Good afternoon members and friends of the OBS,
In the recent July newsletter OBS member, Vivienne Bartlett, wrote from her experience of providing meals, or Dana, to the monks and nuns (monastics) at Tisarana and Sati Saraniya. Later in conversation, Carol Anne Owen, an OBS volunteer, suggested that we do a follow-up question & answer piece to share our common understandings. So, please read on and consider providing an offering of food.
What’s the reason for Dana?
The Buddha did not name a successor when he passed on, rather, he told the monks and nuns to follow the teachings he had given and follow the vinaya. As the monastics were not allowed to handle money or grow food, a relationship of reciprocity developed between the lay community and the sangha. This relationship of giving teachings and spiritual friendship by the sangha and likewise the giving of food and requisites by lay people, created a caring bond over time.
The Buddha emphasized in many places generosity, morality and wisdom. In providing dana to the sangha one experiences the Buddha’s great wisdom in encouraging generosity. It is an opportunity to open and experience the joy of letting go… of this, that and the other.
How far ahead do I need to plan?
You can offer a meal or a portion of a meal on a date you choose, as long as it is ready and provided to the hermitage or monastery by 11 a.m. However, please check first with the kitchen steward in case someone else is scheduled to give dana or the monastics are away. Sometimes people offer dana in memory of a loved one or to commemorate a special event. Its up to you and the steward to decide.Your date would be placed on the kitchen calendar at the monastery or hermitage, and the steward will let others know you are contributing on that day.
How many people do I need to provide food for?
Again your guide is the kitchen steward and they will let you know the number expected for that meal, however, please note, you do not have to offer an entire meal for everyone. You may choose to offer a dish or two, its all good.
Does it need to be vegetarian or vegan type of food?
Not necessarily but some monastics prefer a vegetarian diet. Vegan food is not required. Often people will offer a favourite food of the person they are honouring.
Is it better to bring cooked or uncooked food?
Either is fine. You may bring cooked food and heat it in the kitchen, cook dishes onsite, or do a combination of both.
What if the monastics have food sensitivities or allergies – will they tell us?
Again, the kitchen steward will advise and it is a good idea to always ask. If any monastics have allergies, its best to label food containing the allergen, so it can be avoided but you’re not forbidden from offering it.
What about beverages?
You may offer non-alcoholic beverages. Tea, coffee and water are available on site.
Is there a modesty dress code for visiting the monastery and hermitage?
Out of respect you are encouraged to dress fairly modestly and plainly, covering your knees and shoulders when visiting both communities. Often people wear white clothing as is customary in many eastern countries.
Can we eat with the nuns/monastics?
Usually before the meal at Tisarana the senior monk will enter into conversations with the guests. After the food is offered they chant the blessing together and then the monks, sitting on their mats on the floor, eat alone together in the meditation room/sala.
At Sati Saraniya after the food is offered and the blessing chanted, one may be invited to eat with the nuns in their sala, again on the floor. Alternatively there are chairs and a table in the preparation area. In either case the protocol requires the nuns to serve themselves first and begin to eat first.
The order for serving oneself food follows the traditional guidelines in the vinaya. That is, people staying overnight as guests (retreatants) will have taken vows to eat only two meals a day, like the monastics. Therefore retreatants serve themselves after the monastics followed by the daily lay visitors.
Are there any other protocols for behaviour specific to offering dana?
The monastics must be offered all the dishes, as they train “not to take that which is not given”. Trays holding the various food dishes and beverages are lifted by the steward or by oneself as an offering to one of the sangha. The monk representing the entire sangha will touch the tray in a gesture of acceptance. If you bring dana you are encouraged to offer it by bowing three times and then inviting the sangha to the meal. This happens shortly after 11 am as they must be finished eating by midday, as is their custom.
But… er… what if I’m afraid of the monks and nuns?
OBS board member Vivienne Bartlett replies: “It’s easy to understand why people might feel a little uncomfortable or even afraid. We might see the monastics as different from ourselves and may have preconceived ideas about who they are. They live in a very different way, following many varied and complex rules and this can make us nervous about doing or saying the wrong thing. I find it helpful to reflect on them being ordinary people with concerns and struggles similar to our own regarding responsibilities and relationships.
If you visit Tisarana or Sati Saraniya it is of course quite possible to make a mistake and be corrected by a monastic or experienced guest. This has happened to me several times, and while it can initially be a bit embarrassing I found it helpful to watch the sense of self arising around the incident in the form of bodily sensations and mind states.
In these situations it’s also important to remember that the monastics are acting out of wisdom and compassion and we can use this opportunity to feel gratitude that someone is helping and guiding us.”
How about food donations for the monasteries during OBS events?
Non-perishable foods and household supplies, also called dana, are often collected at OBS events. Please see the OBS web site for the schedule. You can also deliver supplies directly to the monastery and hermitage at any time. Consult the updated list of supplies for Tisarana, and the updated list of needed supplies for Sati Saraniya. We are fortunate to have dedicated monastics living close to us in Ottawa,. Please consider offering dana to them in the future.
Announcements, Upcoming Events and Retreats
To Friends of Arrow River Hermitage; a message from Ajahn Punnadhammo:
The monastery vehicle, a Ford Windstar van, has succumbed to the law of impermanence and is no longer functional. (The main axle broke and with all the old machine’s other problems, it is not economical to keep fixing it.)
We are urgently in need of a new vehicle. The goal is to purchase a newer pickup truck (with passenger seating), estimated cost is $25,000. Any donation, large or small, will help us reach our goal. Please go here – for information on how to donate.
Thanks to all our friends and supporters for helping us through this situation.
Yours in the Dhamma, Ajahn Punnadhammo.
Friday August 18th – Evening Meeting with LP Viradhammo, 7:30 pm–9:30 pm at Quaker House: 91A Fourth Ave, Ottawa – see map
Saturday August 19th – Day of Mindfulness with LP Viradhammo, 8:30 am – 3:30 pm at Tu-An Pagoda:
3591 Albion Road, Ottawa – see map
Luang Por Viradhammo 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.
Food donations are gratefully accepted at both events to support the monastery.
Friday, September 1 – Evening Meeting with Ayya Medhanandi, 7:30 pm at Quaker House
91A Fourth Ave, Ottawa – see map
Ayyā Medhānandī, Bhikkhuni, is a native of Montreal and the founder of Sati Sārāņīya Hermitage. This hermitage in Perth, Ontario, is a training monastery for bhikkhunīs in the Theravada Buddhist tradition.
Ayyā Medhānandī learned meditation at 21 and went on a pilgrimage to India to study with an Advaita sage. She also completed a Master’s degree in nutrition, and worked for the United Nations and other aid agencies, managing programs for malnourished women and children.
This free event includes a guided meditation followed by a Dhamma talk, and a question period.
Food donations are gratefully accepted to support the hermitage,
Wednesday, September 13 –- Waning (Half) Moon
Friday, September 15 – Evening Meeting with Bhante Jinananda, 7:30 pm–9:30 pm at Quaker House:
91A Fourth Ave, Ottawa – see map
Bhante Jinananda is an Ottawa monk at the Hilda Jayewardenaramaya Buddhist Monastery and meditation centre. ‘Bhante J’ has been in North America for nearly seven years and has been a qualified meditation master for decades in Theravada Buddhist tradition.
Saturday, September 16 – Day of Mindfulness with Bhante Jinananda, 8:30 am – 3:30 pm at Tu-An Pagoda:
3591 Albion Road, Ottawa – see map
This free event will involve periods of guided meditation and a Dhamma talk. Participants may attend for a half day in the morning or afternoon if they cannot stay the full day. Lunch is potluck – please feel free to bring a vegetarian main dish or dessert.
NOTE: Chairs are provided and cushions are available at the DoM. Please feel free to bring your own cushion to QH. Donations are gratefully accepted to support the monks at the Hilda Jayewardenaramaya Buddhist Monastery.
Wednesday, September 20 – New Moon
Friday, September 22 -29th – Residential Retreat with LP Viradhammo at Galilee Centre, Arnprior ON
Thursday, September 28 – Waxing (Half) Moon
“It’s very hard to grow, because it’s difficult to let go of the models of ourselves in which we’ve invested so heavily.”
– Ram Dass
This newsletter was produced by OBS volunteers: Vivienne Bartlett, Jane Brown, Anoma De Silva, Carol Anne Owen and Colleen Glass. Submissions for the next newsletter are welcome. Please send your article or news item by Sept 25, 2017 to Colleen Glass firstname.lastname@example.org