This month, Vivienne Bartlett kindly agreed to provide the following information and guidance on the background and finer points of offering meal dana to the sangha. As a member of the OBS board Vivienne coordinates the scheduling, care and transportation of our dhamma teachers. In preparing these ideas for our newsletter she also asked regular dana meal providers to share their experience in the four testimonials you will find at the end of her piece. Our thanks to Vivienne for her many gracious contributions and for helping us here, to better understand the ancient Buddhist tradition of offering meal dana.
“The Pali word dana, meaning giving or generosity, is heard frequently in Buddhism as it is regarded as the primary foundation of Buddhist practice. Giving without expectation allows for the lessening of attachment and sense of self and for the arising of joy.
When it comes to supporting our local monastery and hermitage we think of dana in terms of offering our time and skills, helping out with ground and building maintenance, administration and domestic work or by giving monetary and material donations.
One other significant way to support our monks and nuns is to offer what has come to be known as ‘meal dana’. The Buddha created the monastic discipline in such a way as to prevent monastics from being cut off from society, so for this reason the rules require that monks and nuns cannot grow food or handle money and are completely dependent on daily donations of food. The rules also stipulate that only one main meal a day can be taken during the late morning at around 11am.
In Buddhist countries in Asia it is usual for monastics to go on alms round to receive their daily nutritional requirements. This means that they walk to the local village or town where the laity put food directly into the monastic’s bowl. This tradition is an expression of the symbiotic relationship between the monastics and the Buddhist community and is deemed as being of spiritual benefit to both.
Though alms round is sometimes practiced in The West it is not the norm as the general population is unfamiliar with Buddhism and where, particularly here in Canada, the distances between centres of population are great. Therefore the Sangha is reliant on the help of a kitchen steward or an anagarika to prepare the midday meal from whatever food items have been donated, or on supporters to bring the midday meal.
Most people who offer the midday meal prepare it at home the day before or early in the morning and drive it to the monastery or the hermitage. There they can reheat any items in the kitchen. However people may also bring the raw ingredients and cook the meal on site.
When the food is ready and it is time for the midday meal the dishes are set out and the monastics are called to the sala by ringing the bell. The Sangha is then formally invited to receive the meal and each dish is then offered in turn to the monks or nuns. When the monastics have taken some food in their bowls they return to the sala and recite a chant or blessing. The lay guests can then help themselves to food, starting with the people who have taken the eight precepts (normally those guests that are staying overnight) and then the day visitors including the individuals who have offered the meal.
Some people offer the meal with their family group, some with friends within the laity and others by themselves. Several members of the laity commit to offering meal dana once a month. Others, once or twice a year, perhaps on an auspicious day such as a birthday or the anniversary of the death of a relative. While it is common for those offering meal dana in groups to provide the entire midday meal, it is equally appreciated that people offer a part of the meal.
It can be intimidating at first to prepare and offer the midday meal and many people wonder what they should cook. As a general guide it may be helpful to emphasize nutritious and easily digestible food. In the case of meat, The Buddha allowed monastics to consume flesh for the simple reason that, being entirely dependent for food on the laity, if The Sangha were restricted to areas where only vegetarianism was practiced, then the teachings would be limited to those places. The spirit of mendicancy would also be diminished. Saying that, some monastics choose to be vegetarian.
If you would like to offer a midday meal or a part of the meal, contact Tisarana (https://tisarana.ca/contact/) or Sati Saraniya (https://satisaraniya.ca/contact/) and let them know which day you would like to visit. You may also ask them how many people will be sharing the meal that day and any other details. When you arrive, the Kitchen Steward will be there to give you guidance.
The most important thing is to know that any offerings of food to the monastery and the hermitage are deeply appreciated and are a reminder to the monastics of the generosity that allows them to continue their way of life.”
“It simply makes me happy to offer a meal to the Sangha who share so much for our well-being. I feel it as a two way mutual relationship of supporting each other”. – Tilak
” We experience joy and happiness in making this commitment. On some occasions we dedicate the dana to someone and the monks will chant for this person” – Nissanka and Himantha
“Bringing dana, I enjoy having the chance to connect with and talk to my teachers. Since The Hermitage and Monastery are very peaceful, I feel I absorb the peace when I’m there. By offering food I have the opportunity to show my appreciation for the teachings that the monastics give so generously” – Jane
“…I will be taking out dana to the Hermitage with others on Sunday and am very much looking forward to that. It is now part of my practice and gives me much joy. ” Barbara
” Some people are afraid of generosity. They feel they will be taken advantage of or oppressed. In cultivating generosity, we are only oppressing our greed and attachment. This allows our true nature to come out and become lighter and freer.” Ajahn Chah
Up Coming Events
Sunday July 2nd – Gardening Day at Sati Saraniya Hermitage near Perth. People are invited to arrive at or any time in the morning after 8.30am. Work will start at 8.45am and continue until the meal time which will be at 11.15am. After clearing away dishes there will be a meditation period in the Temple at 1 pm followed by a dhamma talk by Ayya Medhanandi. Please bring DEET as protection – it is effective to repel ticks when sprayed on clothing around the legs, socks, shoes and other parts of the body. Wearing light coloured clothing helps spot any possible ticks and please brung your bug nets.Please bring a dish to share at the pot luck lunch and any garden tools that you may have such as a spade or rake. If you have any questions please contact Catherine Collobert firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, July 7th – Friday Evening Meeting with LP Viradhammo 7:30 pm at Quaker House, 91A Fourth Ave, Ottawa (click here for map).
Sunday, July 9th –Full moon
Sunday, July 16th – Waning half moon
Monday July 17th – Registration for Ajahn Viradhammo’s Residential Retreat Sept 22-29th : Early bird Registration for OBS Members begins. Please see the registration page on the OBS website for all information regarding this annual retreat and the date for the general public registration HERE. (http://ottawabuddhistsociety.com/activities/latest-updates/retreats/)
Thursday July 20th – General public registration opens for Ajahn Viradhammo’s Residential Retreat
Early bird Registration for OBS Members begins. Please see the registration page on the OBS website for all information regarding this annual retreat and the date for the general public registration HERE.
Friday July 21st – Friday Evening Meeting with LP Viradhammo 7:30 pm at Quaker House, 91A Fourth Ave, Ottawa (click here for map).
Ajahn Viradhammo was born in Germany, 1947, to Latvian refugee parents. They moved to Toronto when he was four years old. Around 1969, while living in India, he encountered Buddhism, meeting the late Samanera Bodhesako, who introduced him to the teachings of the Buddha. He eventually travelled to Thailand to become a novice at Wat Mahathat in 1973 and took bhikkhu ordination the following year at Wat Pah Pong with Ven. Ajahn Chah. He was one of the first residents at Wat Pah Nanachat, the international monastery in north-east Thailand.
Having spent four years in Thailand, he went back to Canada to visit his family in 1977. Instead of returning to Thailand, he was asked by Ajahn Chah to join Ajahn Sumedho at the Hampstead Vihara in London. Later, he was involved in the establishment of both the Chithurst and Harnham monasteries in the UK. In 1985, invited by the Wellington Theravada Buddhist Association, he moved to New Zealand, accompanied by Venerable Thanavaro, where he lived for 10 years, setting up Bodhinyanarama monastery.
In 1995 he came to the UK to assist Ajahn Sumedho at Amaravati and stayed for four years before returning to New Zealand, where he lived until 2002.
Ajahn Virahadhammo is the senior abbot of Tisarana monastery, located in Perth, Ontario, which he founded in 2005. He has been the principal spiritual guide for the Ottawa Buddhist Society for the past 10 years. http://tisarana.ca
Saturday, July 22 – Day of Mindfulness with LP Viradhammo 8:30 am – 3:30 pm at the *** Newly renovated Tu-An Pagoda*, 3591 Albion Road* (click here for map). For information on the Days of Mindfulness click HERE
Sunday, July 23rd – New moon
Monday, July 31st – Second waxing half moon in July
Volunteer and Dana Opportunities
We are always looking for OBS Volunteers to help out with driving Monastics to and from Perth and to host their overnight stays in Ottawa between teaching events. (In particular we are looking for male drivers and male hosts that live in a reasonably central location.) If you are interested in helping out please email Vivienne for more details at email@example.com
Larger Community Bulletin Board Created
The OBS executive board often receives requests to make announcements in the OBS Newsletter from Buddhist individuals and groups within the Ottawa area. In a spirit of mutuality with others, we created an OBS Blog page, – Larger Community Bulletin Board and OBS Biographies (http://blog.ottawabuddhistsociety.com/biographies/) For inclusion and details please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Did You Know?
” The entire Tipitaka Pali canon (the world’s largest book) of Theravada Buddhism is set on 729 marble slabs, each with 80 to 100 lines of text, originally in gold ink, on both the obverse and the reverse sides. Each stone is three and a half feet wide, five feet tall and five inches thick and housed in a kyauksa gu or a small cave-like stupa. Here is one of the Burmese alphabet inscriptions or kyuaksa at the Kuthodaw Pagoda, Mandalay, Myanmar”
The newsletter is produced monthly by OBS volunteers: Vivienne Bartlett, Jane Brown, Jeela Jones, Carol Anne Owen and Colleen Glass. Submissions for the August newsletter are welcome. Please send your article or news item by July 21, 2017 to Colleen Glass email@example.com