What a joyful day for the MV Dhamma Fellowship when it organised the 5th Pindapata Day on August 9th 2017 that coincided with the 52nd Singapore National Day celebration. There were five monks participated in the alms-round comprised of three host monks, namely Bhante U Cittara, Bhante Cakkapala and Bhante Seelananda and the two guest monks were Venerable Dr Shi Zhen Jue from Hui Yin Lodge and Bhante Gnanarathana from Kong Meng San Temple, currently residing at Sri Lankaramaya Buddhist temple during the semester holiday.
What is pindapata?
Alms-food is elucidated as “any sort of food or nutriment is called “alms food” or pindapata – literally means “lump dropping,” because of its having been dropped (patitatta) into a bhikkhu’s bowl during his alms round (pindloya). Or alms food (pindapata) is the dropping (pata) of the lumps (pinda); it is the concurrence (sannipata), the collection, of alms (bhikkha) obtained here and there, is what is meant.” (Vism. II, 89).
It is further elaborated as “The dropping (pata) of the lumps (pinda) of material substance (amisa) called alms (bhikkha) is “alms-food” (pindapata); the falling (nipatana) into the bowl of lumps (pinda) given by others, is what it is meant. He gleans that alms food (that of lumps he seeks it by approaching such and such a family, thus he is called an “alms-food [eat]er” (pindapata). Or his vow is to gather (patitum) the lump (pinda), thus he a “lump- gather” (pindapatin). To “gather” is to wander for. A “lump-gather” (pindapatin) is the same as an “alms-food-eater” (pindapatika). Thus the practice of the alms-food-eater is the ”alms-food-eater’s practice.” (Vism. II, 5 iii).
“What are the benefits of a monk’s observance of his regular alms-round? One thinks of benefitting all beings equally and destroys the faults of enjoyment. One is not pleased when invited, is not pleased with many words, and does not call on householders. One does not walk hurriedly. Rare as the moon at full, one appears and is appreciated and honoured. One gets a following of good men. This observance is doubt-free.” (Vimuttimagga).
At 8:30 am the day kick started with devotees, participants and well-wishers brought “cooked food and fruits with seeds removed” (D.I, 6) to the kitchen. It has been a tradition for monks to consume one meal day before midday and no food at night so as to give them more time to practise. Buddhist monks are “not allowed to store up food and drinks” (D.I,5) and “refrained from causing injury to seeds or plants and eat one meal a day, not eating at night, refraining from food after hours (after midday)” (D.I,6; M.I,180).
For safety of the monks Lord Buddha forbade the consumption of food and monks going for alms ground outside the proper time: “It has happened that bhikkhus wandering for alms in the thickness of darkness of the night have walked into a cesspool, fallen into a sewer, walked into thorn bush, and walked into sleeping cow; they met hoodlums who had already committed a crime and those planning one, and they have been sexually enticed by women. Once, venerable sir, I went wandering for alms in thick darkness of the night. A woman washing a pot saw me by the flash of lightning and screamed out in terror: ‘Mercy me, a devil has come for me!’ I told her: ‘Sister, I am no devil, I am a bhikkhu waiting for alms.’ – ‘Then it’s a bhikkhu whose ma’s died and whose pa’s died!’ ‘Better, bhikkhu that you get your belly cut open with a sharp butcher’s knife than this prowling for alms for your belly’s sake in the thick darkness of the night.” (M.I, 448-449).
The Vimuttimagga further elaborates: “What are the benefits of the observance of ‘no food after time’? One abandons greed, and experience the joy of self-restraint. One protects the body, and avoids taking food in advance, does not hanker, does not ask others for things, does not follow his inclination. This is an observance of good men. The observance is doubt-free.”
Although Lord Buddha did not forbid the preference of eating meat (M.I, 369) but to uphold the temple’s rule prescribed by the late Venerable M.M. Mahaweera Maha Nayaka Thera, only vegetarian food and fruits are allowed.
Give or donate according to your means
In almsgiving it is the thought that matters and according to one’s ability and the suitability of the gifts to the receivers not the quantity.
“Does almsgiving become especially productive of great fruit only when it is liberality of such magnificent sort as this, or is it rather when it is a liberality in accordance with one’s means?”
The Blessed One said, “Not merely by efficiency of the gift does giving become especially productive of great fruit, but rather through efficiency of the thought and efficiency of the field of those to whom the alms are given. Therefore even so little as a handful of rice-bean or a piece of rag or a spread of grass or leaves or a gall-nuts in decomposing (cattle-)urine bestowed with devout heart upon a person who is worthy of receiving a gift of devotion will be the great fruit, of great splendour and of great pervasiveness.” (Vv. I,1).
The benefits of alms-giving
General Siha asked the Lord: ”Is it possible to see the results of generosity?” And the Lord said: “Yes it is possible to see the result of generosity. The giver, the generous one, is liked and dear to many. … Good and wise people follow the generous person. … The generous person earns a good reputation. … This is the result of generosity. Once again, in whatever company he enters, be it nobles, brahims, householders or monks, the generous enters with confidence and without trouble. And finally, the giver, the generous person, is reborn in heaven after death. This a result of generosity that can be seen hereafter.” (A.III,39).
“In giving food, one gives five things. What five? One gives life, beauty, happiness, strength and intelligence. And in giving these things, one partakes in the qualities of life, beauty, happiness, strength and intelligence, both here and thereafter.” (A.III,42).
“When they give out of faith with a heart of confidence, food accrues to (the giver) himself both in this world and the next.” (SN 1:43).
Pot luck menu
It was a pot luck menu with volunteers from the kitchen laid out the food for the Sangha’s table and the congregation’s tables with a potpourri of delicacies like pastries, salads, deserts, assorted fruits, tit-bites, beverages and the sumptuous Burmese and Chinese cuisines.
The alms-round started at 10:15 am with about 200 participants lined up in rows facing each other and when the monks walked through gently dropped a lump of rice into each alms bowl and requisites to the accompanying kappiyas.
Once the alms-givers had made their offer were requested to assemble at the main shrine hall for the morning puja. The whole process was completed within half an hour.
Thus with pindapata, the Buddhist monks and the laypeople have mutual benefits; the monks rely on the laypeople for food and in return they teach the true Dhamma to the laypeople. “From householders the homeless receive these basic necessities of life, robes to wear and a place to dwell dispelling the hardships of the seasons. Householders and homeless alike, each support for the other, both accomplish the true Dhamma – the unsurpassed security from bondage.” (It 8-13).
The puja was a full-house session with the four monks presided by Venerable U Cittara conducted the sermon.
Offerings of candles, joss-sticks, flowers and a platter consisted of cut fruits, water, food and betel leaves and nut to the Buddha, were carried by volunteers proceeded to the line of devotees each one touched the items as a token of offering as they passed by.
The puja ended with blessing by the symbolic sprinkled of holy water on the head of the devotees.
Immediately after the puja session the monks proceeded to the Mangla Hall for sanghika lunch. Devotees crowded round the table and touch it with the rest behind tapped on the shoulders of each other while the monks offered blessings followed by transferred of merits to the departed ones to rejoice with them.
Thereafter the monks consumed the food before midday and the devotees feasted on the food laid on the other tables as “both devas and human beings always take delight in food. So what sort of spirit could it be that does not take delight in food?” (SN 1:43), we were mindful to “consume food neither for amusement nor for intoxication nor for the sake of physical beauty and attractiveness, but only for the support and maintenance of the body, for avoiding harm, and for assisting the spiritual life.” (AN 4:159).
Happy ending but the need to know
The occasion ended well with all the food consumed and the place tidied up and everyone left with a joyous heart looking forward to the next pindapata day, however bearing in mind annica, the true nature of impermanence when “whatever exists here on earth and in space, comprised by form, included in the world – everything impermanent decays. The saga fare having pierced the truth.” (AN.1, 712), we will take it in good strife as we move along while looking forward to the next pindapata gathering.
Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!
Contributor: Chin Kee Thou
Date: August 12th 2017
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