The Buddha’s Doctrine is founded upon generosity—the sharing of teachings and possessions. Monastics live a simple life style and put their energy into learning and practicing the teachings. Therefore, they practice generosity primarily by giving Dharma teachings and spiritual counsel. Lay followers have more material wealth, and so one way they practice generosity is by sharing that.
When the Buddha founded the sangha community, he wisely prescribed that monastics eat only food that is offered to them, thus establishing a mutual dependence between monastics and the lay community. The monastics of Sravasti Abbey follow this guideline.
Dick Codding and Susan Mitchell are part of the team of local volunteers from Spokane, WA, and Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint, ID who offer food to the Abbey community each week. They share their experience.
Together, we have made a monthly food offering to the Abbey for several years. The more we do it, the more we appreciate the opportunity we have been given.
Every grocery list they send us begins with a motivation prayer and a note that the sangha is working with their minds to give up food preferences.
We were recently re-reading this note and talking about what a challenge for the sangha to let go of all the little (and big) preferences around food. As shoppers, we realized that we support their practice by the decisions we make about cost, substitutions, when to buy organic and when not. We help them look at one of the places where attachment hides out.
And they help our practice. Offering food, we feel very close and connected to the sangha, knowing they rely on us every single day for their most basic needs. We see their great trust in us—and their even greater trust in the Dharma—and we feel it is our responsibility to care for them. Without our generosity, they could not practice, and the Abbey would cease to exist. Without their generosity, we would not have the opportunity to receive teachings or to create merit by supporting them.
This mutual dependence is tender, even poignant, reflecting the truth of all of our relationships in life. We find ourselves filled with gratitude for the wisdom of the Buddha in providing such a clear teaching and for Venerable Chodron in her no-holds-barred conviction to live the Buddha’s teachings so that we can learn.
Dick Codding and Susan Mitchell
Then, the benefactors formally offer the food and the sangha accepts it.
With a mind that takes delight in giving, I offer these requisites to the sangha and the community. Through my generosity, may they have the food they need to sustain their Dharma practice. They are genuine Dharma friends who encourage, support, and inspire me along the path. May they become realized practitioners and skilled teachers who will guide us along the path. I rejoice at creating great positive potential by offering to those intent on virtue and dedicate this for the enlightenment of all sentient beings. Through my generosity, may we all have conducive circumstances to develop heartfelt love, compassion, wisdom, and altruism for each other and to realize the ultimate nature of reality.
Your generosity is inspiring and we are humbled by your faith in the Three Jewels. We will endeavor to keep our precepts as best we can, to live simply, to cultivate equanimity, love, compassion, and joy and to realize the ultimate nature so that we can repay your kindness in sustaining our lives. Although we are not perfect, we will do our best to be worthy of your offering. Together we will create peace in a chaotic world.