Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Almsround

Call me old-fashioned, but my Taurus stubbornness has reared its head once again, and I've insisted on going on almsround in North Hollywood. Lots of resistance, but once I set out barefoot down Cold Water Canyon, I could feel the rightness of it. Lots of looks from the locals, and even some Thai neighbours who came out and put food in my bowl. Mostly, though, it's an arranged affair, meeting students and regulars in the park or at a nearby Thai restaurant. Who knows, though? My seven-day rule* worked in Thailand... It worked in Canada, too, after seven days of nagging the abbot to organize a car-based almsround with the local Cambodian Buddhists.

Here, there are mixed feelings, and some worry that there may be some discomfort with the local monastic community to see a Western monk walking barefoot on the streets. But, if grudgingly, it seems to have been accepted all around and, sure enough, people are fighting to get their turn to put food into the bowl and, afterwards, to eat the leftover food from the bowl (a wonderfully meritorious act which both serves to bring people closer to the monkhood and to develop a sense of the loathsomeness of food - ahare-patikula-sanna).

Anyway, to me it feels right, it feels good, it feels pure. It seems even the angels agree, by the looks of the pictures someone took. In this one, you can see a diamond shape floating above the people's heads. Goodness is good. And food given out of faith always tastes better.

King Suddhodana: But my son, is my lineage then to be the lineage of one who lives going for alms?

The Buddha: Your lineage this is not, o great king, but my lineage it is. Indeed, many thousands are the Buddhas who lived going for just this alms.

Having said this, he spoke the following verse teaching the dhamma:


168. "Uttiṭṭhe nappamajjeyya, dhammaṃ sucaritaṃ care;
dhammacārī sukhaṃ seti, asmiṃ loke paramhi ca.

One should not be negligent in standing (for alms or otherwise),
One should follow the dhamma which is well-followed;
One who follows the dhamma dwells happily,
both in this world and indeed the next.

169. “Dhammaṃ care sucaritaṃ, na naṃ duccaritaṃ care;
dhammacārī sukhaṃ seti, asmiṃ loke paramhi cā"ti.


One should follow the dhamma which is well-followed,
One should not follow that which is followed for woe;
One who follows the dhamma dwells happily,
both in this world and indeed the next.


* A rule which says that after the seventh day of almsround anywhere in Thailand, a monk will get enough food to fill his bowl to overflowing.