In the Buddha’s time, the monks and nuns had in their possession only three robes and a begging bowl. The vow of poverty helps monks and nuns to focus on the spiritual practice. They go on alms-round (to beg for food) to practice humility and have a chance to transmit the Dharma to people. Below is a story from the Buddha’s time along with some photos of our fortunate, modern-day Plum Village mendicants.
“One year, the Buddha spent the retreat season in Vejanra with five hundred bhikkhus. Half way into the retreat season, drought hit the area, and the heat was almost unbearable.
By the beginning of the third month of retreat, the bhikkhus were receiving fewer and smaller food offerings. The Buddha and many monks returned to the monastery with empty bowls, and they filled their stomach with water to ease the hunger. The Buddha refused to move to another region where food would be easier to find because he wanted to share and understand the suffering of the people.
The bhikkhus tried many ways to deal with the hunger, including stirring soil into some water and drinking it. Later, a merchant offered some bran that he used to feed his horses to Venerable Ananda. Whenever the bhikkhus were unable to receive food offerings he promised to give them a handful of bran. In this way, the Sangha was able to stay there until the end of the rains retreat.
That night, Sariputta asked the Buddha, “Lord, the Way of Awakening is wondrous! It has the capacity to transform everyone who hears, understands, and practices it. Lord, how can we assure that the Way will continue to be transmitted after you are gone?”
The Buddha said, “Sariputta, if the bhikkhus grasp the true meaning of the sutras and practice what the sutras teach, if they sincerely follow the precepts, the Way of Liberation will continue for centuries.”
(Excerpt from Chapter 50, A Handful of Bran – Old Path White Clouds )
Continuing to practice the Way of Awakening, the monastics of Plum Village still maintain contact with people in many ways. This year, we could not open the monastery as usual. But thanks to the support of our friends from all over the world and our neighbors, we have enough food so that we can continue to offer the practices online.
Every year, after the farmers have harvested their crop, they allow us to take the left overs, which if not consumed will rot. Therefore, we can enjoy apples, hazelnuts and this year we also have hot sweet corn to eat on cold autumn mornings. The three hamlets have turned into temporary corn factories to process and store food for the winter.
Let’s enjoy these photos and share this happiness together.
You can see more photos here.