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Jun 02
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The Buddhist Gentleman: How to Buy Nice Clothes

By: Lodro Rinzler

In his regular column for the Huffington Post, 28 year-old Shambhala teacher Lodro Rinzler tackles thorny issues facing meditators in the modern world. With wit and aplomb, he addresses real-life questions — sent to him by readers — and contemplates “What Would Sid Do?” Sid is his fictionalized everyman on the Buddhist path, nicknamed after Buddhism’s iron-age founder, Siddhartha Gautama. Lodro’s book, The Buddha Walks into a Bar: A Guide to Life for a New Generation, will be released in January 2012 by Shambhala Publications.

Though I have no lover
I too rejoice
The change of clothes
– Uejima Onitsura

All too often I will pick up a gentleman’s magazine and spot a $4000 suit that would look fantastic on me. Billboards, commercials, and magazines throughout the Western world teach us that if you want to look good you need to have these few thousand dollars you can pour into your wardrobe. As a meditation practitioner I have come to realize that is simply not the case.

I have had the good fortune to spend time with some of the greatest Tibetan teachers of our generation. While they wear very simple robes they always appear radiant. This radiance that shines forth is known as ziji in the Tibetan tradition. Ziji can be translated as “brilliant confidence” or “radiating splendor.”

The uplifted and dignified appearance of these teachers comes from confidence in their own innate goodness. Through connecting with their own heart they are able to share this goodness with others, which is magnetizing. In Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior, the meditation master Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche wrote,

You may not have money to buy expensive clothes but…you can still express dignity and goodness. You may be wearing jeans and a T-shirt, but you can be a dignified person wearing a T-shirt and cut-off jeans. The problem arises when you don’t have respect for yourself and therefore for your clothes.

As Trungpa Rinpoche is saying, we don’t have to blow $4000 on a suit or gown to look good; we do so by expressing dignity and goodness. Similarly, if we are always angry and out of touch with reality it doesn’t matter how fine our clothes are, we will look like a jerk.

The first step in expressing our dignity is going deep with meditation practice. The Tibetan word for meditation is gom, which can also be translated as “becoming familiar.” Through your practice you truly see your mind for what it is and become familiar with the vast landscape of emotions, fantasies, and discursiveness that runs through your head all day. By staying present with the breath, we are anchoring ourselves in the reality of our situation, as it is.

A funny thing happens when you develop a daily meditation practice. At first it feels like you are trapped under a waterfall of your own thoughts. You previously had never really sat down and paid attention to the present experience of being Right Now but now that you have it is almost scary to see how fast your mind can move!

Over time though, you develop a sense of humor about this torrential downpour of mind activity. You begin to fall in love with the practice, which is the same thing as saying you are falling in love with yourself. As Trungpa Rinpoche mentioned, you learn to have respect for yourself. Through meditation practice we touch our heart, the source of our innate goodness. As we continue to explore and unearth that we become dignified, even if we are wearing a T-shirt and jeans.

At the same time, we should respect our clothes. I’m a firm believer that a nice suit never hurt anybody. Many young Buddhist practitioners I know abhor the suit. It’s too tight around the neck. It’s hot. It costs hundreds if not thousands of dollars. I, for one, relish it.

While dignity is something that we can access through our practice our clothes can serve as meditative aides. When I go on retreat I always bring nice clothes. Even though no one will ever see me I feel a sense of happiness from putting them on in the morning. When I see myself in the mirror I am perked up by the cleanliness and vibrancy of the colors. I look uplifted on a superficial level and that inspires me to connect with my innate dignity.

While there may not presently be many “Mindful Shopping” retreats it does not mean that we can keep our mindfulness on the cushion as a solely spiritual experience and leave our spending habits in the secular realm. We call meditation practice just that because we are training in the ability to apply the care and precision developed on the cushion to the vast majority of the day we spend off the cushion.

So what would Mindful Shopping look like? It would begin at home, where you can survey your closet like a tiger does its landscape; finding out what it is you truly need to buy so you don’t heedlessly purchase the first flashy thing you see. As you leave your home you can bring a sense of discernment to your shopping experience, picking beautiful items that are affordable. You slow down and appreciate the experience, considering the material and the craft of each garment with precision. When we finally make a purchase we have brought mindfulness into the activity. When we take this level of care we end up feeling good about the items we buy.

The Buddhist belief system states that we are all basically good, that we possess buddha nature. The more we meditate and tap into our heart and unearth that innate way of being the more radiant we become. We are innately dignified. A good outfit can only aide us in expressing our dignity.

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5 responses to “ The Buddhist Gentleman: How to Buy Nice Clothes ”
  1. SusanPorterBisbee
    Jun 9, 2011

    As always, a great post, thanks for the insightful writing. I for one am a long time thrift store shopper. Having had a taste for nice clothing but neither the purse nor the space for a vast wardrobe, I shop for a few nice things at the off season (winter clothes in spring etc) I just never realized that I was doing mindful shopping!! Thanks for making me feel OK with this secret pleasure in trying to look nice and not tattered, even for just myself.

  2. I too enjoy the ‘closet hunt’ Lodro! The choice of vibrant colors, silky or rough textures gives me a sense ‘self art’ and lifts ‘windhorse’ for me. I also like the uplift it can give to others that enjoying seeing what I have put together. I use to see it as superficial and shallow, but as I have become a meditator, I feel the connection to my happiness. I don’t spend a lot of time or money, in fact, I am a Goodwill shopper and am careful about purchasing too much from companies that are known to use poor labor practices.
    I appreciate your articles Lodro….kepp them coming! Monica

  3. I would like to mention, in order to serve our planet, it is a very good idea to buy clothes second hand.
    Cotton for our beautiful clothing is grown with pesticides and later dyed, which effects workers. A lot of clothes are sewn under slave labor in places like China etc.
    I am sure you can research this topic and find a lot of disturbing information.

    Personally I try not to buy too much new clothing. I go to second hand stores or consignment stores.
    At least I contribute to a recycling system of our clothes and it is a lot of fun!
    I have found great clothes over the years. I take my time and choose wisely for quality and style.
    It’s definitely worth it, when you walk out the store with your much cheaper lore in your hands!

    There is also a market for clothing made out of organically grown cotton. If you can afford it that is great too.
    Although that kind of clothing has often a certain style, which might be not yours.

    In any case, please read labels, where it’s made and inform yourself what the condition around this piece of clothing is.
    Let us be mindful and wear uplifted clothing with intelligence!

    Thank you!

  4. Thanks, Lodro! I enjoyed it very much.

  5. This book is great: 10 Steps to Fashion Freedom, Malcolm Levene & Kate Mayfield


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