You laughed listening to the very name of the sutra, The Bathhouse Sutra, because you don’t know that there have been two rebellious religions against Hinduism in India – Jainism and Buddhism. The Jaina monk never takes a bath; he does not even brush his teeth. He stinks and it is thought to be a great discipline that you are not at all concerned with your body which is ephemeral, which is going to die anyway. Why go on cleaning it and wasting your time? It will become unclean again tomorrow.
Buddhism is almost a parallel religion to Jainism. They agree on all the essential points, but Buddha seems to be more sensible than Mahavira. He wanted his monks to take a bath every day so that they would remain clean, so that their bodies would not be condemned but respected as a temple of their divine nature. But there were so many monks: to feed them, to give them use of your bathhouses, to give them clothes, to give them medicines when they were sick, was becoming more and more of a burden to the society.
Just a few years ago in Thailand, the situation became so bad that almost one-fourth of the population of the country were monks. The government had to pass a law saying unless you had the permission of the government, you could not become a monk.
This is the first time in history that any government had taken such a step but it was absolutely necessary in a poor country. If out of four persons, one person does not work, does not create and yet needs all kinds of things which are absolutely necessary, he is going to become a burden.
It is an ugly situation where half the population is starving, where half of the country sleeps only with one daily meal, where people not only eat fruits but dig out the roots of trees, boil them and eat them, hoping that they must have nourishing power. Because they are nourishing the whole tree – they are nourishing the flowers and the fruits – naturally the roots must have great nourishment.
Gautam Buddha has to talk about such trivia because if it is not talked about, then people start taking decisions on their own. And Buddha wanted his disciples to be integrated individuals – clean, pure, alert in every possible way both outwardly and inwardly. His concern and compassion were so great that there are thirty-three thousand rules for a Buddhist monk. It is mind-boggling; thirty-three thousand rules! Even to remember them is difficult.
But Buddha has taken care of every detail: when to wake up, when to go to beg for your food, not to take all your food from one house but from five houses so nobody is burdened. Five houses can give you small bits and that will be enough for you. On one house, you might be a little heavy…and not to stay in one city more than three days so you don’t create any kind of burden for anybody. Eat only one time a day because millions of people eat only once a day. You should not ask for two meals.
Don’t have more than three pieces of clothing; two to use, one for emergency situations. For example: you suddenly find yourself coming back to the place where all the other monks are staying and it starts raining. Both your pieces of clothing, upper and lower, are wet. At least you still have one cloth to cover yourself – this third is for an emergency. Two are for your essential needs but you should not have more than three.