There is one thing that you will not see in Thailand, and that is a Thai monk with long hair. Or will you? There is one exception, and that is a statue of Luang Pu Sorn Paphassaro (หลวงปู่สอน ปภสฺสโร) in Sakon Nakhon — a Northeastern Thai province in the region known as Isaan. Thai monks shave their heads (and sometimes their eyebrows), following the tradition set out in Buddhist scriptures. The shaving of the head is said to symbolize a renunciation of the ego, and dedication to a life of utter simplicity. The only Buddhist country where one might see a few long-haired monks is Tibet, where non-monastic monks (or tantrists) place great importance on keeping their hair long.
Luang Pu Sorn Paphassaro, who was born in the Phanna Nikhom district of Sakon Nakhon in 1874, was ordained as a Buddhist monk in 1891, and like all novice monks did have a shaved head at the time. The elder monks gave him the nickname Paphassaro, which means the prosperous one, indicating that they knew there was something special about this young Isaan monk.
Over the years, Luang Pu Sorn went on many pilgrimages into the forest, talked with revered Isaan monks at other temples, studied diligently the Dharma, and spent long hours meditating day and night. He was noted for his strict, ascetic life. At some point, he decided that he wouldn’t cut his hair (i.e. shave his head), and when asked about it by the abbot, he said cryptically that to shave his head was like asking him to “shave 9 years per day”. One might interpret this reply as meaning that Luang Pu Sorn felt that shaving his head was an unnecessary hassle, that it was simpler to just let his hair grow long, which would be in keeping with his understanding of the Dharma. It’s also worth noting that the Buddha is often depicted not with a shaved head, but with long, curly hair pulled up atop his head in a knot.
Luang Pu Sorn Paphassaro spent most of his monastic life at Wat Si Thammarat, which is located next to the Oun Canal Waterway (ลำน้ำอูน) in Sakon Nakhon. He passed away in 1964 at the age of 90, even though he had never seen a doctor or ever visited a hospital. There is a small pavilion with a large bronze statue of Luang Pu Sorn at Wat Si Thammarat, as well as a gold statue of him in the woods of the nearby temple Wat Si Bun Rueang. If we discover any further statues, we will update this page about Thailand’s only long haired monk.