Are monks grateful for the alms they receive?

Discussion of ordination, the Vinaya and monastic life. How and where to ordain? Bhikkhuni ordination etc.
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binocular
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Are monks grateful for the alms they receive?

Post by binocular » Thu Aug 08, 2019 2:03 pm

Hello.


Are monks grateful for the alms they receive?

Do they express gratitude for the alms in any way?


If they are grateful and express gratitude, what is the doctrinal foundation for that?

If they are not grateful and don't express gratitude, what is the doctrinal foundation for that?



Thank you for your replies and discussion.
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Sam Vara
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Re: Are monks grateful for the alms they receive?

Post by Sam Vara » Thu Aug 08, 2019 3:19 pm

binocular wrote:
Thu Aug 08, 2019 2:03 pm
Hello.


Are monks grateful for the alms they receive?

Do they express gratitude for the alms in any way?


If they are grateful and express gratitude, what is the doctrinal foundation for that?

If they are not grateful and don't express gratitude, what is the doctrinal foundation for that?



Thank you for your replies and discussion.
I think monks in the Thai Forest Tradition may well feel gratitude, but usually do not directly express it as such. They often chant or recite the anumodana after meal-offerings, which is an expression of rejoicing in the merit generated by the donors, rather than a direct form of saying "Thank you".
This is one of those words which it is very difficult to translate into English. It means literally "rejoicing with or after" but implies "asking beings to rejoice in the good kamma which one has made and so benefit themselves." It is often translated "blessing" but this gives the wrong picture, as one is inviting other beings to rejoice at what one has done; one is not invoking some blessing of another power upon them.
The person who is inviting others to rejoice does not actually "share his merits," although this expression is often seen. How can merits (a poor translation of puñña which means all kinds of actions which cleanse and purify the mind of the doer) be shared indeed? As puñña is good kamma, one should remember "I am the owner of my kamma, heir to my kamma..." so how can it be "shared" with others? Good kamma or puñña is not like a cake which can be cut up into pieces and handed round! What one does is not "sharing" but dedicating one's puñña to other beings (either to particular beings who are suffering, such as parents, relatives, friends, etc.; or generally to all beings (see below), "infinite, immeasurable"). And these beings to whom one dedicates kamma may be either living this life or else reborn in other states. In dedicating it to them one asks them to rejoice ("By rejoicing in this cause, this gift of puñña given by me...") and when they do so they also make good kamma which is the direct cause of their happiness ("a happy life and free from hate...and their good wishes all succeed"). The "Path Secure" mentioned in the verses below is the attainment of Stream-entry when a person has seen Nibbana for the first time, known the Truth of Dhamma for himself and is no longer liable to fall into low, subhuman births.

These verses are part of a longer Pali composition by King Mahamongkut (Rama IV) of Siam, possibly written while he was still a prince and bhikkhu holding the position of Abbot of Wat Bovoranives in Bangkok.

May the puñña made by me,
now or at some other time,
be shared among all beings here --
infinite, immeasurable,
By rejoicing in this cause,
this gift of puñña given by me,
may beings all forever live
a happy life and free from hate,
and may they find the Path Secure
and their good wishes all succeed!
Having finished this recitation one should stay quiet with a heart full of loving-kindness for all beings just for a short while. Then to conclude the service one again makes the prostration with five limbs three times.
https://www.nku.edu/~kenneyr/Buddhism/l ... odana.html

Monks have explained the lack of formal expressions of gratitude by saying that it is intended to prevent solicitation of particular offerings; giving a hint by means of the fulsomeness of gratitude as to what they would prefer to be given, and by whom.

Monks have thanked me in a more "Western" conventional manner when I have offered them food on alms-rounds, or lifts, or gone shopping and done other tasks for them. But it has always been "low key". There often seem to be lay supporters who are keen to develop "special relationships" with monks, and the lack of effusive thanks seems to head this off.

binocular
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Re: Are monks grateful for the alms they receive?

Post by binocular » Thu Aug 08, 2019 4:10 pm

Inasmuch do monks feel entitled to the things they get?
Inasmuch do monks feel they are owed the things they get?
(Which would be a reason not to express gratitude for those things.)

Is there some doctrinal foundation for such entitlement?


(For comparison: In some Christian churches, the people are supposed to give the church at least one tenth of their income, the church considers itself entitled to that portion, and there's a doctrinal foundation for that.)
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Sam Vara
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Re: Are monks grateful for the alms they receive?

Post by Sam Vara » Thu Aug 08, 2019 4:20 pm

binocular wrote:
Thu Aug 08, 2019 4:10 pm
Inasmuch do monks feel entitled to the things they get?
Inasmuch do monks feel they are owed the things they get?
(Which would be a reason not to express gratitude for those things.)
It would be one reason, but it's not one that I have ever heard expressed. A more plausible reason is in my post above.

Edit: Perhaps one of the Venerable monks who sometimes post here could help with this one. Or maybe James, of course. Ven. Jayasara has recently posted on his blog about tudong in the USA, and there didn't seem to be much of a sense of entitlement or being owed...

santa100
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Re: Are monks grateful for the alms they receive?

Post by santa100 » Fri Aug 09, 2019 2:14 am

binocular wrote:Inasmuch do monks feel entitled to the things they get?
Inasmuch do monks feel they are owed the things they get?
(Which would be a reason not to express gratitude for those things.)
A wise monk would never feel entitled to the things he gets. Why? because as long as he has not joined the rank of those noble disciples, he's still a debtor to all the requisites he's been receiving. Ven. Bodhi's note citing the Comy's in "Connected Discourses":
"Spk: There are four modes of monks using their requisites:
(i) by theft (theyyaparibhoga): the use made by a morally depraved monk;
(ii) as a debtor (iṇaparibhoga): the unreflective use made by a virtuous monk;
(iii) as an heir (dāyajjaparibhoga): the use made by the seven sekha(trainees);
(iv) as an owner (sāmiparibhoga): the use made by an arahant.
Thus only an arahant uses the requisites as an owner, without debt."

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Are monks grateful for the alms they receive?

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri Aug 09, 2019 4:56 am

Yes, of course, monks are (or at least should be) grateful for alms that they receive. Perhaps the question should be "Should monks express their gratitude for alms received."

I have not looked this up, so it is paraphrased as I remember it:

At one one time the followers of other sects used to bless donors by saying: "Long life to you," but the bhikkhus received alms in silence. People spread it around that the monks were ungracious. The Buddha said, "I allow you monks to say, 'Long life to you,' when receiving alms." The monks, being scrupulous, said, "But long life is not guaranteed just by saying so." The Buddha said, "I allow you, monks, to follow the conventional mode of speech."

For the same reasons, it is fine for monks to say "Thank you," in the West. Asian Buddhists might find it inappropriate as they do not expect thanks for making donations.

There are three grades of donation:
  1. Inferior giving: donating for the sake of praise, good reputation, or to receive something in return
  2. Medium giving: donating to make merit, firmly believing in the law of kamma, and hoping for good future results
  3. Superior giving: donating to enable the mind, to reduce craving, and aspiring to attain nibbāna.
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