Yesterday, I took you with me on the monk’s morning alms round. Monks are not allowed to hoard food. Nor are they allowed to cook. So, in order to survive they have to go out in the morning to receive food from Buddhist followers. When they come back, they sort through the food. Some food they will eat straight away for breakfast. Other food they will save for their last meal of the day at 11 a.m. The food that is left over is not wasted. Some may be given to the nuns or children who help out around the temple. Other food is given to poor people who come to the temple at mid-day. Any left-over food is given to the temple dogs and cats.
Before Phra Daeng and Phra Nattawud could eat, they first had to offer some food to the Buddha image. They chanted in Pali for a while and then prostrated three times. As you can see from the picture, Phra Nattawud still hasn’t learned all the words and is reading from his yellow book of chants. After they have made the offering, they then sit in front of the food that they have already sorted and chant a bit more.
Finally, they can start to eat. As predicted yesterday, Phra Nattawud tucks into the food that his parents had offered him earlier. Monks are not allowed to request particular types of food, however, his parents knew what he would like to eat.
What do Thai monks eat for breakfast?
Some monks only eat once a day. Others eat twice a day. However, all monks have to finish their last meal before mid-day. There are five categories of food that can be presented to monks only in the morning. These are: staples, desserts, preserved and dried food, fish and meat. The following five nutriments can be presented to and eaten by the monks at any time of day and night: honey, sugar and syrup, fat, ghee and butter, and cheese.
In the above picture, you can see that people have given the monks just about any curry and soup that can be bought locally. It doesn’t really matter how much or how little you give. It is the intention of giving that is important. However, there are ten kinds of meat that monks and novices are not allowed to eat. They are: human flesh, elephant, yellow tiger, tiger, leopard, bear, lion, snake, dog and horse.
There are quite a few rules regarding monks and food. For example, they are not allowed to put food in their mouth that hasn’t been offered to them first. If the food was offered to them yesterday, they then cannot eat it today. If someone told a monk that he will come with certain foods to offer the following day, then the monk cannot eat it. There is also quite a long list of 30 rules regarding food which monks must obey. It is worth taking note of these because Buddhism is so much an important part of Thai culture.
A monk should train himself thus:-
1) I will receive binderbaht food attentively.
2) When receiving binderbaht food, I will look only into the bowl.
3) I will receive curries in the right proportion to the rice.
4) I will receive binderbaht food only until it reaches the rim of the bowl.
5) I will eat binderbaht food attentively.
6) When eating binderbaht food, I will look only in the bowl.
7) I will not dig up the rice making it uneven.
8) I will eat curries in the right proportion to the rice.
9) I will not eat rice only working from the top down.
10) I will not cover up curries – or curry mixed with rice – because of a desire to get a lot.
11) When I am not sick, I will not ask for curries or rice for the purpose of eating them myself.
12) I will not look at another’s bowl with the idea of finding fault.
13) I will not make up a very large mouthful of food.
14) I will make food up into suitably round mouthfuls.
15) I will not open my mouth until the portion of food has been brought to it.
16) When eating, I will not put my fingers into my mouth.
17) When food is still in my mouth, I will not speak.
18) I will not throw lumps of food into my mouth.
19) I will not eat by biting off mouthfuls of rice.
20) I will not eat stuffing out my cheeks.
21) I will not eat and shake my hand about at the same time.
22) I will not eat scattering grains of rice about so that they fall back into the bowl or elsewhere.
23) I will not eat putting my tongue out.
24) I will not eat making a champing sound.
25) I will not eat (or drink) making a sucking sound.
26) I will not eat licking my hands.
27) I will not eat scraping the bowl.
28) I will not eat licking my lips.
29) I will not take hold of a vessel of water with my hand soiled with food.
30) I will not throw out bowl washing water which has grains of rice in it in a place where there are houses.
Source: “Instructions for newly-ordained Bhikkhus and Samaneras”
I will be interviewing Phra Nattawud soon about life in a Thai temple. If you have any questions that you would like answered, then please e-mail them to me. You can also contact me with feedback on what kinds of blogs you like to read the most. And maybe what kind of blogs you would like to read in the future.