Almsgiving – giver and receiver are one in this Buddhist ancient tradition

The sun is rising over Samkar lake.

The temperature is a bit chilly on the top of the hill, where the monastery sits and some fog covers the mountains.

It is possible to hear children playing, talking, and studying… They are out and about and have been awake since 4:30. Their day begins when is still dark, with prays and meditation. By the time they come out from the pagoda, the sun is giving its first signals.

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Little ones in saffron robes begin to gather in the middle of the courtyard. They are getting ready for the daily round around Phayartaung village. They are following the ancient Buddhist tradition of almsgiving: the act of giving with no expectations. Give and let it go.

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Novices and monks form two lines; they are barefoot.

Two novices go first. With a bell, they announce that the procession is coming. The village is still quiet, but not long after the sound of the bell spread through the air, the doors begin to open. Men, women and children come outside with their daily offer of fresh cooked rice. They wait for the procession also barefoot. Respect on both sides. The one who gives and the one who receives are the same. One cannot exist without the other.alms9 copyThe line of novices approach, all carry alms bowls that will be filled with the offers. They walk through the village accepting what is freely given to them, not requested. Each one receives some fresh cooked rice from the same person, this way the same bowl will have offerings from several people. All donations are equal, from poor or rich. Later, this rice will be the lunch in the monastery.

alms8This tradition is seen as an opportunity for the laypeople to make merit, meaning that it is a step on their path towards the nirvana; it is believed that those who give to the monks or monasteries will have great merit. Giving alms is also a way to learn to give and let go, one of the many teachings of the Lord Buddha. Almsgiving helps maintain the connection between the community and monks. As the monks depend on the generosity of the people, they won’t become secluded and will exercise humility; on the other hand, the laypeople rely on their spiritual advice and the offerings remind them, that even being poor they still a wealth to share. Offering to monks is something of a great meaning to Buddhists. And this becomes perfectly clear when you see the happiness on the faces of the ones offering in this beautiful ceremony.

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Here is a video showing a little bit of one day on the almsgiving round in Phayartaung village.

 

“The practice of giving is universally recognized as one of the most basic human virtues, a quality that testifies to the depth of one’s humanity and one’s capacity for self-transcendence. In the teaching of the Buddha, too, the practice of giving claims a place of special eminence, one which singles it out as being in a sense the foundation and seed of spiritual development.”

Bhikkhu Bodhi, Theravadin monk and scholar. 

References:

Buddhism’s Perfection of Giving

Through the Looking Glass

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