Students of the Mandarin dhamma class initiated this monthly sanghika dana as their class activity on the first Saturday of each month. Under the auspices of MV Dhamma Fellowship, the English class dhamma students were invited to join them with effect from 3rd March 2012. It is hoped that this exercise would offer an opportunity for the students from both dhamma classes to interact to get to know each other better and to jointly perform dana that would enhance their practice and sharing of their knowledge.
During the days of Lord Buddha it was a tradition for monks to go for alms round for food. Today, some Buddhist countries still maintain the tradition.
However, in Singapore, such activity is not encouraged and also vagrancy is also prohibited. Locally monks are, therefore, taken care of by devotees and are sheltered in establishments, like a monastery, temple or a centre.
Student members can then join the devotees to participate in sanghika dana by offering food to the monks at the temple.
As monks adhered strictly to their meal time, participants will have to bring their offerings (food) by a specific time . “He practices eating only one meal a day, abstaining from eating at night and outside proper time.” Cŭlahatthipadopama Sutta: – The Simile of the Elephant’s Footprint, Majjhima Nikăya Sutta 27. (According to the Vinaya the proper time for bhikkhus to eat is between dawn and noon. From noon until the next dawn only liquids are allowed).
The offering of lunch is common but not for dinner which is outside the proper time. For safety reasons Lord Buddha propounded: “It has happened, venerable sir, that bhikkhus wandering for alms in the thick darkness of the night have walked into a cesspool, fallen into a sewer, walked into a thornbush, and walked into a sleeping cow; they have met hoodlum who had already committed a crime and those planning one, and they have been sexually enticed by women. Once, venerable sir, I went wandering for alms in the thick darkness of the night. A woman washing a pot saw me by a flash of lightning and screamed out in terror: ‘Mercy me, a devil has come for me!’ I told her: ‘Sister, I am no devil, I am a bhikkhu and waiting for alms.’ – ‘Then it’s a bhikkhu whose ma’s died and whose pa’s died. Better, bhikkhu, that you get your belly cut open with a sharp butcher’s knife than this prowling for alms for your belly’s sake in the thick darkness of the night!’ …………….” Latukikopama Sutta: The Smiles of the Quail, Majjhima Nikăya Sutta 151.
For our practice of sanghika dana at Mangala Vihara Buddhist Temple, devotees are advised to bring their your food contribution (it may be fruits, vegetarian dish, dessert, example red bean soup etc) to the kitchen between 10:00 and 10:30 am. There, volunteers will help to place a small portion of the food into bowls on the tray for Buddha puja, some into the bowls for offering to the Sangha and the rest will be placed on the common tables for mass consumption after the 11:00 am puja. Devotees are requested not to bring their food too late as the volunteers in the kitchen may not have enough time to do their jobs. Fruits need to be washed and cut before being offered. If the fruit needs to be cut or prepared in any special way , for example, if you want to bring a pineapple or a papaya, it would be better if the fruit is cut at home. For fruits like grapes, longans, cherries etc it is suggested they be washed at home before bringing to Mangala Vihara Buddhist Temple as this would prevent overcrowding in the kitchen.
Participants will join the 11:00 am puja and then gather around the monks’ table for the dana. When performing dana such as when one is scooping food into the monks’ bowls or when one is concentrating his mind when the monks are reciting the blessings,devotees may transfer the merits accrued to their departed relatives. This act of transfering merits to past relatives need not be confined to the ritual of pouring water from a water container into a receptacle. Merits may be mentally transferred when performing other wholesome kammas.
After the dana, devotees can all eat whatever food there is on the common tables. When the monks have finished their meals, the unconsumed will be brought to the common tables for all to share. After lunch, devotees may further help in the washing of crockery and perform area cleaning in the Mangala Hall.
Dana or alms giving is the first of the ten perfections or paramis.
The benefits accrued are four fold blessings: long life, good appearance, happiness and strength. “Suppavăsă of the Ariyan woman-disciple who gives food gives four things to the receiver thereof. What four? She gives life, she gives beauty, she gives happiness, she gives strength. Moreover, giving life she is a partaker of life, be it as deva or human : giving beauty she is a partaker of beauty, be it as a deva or human : giving happiness she is a partaker of happiness, be it as a deva or human : giving strength she is a partaker of strength, be it as a deva or human. Yes, Suppavăsă, the Ariyan woman-disciple who give food gives these four things to the receiver thereof.” Aňguttara Nikăya, IV, VI, 57 Suppavăsă.
All are encouraged to join in the sanghika dana. Those who have yet to do it, please do not hesitate; those who are already doing it, do continue to reinforce your practice and accumulate merits.
Aṅguttara Nikăya,V, IV, 37 The gift of a meal sums it up: “Monk, in giving a meal, a giver gives five things to an almsman. What five? He gives life, beauty, ease, strength and wit; but in giving these he becomes a partaker in each quality, in heaven and among men. Monks, these are the five things…….
In giving life and strength and beauty, wit,
In giving ease, wise men find happiness:
Whoso shall give these gifts shall have long life
And honour, wheresoe’er they be reborn.”
Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!
Contributor: Chin Kee Thou