IT’S CULTURAL

布施傳統並不只令僧侶受惠

SilkRoad - - CONTENTS - ARINYA WORDS 撰文

How the ritual of almsgiving aims to nourish more than monks

THE NOVICE KNEW he wasn’t supposed to be hankering for food other than what the faithful brought to the temple in Bangkok. But there he was, sitting up straight, doing his best to behave like a monk, asking his mum if she remembered the restaurant they’d gone to before he’d donned these holy robes.

I overheard the question and had to stifle a laugh. The boy, doing his dharma duty on his summer break, was no older than 10, and he knew he wasn’t supposed to complain.

But the youngsters don’t have to put in special menu requests. They’ve all got the best mothers in the world, and the mums know exactly what they have to cook or buy the next morning before coming to the temple.

Mothers have been cooking food for monks and giving alms, as the practice of offering food is called, since the dawn of Buddhism over 2,500 years ago. Specifically, almsgiving is a tradition of Theravada Buddhists, who are an overwhelming majority in Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Laos. By bringing monks food each day, the faithful are investing in the faith, and in doing so they too make merit to nourish their own souls.

I remember how my siblings and I would drool watching our mother prepare dishes 這位剛late in the evenings, as if the family were preparing for a feast. The food was of course for the monks, and we felt envy the next morning when the men in saffron robes would pause outside our house during their rounds and receive those dishes.

Indeed, it was always the best food from our kitchen, as it was intended not just to sustain the monks but also to demonstrate the giver’s selflessness and commitment to the faith. It is the worldly duty of the layman, as a way to maintain a direct connection with the Lord Buddha. It is especially meaningful for laywomen, as they cannot legally be ordained in Thailand.

Times have changed and so have lifestyles. Fewer people now devote the effort in the kitchen to preparing food for monks. It’s much more convenient and equally meritorious to buy neatly wrapped dishes as offerings.

These days, Buddhists also see the practice as a way of connecting to their ancestors through the monks. They give their own favourite dishes or those that their late parents or grandparents loved, in the hopes that these individuals would be enjoying them in the afterlife.

落髮不久的和尚當然知道,除了信眾布施至曼谷寺廟的食物外,自己不應該垂涎其他美食。不過縱使他正襟危坐,竭力保持僧侶應有的舉止,最後還是禁不住詢問他的母親是否還記得在他披上袈裟前,他們去過的餐廳。

當我無意中聽到他這樣問時差點忍俊 不禁;這個趁暑假期間修行的小男生還不到十歲,居然已明白自己這時候不該埋怨。其實這些小和尚無需特別提出什麼膳食要求,畢竟他們都擁有天下間最好的母親,而她們亦深知翌日早上該預備什麼食物帶來寺廟。

自2,500年前佛教興起之時,身為人母的女性早已為和尚烹調食物和布施,而布施在泰國、柬埔寨、緬甸、斯里蘭卡及老撾這些主要信奉小乘佛教的國家尤其盛行。信眾每天向僧人送上食物,遵從信仰的要求做功德,以滋養自己的靈魂。

記得小時候我們兄弟姐妹會一邊看著母親在晚上預備菜餚,一邊對著美食垂涎,這時家裡就像要舉行盛宴般。食物當然是為僧人準備,而第二天早上,每當身穿橙黃袈裟的男人如常來串門子,並接過那些菜餚時,總令我們羨慕不已。

那些菜餚通常都是我們廚房裡最美味的食物,因為布施食物的目的並非單純讓僧人果腹,也是為了顯示施予者對信仰的無私奉獻,一盡凡人在俗世的責任,並藉此與佛祖建立直接連繫。這種布施對一般女性來說意義特別重大,因為泰國法例上不容許她們削髮為尼。

隨著時代變遷,生活方式亦有所不同,如今愈來愈少人願意耗費精力在廚房為僧人預備食物。不過購買包裝精美的菜餚作布施較為方便,而且同樣功德無量。

這些年來,佛教徒亦視這習俗為透過僧人與先人連繫的方式。他們會布施自己最愛的菜式或離世親人喜愛的菜餚,希望他們往生後仍能品嚐到這些美食。

Newspapers in Chinese (Traditional)

Newspapers from Hong Kong

© PressReader. All rights reserved.