The Pali term "ticīvara" means "three robes", that is to say the robe of the bottom (antaravāsaka), the upper robe (uttarāsaṅga) and the double robe (saṅghāṭi).
"ti" = "three pieces"; "cīvara" = "robe (utilised by a bhikkhu)"
The bhikkhu who confines himself to utilise only three robes is called a "tecīvarika". When this practice is appropriately carried out, with steadiness and diligence, with the determination of not to break it, we say that there is "tecīvarikaṅga " (spirit underlying a use limited to three robes).
The bhikkhu who adopts the dhutaṅga tecīvarika must, apart from his three robes, renounce to any other piece of cloth whose surface corresponds to the one of a cloth requiring a determination (thus a minimum of a cubit and a span in length by a span and six phalanxes in breadth).
In order to adopt this dhutaṅga, it is convenient to utter the following phrase whether in Pali, or else in the language of one's choice...
«catuttha cīvaraṃ paṭikkhipāmi, tecīvarikaṅgaṃ samādhiyāmi.»
«I renounce to a fourth robe, I will train into utilising only three robes.»
According to restrictions, there do exist three kinds of practitioners of the tecīvarika dhutaṅga:
When the bhikkhu who is a noble practitioner of the tecīvarika dhutaṅga washes his robes, he is dressed with his bottom robe (around the waist) while he washes his upper robe, and he is dressed with his upper robe (folded in two and around his waist) while he washes his bottom robe. After (or before) only, it is convenient that he washes his double robe. It is good not to wear the double robe around the waist.
The bhikkhu who practises the tecīvarika dhutaṅga should be cautious in following the above indicated procedure, if he lives in a monastery close by (or within) a village. Only the bhikkhu who is practising the tecīvarika dhutaṅga who lives in a bush monastery (on a spot remote from inhabited areas) can, if there is no one except himself, simultaneously wash or dye his robes. However, in this situation, in case such a bhikkhu may be seen by someone, it is convenient that he retains, close by himself, one of his three robes in order to easily hide his own body.
Such is the practice of the noble practitioner of the tecīvarika dhutaṅga.
The bhikkhu who is an intermediate practitioner of the tecīvarika dhutaṅga can have an extra robe, which he utilises only for and at time of washing or dyeing his robes. The rest of the time, this extra robe should be set apart.
When he washes or dyes one of his three robes, the bhikkhu, who is an ordinary practitioner of the tecīvarika dhutaṅga, can wear the following cloths: the robe of a bhikkhu who agrees to lend it to him, the cloth that he is utilising as a cover, the cloth utilised as the cover of another, a breadth of fabric measuring a span in breadth by three cubits in length. In no wise should the bhikkhu practising the dhutaṅga tecīvarika wear some extra cloth apart from the washing and dyeing of his own robes. He cannot transport other cloths along with him either (while travelling, etc.)
By practising the tecīvarika dhutaṅga, one can benefit with the following merits...
Note: Only the practice of a dhutaṅga enables to truly understand its merits.
As soon as a bhikkhu practising the dhutaṅga tecīvarika utilises a fourth robe (apart from the laundering of one of his three robes), he breaks his dhutaṅga.
A bhikkhu who doesn't practise the dhutaṅga tecīvarika is authorised to set apart cloths for a period not exceeding ten days. He is liable to finish off his stritching work, the teinture and the determination of a robe during the ten days alloted to him. If, after having completed his robe, he sets apart some cloths beyond this period, he commits a nissaggiya pācittiya. He must then abandon them among a bhikkhu well versed into the vinaya, and should not keep these cloths any longer.
A bhikkhu who practises the dhutaṅga tecīvarika is authorised to exceed this ten days period. In this case, he doesn't commit the nissaggiya 1. As soon as the stritching and the dyeing of his robe are completed, he is not supposed to keep some extra cloths. If in these conditions, he keeps some extra cloths beyond ten days, or if he adopts this dhutaṅga for the sole purpose of keeping non-stritched cloths for a period exceeding ten days, he is called a «dhutaṅga cora», that is to say a "robber of dhutaṅga".
Origin: Book in Burmese language
Author: Monk Devinda
Translator: Monk Dhamma Sāmi
Date of translation: 2004, January
Update: 2005, June the 18th