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Do Buddhist monks beg?

jlljll Veteran
edited June 2011 in Buddhism Basics
DOES A BHIKKHU BEG?
The Buddha made it clear that bhikkhus should avoid begging if possible. (In times of great need a bhikkhu is allowed to ask for his basic requisites, for example, if his robes are stolen he may ask any lay person for one replacement robe.) He gave this story about 'begging':

A bhikkhu came to the Lord Buddha and complained about a great flock of noisy birds that came to roost at night in the forest surrounding his abode. The Buddha suggested that if he wanted them to go away he should go, many times throughout the night, and beg a feather from each bird. The birds, thinking, 'that monk wants a feather, and another, and another...,' left the forest and never returned. The Buddha then explained that begging and hinting were unpleasant even to common animals, how much more so to human beings.

A bhikkhu who is constantly begging for things displays his greedy state of mind. No one likes to see this, and lay supporters may start by criticizing him and then turn to blaming his Community or even the Buddha's Teaching. The Buddha, therefore, set down many rules to guide the bhikkhus about what is proper conduct.

Comments

  • mugzymugzy Veteran
    And then?
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    So were was buddha's community self sufficient like the Shakers in america?
  • The Buddha's community had wealthy sponsors. However, if the monks didn't go on begging rounds, why did the Buddha tell them it's ok to eat meat when offered? Was that a passage added later to the sutras?
  • From what I've read in the suttas, the monks did go on begging rounds. In the Bahiya Sutta, the Buddha himself was begging in the local village when approached by Bahiya:

    "Then Bahiya, hurriedly leaving Jeta's Grove and entering Savatthi, saw the Blessed One going for alms in Savatthi — calm, calming, his senses at peace, his mind at peace, tranquil and poised in the ultimate sense, accomplished, trained, guarded, his senses restrained, a Great One (naga). Seeing him, he approached the Blessed One and, on reaching him, threw himself down, with his head at the Blessed One's feet, and said, "Teach me the Dhamma, O Blessed One! Teach me the Dhamma, O One-Well-Gone, that will be for my long-term welfare and bliss."

    When this was said, the Blessed One said to him: "This is not the time, Bahiya. We have entered the town for alms." (Trans. Thanissaro Bhikku)

    Alan
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    Buddhist monks don't beg in the conventional sense of the word.... they rely on the goodness and kindness of locals to help them sustain an existence. In return, I have heard, they teach and guide locals in meditation, and act as spiritual mentors....?
    But I'm not sure about that being the habit or standard, everywhere.
  • Hi,

    The Buddha and the monastics don't beg. The monks are not allowed to ask or signal for something. They simply walk mindfully and stop at the houses along the way silently to allow people the opportunity to practice generosity. King Pasenadi invited the Buddha to his palace for alms daily but the Buddha wanted to give other people an opportunity to meet and learn the dhamma from him as well, so he sent Ananda to the palace instead.

    The monks are learning to curb their desire and be content with the basic necessity . Asking for things defeat the purpose , it can also annoy people.

    With Metta,
  • CinorjerCinorjer Veteran
    edited June 2011
    Hi,

    The Buddha and the monastics don't beg. The monks are not allowed to ask or signal for something. They simply walk mindfully and stop at the houses along the way silently to allow people the opportunity to practice generosity. King Pasenadi invited the Buddha to his palace for alms daily but the Buddha wanted to give other people an opportunity to meet and learn the dhamma from him as well, so he sent Ananda to the palace instead.

    The monks are learning to curb their desire and be content with the basic necessity . Asking for things defeat the purpose , it can also annoy people.

    With Metta,
    Heh. I have a dog who does this sort of "not begging". He sits silently where he knows I can see him and stares at every bit of food I put in my mouth. It's very effective. He gets an occasional bite tossed his way. If I asked him, he'd just say he is providing an opportunity for me to practice generosity, not begging.

    A monk begging for food and alms to support his temple has a long and honorable tradition. That's why one of the most important symbols of the monk is the "begging bowl". Of course there are rules. A monk is not allowed to panhandle, or encourage people to give or complain about what is being given. But it's still begging for a living, since he might as well stand on a streetcorner with a sign that says "Will reach enlightenment for food and alms"

    But begging for sustenance had its critics, then and now, especially as temples became established. It was all right for a small group of monks living in the forest to show up in town once a day, because they really were hungry. But some temples became fairly rich off those alms and government contacts, and the poor shopkeeper or household wondered why they had to give food that they needed for their own families and future. And there were always people who complained that these begging monks should get off their butts and work for a living, same as people sneer at beggers holding up cardboard signs today.

    So when monks showed up in East Asia, where begging was simply confined to the crippled, there was no tradition of the holy man living on donations, and governments even outlawed begging completely in many cases. Monks began growing their own food and becoming more self-supporting.

    So is begging for support good or bad? My opinion is, both and depending. Giving and receiving of gifts in the proper spirit of generosity and thankfulness is an important part of a Buddhist practice. But, formalizing this into a rule where monks receive and lay people give can lead to resentment--especially if, as in the case of some monks, they believe they deserve the handout. A monk will walk around with a full begging bowl and ignore the hungry family digging through trashcans. That's their karma, you see. Not his job to help them. He's there to fill his own bowl.

  • Hi Cinorjer,


    But begging for sustenance had its critics, then and now, especially as temples became established.
    DHAMMA:

    Perhaps some prefer the monks to take the other alternative where they charge for their services rather offer them food. For example, meditation class, dharma talk, and retreats, etc.. By keeping dhamma services such as meditation class, dharma class, and meditation retreats, free of charge, the dhamma can be more accessible to everyone .

    Charging for services means that they will have to break the Buddha's training rule where they can't possess money.

    The Buddha once said:
    ” There are , bhikkhus, four obstructions of the sun and moon, by which when the sun and moon are effected, they give no heat and they give no light, and they are no longer glorious. And what are the four? They are clouds and fog and dusty smoke and Rahu, by which when the sun and the moon are affected they give neither heat nor light nor sheen. Just so, O Bhikkhus, there are four stains by which when samanas and brahmanas are affected they give neither heat nor light nor sheen. And what are the four?
    There are some samanas and brahmanas who drink strong drink, and things intoxicating, abstain not therefrom. This is the first of such stains.
    There are some samanas and brahmanas who practice sexual intercourse, abstain not therefrom. This is the second of such stains.
    And further , bhikkhus, there are some samanas and brahmanas who accept silver and gold ( today it is money) , abstaining not from the use thereof. This is the third of such stains.
    And lastly, bhikkhus, there are some samanas and brahmanas who gain their livelihood by low arts, abtaining not form such means of life. This is the fourth of such stains. ”

    On another occasion to Manikulaka:
    “For him whomsoever, Manikulaka, gold and silver are allowed, to him also the five kinds of sensual pleasure are allowed. And to whomsover these five kinds of pleasure are allowed, him you may know of a certainty to be following neither the rule of the Samanas, nor the rule of the sons of Sakya. …I have never said in any way whatever that gold or silver may be sought after or accepted.”

    The monastic life was set up to help people in weakening desires and dukkha.  Without spending money , it would be difficult to turn to  things of the 5 senses as a source of satisfaction. Not feeding desire we  enable it to weakens.  Also , with the practice of meditation one develops inner happiness ( such as piti and sukha  )  from within that is not dependent on the things of the 5 sense world ( kama-loka, sense realm) .  This makes it possible for a person to let go of sense desires.  The practice of not handling money in a transaction, and meditation practice work together to bring about the cessation of desires for worldly things. A person can become very content with  just food, shelter, and robe without the need for much unnecessary objects. A bhikkhu who makes use of these two practices properly can abides in contentment , not inflicted or agitated by desires,  unburdened with worldly things.

    Not applying these two practices properly , desires will remain and yet pleasant abiding here and now can be difficult to experience.

    This is among the " four stains by which when monastics are affected they give neither heat nor light nor sheen."  In other words , they decrease the effectiveness of the monastic practice . I believe the proper application of the Buddha's important training rule should be carried out by the bhikkhus.

    ----------------------------------------
    DANA:

    When it comes to giving dana to people on the spiritual path, we shouldn't be too calculating. Such as , thinking that 'If I give something I have to get something back that is worth the exact amount that I give out.' Or that 'It should be an even exchange like a business transaction. . The bhikkhus should charge for the dhamma and we should charge for food. Forget about the concept of mutual sharing'. The Buddha and his disciples offer people food for the mind & heart, people offer food for the body. It is a mutual sharing relationship that is not solely for business.

    ” O monks, if people knew , as I know, the result of giving and sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would they allow the stain of niggardliness to obsess them and take root in their minds. Even if it were their last morsel, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared it, if there were someone to share it with. But , monks, as people do not know , as I know, the result of giving and sharing, they eat without having given, and the stain of niggardliness obsesses them and takes root in their minds.” -It 26
    Also:
    ” Suppavasa, a noble disciple, by giving food, gives four things to those who receive it. What four? She gives long life, beauty, happiness, and strength. By giving long life, she herself will be endowed with long life, human or divine. By giving beauty, she herself will be endowed with beauty, human or divine. By giving happiness, she herself will be endowed with happiness, human or divine. By giving strength, she herself will be endowed with strength, human or divine. A noble female disciple, by giving food, gives those four things to those who receive it.” – AN 4:57

    With metta,


  • A monk will walk around with a full begging bowl and ignore the hungry family digging through trashcans. That's their karma, you see. Not his job to help them. He's there to fill his own bowl.
    So much for compassion.:eek2:


  • edited June 2011
    The monks give food for the mind and heart, while people give food for the stomach. Giving food to the hungry is something that laypeople possessing money can do if we are compassionate. But with our attitude, it looks like neither hungry family will get any food nor the monks teaching dhamma without charging will get any either. Talk about compassion.
  • So simple to dismiss others' suffering as "their karma", they deserve their lot due to past life actions. Convenient cop-out.
  • edited June 2011
    Hi compassionate warrior,

    I don't think anyone is saying that the hungry should be left to die because it is just their karma. Giving and sharing food with others that are hungry is encouraged regardless of what their kamma is. It is we who have who money don't want to give and share food with the hungry. First we don't want to feed the monks for teaching the dhamma and don't want to bother feeding the poor but want the monks to be responsible for feeding the hungry also.

    ” O monks, if people knew , as I know, the result of giving and sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would they allow the stain of niggardliness to obsess them and take root in their minds. Even if it were their last morsel, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared it, if there were someone to share it with. But , monks, as people do not know , as I know, the result of giving and sharing, they eat without having given, and the stain of niggardliness obsesses them and takes root in their minds.” -It 26
    Also:
    ” Suppavasa, a noble disciple, by giving food, gives four things to those who receive it. What four? She gives long life, beauty, happiness, and strength. By giving long life, she herself will be endowed with long life, human or divine. By giving beauty, she herself will be endowed with beauty, human or divine. By giving happiness, she herself will be endowed with happiness, human or divine. By giving strength, she herself will be endowed with strength, human or divine. A noble female disciple, by giving food, gives those four things to those who receive it.” – AN 4:57
  • Hi Dharma. I agree how to survive while being faithful to tradition is a problem as Buddhist temples and organization tries to adjust to modern societies. Dana is an important part of learning to let go of attachments. It's also true that the rules for living laid down by the Buddha to his disciples work best for small groups of dedicated monks living the life of homeless mendicant with a large support group of lay people. Once you throw a temple and associated costs of basically running a boarding school for monks into the equation? Buddhism lost touch in some cases with the people it was supposed to be helping.

    Temples require a steady expense to maintain, requiring a steady income. To say all that money is fine to add fancy Buddha statues to the temple but the monks must continue begging for food from the local town? It begins to look wrong. People don't realize the first Buddhist monks were mobile. They were lucky to have a bowl. They traveled constantly to both spread the message and spread the cost of supporting them. If one town was going through a famine, the monks could easily walk to somewhere they were not a burden.

    The rules as put down by the oldest traditions, supposedly from Buddha, were for this type of living. The first temples were financed by royal and upper class patrons. In the Eastern countries today, the temples aren't really financed by the alms and food given to the monks as they walk the streets. They require large sums of money, from patrons and tourists and such.

  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    I think that to answer the question of whether or not monks "beg" is dependent on one's definition of begging. Having lived in Thailand and watching monks do their rounds (not that I often was up that early), I can see why some would define that as begging, although personally I don't. I find it to be "accepting" donations. Comparably, at Christian churches, at least a portion of the minister's pay is from contributions to the collection plate (and other venues)...people donate what they wish...same as people in Thailand donate food...yet we wouldn't say the Christian ministers are "begging". But, monks do rely on the local citizenry for most of their daily needs, from food to robes to (often) contributions for medical care.



  • edited June 2011
    Hi vinlyn,
    I find it to be "accepting" donations.
    I would also consider it to be accepting donations as a support for their dhamma teachings, meditation class, retreats, etc.. People can offer dana as a way to offer their support for the monks work in teaching the dhamma and making it available to the general public.

    Comparably, at Christian churches, at least a portion of the minister's pay is from contributions to the collection plate (and other venues)...people donate what they wish...same as people in Thailand donate food...yet we wouldn't say the Christian ministers are "begging". But, monks do rely on the local citizenry for most of their daily needs, from food to robes to (often) contributions for medical care.
    The difference is the monks aren't allow to possess money . So they have a tradition of going on alms round to accept their one meal a day, and to come into contact with the general public. Christian churches do not go on alms round but accept dana in the form of money only, so it doesn't appear like they are begging. I say it is a mutual sharing relationship rather than begging and give nothing in return or a business transaction where both sides are calculating how much they are getting in return for what they give out. I think it is beautiful tradition that is not seen a lot in regular setting.

    .
  • edited June 2011
    Hi compassionate warrior,

    I don't think anyone is saying that the hungry should be left to die because it is just their karma. Giving and sharing food with others that are hungry is encouraged regardless of what their kamma is. It is we who have who money don't want to give and share food with the hungry. First we don't want to feed the monks for teaching the dhamma and don't want to bother feeding the poor but want the monks to be responsible for feeding the hungry also.
    This wasn't at all my point, and you're making many erroneous assumptions. Who said we don't want to feed monks? Or the hungry? My point was simply: how could a monk with a full begging bowl (I was responding to Cinorjer's comment) fail to feel compassion for a family digging through the trash for food, and be moved to share some of what he has? For that matter, he could give away the entire contents of his bowl, and simply continue on his rounds. I really find it difficult to get my mind (and heart) around this scenario Cinorjer has brought up.

    But I agree wholeheartedly that the dharma should be accessible to as many as possible and not dependent on stiff fees to finance classes, as so often is the case in the West. I think the custom of supporting monks with food or sponsors is a good one. There was an article recently that a monastery in England experimented with the custom of monks' begging rounds in their community, and it was a success.



  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran

    Comparably, at Christian churches, at least a portion of the minister's pay is from contributions to the collection plate (and other venues)...people donate what they wish...same as people in Thailand donate food...yet we wouldn't say the Christian ministers are "begging". But, monks do rely on the local citizenry for most of their daily needs, from food to robes to (often) contributions for medical care.
    The difference is the monks aren't allow to possess money . So they have a tradition of going on alms round to accept their one meal a day, and to come into contact with the general public. Christian churches do not go on alms round but accept dana in the form of money only, so it doesn't appear like they are begging. I say it is a mutual sharing relationship rather than begging and give nothing in return or a business transaction where both sides are calculating how much they are getting in return for what they give out. I think it is beautiful tradition that is not seen a lot in regular setting.

    .
    Well, from my observations in Thailand, I would question how much they "some into contact with the general public." For the most part it is totally silent...no communication between the Thai monks and the lay people in that setting. In fact, while a few more senior monks may have contact with the lay population at the temple, many monks have little or no contact.

  • edited June 2011
    Hi Cinorjer & vinlyn,

    Temples require a steady expense to maintain, requiring a steady income. To say all that money is fine to add fancy Buddha statues to the temple but the monks must continue begging for food from the local town? It begins to look wrong.
    Back in the days kings and lay devotees would offer land and built monasteries for the monastics. Once that is in place there is only the need for daily food. For that they goes on alms. When there is an invitation from the day before, they would simply go to the house of the person who invite them. The robes are offered after the Rains Retreat. So the three basic requisites are taken care of . It is very simple.

    Nowadays, maybe there is a need for household items to use at the monasteries and utility bills with the invention of running water and electricity. There might be insurance, medical expenses.
    Hi Dharma. I agree how to survive while being faithful to tradition is a problem as Buddhist temples and organization tries to adjust to modern societies. Dana is an important part of learning to let go of attachments.
    It's also true that the rules for living laid down by the Buddha to his disciples work best for small groups of dedicated monks living the life of homeless mendicant with a large support group of lay people. Once you throw a temple and associated costs of basically running a boarding school for monks into the equation? Buddhism lost touch in some cases with the people it was supposed to be helping.

    In monasteries in the West nowadays, people only go as far as the kitchen of the monastery to get alms as a way of keeping with tradition ( sort of).

    I have to say sometimes the monastics lost touch with the people it was supposed to be helping because the monks remain in the monastery and people go to work early in the morning. They hardly come into contact with the public to share the dhamma. Personally, I don't mind seeing monks walking around. Even if they don't walk for the purpose of food, it can still serves to keep them from being cut off from the general public. It is an opportunity for the lay and monastics to come into contact. Many people don't have time to visit the monasteries sometimes.
    Well, from my observations in Thailand, I would question how much they "some into contact with the general public." For the most part it is totally silent...no communication between the Thai monks and the lay people in that setting. In fact, while a few more senior monks may have contact with the lay population at the temple, many monks have little or no contact.
    I guess it is part of their training, where it is suppose to be like a walking meditation where they are not allowing themselves to be carried away by many things and interactions. The abbots are the ones more suitable to give a dharma talk because he had enough time to practice due to being ordained for a long time. The other ones might still need more time to practice and are in the process or practicing so being quiet can allow them to go within themselves and settle the mind in mediation.

    However, the ones that have gone forth for along period of time should be able to teach the dhamma, whether it be through writing, through giving dhamma talks, counsel, conduct guided meditation or retreats. If they are not doing this enough then they are not doing their job of teaching the dhamma to the general population. This should be brought up if it is the case.








  • edited June 2011

    But I agree wholeheartedly that the dharma should be accessible to as many as possible and not dependent on stiff fees to finance classes, as so often is the case in the West. I think the custom of supporting monks with food or sponsors is a good one. There was an article recently that a monastery in England experimented with the custom of monks' begging rounds in their community, and it was a success.
    Really, that's a nice change.

    I heard bhikkhus bodhi and two other monks recently went on alms round for several hours under the sun without any success. I saw in a video that back the days when Ajahn Chah and his disciples first came, people don't know what the monks are doing walking around so there no food from the alms round. Afterward, a certain group provide them with food at the monastery instead . So that is often the case in many western monasteries where the anagarikas and stewards provide the meal with the donations that the monastery receive. I guess many people in certain locations are familiar with giving donations to priests and contemplatives in the form of money but they are not familiar with the custom of offering it in the form of food because it's not something that is present in the custom of the location.

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited June 2011
    Dharma,

    I see your point about making the dharma more accessible by not charging for services. However couldn't a non-monk handle the financial aspects? And therefore the monk would not have to break the rule stated in the canon?

    Next isn't there supposed to be a meaning or intent behind the rule? For example is there a substantial difference between giving someone a meal or giving them pocket change to purchase a meal from street vendors? Either way they get a meal.

    It seems the sutta is suggesting that if a monk got money he/she would buy sex or alcohol. This is ludicrous as if the monk is going to do such things he will break all the rules anyhow. Its like making it illegal to shoot heroin without an official government needle. If someone is already breaking the rules then it doesn't matter if you make an additional rule.

    Finally, I can see that it would be a prudent practice to avoid money to prevent the arising of desire. However eventually you have to confront things. If you make an insular environment segregated from anything tempted you can NOT overcome desire. You have to be in the environment of the tempations and learn to not react or be swept away. If you take this stance then you would have to be saying that it was also difficult as a layperson to reach enlightenment.
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    One other thought. Is handling money a more severe impediment than eating food? Perhaps money is more liable to craving, I don't know? Food is a necessity I do see. However it seems to me that these are not rules set in stone. Following the rules would not guarantee or prohibit enlightenment in any case. Its more important the sincerity of a monks practice and the following the 8 fold path. As opposed to a rigorous rules technology to heard or corral the monk like a cattle.
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran


    ...This wasn't at all my point, and you're making many erroneous assumptions. Who said we don't want to feed monks? Or the hungry? My point was simply: how could a monk with a full begging bowl (I was responding to Cinorjer's comment) fail to feel compassion for a family digging through the trash for food, and be moved to share some of what he has? For that matter, he could give away the entire contents of his bowl, and simply continue on his rounds. I really find it difficult to get my mind (and heart) around this scenario Cinorjer has brought up.

    But I agree wholeheartedly that the dharma should be accessible to as many as possible and not dependent on stiff fees to finance classes, as so often is the case in the West. I think the custom of supporting monks with food or sponsors is a good one. There was an article recently that a monastery in England experimented with the custom of monks' begging rounds in their community, and it was a success.

    Well, when I think of the monks in Thailand whom I have seen doing their alms rounds, and walking right past people begging, I have never seen...and doubt if you would be very likely to see...a monk giving food to them.

    In Thailand there is far more of a culture of you (a regular person) does for monks, they don't do for you.

    For example, I have seen old decrepit people get up on a bus to give a young, robust monk a seat. At the temple the monks always sit in a higher position on a raised platform or in a raised chair. And, most of what I have seen are people coming to monks for the teachings and counseling, but usually not the monks going out to the homes of the people (there are some formal ceremonies that may be done in the lay person's home).

    Aside from the royal family, monks are at the highest strata of respect in Thailand. And believe me, in Thailand...it's a very stratified society.

  • edited June 2011
    Thanks, Vinlyn, this helps put it in perspective. But that doesn't mean I agree that monks should hold themselves so high-and-mighty. Isn't the religion/practice supposed to be about humility and compassion? And shouldn't the monks be examples of this? But I do get that it's a cultural thing, now that you bring it up, and I think it's Asia-wide.
  • Hi Jeffrey,
    However it seems to me that these are not rules set in stone. ….. As opposed to a rigorous rules technology to heard or corral the monk like a cattle.
    Another reason for maintaining this rule in the sangha is to keep the quality of the sangha from degenerating. If a person is not sincerely practicing meditation, this rule makes it difficult for him or her to remain in the monastic life. Imagine not having access to money to get things that would satisfy desires of the 5-senses and not practicing to develop the meditation which rise to inner joy from within, it is very difficult to remain . Of course, those that diligently practice meditation to cultivate inner joy and contentment will not have a problem staying in the robes. They would be very content and peaceful.

    If the monks can accept money , others can disguise as monks to accept money when they are not actually practicing or teaching the dhamma. This is neither good for the sangha nor for the laity.

    If the monks are allowed to accept money and save up or keep it, people that are not really interested in the dhamma can ordain to save up money. Since these people do not really practice they are likely to use that money to satisfy 5- sense desires. This can contribute to decreasing the quality of the monastic sangha.


    I see your point about making the dharma more accessible by not charging for services. However couldn't a non-monk handle the financial aspects? And therefore the monk would not have to break the rule stated in the canon?

    You mean still charge people for the dhamma but have a lay person handle the money so the monks don't have to spend or use money ? But that is still charging people when it was intended to be freely shared. Some with a limited means to pay would have to choose between getting their other needs met or to go on a meditation retreat in the weekend or attend a dhamma talk to cultivate inner peace. Poor people might be at a disadvantage when it comes to participating in dhamma activities at the temple because of the set fees. For this reason, they accept donations and not charge for their teachings or services.

    Since the monastics are not suppose to spend and use money they do have lay stewards who handle the money . In this way the monastic life makes it easier for the monks to practice according to the training rules and focus on practicing and teaching dhamma & meditation, etc...

    A page on Buddhanet mentioned: "In practical terms, monasteries are financially controlled by lay stewards, who then make open invitation for the Sangha to ask for what they need, under the direction of the Abbot. A junior monk even has to ask an appointed agent (generally a senior monk or Abbot) if he may take up the stewards' offer to pay for dental treatment or obtain medicines, for example. This means that as far as is reasonably possible, the donations that are given to the stewards to support the Sangha are not wasted on unnecessary whims.

    If a layperson wishes to give something to a particular monk, but is uncertain what he needs, he should make an invitation. Any financial donations should not be to a monk but to the stewards of the monastery, perhaps mentioning if it's for a particular item or for the needs of a certain monk. For items such as travelling expenses, money can be given to an accompanying anagarika (dressed in white) or accompanying layperson, who can then buy tickets, drinks for a journey or anything else that the monk may need at that time. It is quite a good exercise in mindfulness for a layperson to actually consider what items are necessary and offer those rather than money."
    Finally, I can see that it would be a prudent practice to avoid money to prevent the arising of desire. However eventually you have to confront things. If you make an insular environment segregated from anything tempted you can NOT overcome desire. You have to be in the environment of the tempations and learn to not react or be swept away. If you take this stance then you would have to be saying that it was also difficult as a layperson to reach enlightenment.
    Even if a person is addicted to smoking or alcohol, if he/she tries to quit from home sometimes they just give in to their desires because they can have easy access . So it can be difficult. But let's say they sign up at a facility to enter rehab. There would be certain rules and regulation that would limit their ability to consume or access alcohol during their time there. Although there are people who can manage to quit these addictions from home without any regulations from any facility, but the success rate is higher at a facility that specialize in curbing addictions that offer guidelines .

    Of course, there are always a few exceptions where a person will do it anyways regardless if there are rules or not. But not possessing money would greatly minimize their abilities to acquire things to satisfy the 5-sense objects. It forces the person to turn within to develop inner joy through meditation. Once inner joy arise, the person realizes that it is much more refine than stimulation of the 5 -senses. The dependence on external things for happiness or 5-sense stimulation naturally diminish. One is liberated from attachment to unnecessary things . Only food, robe, and shelter are necessary to be happy.
    If you take this stance then you would have to be saying that it was also difficult as a layperson to reach enlightenment.
    There are always exceptions. For example, there are some lay people that are more interested in learning the dhamma and practice meditation . And there are some monastics that are not as interested in the dhamma and therefore don't put in as much effort.

    But generally speaking, the monastic lifestyle is more conducive to developing deep meditation than lay life. In lay life a person can get pay for service so the person has to go to work. Mostly it is from sunrise to sunset. That is pretty much 8 out of 12 hours. There are about 4-6 hours left. But there are house chores such as cooking, cleaning, relaxing & watching TV, spending time with family members, etc..There is maybe 1-2 hours for practice. We can see that making and spending money can take up a lot of time and energy away from developing meditation .
    Meditation retreat routine can be very conducive to developing meditation. Maybe the person can go on a weekend retreat .

    The monastic lifestyle is set up in a way that gives people time study the dhamma in depth and spend time developing meditation. It is very much like living on a full-time retreat to practice.

    If you compare people that lives at a University dorm to study for a medical degree where food is ready at the cafeteria, no kids to take care of so they can focus on their homework after class, vs. people that study for the same degree from home with young children, a full time job, cooking, etc.. to take care of. Which group would have more chances of completing the degree , which condition is more conducive.

    But that is not to say that a person living at the dorm who doesn't do his/her homework will have a chance to complete the degree and the person who study with a full-time job and does all his/her homework can't. There are always exception among any group. But generally we can see the difference in how certain conditions contribute to better outcome .



  • Its more important the sincerity of a monks practice and the following the 8 fold path. As opposed to a rigorous rules technology to heard or corral the monk like a cattle.
    No doubt that personal motivation and genuine interest in the dhamma play a major role in a person's progress in the practice. And that simply following one training rule of not possessing money while not applying the rest of the training rules does not lead to enlightenment. It is also necessary to practice meditation. Without developing inner joy through meditation it is still not easy for 5-sense desires to fall away:

    " When he attains to the rapture and pleasure that are secluded from sensual pleasures ( of the 5 senses) and secluded from unwholesome states, or something more peaceful than that, covetousness does not invade his mind and remain."- Nalakapana Sutta

    Various aspects of the Eightfold path works together to produce the result. It is just like combining various ingredients to bake a cake. One can't bake a pie with only eggs and no flour, or other ingredients.

  • edited June 2011


    Well, when I think of the monks in Thailand whom I have seen doing their alms rounds, and walking right past people begging, I have never seen...and doubt if you would be very likely to see...a monk giving food to them.

    Hi vinlyn,

    There is a story where a beggar ask a monk for handouts, a monk has no money but a robe covering his body. He said I don't have anything to give you. The beggar said your robe looks warm. The monk gave that away and went back to the monastery naked. The abbot has to find him another robe. The next day the beggar told other beggars who also came up to the monk for the same thing. Again he gave the robe that he has, after several time the monk got in trouble because he himself depended on thers to give him a robe and yet he kept giving them away after they managed to give him one. No one can keep on trying to find him new robes while he kept on giving away things that he himself doesn't own.

    It is reasonable to expect monks to give counsel for inner peace etc.. They can teach people in society to do good deeds. But it doesn't make sense to expect monks to give material things like food and clothing when they themselves doesn't really own these things .

    If a person wants to provide others with food he or she should make money to become rich to do just that. If a person wants to provide others with dhamma he she can become a monastics develop their dhamma practice.

    Different people specialize in different area. If a person has a toothache , he or she shouldn't expect a chef to help them with the problem. If a person has car trouble he or she shouldn't go to a dentist.

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    "If the monks can accept money , others can disguise as monks to accept money when they are not actually practicing or teaching the dhamma. This is neither good for the sangha nor for the laity.

    If the monks are allowed to accept money and save up or keep it, people that are not really interested in the dhamma can ordain to save up money. Since these people do not really practice they are likely to use that money to satisfy 5- sense desires. This can contribute to decreasing the quality of the monastic sangha."

    By this argument monks should not give dharma teachings because someone could dress up as a monk and give a false dharma teaching!
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited June 2011
    "But that is still charging people when it was intended to be freely shared. Some with a limited means to pay would have to choose between getting their other needs met or to go on a meditation retreat in the weekend or attend a dhamma talk to cultivate inner peace. Poor people might be at a disadvantage when it comes to participating in dhamma activities at the temple because of the set fees. For this reason, they accept donations and not charge for their teachings or services."


    The root of the motivation is to make the dharma accessible. Not to maintain the purity of the monks. By making the dharma commercial it is more available in the long run. There are tons more books in my bookstore than I would have access to freely. I have money and can buy them. When I am done with them I will donate them to a library, give them someone, or sell them to a second hand/cheaper bookstore.

    I can also become compassionate to homeless people based on my commercially purchased books where the homeless may even be crazy and unable to receive teachings regardless of cost.

    My argument is that the free market is not 'evil' and in modern industrialized society buddha would not have taught that rule so rigidly, whereas instead he would be interested in spreading the dharma widely through modern commerce.
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    "Even if a person is addicted to smoking or alcohol, if he/she tries to quit from home sometimes they just give in to their desires because they can have easy access . So it can be difficult. But let's say they sign up at a facility to enter rehab. There would be certain rules and regulation that would limit their ability to consume or access alcohol during their time there. Although there are people who can manage to quit these addictions from home without any regulations from any facility, but the success rate is higher at a facility that specialize in curbing addictions that offer guidelines ."

    I can see how this is applicapable to drug addicted, alcoholic, and sex aholic monks. These monks constitute a minority. There is no inherent barrier to allieve this problem without these rules as said monks can simply do rehab before going to the monastery.

    I am a recovering alcoholic and I know what I am talking about. If you take a grasping mind that alcohol is evil it only makes you angry. I do not drink alcohol even with family and friends drinking around me and I am happy with my state of mind on its own merits.

    I find it sufficient to have the monks not drink alcohol etc on the grounds of the monastery. If they really want to be a drug addict they should quit. My teacher says to go full force into what you do and this was successful for me. I went full force into my drinking with compassion. In such a way that I wasn't beating myself with one side and resentful with the side that wanted a sense pleasure. As the result of being full force my mindfulness even in the 'impure' circumstance blossomed. I learned a great amount of compassion while drinking. Don't you think you have been very compassionate some time when you got involved in an impure person to share with them?
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    dharma,

    Thanks for sharing your views. I hope they are useful for you. Personally I am not a monk and I am happy that author's have made money selling the books that I buy. I am also happy that I receive dharma teachings from an authentic master for the same price as kung fu class.

    Thanks.
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    In buddha's time there were not printing presses iphones and so forth.
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited June 2011
    The marketplace of supply demand and incentive is a great organizer of human activity. Even if the wisest monk imaginable were to write the greatest book imaginable, probably organizing a distribution network would be distracting to monks studying the dharma. Relying on a charity to spontaneously arise probably would not in fact happen as fast relatively. The free market incentive to make a buck in this case can be harnessed. There can even be dhana in those making a buck in that they can have reverence for their product and create a good vibe in the circle of influence of their sales network.

    Buddha =/= Marx
  • Hi Jeffrey,

    By this argument monks should not give dharma teachings because someone could dress up as a monk and give a false dharma teaching!

    -Minimizing the number of people entering the monkhood for reasons other than dhamma is just one minor reason. With money the monks can still satisfy their five sense desires, they can spend time saving up money until disrobing . If people still want to possess money and practice why not get a job and practice as a lay person.

    - Not charging for dhamma makes it accessible to everyone regardless of their ability to pay ( this doesn't include selling books and direct the funds to the sangha as a whole.)

    - This training rule is part of a practice that contribute to the lessening of desires .

    These are just a few reasons for this rule.
    There are tons more books in my bookstore than I would have access to freely.
    When it comes to dhamma books though, I don't have a problem with monasteries selling it. The reason is because many people go to Borders and Barnes and Noble to read books. They only carry books that they sell with a price tag. Free books probably won't make it there. Also , hardly anyone goes to a monastery when it comes to reading books, so leaving books at the monastery to give out for free doesn't make them more accessible or easier for people to find. I am definitely not speaking about publishing books for sale at bookstores. Besides, the money made can go directly to the monastery . So it is possible for a monk to sell books to spread the dhamma without taking the money for himself.




  • mugzymugzy Veteran
    I'd just like to point out that the original post was lacking an opinion or statement regarding begging, but only asked "Does a bikkhu beg?" followed by a paragraph without a reference. So I'm still confused.
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    dharma,

    I like discussing this but we are monopolizing the thread. Send me a personal message if you want to discuss in detail. Metta :)
  • Hi mugzy,

    Sorry we are getting off topic. Regarding do monks beg, I would agree that they are accepting donation or support for teaching dhamma, conduct meditation retreats,spiritual counsel, etc..It is a mutual sharing relationship where people give food for the body and the monks give them food for the heart and mind.
  • dharma,

    I like discussing this but we are monopolizing the thread. Send me a personal message if you want to discuss in detail. Metta :)
    Hi Jeffrey,

    It's been interesting analyzing the subject from various angle. Without discussing with others, there might be some blind spots that we might not see. I think we have analyze it enough, unless someone else wants to discuss something we haven't thought of.

    With metta,
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited June 2011
    Yes I was just trying to redirect things in case you/I had something further to say. I agree that an open forum is more interesting than a personal message, but I think we were getting out of balance. :)
  • mugzymugzy Veteran
    @dharma I wasn't sure if the point of the thread was to initiate a discussion about whether going on alms rounds is begging, if it was to criticize the practice, etc, or what. It was just a statement attributed to the Buddha, one which I've never heard before, so I was unclear on the purpose of this discussion.
  • jlljll Veteran
    While no gift is higher than the gift of dhamma, your personal inclination is more important. My friend's father has been the treasurer for a Buddhist monastery famous for teaching meditation for 30 years. He is not interested in meditation. Neither is his son.
  • edited June 2011
    Hi,
    @dharma I wasn't sure if the point of the thread was to initiate a discussion about whether going on alms rounds is begging, if it was to criticize the practice, etc, or what. It was just a statement attributed to the Buddha, one which I've never heard before, so I was unclear on the purpose of this discussion.
    I am not too sure either, maybe whoever brought up the subject would know .
    While no gift is higher than the gift of dhamma, your personal inclination is more important. My friend's father has been the treasurer for a Buddhist monastery famous for teaching meditation for 30 years. He is not interested in meditation. Neither is his son.
    Maybe he is only practicing the sila aspect of the Eightfold path relating to morality and generosity. Not all lay Buddhist incorporate the other aspects of the Eightfold path relating to meditation and dharma study. I guess different people have different priority in life. I agree that not everyone has personal inclination.

  • mugzymugzy Veteran
    While no gift is higher than the gift of dhamma, your personal inclination is more important. My friend's father has been the treasurer for a Buddhist monastery famous for teaching meditation for 30 years. He is not interested in meditation. Neither is his son.
    :confused:
    How does this relate to the topic?
  • According to the Buddhist monastic code, monks and nuns are not allowed to accept money or even to engage in barter or trade with lay people. They live entirely in an economy of gifts. Lay supporters provide gifts of material requisites for the monastics, while the monastics provide their supporters with the gift of the teaching. Ideally — and to a great extent in actual practice — this is an exchange that comes from the heart, something totally voluntary.

    The primary symbol of this economy is the alms bowl. If you are a monastic, it represents your dependence on others, your need to accept generosity no matter what form it takes. You may not get what you want in the bowl, but you realize that you always get what you need, even if it's a hard-earned lesson in doing without.

    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/economy.html
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