Taken from Nalanda.
Pindacāra, the practice of collecting alms-food, is observed by Theravada Buddhist monks who have gone forth from ‘home-life’ to ‘homelessness’. A Buddhist monk is known in Pāli Language as a ‘bhikkhu’ – meaning ‘one who lives on alms’.
In Buddhist countries such as Thailand and Myanmar, it is a daily ritual for monks to go on Pindacāra, where they walk through a village from one household to another, allowing devotees to make food offerings.
With Pindacāra, Buddhist monks need not worry about food and this afford them time to ponder and practise the Dhamma. Since the time of the Buddha, lay people have been supporting monks this way with food, robes, shelter and medicine. In return, monks provide guidance to the laity on Buddhist teachings, thus forging a close, respectful, and symbiotic relationship between the two communities.
My family was Buddhist, with my brother still practicing it, my mother at one point was devoted Christian, then back slides, now I am not sure. However I do not care what religion my family is. What I really care, is the value they have for the family, and of course themselves.
The recent trip to Sri Lanka, we witnessed the Buddhist communities there, how they live their life, for something as simple to let pedestrians crossing the road on the zebra crossing (shame on you Malaysians) and when we saw road accidents, how fast the locals rushed to help, save lives.
So today we joined our close family members to a Pindacara ceremony held in Subang Jaya.
We arrived about 0830, parked some where on the SS 14 area of Subang Jaya, where we could see long line of people waiting to provide the offerings to the monks and nuns. The alms ceremony would take about 2 hours or more. Covering 1.4km or there about.
The monks and nuns would maintain the order in terms of walking, speed as well as minimum or no interaction with the people around. Maintaining the solemn moment.
Types of Offering
- You may offer any type of cooked food such as plain rice, vegetable dishes, cakes, or ripened fruits. Kindly wrap the food with suitable or reusable wrapping material, or place it in a clean container.
- Uncooked food such as packets of rice or dry noodles can be offered to the monastery but should not be placed into the monk’s bowl; it should be handed over to our volunteers instead. Our volunteers will arrange for your offerings to be sent to monasteries nearby.
- Uncut fruits can be offered as well. Our volunteers will cut them and offer them to the bhikkhus at their meal time.
- Bhikkhus do not accept uncooked meat, raw eggs or fish.
- Requisites such as robes and medicine can be offered when the bhikkhus are at their monasteries or at Nalanda centres.
- Give only what is appropriate, and do so voluntarily.
Important to know
- Theravada monks only consume food between the break of dawn (around 7am) and noon. Therefore, they do not go about collecting alms after 12pm.
- Bhikkhus do not accept money. You may make a donation to Buddhist centres instead. Beware of ‘bogus monks’ going around offering amulets and trinkets for sale. Do not be fooled into buying from them, or into giving them money.
- There is no need to kneel by the road when offering to the bhikkhus on alms-round, unless it is a matter of personal preference. Standing respectfully is the customary behaviour.
- During Pindacāra, Buddhist monks mindfully observe ‘noble silence’. Questions can be put to the bhikkhus later at their monasteries or at Nalanda centres.
- No food collected on Pindacāra goes to waste! Excess food will be distributed to orphanages and homes for the aged.
I could see really a lot of food being offered to the nuns and monks.
Wondering where they would be, since so much. Well, the excess food would be distributed to the orphanages and elderly.
If you have not joined Pindacara, I strongly recommend to join one.
Do not photograph the monks and nuns, to their face. Give them the privacy and decency. Respect them. I observed some photographers went really close to photograph the nuns.
Give them space, do not break their sequence.
People who gives, should not seek the glory nor glorifying the contributions.
Refrain yourself from asking the nuns and monks any questions.