The MV Dhamma Fellowship celebrated its fourth pindapata day on August 9th 2016 which debuted in 2013. Mangala Vihara (Buddhist Temple) has four resident monks and only three of them graced the occasion and, as it had been in 2015. The three venerables who participated in the alms round were Bhante Cittara (Chief monk), Bhante Cakkapala and Bhante Seelananda.
They were joined by five guest monks who graciously accepted the invitation, namely: Bhante Udita, Ajahn Keng, Ajahn Dum, Phra Peter and Phra CK.
Upholding household rule – Vegetarian food only
Upholding the household rule as prescribed by the founder monk, the late Venerable M.M. Mahaweera Maha Nayaka Thera, only vegetarian food and fruits are allowed, although Lord Buddha did not prohibit food preference under the three fold rule when not seen, not heard and not when there is suspicion about it. (MN 55).
It was a pot luck menu with potpourri of food brought by devotees, participant and well-wishers. “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).
Puja and proper meal time
The daily morning puja commences at 11 am started earlier at 10:45 am to accommodate the time taken for the alms round as the sangha observed a strict meal time before noon and abstaining from eating at night and outside a proper time (means between midday and the following dawn) subscribing to the Theravada tradition. (DN 1, DN 2, MN 27 & MN 151).
There was an array of food that titillated the taste buds as both devas and human beings always take delight in food. So what sort of spirit could it be that does take delight in food? (SN 1:43).
What is pindapata? Alms food is 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. (Vissudhimagga, Chapter 1, Paragraph 89).
The Buddhas’ lineage
Why do monks go on alms round? It is the lineage of all Buddhas, past, present or future as a practice to go on alms round.
When Lord Buddha after His enlightenment visited his home town of Kapilavatthu went on alms round, and when King Suddhodana learnt of it, he rushed out of the palace to see Lord Buddha and stood in front of Him and made this remarks: “Most Exalted One, why do you put us to shame by going around for alms-food? Do you think that enough food for such a large number as twenty thousand arahats cannot be provided by your royal father?” The Buddha said in reply: “Royal father, such a practice of receiving alms from door to door is the precedence set by an unbroken line of we Buddhas.” King Suddhodana replied in these words: “My son, we are descents of the Khattiya lineage, great elected rulers I unbroken succession from the beginning of the world cycle? And all along this line of great Khattiya rulers, there was never one who went around begging for alms.” The Buddha then made this reply: “O Royal father, the lineage of Khattiya rulers is your linage; my ancestors are the Buddhas, in successive order of the Buddavamsa from Dipankara, Kondanna, Mangala down to Kassapa. Beginning with Dipankara and ending with Kassapa, my preceding elder brethren Buddhas, twenty-four in number, and with all the thousands of Buddhas as many as sands of the Ganges, had always gone to each successive house to receive alms. This very practice of receiving alms from one door to the next had always been our means of livelihood.” (Mahabuddhavamsa).
Benefits of pindapata
Many Buddhist countries like Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar still maintain the tradition for monks to go for alms round. On a lesser extent in Indonesia and West Malaysia monks still go on alms round within the vicinity of their temple or monastery.
However, living in an urbanized city state of Singapore, going on alms round is frowned upon as vagrancy is legislated and not encouraged. Therefore Buddhist establishments like temples, monasteries and centres catered to the needs of the sangha and, Mangala Vihara (Buddhist Temple) – the host temple is no exception.
Thus, to keep the tradition of alms round alive the Dhamma Fellowship organized pindapata day not only for the benefits of devotees, participants and well-wishers to experience and practise dana or generosity but also for the monks to reflect and review upon themselves whether worthy of living on alms. As in local context where going on alms round is not encouraged and the opportunity is limited and, to give this fruitful and noble event a miss is lamentable.
A Buddhist monk is known in Pali language as ‘bhihkku’ – meaning ‘one who lives on alms’ and a monk living on alms should review himself whether worthy of alms food, like the Buddha teaches Sariputta: “….., all those recluses and brahmans in the distant past who completely purified themselves for alms-gathering did so after having reflected over and over again in this way. And, Sariputta, all those recluses and brahmans in the distant future who will completely purify themselves for alms- gathering will do so only after having reflected over and over again in these ways. And, Sariputta, all those recluses and brahmans who at present completely purify themselves for alms-gathering do so only after having reflected over and over again this these ways. Wherefore, Sariputta, this is how you must train yourself: ‘I will completely purify myself for alms-gathering after having reflected over and over again.’ This is how you, Sariputta, must train yourself.” (MN 151) .
Going on alms round
Immediately after the puja, each devotee or participants or well-wisher was given a bowl of white rice and lined along the designated route and waited for the monks. The monks walked in a single file according to the ordination of date with the one with most vasas leading the sangha, each with an alms bowl ready for alms food. When the monks walked past, each one symbolically scooped a small portion of rice and mindfully 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).
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).
Blessing and transference of merits
Once the monks finished the alms round and seated at the table, devotees, participants and well-wishers gathered around for chanting, blessing and transference of merits to the departed ones.
“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).
When the monks started eating, the devotees, participants and well-wishers feasted with joy the food they contributed collectively and shared among themselves, consumed with mindfulness 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).
Pindapata day offered an opportunity to put into practice what one had learnt assiduously from the classroom yet not knowing the true Dhamma.
Though he recited much the Sacred Texts, but negligent and does not practise according to the Dhamma is like a cowherd who counts the cattle of others, he has no share in the benefits.
But one though recites only a little of the Sacred Texts and practises according to the Dhamma, eradicating passion, ill will and ignorance, clearly comprehending the Dhamma, his mind is free from moral defilements and no longer clinging to this world or to the next, he shares the benefits.(KN, 2 : 19 and 20).
“This is our fourth pindapata and a happier pindapata. There is plenty of food today and the devotees also finished all the food. There is no wastage of food at all. Some devotees have also taken all leftover food home,” said Sister Lily Chan of the Events and Organising Committee.
“MV management members are also very helpful too. I’m surprise to see Dr. Lim Ah Swan helped to transfer the food from the monks’ table to the kitchen for devotees to consume! Also we have eight monks participating in today pindapata. There is no hiccup today. Thank you once again for your support and teamwork,” she added joyfully.
Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!
(Contents and photos by contributor who takes responsibility for any inadvertence, factual or otherwise).
Contributor: Chin Kee Thou
Date: August 10th 2016