Duties and Responsibilities for Monks
-Chanting and Meditation
-Caring for Teachers
-Management, Maintenance and Exercise
-Dhamma and Monastic Studies
-Caring for Temple Property and Responsibility
-Behaviour worthy of Respect
1. Alms (fathering (Pindapata)
Pindapata is a Pali word literally meaning the receiving of rice in an alms bowl. Monks are forbidden to cook or prepare their own meals. Monks must wait for food to be offered to them, if none is offered, then they must fast.
Lord Buddha stated that monks must seek alms so that they will have enough time to meditate and study the teachings. This was to ensure that they were not tired from the preparing of food. If monks spent their time wonying about making food everyday, it would be more difficult for them to focus their mind on meditation. Lord Buddha taught that seeking alms was an integral part of being a monk.
Bhikkhu means someone who depends on alms gathering.
What then is the difference between a monk, and a regular beggar on the street? Monks also depend on alms gathering, and although this same word is used for beggars, the act in itself, is entirely different. Begging on the street is an act of desperation and humiliation. A monk on the other hand, goes about begging (seeking alms) with humility and in a serene manner. A monk, does not ‘ask’ in the manner of a regular beggar, but presents himself in modest fashion to receive offerings. Even the manner, in which monks eat their food is more composed and dignified.
Seeking Alms can take many forms:
1. Monks may travel around his community (door to door) and seek alms
2. Relatives or friends may visit the temple to offer alms to monks
3. Monks may be invited to the home of relatives or friends to be offered alms
It is understood among many men that when another person gives you something, you should return in kindness. However, when a monk is offered alms, does he have anything to offer in return?
Lord Buddha stated that once monks receive alms from people, they must focus on meditation in order to offer something back to alms givers. If monks do not take care, and conduct themselves diligently in their meditation, then it amounts to ungratefulness for the alms they have received. If monks conduct themselves in an appropriate manner, then they can then use what they learn through meditation to teach almsgivers the Dhamma so that they may better their lives. In order to do this, monks must work hard
and study the Dhamma to the best of their ability. By passing on the knowledge monks learn from the teachings of Lord Buddha, monks are in return offering a gift that is more valuable than anything that they receive through alms.
Since we all live together in a shared society, we must learn to “give and take” from one another, not only to simply take all the time. For example, having just received alms from all of you here today; the present author is now returning thanks and expressing my gratitude to you by offering my knowledge and teachings in this book for your benefit. It is the present author’s hope that the teachings and words that I offer you today will go far in helping to improve and better your life, so that you may become a better person. Such is the purpose of my sermon and lecture today, to thank you for your support. The Buddha established this tradition of offering alms, and receiving of sermons in return, not only as an indirect way of ensuring that the community learned the Dhamma, but also as a method of making sure monks diligently studied the Dhamma in order to have something to offer the community in return for their alms giving.
One particular experience that I would like to share with you left a lasting impression on me. I was ordained on Decem- berl9 in the year 2514 BE.. On New Year’s Day 2515 BE. I went to seek alms for the very first time. I have never before begged for food in my entire life, so this first time was very embarrassing for me. However, when I was seeking alms with many other fellow monks, I felt less uncomfortable about it.
That day, I did not look at the face of the first person that offered me alms because one of the tenets of monkhood is that you must not look at the face of the person offering alms. All I saw was the food offered. Based on the food offered to me, I thought that the person must have been from the middle class. The second person that offered food was probably from a wealthier background since the quality of the food was higher. At the time, I did not think of anything else. When I approached the third person, she was a young girl of four or five years of age who only wore pants and no blouse. She was standing there offering alms despite having an unkempt appearance. The reason I know this is because the little girl was short and so I managed to see her even though I was looking down. The little girl gave a little rice, and followed that with a plastic bag with more food and dessert wrapped in banana leaves. By observing her offering and her clothing and appearance, I could discern that she was from a poor family. This act of kindness from a girl who most likely did not have much money or means at all moved me. This act of selflessness left an impression on me.
Before I was ordained, I rarely noticed how poor people lived their lives as I almost never looked at them. After this experience of alms giving, I thought that this simple girl possessed a bigger heart than mine before I was ordained. Instead of running and playing in the early morning hours like other children, this young girl chose to stand and give alms. If I had been in her situation, I most likely would not have stood there giving alms, but would instead have eaten the food myself. Thinking about it now, brings me chills. I felt that the alms I ate that day was almost like taking away from the child that food that she deserved to eat herself. If I eat this food and use the energy to go about and talk needlessly, or lie about in a lazy manner, then I failed to respect this girl’s act of generosity.Having thought more about that, and I returned to my simple monks’ quarters (kuti), I felt I had no time to rest. I immediately started meditating with diligence. After I finished meditating, I studied even more. Even if I did not eventually go back and teach this girl what I learned, I can still pass on my knowledge to all of you. If I failed to do this, I would forever be indebted to this girl, and her act of selflessness.
When we give to beggars, beggars usually express their gratitude by offering a very deep and almost exaggerated gesture of thanks, or a wai. However, when lay people offer alms to monks, not only do monks refrain from a wai, but lay people are expected to Wai in return. Why is this so? It took many years for people to understand why this is. Recently, a newspaper in Japan commented that in Thailand we have a strange tradition - offering alms to monks so that they may live comfortably, but instead of the monks expressing thanks through a Wai, lay people must give the monks a wail Thailand was surely an unusual country indeed. Despite the fact that many in Japan are Buddhists, they felt that our tradition was odd. Outwardly, many people may agree that this is a strange tradition, however, it is a tradition founded on deep historical principles that at first glance may not appear obvious. The act of giving alms is not merely, as it outwardly seems an act of generosity by lay people.
It is also a privilege for lay people to offer alms to monks, because monks will then have the energy and strength to focus on meditation and the teaching of the Dhamma to the community. This way, the lay people will be able to better their lives. The teaching of the Dhamma is more valuable than anything lay people can offer to the monks. That is why lay people Wai monks as an ex
The seeking of Alms is the way in which all monks acquire all of the things that they require to live. This is not just restricted to food, but also applies to clothing, medicine, and shelter. All of these are acquired through the seeking of alms.
Lord Buddha set a good example for seeking alms. The Buddha would set out and seek alms, but would then follow the offering with a sermon. The Buddha felt that the act of seeking alms was a way in which he could meet people and spread the word of the Dhamma. The Buddha would often be invited to people’s home for the offering of alms, and the Buddha would always use this opportunity to conduct a sermon.