Alms Round Symbolic of Human Dependence

Wearing traditional garb, Buddhist monks from Shasta Abbey
make an alms round through downtown Mount Shasta.

By Paul Boerger

With their traditional garb suspending time to another era, a group of Buddhists from Shasta Abbey made a traditional alms round in Mount Shasta last week from the Lake Street Shopping Center through downtown.

Dressed in Buddhist robes and carrying specially prepared alms bowls, the monks did not speak. The lead monk rang a soft bell and tapped a cane on the ground.

Their large circular hats covered their faces as they walked slowly in single file silence, broken only by the occasional blessing prayer bestowed for gifts.

They accepted only food and were not allowed to accept meat, alcohol or garlic. They did not ask for anything, but only made themselves available for an offering.

Rev. Daishin of Shasta Abbey said the alms round "is not begging."

"We're not asking for anything or for the whole town to turn out," Daishin said. "We commit ourselves to living through the generosity of other people. In return, we offer Dharma teachings at the Abbey. The food is shared with everyone who comes here."

The alms round is an important tradition in Buddhism, involving blessings for both giver and receiver.

According to Buddhist teacher Thanissaro Bhikku, the alms round reminds a monk "that their practice is not just an individual matter, but a concern of the whole community. They are indebted to others for the right and opportunity to practice, and should do their best to practice diligently as a way of repaying the debt."

For the giver, Bhikku says, "the alms round is a reminder that the monetary system economy is not the only way to happiness."

Daishin said the alms round teaches that "all human beings are dependent on each other."

"There is a heart connection in giving something," Daishin said.