The positive and eventful turnout on Pindapata Day debuted in 2013 spurred the working committee of MV Dhamma Fellowship to continue with this noble event for the sasana, again coincided with Singapore National Day on August 9th 2014 for the occasion.
To ride on the trailblazing success of the debut event, the working committee under the tutelage of Bhante Cakkapala, the new religious advisor, convened a meeting on July 27th, 2014. The session brainstormed and mapped out a game plan that formalized procedures and elucidated specific tasks and duties of each volunteer team leader. The game plan would ensure a successful implementation to maintain the yardstick set at the previous event, if not better.
Potpourri of food
The number of devotees, well-wishers and participants swelled by Myanmar nationals at the invitation of Bhante Cakkapala, brought an abundant of food for alms giving between 9 am to 10 am to the kitchen. “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). For fruits that were offered as alms food they were washed and cut with the seeds removed, “as the ascetic Gotama is a refrainer from damaging seeds and crops.” (DN 1 & 2). The kitchen staff and helpers arranged and laid the food spread on the monks’ table and that of the devotees, well-wishers and participants.
It was a pot luck menu with a potpourri of vegetarian cuisines and dishes and Burmese delicacies offered by the devotees, well-wishers and participants, provided a good mixture and spread of food that titillated their taste buds and palates and experienced the “variety is the spice of life” notion, whimsically. When food is needed to satisfy hunger and sustain the body, “they always take delight in food, both devas and human beings. So what sort of spirit could it be that does not take delight in food?” (SN 1:43).
Vegetarian meals in temple
The late M M Mahaweera Maha Nayaka Thero, founding monk of Mangala Vihara (Buddhist Temple), who subscribed to a vegetarian diet laid down the code only vegetarian food is permitted at the temple, although Lord Buddha did not prohibit the consumption of meat per se but allowed under the threefold rule: “I say, that meat can be partaken on three instances, when not seen, not heard and not when there is suspicion about it”, (MN 55).
Also, in the Vinaya Pitaka, Section VII Cullavagga recounts the episode of “Devadatta who decided to create a schism in the order demanded that the Buddha accede to the following rules for the monks: they should dwell all their lives in the forest, live entirely on alms obtained by begging, wear only robes made of discarded rags, dwell at the foot of a tree and abstain completely from fish and meat. The Buddha allowed the monastics to follow all of these except the last if they so wished, but refused to make them compulsory.”
Raw and uncooked food and are not allowed as a practice, also now for hygiene reason, as “He avoids accepting raw grain or raw flesh.” (DN 1 & 2).
What is timely meal time?
As monks observed a timely meal which is before noon and “practise eating only one meal a day, abstaining from eating at night and outside a proper time (means between midday and the following dawn)” (DN 1 & 2), the event commenced immediately after the 11 am puja with devotees, well-wishers and participants lined up in rows in the Mangala Hall and the adjacent drive way and car park and each given a bowl of white rice with a spoon awaited for the monks. The monks walked in single file led by the senior monk in order of ordination date; thus a monk most senior in age may not be the most senior in term of the number of vassa.
When the monks walked past, each one symbolically scooped a small portion of rice and dropped into the alms bowls. “He gives what is pure and excellent, allowable drinks and food at the proper time: he gives gifts to fertile fields of merit, to those who lead the spiritual life. He does not feel regret, having given away many material things. Those with deep insight praise the gifts given in this way. Having thus practiced charity with a mind freely generous, one intelligent and wise, rich in faith, is reborn in a pleasant, unafflicted world.” (AN 8:37).
What is pindapata?
The act of dropping the food lumps into the alms bowls of the monks is what is known as pindapata. (Vism 1.89). A monk on alms round “is content with any sort of alms food and speaks in praise of such content. For the sake of getting alms food he resorts not to what is unseemly and unbecoming. If he gets not alms food he is not dismayed threat; and if he does get it he is free from bond of selfishness, of greed, of craving for it.” (AN 4:28).
Blessings and transference of merits
After the monks had finished the alms round and collected the food proceeded to the table, devotees, well-wishers and participants then gathered round the table and served food to them as in a sangha dana and received blessings. During the chanting by the monks on this happy occasion filled with abundant of offerings of food and drinks, devotees, well-wishers and participants rejoiced in the transference of merits where they shared the merits with the departed ones or dedicated the merits to the departed ones. Sharing or dedication of merits to the departed ones does not restrict to the daily puja session by the act of pouring water from a tea pot into a glass in the process of the transference of merits.
“The method for transferring merits is quite simple. First some good deeds are performed. The doer of the good deeds has merely to wish that the merit he has gained accrues to someone in particular, or to ‘all beings’. This wish can be purely mental or it can accompanied by an expression of words. The Buddha says that the greatest gift one can confer on one’s dead ancestors is to perform ‘acts of merit’ and to transfer these merits so acquired. He also says that those who give also receive the fruits of their deeds. The Buddha encouraged those who did good deeds such as offering alms to holy men, to transfer the merits which they received to their departed ones”. (“What Buddhists Believe”, by Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda Maha Thera).
After the chanting and blessing the monks started on their food, the devotees, well-wishers and participants feasted with delight the food they collectively contributed and shared among themselves. However, they were reminded to consume food mindfully in moderation reflecting carefully as “a bhikkhu consumes 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).
Meditative actions and chores
The joyful event closed with devotees, well-wishers and participants helped to clean up the place, just as with those who had earlier set up the place, mindfully with awareness at all times of what they were doing is basically a form of meditation. Meditation does not restrict to the four postures of walking, standing, sitting and lying down, as commonly believed. Thus the Maha Satipatthana Sutta elaborates: “Whether he departs or returns, whether he looks away from, whether he has drawn in or stretched out (his limbs), whether he has donned under-robe, over-robe, or bowl, whether he is eating, drinking, chewing, reposing, or whether he is obeying the calls of nature – is aware of what he is about. In going, standing, sitting, sleeping, watching, talking, or keeping silence, he knows what he is doing” (DN 22) is meditation.
Happy ending with wisdom
When one offers alms food in such a joyful event like pindapata, is indeed doing a noble deed not only accrues merits for this life but also the next life. “One who respectfully gives timely food to those self-controlled ones who eat what others give, provides them with four things: life, beauty, happiness, and strength. The man who gives life and beauty, who gives happiness and strength, will obtain long life and fame wherever he is reborn.” (AN 4:58).
This pindapata provided an additional avenue to practise dana in our daily lives. A joyful occasion which helped us to cultivate the first of the ten paramis (perfections) and I would look forward to the next pindapata.
Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!
Contributor: Chin Kee Thou
August 9th, 2014.