leader to a country he was promptly exiled from, you CAN! The big DL arrives in the UK today for a ten-day tour (starting tomorrow) of talks and visits and starring in a million mobile phone camera videos. We took to the streets in an effort to learn more about Buddhism. Streets, tell us: Why do Buddhist monks shave their heads? VICE: Why do you think Buddhist monks shave their heads?
Alistair, 25: Probably tradition. What tradition?
Probably Siddartha did it when he was younger. Younger? What would you ask the Dalai Lama if you could ask him one thing?
Do you want to go paintballing? We got a deal on today, usually it’s £30 to play, but we could bump it down to six for spiritual leaders. I’d probably give him 1000 free paintballs, as well. Do you sell paintball tickets for a living, Alistair?
Yes. Thought so. How do you think a group of non-violent Buddhists would fare in a paintball war?
They’d lose. There’s no mercy in paintball.

Simon, 44: To save having to wash their hair? Maybe.
To let the air get to their brain? Would you give Buddhism a go?
I do practice elements of it. What elements?
I practice [long considered pause] a type of meditation [another long pause]. And [pauses again] I’m aware [yet another long pause] of quite a few Buddhist principles and [come on Simon, mate I haven't got all day] chants. Are you a buddhist? No. If you could ask him one question, what would you ask the Dalai Lama?
[Gazes into the distance.] I have no questions for him. I'm pretty… Pretty what?
Absorbed. !?!?!


\ What do you do?
Pietro, 34: I'm a performance artist. What kind of performance do you do?
I work with my body. I make images using my body in space. Outer space?
Not like out there, but in here [points to my chest]. Space within. I create sacred places. You sound very spiritual. Are you interested in Buddhism?
I was a Buddhist for 11 years. I’m not any more.

What happened?
I realised that there is not one way. There isn’t the way. How did you get into it?
I was a 21-year-old boy living alone in the big city. I lost my way. I needed some direction. Did you shave your head when you were a Buddhist?
No, but I did shave my balls. Why do Buddhists shave their heads?
Because they have very hairy balls. Wait, what?

Tom, 46, painter. Did you know the Dalai Lama was coming to London?
Tom: No I didn’t, although I am going to see a Nepalese children’s performance of some Buddhist thing this evening, so maybe that’s something to do with it. Are you Buddhist yourself?
I can’t say I’m denominationally committed. Do spiritual themes come up in your artwork ever?
Not really. I’m painting ugly dogs at the moment. Why do Buddhist monks shave their heads?

Oliver, 21: So no one can show off with hair follicles. Do you think that’s a real problem in our modern consumerist society?
Definitely. Too much hair. If you were going to invent a religion, would it involve ritualistic head shaving?
Partial ritualistic headshaving. Like mohawks?
No, no, the opposite. Opposite mowhawks. Kind of monkish. Just the sides. A skullet?
Yeah, yeah. A skullet.


Have you ever met a Buddhist?
Yes. Were they a bit of a skullet-wearing dick?
It was my mum.

Antonetta, 35 (left) and Steph, 33. Do you know why Buddhist monks shave their heads?
Steph: Because the head, like in Judaism, is their connection to the spiritual realm. Wow! Do you think that makes sense?
Well, wisdom is contained within your head. It’s a quality of the mind, like happiness and everything else. Any elements of Buddhism that are influential in your life?
Antonetta: Actually, I’m not interested in this. Nothing more.

Oh, OK.

Previously - What's Your Suicide Song?