Monastic Alms Round in the West

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Dorje Shedrub
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Monastic Alms Round in the West

Post by Dorje Shedrub » Sun Jul 08, 2018 4:25 am

I was curious about the monastic alms round (pindacāra) so I checked youtube. I wondered if food was dumped all together into the alms bowl like a stew or kept seperate.

I also wondered if in our modern day there were any concerns about food being sanitary or even poisoned.

Is the alms round practical in countries where Buddhism is not prevelant?

Please share your thoughts and experiences. I hope our resident monastics will also share their thoughts and experiences.

Here are some videos I found.

Metta,
DS





"Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world:
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,"

~ From the Karaniya Metta Sutta (Sn 1.8)

SarathW
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Re: Monastic Alms Round in the West

Post by SarathW » Sun Jul 08, 2018 6:02 am

Jason Chang the Australian wondering monk.
It appears he did not have any problems.
We should remember a lot of Asians and Indians are now live in the west.

viewtopic.php?f=21&t=22188&start=15
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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JamesTheGiant
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Re: Monastic Alms Round in the West

Post by JamesTheGiant » Sun Jul 08, 2018 6:11 am

Here's my experience:

Two of us monks set out from the Sydney Buddhist Library near Newtown, at about 10am. We dressed in full robes, rinsed our bowls, and set out to walk to the shopping area of Newtown. It was only 10am but already the sun was blazing down and the pavement was hot. No shoes, so we had to walk carefully to avoid all the broken glass on the footpaths and roads. There is a lot of broken glass! I got cut a few times by invisible splinters of glass. We stopped and I dug the tiny shards of glass out of my bloody foot, then continued on.

As we neared the main street of Newtown a noisy car drove past, slowed down, and someone shouted out the window "GET A JOB YOU f*** LAZY Cv^TS" and drove off. We looked at each other, shrugged, and smiled.

We got to the main street of Newtown and walked eyes downcast, along in the direction of some Thai and Sri Lankan restaurants we knew about. We came to a Thai restaurant and stopped outside the door, faced to the side, and waited. We only waited about 30 seconds until the manager came rushing out, his hands together in anjali, and smiling smiling.
"Wonderful bhantes, may we offer you dana please? It is wonderful to see you! Thankyou for coming. We don't get the opportunity to give to monks much around here!"
He asked us what we wanted, and I said Anything, and the other monk said Vegetarian please, and the manager rushed inside to make us some food. We waited perhaps ten minutes, and then the waitress came out and asked us inside. The Thai staff had lined up near the counter, and the customers eating lunch in the restaurant looked on with interest. The staff all placed a food item each in our bowls, a box of rice, a box of curry, a drink, and even dessert. It was all in plastic boxes, like takeaway food. Then we monks stood together and gave the anumodana blessing for a minute. Then they bowed on the floor in front of us, and eyes downcast we left the restaurant and walked on.

A few hundred meters later a drunk shouted "Gidday Mate! What the f*** you doing?!" He wasn't aggressive, just loud and drunk. We stopped and explained that we were Buddhist monks and we weren't allowed money and had to walk on alms-round for food every day. He thought that was pretty cool... "Oh YEAH, f*** COOL mate, good on ya."

We walked on. We had enough food for the day from that one Thai restaurant and were walking back towards the place we were staying, when we passed another Thai restaurant without stopping. Someone inside must have seen us, and they ran out and chased us down the road to make us stop and come back. We have been taught to always accept an offering, even if we do not need it... because an offering is actually to make merit for the person offering it, and it is not significant that the monks already have enough food. So we accepted, and the scene from the first restaurant repeated, and we gave a blessing and walked on, our bowls stuffed with far more food than we could eat.

Finally we got back to the residence and sat down in silence, in the cool and shade. We washed hands and feet, arranged our bowls and water, and did the blessing chants. Then eating! Lots of noodles, stir-fried vegetables, green curry, and sticky rice coconut for dessert.

Afterwards we took the spare unopened food upstairs and offered them to the staff of the Buddhist Library, who were happy to accept a free lunch from a monk. So no food was wasted.

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Sam Vara
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Re: Monastic Alms Round in the West

Post by Sam Vara » Sun Jul 08, 2018 6:26 am

From what I have heard from and known of monks in the West, it very much depends on context: where the alms round is done, and what the surrounding culture thinks of it. Monks from my local monastery are a regular feature in local towns, and they get plenty to eat. Lay supporters such as myself wait for them, and locals are quite friendly. They often ask what the monks are doing, and then buy them food. The monks are usually accompanied by anagarikas who whisk away food that can't be eaten that morning (They have been given frozen chickens and dried lentils in their bowls!)

That's where people are used to the alms-round. I knew a monk in a different area (a small village near Cambridge, UK) who tried to do the alms-round but was far less successful. He was in a different lineage and not only stood with his bowl concealed from view, but when asked whether he wanted anything he replied that he was fasting unless someone offered something. This was more frequently misunderstood as a plea to be left alone. He walked across several English counties like this, on a sort of tudong, and sometimes existed for days on boiled sweets.

I have also heard Western monks say that in their home countries, they wouldn't even attempt the alms round, as people might even be aggressive towards them.

In the UK, the general public are usually very tolerant and caring, and monks often talk of encounters on the alms-round as being uplifting and affirming.

SarathW
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Re: Monastic Alms Round in the West

Post by SarathW » Sun Jul 08, 2018 6:40 am

we had to walk carefully to avoid all the broken glass on the footpaths and roads.
Unfortunately, this is a big problem even in a country like Sri Lanka.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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JamesTheGiant
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Re: Monastic Alms Round in the West

Post by JamesTheGiant » Sun Jul 08, 2018 6:42 am

Sam Vara wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 6:26 am

usually very tolerant and caring, and monks often talk of encounters on the alms-round as being uplifting and affirming.
Yes, right on. It shocked me deeply actually, and made me feel so humble, that these kind people were giving me free food so I could meditate and study well. It really made me realize that I should not waste their offering, and that I must be the best monk I could be.

SarathW
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Re: Monastic Alms Round in the West

Post by SarathW » Sun Jul 08, 2018 6:49 am

Unfortunately, the going alms round is disappearing in Sri Lanka.
The only reason I can think of was the thirty-year war and the daytime curfew.
When we were young the temple used to send us a reminder to bring the Dana to the temple.
I just wondered whether monks got lazy going on alms round.
The people in Sri Lanka so much degenerated that they used to think it is a bad sign (Nimitta) or unauspicious to see a monk in the morning.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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JamesTheGiant
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Re: Monastic Alms Round in the West

Post by JamesTheGiant » Sun Jul 08, 2018 7:10 am

SarathW wrote:
Sun Jul 08, 2018 6:49 am
The people in Sri Lanka so much degenerated that they used to think it is a bad sign (Nimitta) or unauspicious to see a monk in the morning.
Wow that's terrible! I'm amazed, that is really very bad.

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pilgrim
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Re: Monastic Alms Round in the West

Post by pilgrim » Sun Jul 08, 2018 7:31 am

Bhikkhu Subhuti, an American monk has lived without money for 17 years and for the last 6 months have lived off alms in Hawaii. He writes regularly on his experiences on his blog. Here, he talks about his initial experiences in Hawaii and his pindacara experiences.

"This past Tuesday, someone came up to me and asked me, “How is it for you being a monk going through a neighborhood that does not know the monks?” I told him that I practice loving-kindness to protect my mind from getting upset about not getting food and told him about the 4 phrases above. Lastly, I said it also protects me (in general) and I get to wish loving-kindness on the (inhabitants) of the houses as well. "
https://subhuti.withmetta.net/2018/05/1 ... te-part-2/

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Crazy cloud
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Re: Monastic Alms Round in the West

Post by Crazy cloud » Sun Jul 08, 2018 7:51 am

It takes it's time to make the locals become inspired. one can't beg and nag, or charm people to give their time or resources before they really understands the power of dana. One aspect i have experienced different individuals find intriguing and "pure" is that the Samana doesn't beg for someone to keep him alive, but just opens up for anybody's abilities for activ generosity, so they can train their hearts every day.
If you didn't care
What happened to me
And I didn't care for you

We would zig-zag our way
Through the boredom and pain
Occasionally glancing up through the rain

Wondering which of the
Buggers to blame
And watching for pigs on the wing
- Roger Waters

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Monastic Alms Round in the West

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun Jul 08, 2018 10:45 am

I have gone for alms in London for many years, but it is quite unlike traditional alms-round in Asia. When staying at the Burmese Vihāra in Wembley, the Indian Vihāra in Southall, and the Sri Lankan Vihāra in Ilford, I went for alms to various local houses, ate my meal in the house, and then returned to the Vihāra.

My practice is similar nowadays, but I have a free travel pass for the elderly, so I can travel further afield in spite of not being able to walk as far as when I was younger. I can take a train or bus for several miles and then walk to the house where I receive my meal. I eat most of the food there, and bring back some fruit, etc., to eat before midday. Today I went to Forest Gate, which is about 4 miles each way. That would be impossible for me if I had to walk all of the way.

It is very unusual for someone to approach me in the street to offer alms, but it does happen occasionally. I would starve if I had to depend on what I could get on a traditional alms-round.
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dharmacorps
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Re: Monastic Alms Round in the West

Post by dharmacorps » Sun Jul 08, 2018 6:27 pm

The Monks from Abhayagiri and the Pacific Hermitage both successfully go on almsround in adjacent small towns and have much success. I think the idea required some introduction and explanation by lay followers but once people understood, they became a welcome fixture of the towns. There is one monk from Abhayagiri, I can't remember his name unfortunately, who has done much travel abroad, and has gone on almsround in many countries (totally unfamiliar with Buddhism/monasticism) without pre-planning anything, and just standing in silence and responding to questions in a certain manner when people ask him what he is doing. He almost never went without food-- there were kind people everywhere.

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Dorje Shedrub
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Re: Monastic Alms Round in the West

Post by Dorje Shedrub » Mon Jul 09, 2018 1:10 am

I noticed in the videos that all of the monks were barefoot. Is this standard for all or particular to a specific tradition?

DS
"Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world:
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,"

~ From the Karaniya Metta Sutta (Sn 1.8)

SarathW
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Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 2:49 am

Re: Monastic Alms Round in the West

Post by SarathW » Mon Jul 09, 2018 2:36 am

there were kind people everywhere.
Agree.
There are many beggars than monks and they also get their food from other people.
I am very fussy with who make the food.
I don't know whether I can ever become a monk.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

dharmacorps
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Re: Monastic Alms Round in the West

Post by dharmacorps » Mon Jul 09, 2018 6:30 pm

SarathW wrote:
Mon Jul 09, 2018 2:36 am
I am very fussy with who make the food.
I don't know whether I can ever become a monk.
I think you would have to focus on the kindness of the gesture, and the generosity involved rather than the food itself.

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