This morning I was up early to visit my school. Today the students came into school with their parents with food and other essential items in order to offer them to the monks.
They also took part in a bathing ceremony which involved pouring rose scented water over a Buddha image, the monks and their teachers. Once these formalities were over, the students enjoyed a water fight in the playground.
I want to take this opportunity to tell you about some of the rules for how to offer things to the monks properly. This might be useful if you are planning to visit the temple during Songkran.
How to Present Things to Monks
According to the Vinaya or monasterial disciplines, monks cannot take things without being presented to them first. It is an ecclesiastical offense. Therefore, knowing what to do in presenting things to monks is necessary for all Buddhists.
First, the size and weight of the object presented should be able to be carried by one person. It should not be too heavy which is inconvenient to both the monks and the presenter. When both the monk and the presenter are ready, he or she should be about an arm-reach or one metre away from the monk, and present the alms in a nice and respectful way. The monk has to receive the alms in the same way too. If the presentation is done with two hands, then it should be received by both hands too.
The monk cannot receive things from a woman’s hand directly. He will use a piece of cloth to receive the presented object by placing the cloth in front of him. Then the woman places the object on that piece of cloth. Again, if it is presented by one hand, the monk will receive it with one hand as well.
Presenting Food on the Alms Round
Monks are forbidden to hoard food and they cannot cook. Therefore, alms gathering is an essential daily routine. The monk goes out on his alms round in the early morning. He then brings the food back to eat at the temple. Some monks only eat once a day. Others will eat twice. However, all monks cannot eat after mid-day.
The Buddhist layperson personally contributes towards the daily food requirements of the monks and novices as an act of religious merit, as well as a means to support Buddhism.
Offering food to the monk on his alms round should be done correctly. One who wants to do this should prepare the food and get ready. When you see a monk approaching, you inform him you want to offer food by saying “nimmon”. When he comes, he will stop in front of you and open the lid of his alms bowl. Then, you carefully place the food, one after the other, into the alms bowl. The monk will receive the food peacefully and respectfully. He will also give a blessing though he will never say “thank you”.
The monk does not wear shoes while doing the alms round. Therefore, you should take off your shoes too. Otherwise you will be in a higher place than the monk, and this is considered to be improper. However, if the monk is standing on a platform or a mat, this is considered to be in a higher place and it is not then necessary to take off your shoes.
I will be talking more about the alms round and the food monks are allowed and not allowed to eat over the coming weeks.
Main Source: “How to Get Good Results from Doing Merit” by Phra Ajaan Plien Panyapatipo