Intro : Sanatan Dharma Swayamsevak Sangh, connection with the Buddhist tradition in Myanmar, organised Annadanam to Buddhist Monks.
Sanatan Dharma Swayamsevak Sangh organised mass offering of food to the Monks in State Periyatti Sasana University, Yangon and I had the privilege of attending this program and offering food to the Monks in the University. The University is one of the major centres of learning for Monks in Yangon. It is surprising to see hundreds of young Monks together in saffron robes and leading monastic life. We were fortunate enough to offer the alms to the revered Rector (Vice-Chancellor), a very senior and learned monk high in order, and the Registrar who also happens to be a senior monk.
This program is an important part of the Buddhist tradition in Myanmar and forms an essential feature of Monastic life of the Monks as well as the society in general. There are a lot of rules for monks around eating. Foods must be offered by hand from a layperson, though monks who have received food can share, or trade, offerings with other monks. Most foods must be consumed by noon of the day they are offered, so these cannot be saved for a snack or for the next day’s meal, except to return them to a layperson. Filtered fruit juices may be offered and consumed after noon, till dawn the next day. From 12 in the noon till next day morning they are supposed not to consume any food and this is followed religiously.
Though we offered the alms in a mass gathering in the University, the common practice seen on the streets in Myanmar every morning is Monks walking across the street in single file and each family offering alms to one Monk. The kind of interaction the monk has with lay folks can also vary. Some monks will simply pass silently from house to house, receive offerings silently and move on silently. Others will speak with the lay folks and invite questions concerning Dhamma (Dharma) or will simply make a habit of offering a short discourse at each house. Most lay people will make prostrations and often offer tea for immediate consumption to monks who linger a while.
Bhagwan Buddha laid utmost importance to this monastic tradition and did not permit monastics to grow, cook or even store food, but to eat only what was duly offered from a lay hand on a daily basis, locking them into strict dependence. This is aimed at developing humility among the monks on one hand as they are not allowed to amass wealth, not even a loaf of bread for themselves and on the other hand creating awareness among the laity that they have a responsibility of supporting the monks who have sacrificed their mundane life. Connecting the monks to the lay society & vice versa is another very important benefit of this tradition of the alms round.
We served the food to the Monks who sat around the tables, squatting on the floor and we had to lift the table a bit and the monks touching the table accepting the alms and then only consuming the alms.
(Narrated by Shri Shyam Parande Secretary, Sewa International )