Buddhist monks go begging for money: Unimagined heresy! | Sunday Observer

Buddhist monks go begging for money: Unimagined heresy!

This feline hid her face in shame. Not able to thus assuage her disgust, she ostriched her head in a pile of sofa cushions. What was she ashamed of? Committing a crime? Indulging in what should not be indulged in? Stealing, lying, blaspheming? No, not at all! She was turning blue with shame, having gone long past the pink stage, as she watched TV news on two consecutive nights this last week. She was stark ashamed on behalf of the religion she professes and for monks in this country who are totally silvath and a pride to the Sangha.

Yes, you’ve guessed correct. She was drowned in abject shame seeing monks going pinnapatha, alms-rounds soliciting alms from lay people. Asking for alms is fine, going on alms rounds accepted and promoted from the time of the Buddha. What alms are expected? Food, cooked or in the form of dry rations. Often devotees offer medicines like packets of pus panguwa. Also fine. But these priests who caused this cat to blush and proceed to total embarrassment were monks extending bowls and expecting the drop in of cash. There were very senior monks among them and very small novices too. Disgraceful of the seniors and such a wrong message and practice taught to very young samaneras.

After the embarrassment and shame, came anger. This feline extended her menacing claws but who to catch and claw? You cannot touch a Buddhist monk, not even the police at the height of a university strike. Those clad in yellow robes can leap over walls (as has been seen in newspaper photographs); grapple with the police as often happens; even damage public property. But no, they cannot be touched if they are Buddhist monks or guised as one of the Sangha.

This furious feline wished she could get at the instigator of all this – the Puppet who pulls the strings and the one of evil mind who thought up this gimmick, for gimmick it is to collect 600 million rupees that has to be paid as a fine for the crime of distributing sil redi just prior to the last presidential elections. A photograph of one of the candidates was said to be enclosed in the package but the alleged model refutes this claim. It was all a pin dane, a meritorious act of giving to be returned with a vote. That act brought enough shame to those who call themselves Buddhists and now this pinnapatha brings shame to Buddhists and more to the Sangha.

Alms rounds and the Buddhist monk’s bowl

The late Ven Prof Dhammavihari, ex-professor of the University of Sri Lanka and resident at the Narada Centre down Sarana Road, explained clearly that lay persons and the Sangha both have obligations towards each other and both are to be rewarded, or will be rewarded. When a person is ordained as a monk, and especially, after higher ordination, he who has selected homelessness is totally devoid of material possessions, particularly, money in hand or saved.

He is dependent on the dayakayas and dayikawas (lay followers, male and female) to support him fully. Thus, monks depend on the devotees of a temple or place of meditation for food, clothing (just two sets of robes, preferably), shelter and medicines. They in return offer blessings to the givers, who collect good karma. The monks are obliged to come to the aid of the devotees in sickness and in death by chanting pirith, preaching consoling sermons and performing Buddhist funeral rites.

Most foreign monks observe these vinaya rules to the letter; they have the fewest of few possessions, sometimes only the robes they wear and a spare set, the bowl, the handheld ‘fan’, and umbrella. They often walk barefoot even on hot pavements and carry no money at all. Usually, Sri Lankan monks have some money in hand for daily necessities. This cannot be faulted at all or frowned upon as times are so different from that of the Buddha who advised against possessing money. He also, in his incomparable practical wisdom, advocated monks to go for alms. It taught them humility; saved householders from bringing food to the monk’s abode and actually, though the connection was strong – life sustenance being given - kept monks at a respected distance from lay persons.

I remember, in Kandy our household was ready and geared by 10 in the morning for serving food to the bowl held by a monk who came on an alms round as they usually did, at least one monk from the temple we patronised. This habit, which ensures the continuation of the practices of the Sangha as advised by the Buddha, is followed during the vas season by the Narada Buddhist Centre in Colombo 7.

I feel sure it was a vinaya rule advocated by Most Ven Madihe Pannaseeha Thera in his Maharagama temple and Vajiraramaya. Thus, on the five week days of the Vas season from July Poya through October Poya, this practice of pinnapatha is carried out diligently in sun and rain.

Hence, this Buddhist devotee’s horror and shame at the recent maligning and desecration of a sacred practice advocated by the Buddha and continuing for nearly five thousand years. It is today, because of politicians and jaundiced political monks, degenerated to the level of monks extending their bowls for money donations to pay the fine imposed on two convicted public servants for a wrongdoing as judged in a court of law. Wherever did you hear, and worse, see, monks going on alms rounds soliciting money!

Well, this cat is outraged at this desecration and shamed at monks consenting to be pawns in the game.

Let’s end on a humorous note. As usual, plenty telephone gossip goes along telecom wires.

One friend rang to inquire how this feline feels about this latest style of pinnapatha. Before the said feline’s tirade could heat the wires, the caller said:”Do you know, some people dropped sausages in the bowls of M’s pinnapatha monks.” Instant cat remark:

“Hope they were delicious

sausages!”

- Menika 

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