Food Offering & Alms Round in Buddhism
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The practice of alms round and food offering is an ancient and noble tradition in Buddhism. It is one of the most important practices for Monks and Nuns to create spiritual bonds with sentient beings through alms rounds—seeking offerings from lay communities.
The History of Alms Round
Alms round dates back to over twenty-five centuries at the time of the Buddha. He and His Sangha would hold alms bowls, stay in line in a hierarchical order and walk long distances once every morning to beg for alms from lay people of different families. According to the Sutra, Bhikshus (Monks) just seek alms from the maximum of seven households. Whether they have begged for enough food or not, Monks have to return to their practice place after begging from the seventh family. In another case, Bhikshus can finish their alms round whenever they feel they have had enough food in their bowls, even if they have not gone through all seven families. This takes place until before noon, and the Sangha will return to the practice place to consume the received alms.
The Practice to Connect The Physical World with The Spiritual World
Apparently, the Buddha established this practice to allow His disciples to obtain their daily sustenance through the generosity of lay people. Alms round helps save the Sangha more time for practising the Dharma. Since the time of the Buddha, lay people have been supporting the Sangha with food, robes, shelter and medicine. These represent the physical conditions that lay Buddhists can support Monks.
On the spiritual perspective, Monks concentrate on their cultivation and practice to purify their minds and reach every step of enlightenment. This is where a spiritual connection comes in, as Monks can sustain their living and health to achieve the noble goals of a life of contentment with few desires thanks to the alms-givers. Therefore, offering alms-food to the Sangha allows lay people to practice generosity on one side, and acquire merits, on the other side, from supporting Monks on their path to enlightenment.
The Wish to Preserve The Tradition of Buddhas
All in all, alms round is a special practice to benefit both those Buddhist practitioners who have renounced the world for an ascetic life, and those lay people who still have family responsibilities.
The image of calm and virtuous Sangha going on alms round has been recreated at Ba Vang Pagoda. This is the wish of Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh and the Sangha to revive the Buddhas original practices.