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bannork

The alms round

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Being an early riser and having seen so many monks over the years on their morning alms round, I would like to ask two questions.

1. Did the Lord Buddha stipulate monks to walk at random on their alms round  with no particular route, house or spot in mind?

2. Is it commonly accepted and encouraged nowadays by the temple elders to let their monks follow a particular route in the certainty it will yield rich pickings, i.e. pass restaurants, markets with vendors etc.?

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1. I wouldn't have thought so.  Normally in the Thai forest tradition monks walk in a disciplined line on a standard route, I was surprised to see in Chiang mai monks walking on their own in quite random routes perhaps this is what you're referring to.

 

2. Generally in rural areas I think arrangements are made with the locals on what would be an appropriate route as people need to organise themselves to be ready and don't want to miss out.  In the city though I think there are a lot more people and a lot more route options, if a monastery's discipline is lax then I guess monks go where they like.

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We should also consider the important point that receiving food in the alms bowl is not quite like pure begging, but a method of communicating with the laity and giving them an opportunity to gain merit by donating food to the representatives of the Buddhist religion.

 

If I were a Buddhist monk, I would definitely walk down unusual and different alleys during my morning rounds, in order to meet people who could not, or did not want, to walk some distance each morning to the regular beat.

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In Buddhism, there are two sides to everything.  Here in San Francisco, California, the monks have a set route for alms rounds and they have it posted on the temple website.  One the one hand, they are sure to get food, but on the other hand, its notifies those who want to make merit that they can and gives them the where and when, but I also like the idea of taking different routes so they can meet other people.  I once walked with two monks in Bangkok Chinatown during alms rounds to help them carry the food and they had their set route.  I think it varied a little depending on the day, but people would expect them to show up and would be ready.

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I believe that in Thailand, and maybe also Myanmar and Sri Lanka, a devotee can request a monk to come daily to their house for alms, and so that monk, and maybe others with him will ensure that their route includes such a place. An abbot should instruct his monks and novices to cover the area of their temple's lay followers by developing certain daily routes to be covered. As the number of monks and novices in a temple fluctuates this can change.

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