Scriptural

Khaggavisana sutta Part 21

Showing no greed for flavors, not careless, going from house to house for alms, with mind unenmeshed in this family or that, wander alone like a rhinoceros.

“KHAGGAVISANA SUTTA: A RHINOCEROS” (SN 1.3), TRANSLATED FROM THE PALI BY THANISSARO BHIKKHU. ACCESS TO INSIGHT (BCBS EDITION), 30 NOVEMBER 2013, HTTP://WWW.ACCESSTOINSIGHT.ORG/TIPITAKA/KN/SNP/SNP.1.03.THAN.HTML 

In this verse, Buddha advised his monks and nuns about the correct way of obtaining alms. Traditionally, monks or nuns do not accept money or valuables and rely on alms for a living. They live as simply as possible so that they will not be distracted by material gains and possession.

Monks and nuns seek alms early in the morning. This is because that is the time when the woman folks prepare meals before going to work. Naturally, not everyone is a good cook. When seeking alms, one should not make a beeline to the house that offers the most delicious food. In short, one should not crave for taste. The Buddha also exhorted his disciples not to develop relationship and to maintain a mind that is unenmeshed with any family.

For the Buddhist layman, the opportunity to offer food or sustenance to monks / nuns is considered good karma. This is because offering alms is meritorious and to have such an opportunity, one needs to have good karma. Therefore, Buddhist welcomed monks and nuns to visit their homes for alms. There is no minimum requirements when one offers alms. In rural Thailand of time bygone, poor family would offer water. Highly respected monks recounted their experience of receiving alms in rural Thailand to educate newly ordained monks.

Since they only carry one begging bowl and there was no plastic bag back then. People would simply put their offerings into the bowl. One family may offer hot and delicious curry and another might offer a spoonful of rice. Another poor family might only afford a glass of water from their muddied well. At the end of their alms round, the begging bowl is usually filled with a gooey mess of food and fruits. They would eat the alms mindfully without attachment or resetment.

Food is looked upon as a medicine that keeps a person.

One practices gratefulness equally and wishes all family well. Most importantly, one must not discriminate against the poor family and avoid them the next day.

From the above description, we realize how the discipline and practice relating to alms would inspire faith and respect.

May all be well and happy.

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