The two kinds of alms, material and spiritual,
have the endowment of boundless merit.
Now that they have been fulfilled in this act of charity
both self and others gain pleasure therefrom.
The Donors' Verse recited during the Alms Round
For 2,500 years since the time of the Buddha, Buddhist monks have walked the Alms Round. This practice is said to create a field of merit for all sentient beings, an opportunity to show the true qualities of the heart. Freely giving from a generous heart loosens the grip of selfishness. Both donor and recipient are enriched by this practice.
We are very grateful to be able to carry on this tradition in Mount Shasta. We are indebted to the officials and the community of Mount Shasta for allowing us to practice the ancient way of the Buddha. We walk, with no expectations.
Monks walk the Alms Round once a month. The sight of a monk was one of the Four Sights that moved Shakyamuni Buddha to renounce the world and become a monk. The Alms Round is a ceremony of dana, selfless giving, that is based on the reciprocal respect between monastics and those who live in the world. The Alms Round reminds monks that their practice is not just an individual matter and that they depend on, and are indebted to, others for food and sustenance. The Alms Round provides the community of Mount Shasta with the opportunity to offer alms and support to the monastery.
The alms bowl symbolizes dependence on others, all-acceptance and generosity. Traditionally only food is offered during the Alms Round. If you would like to offer a non-food item or make a financial
contribution, you are always welcome to stop by Shasta Abbey's Visitors' Gate (Gate 4) with your offering. During the Alms Round monks walk in silent meditation. If you would like to make an offering, please approach one of the monks and place your gift in the alms bowl. If your offering is too large to fit into the bowl, it can be symbolically placed there and then given to one of our lay friends who helps with this ceremony. When making an offering during the Alms Round, donors may ask that the merit from their offering benefit a friend or relative, as well as sentient beings caught in distressing conditions or difficult situations.
We are most grateful for small or large quantities of food, hot or cold items, sweet or savory. Wrapped food or food in plastic bags is helpful. We are lacto-ovo vegetarians and in keeping with our tradition do not use garlic, horseradish, alcohol or meat.
Notice is given in advance in the Mount Shasta Herald. We also note the Alms Round day on our monthly calendar.
The alms round itself is a gift that goes both ways.
Daily contact with lay donors reminds the monastics that their practice is not just an individual matter. They are indebted to others for the opportunity to practice,
and should do their best to practice diligently as a way of repaying that debt.
Furthermore, walking through a village early in the morning,
passing by the houses of the rich and poor, the happy and unhappy, gives plenty of opportunities to reflect on the human condition and the need to find a way out of the grinding cycle.
For the donors, the alms round is a reminder that the monetary economy
is not the only way to happiness.
- Thanissaro Bhikkhu, "The Economy of Gifts"