by Leah Tanner
Pindapata or Alms giving is a practice in which Buddhist monks walk through their village every morning to collect donations of food from the general population for their daily meals. The tradition began with the ritual that the monks are to simplify their lives by not preparing or cooking their own meals and to rely on the generosity of the lay people. The alms round was, for the Buddha, a key feature of the monastic life and the alms bowl is, for all Buddhists, a symbol of the monastic order. The Pali word for alms round is pindapata, which colorfully means “dropping a lump,” describing the process whereby food accumulates in the alms bowl (Dinsmore, Through the Looking Glass (n.d).) A monk does not openly ask for food donations. They quietly walk the streets awaiting a potential donor to come to them which allows the donor to give freely and only what they can afford to provide.
A traditional Buddhist Pindapata is described by the following criteria, “Go on alms-rounds between 6:45am to around 11am. Consume food before 12pm. Accept only food, and not money. Stand still outside hawker centre. Wait for food donor to approach. Alms bowl covered with a lid which is opened when donor wishes to offer food. Do not carry/sell pendants/amulets” (Pindapata Alms Giving (n.d.). Unfortunately the practice of receiving free food has caught on as some people disguise themselves as monks and go out for Pindapata. The above criteria allows for people providing goods to know if the person seeking food is truly a monk.
The giving tradition of Pindapata allows the Buddhist Monks to sustain themselves but also teaches the lay people to learn to give and let go. “Naturally the alms round gives the monk a connection to the lives of the laity, so that their practice is not in a monastic bubble. But I don’t get the sense that most people think of themselves as poor or deprived; they live with a sense of dignity. And every act of generosity toward monks reminds them that they have wealth to share”(Dinsmore, Through the Looking Glass, (n.d.).)
In return for the generosity of the lay people that donate their food to the monks, the monk’s bless them and provide spiritual guidance. “Buddhist monks sustain their lives on the support of benevolent devotees for their four requisites of robes, food, shelter and medicine while providing spiritual guidance and advice to lay supporters in return (Weidu, Practising Alms Food-Collecting (Pindapata) Views of monks and a laywer, (n.d.). Traditionally a monk has not been able to accept payment from the laypeople therefore by proving food during Pindapata allows the lay person to give back to the monk for what they have done for the community.
Through the example of Pindapata giving is an essential practice in Buddhism. “The Buddha taught that when we give to others, we give without expectation of reward. We should give without attaching to either the gift or the recipient. Some teachers propose that giving is good because it accrues merit and creates karma that will bring future happiness” (O’Brien, (n.d.) Perfection of Giving). Therefore Pindapata not only assures the Monks have the means to sustain their simplistic livelihood they provide the laypeople with a sense of pride in that they are able to thank the monks by providing what they can to keep them healthy and able to live the life they choose.
Dinsmore, Bhikkhu Cintita, (n.d.). Through the Looking Glass. Retrieved by http://bhikkhucintita.wordpress.com/home/monastic-life/feeding-the-monks/
Pindapata Alms-Giving, (n.d.). Retrieved by http://www.dhammasara.webs.com/Pindapata.html
Weidu, (n.d.) Practising Alms Food-Collecting (Pindapata) Views of monks and a laywer. Retrieved by http://www.4ui.com/eart/221eart3.htm
O’Brien, Barbara (n.d.) Perfection of Giving. Retrieved by