Sunday, July 29, 2012
Food and Forest Buddhism Part 1, 29.07.12
The Buddha laid down the rule that monks and nuns may not cook or store their own food. The intention was for monastics to be free from the worldly burden of cooking and to make them dependent on the generosity of lay followers. This was both to simplify the lives of monastics and to enrich the spiritual lives of lay people. Thus, the tradition of the alms round was started: instead of cooking, monastics would wander the village to collect their daily meal. In the Pali language this is called pindapata (bidabhat in Thailand)
To offer food to a monastic on alms round, approach him or her and present the food. The monastic will open his or her bowl. Simply put the food inside. Typically monastics walk alms round in silence with a downward gaze, but alms is not a ceremonial occasion. There’s no need to be intimidated. Feel free to talk or ask questions. Alms can be a time for discussing meditation or Dhamma as well if the monastic has time. The Buddha intended alms round as an opportunity for generosity and spiritual contact for lay supporters.
It is ideal to offer food that can be eaten without being cooked.
Monastics on alms round will eat the contents of their bowl as their main meal of the day.(There are variations to this which I will attempt to clarify) Theravada monastics are alms mendicants and therefore accept whatever is given. There are only a few very obscure items that cannot be accepted. If you are in doubt, just ask. Please be aware that monastics do not use and cannot accept money.
I would think that anyone who has spent anytime in Thailand, is awake between 0530 and 0700, depending on the time of sunrise has witness something somewhat resembling the above in the cities and villages on the Kingdom.
Pindabata in Thailand has become a ritual, where generally all that is given is sticky rice or some other item that would not support life for any period of time. On moon days (Buddha or Monk days) in Thailand people outdo themselves in putting flowers and other non-edibles into bowls.
So how do Forest Monks get fed, in Northeast Thailand. We will discuss and show you in forthcoming posts.