Another reason why monks in the West likely would find it easier to maintain alms rounds in small towns than in big cities. In small towns everyone would know if there was a monastery in the vicinity. In the next town over from where I live there is a very old and well-established Catholic monastery with monks in residence. Everyone knows about it. If all of a sudden someone in monk’s robes who no one had ever seen before started going around asking for food, at the very least inquiries would be made at the monastery to see if this individual was on the up-and-up.
Do Christian monks do this? I figured they grew their own food, old-fashioned style, or went to the supermarket.
Well, that’s part of my point. Anything out of the ordinary gets noticed in a small town. In a big city a person could dress in Catholic monk’s robes and walk around asking for food and probably would be looked at as just another idiosyncratic person found every day in big cities. An imposter monk would be easy to spot in a small town, Buddhist, Catholic, or anything else. If the Catholic monastery close to where I live did decide to borrow the Buddhist custom of making alms rounds, the townspeople would be made very well aware of it.
So you’re saying that a monk wandering through a small town would automatically be thought an impostor if they didn’t happen to live at some nearby monastery?
I’m sorry for the confusion. What I am saying is that in a big city it wouldn’t be unusual for people to suspect that someone dressed as a monk wandering around could be seen suspiciously since, as was noted by @Coemgenu in a previous post, in large cities such as Toronto there have been instances of imposters. In a small town people typically know when monks take up residence nearby since, well, it’s a small town. But in neither case would people automatically think one thing or another. Each person’s reaction is unique to that person
Hi, there’s another monastic community off the radar that depends solely on alms food: in Almeira, Spain, a group of mostly Burmese-ordained Sayālay’s (= 10 precept nuns) and yogis, living in caves outside the town.
They usually go for alms only a few days a week, on which they get enough food for the whole week since as they can store and cook it on the other days.
Anyone who likes to practice is welcome there, here an article about the place: I call it Paradise · Maptia
Currently they are trying to raise funds for buying the land, to plant a forest and set up a center there. Since it is still not so well known, any support is very very welcome
Thanks for sharing about this! It’s inspiring to see such a project, especially outside Asia. Do you know, @Dhammosadha, if Sayalay Piyadassii has contact information or anything like that? Is there any connection to Sanditthika Meditation Centre?
It seems like even the monks at Pacific Hermitage had to deal with a little bit of curiosity and suspicion as well, growing pains to be expected for a group new to the community.
Hi @TamHanhHi, I’m Akāliko Bhikkhu from Sydney Australia. I go for almsround in Newtown, Darlinghurst and Surry Hills. Very fortunate to have so many Thai restaurants here. Thanks to the generosity of others, I’ve never gone hungry.
PS there is another monk here in Sydney named Bhante jason who regularly goes on Pindabat. And some monks from Wat Buddha Dhamma go on a monthly almsround in Cabramatta.
I was so pleased to meet you on Wednesday night Bhante @Akaliko and listen to you Dhamma talk. I thought you were from WA tho; are you in Sydney a lot?
Yes I’ve been based in WA but I’m originally from Sydney so I come back whenever I can to visit family, friends and dhamma communities.
Thanks for the lovely photo! It does illustrate one problem of modern pindapata, though: so much plastic!
I’ve been thinking of ways to get around this. If you put rice and wet curries and fruit and so on in a bowl, it all gets messy quickly. It doesn’t worry me, but donors don’t like it.
Maybe take tupperware, and get restaraunts to fill them, rather than getting disposable plastic containers?
Yes it’s irksome to have the plastic. But now at least with the plastic bag ban there’s less bags. I wish that we could just receive food straight into the bowl but that’s not the custom. The idea of taking reusable containers is nice but I think the donors would find it odd. It would certainly mean much more interaction than i usually do, just standing in silence eyes downcast and not talking. My small comfort is that the containers are recyclable at least…
Yes, it would need more interaction. Actually taking to people, wow! I was thinking it could be done if we were to go somewhere on a more regular basis.
The containers are recyclable, it’s true, but seriously, does anyone need that many? I wonder … maybe like a food charity, meals on wheels or something, would they use them?
We did a two weeks Tudong last year in Germany where we would rely solely on alms:
In Myanmar the custom is that monks who go for alms with novices receive only rice, while some novices carry tiffins to receive the curries, and similar curries are put together. Monks going on solo alms rounds sometimes take small round metal cups/boxes, as the ones seen on this photo: https://l7.alamy.com/zooms/8a924737ae394acea9add4b369a1e20f/buddhist-alms-bowl-with-orange-strap-and-rice-cups-cyaw3t.jpg
The cups are kept on top of the bowl lid and when filled with curries are placed inside the bowl with the rice. That way the curries stay separated from each other and from the rice and thus can be shared more neatly with others when back in the monastery.
But as far as I’ve seen, Thai bowl lids don’t have a rim like the Burmese bowls do, so it might not be feasible for you to place those boxes on the lid.
I’ve also seen some monks going with bowl plus tiffin, but I’m doubtful whether there isn’t a problem with vinaya that the larger tiffin bowls would be considered an extra bowl?
But as Bhante Sujato suggested, wouldn’t it be possible to “educate” one’s donors to just put the curry in the bowl directly?
When I go for solo-alms here (Myanmar), I don’t use those boxes mentioned above and sometimes people aren’t sure where to put the curry since I don’t have a container, so I just smile and nod my head pointing to the bowl and usually then it’s fine for them.
But yeah, in Bhantes Akaliko and Sujato’s case one might aditionally first have to verbally educate to change the established custom.
Bhante Agga kindly took some photos of his Thai bowl, which was modified here by welding a rim onto it. That way one can put something on top of it without it slipping off, or even put the lid upside down for more capacity
For what my two cents are worth RE the plastics issue: whenever I get horrified by the waste of the daily alms round here in Thailand, I console myself by remembering that however bad the waste is here in the generosity economy, the (material as well as human) waste in the “normal” capitalist mode of living is much worse. Simply by owning less clothing, not having a car or tv, and refusing to exploit others or let ourselves be exploited for profit, we are doing our part to restore sanity to the global economy. And if it makes the donors happy to see their rice and curry segregated in neat little plastics ¯_(ツ)_/¯ okay. As long as we aren’t picky we’re doing our job and I think it’s important to recognize and celebrate that. In short: y’all are amazing and I love you so much and don’t let anyone tell you you’re not doing enough