Saturday, December 22, 2018

Almsgiving on Saturday

Flowers  from the Garden for Offering

Saturday morning, I woke up at 7:30 a.m., when the alarm went off.  That's the earliest I've been up in a long time.  Even the outdoor cats looked surprised to see me up so early!  Usually, they are waiting outside the sliding glass door, when I wake up, waiting for their breakfast.  Today, they looked at me from their various spots in the garden, and waited until they saw me put out their food before they came running up to the door!  LOL!

I decided to have my coffee before I did anything else.  I checked my blog comments and replied to some while I had my coffee.  Then, at 8:00 a.m., I went into the kitchen to get started on the dump cake.  Put that in the oven at 8;15 a.m., and while it baked, started taking out the containers of soup and curries from the fridge and reheating them.  Friend R called around 8:30 a.m. to say she's on her way over.  She helped to make the salad and cut up the fresh fruits for me.  In the next hour and a half, friend R, my daughter, and I did all what needed to be done!  I had almost forgotten to cook the rice, until my daughter asked me, around 10:00 a.m. if there was anything else to do and I checked my list and remembered the rice!  She put the two types of rice to boil in the two rice cookers and they cooked while we finished up all the other things on my list.  We were all done and ready by 10:30 a.m., as planned!  Cousin P came over just before 11:00 a.m.

The Living Room Seating Arrangement
The living room sofas are covered with white sheets as a sign of respect for the monks (a symbolic purification).  Except, a certain kitty decided he needed to check it out for comfort!

"Just checking to see if it was done properly"
He got chased off by friend R, who, then, lint rollered the sheet to remove cat fur from it! 

The monks arrived a few minutes, later.  There were two Sri Lankan monks, a monk from Bangladesh, and a Korean monk, who was very intrigued that my daughter knew Japanese (she minored in Japanese during her undergrad studies).and had a long conversation with her in Japanese!  Around 11:15 a.m., we started the ceremony by making an offering of light (lit candle), incense, flowers and a portion of the prepared meal at the altar:

Tray of Food for Offering at the Altar (prior to being offered) 
After that, the monks were served their meal.  I thought I took two photographs of the monks, seated with their begging bowls, but, apparently I didn't click the camera, properly, because the photographs I took seem to have disappeared! 

After the meal was over, the Korean monk spoke about the importance of the mindfulness in breathing (anapanasati in Pali) meditation, the monks chanted blessings while we all held a special thread that was tied around a bottle of blessed water and passed around among us, and we symbolically transferred the merits we accrued from the almsgiving to our departed family and loved ones, by pouring water from the teapot into an empty cup (that is placed in a basin) until the cup overflows (the empty cup represents the departed loved ones, the water represents the merits).

After that, we received a sip of the blessed water and a piece of the special thread was tied around our right wrists as a reminder of the blessings and as protection.  The sound waves of the blessings being chanted have been absorbed by the thread  and the monks chant additional blessings as the thread is tied.  One may cut the thread off, after wearing it for some time, but I usually wear my thread until I receive a new one at the next almsgiving or blessing ceremony I attend, whenever that might be.  One of the monks also went around the house, blessing it, which I appreciated very much.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, I had my daughter offer the monks the envelopes I had prepared ahead of time (containing a monetary donation).  We also served two plates of food and containers of fruits, apple dump cake, and candies for them to take back to the temple for two people who are staying at the temple.  I remembered how, when I was undergoing chemo and had lost my appetite, these same monks would bring me plates of food from almsgivings they'd attended, in the hopes that I might enjoy it.

After the monks left, friend R, cousin P, my daughter, and I had our lunch.  Then, friend R and cousin P helped with the washing up.  After they left, daughter helped me to put away the rest of the food.  I froze some of it, so daughter could take some back with her, when she goes back to Berkeley.  Daughter and I have been resting since then.  I put a load of laundry to wash, just now, and am making a cup of tea. 

Today, I am grateful for:
- Being able to hold my annual year-end almsgiving
- My daughter being here to help and participate
- Friend R and cousin P coming to help and participate, too
- Everything going off well
- Leftovers!

Saturday's To Do List:
- Bake apple dump cake - DONE
- Take out chair covers, cover chairs - DONE
- Arrange flowers in vases - DONE
- Cut up fruits and arrange in saucers; cover - DONE
- Arrange a variety of sweets in saucers; cover - DONE
- Dish out yogurt into bowls; cover - DONE
- Pour palm treacle into sauce boat (to be served over yogurt) - DONE
- Dish out dump cake, cover - DONE
- Cook rice (2 types - white and red) - DONE
- Make salad - DONE
- Warm up curries; dish out into smaller serving dishes for serving to monks; bigger serving dishes for guests  (there was no need to dish out to bigger dishes as there were only two guests)- DONE
- Serve up offerings to the Buddha and offerings for the Order of Monks - DONE
- Boil water and keep warm for those monks who prefer hot water - DONE
- Pour water and juice into glasses - DONE

- Put away leftovers/wash dishes - DONE
- Do laundry - STARTED

Tree decorating might have to wait until Sunday, because I am tired! 

Sunday's To Do List:
- Put away washed dishes
- Put away dried laundry
- Do another load
- Iron the table cloths and serviettes
- Decorate the tree
- Put up the winter village
- Finish up the Christmas gifts

How was your Saturday?  What are your plans for Sunday? 


  1. As I read your post, I was thinking how busy and hectic the morning of an almsgiving can be back home in Sri Lanka.
    You are very organized and did most things in advance. I wish my mom would do that. 😊

    Did Dancer behave while monks were there?

    1. It has been several decades since I participated in an almsgiving in Sri Lanka! But I do remember that most people would get up very early in the morning to do the cooking! I have learned to do as much as can be done ahead of time. It takes me twice as long to do things, now, as I get tired, easily. So, the earlier I start preparing, the better. The monks do say that I am very organized and my almsgivings are usually very calm and serene, because everything has been prepared ahead of time. No one is rushing around looking for a box of matches to light the candle, for example, because I have kept out a lighter for the purpose. My daughter and friend R also know what needs doing, so that's a big help, too. Friend R is Catholic, but she grew up in a Buddhist household and her daughters have Buddhist husbands. :)

      Dancer was very well behaved, as he is afraid of people and usually hides under my bed when anyone comes to the house!

  2. Thanks so much for sharing your almsgiving. It sounded like it went very well and sounds lovely. How nice it was that your daughter was able to hold a conversation with the monk in Japanese. It sounds as though the monks are very caring. It must have been nice to be able to serve them especially since they helped you during your fight with cancer.

    I hope you get to do some relaxing soon!

    1. It was my pleasure, Sharon. It went very well and, although it was a lot of work, I feel happy that I was able to do it. I've known the two Sri Lankan monks for over 30 years. My mother taught them English when they first came to this country, and I helped them with some of their studies, too (they both attended university here). They've been very kind and helpful to me over the years and are very caring about my daughter, too (they came to the hospital to see her when she was born and have seen her grow).

      Thank you, I hope to relax as soon as Christmas is over!

  3. I'm so pleased your almsgiving went well, especially after all the work you put into your preparations.
    I really enjoyed reading about it as it is not something I have ever experienced myself, so thank you for sharing. X

    1. Thank you, Jules. I, too, am glad that it went off well. My pleasure to share a little bit of my religion and culture. :)

  4. Your meal and seating arrangements look very inviting. So smart of your daughter! Andrea

    1. Thank you, Andrea. My daughter loves all things Japanese and was determined to learn the language. :)

  5. Thanks for telling us about your almsgiving. The rituals and their symbolism sound very peaceful and positive. Someday I would like to attend one, but first I'm going to have to find some local Buddhist friends.

    1. Or, you could plan a trip to the west coast, sometime in December, next year! Because, if everything goes well, barring any illnesses or major earthquakes, etc., I'll be having another almsgiving. :)

  6. Bless

    It sounds like your almsgiving went well. I really enjoy hearing about different traditions so thank you for sharing - especially the symbolism behind why you do certain things during the almsgiving.

    I am glad your daughter is getting back to feeling like herself again.

    Thanks for sharing the lovely pictures of your preparations.


    1. My pleasure, Debra. There is a lot of symbolism behind everything! The offering of flowers at the altar, for example, is a meditation on the impermanence of life. The flowers are offered with a recitation of a stanza that states: "Just as these flowers fade and die, so will our bodies decay". In other words, nothing lives/lasts for ever, everything is subject to change, and the realization of the temporary nature of life will lead to non-attachment to such impermanent things, to equanimity and the cessation of sorrow and suffering at the loss of something that was impermanent in the first place. It's a whole different perspective from "life everlasting", isn't it? :)

  7. Wow, Bless. This is so beautiful. I was a yoga monk (swami), a long time ago. I loved that life. I shall probably always miss it. This is my spiritual blog: I often wonder if anyone understands a lot of what I write:

    1. Thank you, Ratnamurti. I took a quick look at your spiritual blog and in your most recent post, you had stated that someone had told you that we choose our parents. That is exactly what one of the monks stated during his Dhamma talk - he was recounting the story of Maha Maya's dream when she became pregnant with the bodhisattva (term used to refer to someone who would become a Buddha) and stated how he chose her to be his mother. It is part of our Buddhist traditions that the bodhisattva was dwelling in a spiritual realm before he chose his mother and decided to be born.

  8. LOVED the photos you shared. Such gorgeous flowers from your garden and the variety of foods that you served is amazing. The tables and chairs all covered in white sheets give an atmosphere of purity and peacefulness. So very lovely. I can certainly understand how your organization skills would produce an air of calm. Everything seems to have fallen into place and it is small wonder why the monks enjoy coming to your almsgiving.

    1. Thank you, Susan. I was very happy that I had both roses and paperwhites in the garden to pick! My preparations ahead of time worked out very well and I'm glad that everything went off so well. I'm trying to think if there was anything else I could have done ahead of time, but there really wasn't. Well, maybe I could have cooked the garbanzo beans earlier and frozen them. But, cleaning the house ahead of time really helped!

  9. Loved reading about the almsgiving - what beautiful symbols and blessings. I see Dancer thinks he needs a pure environment too, the rascal! Great that your daughter was able to converse in Japanese with the Korean monk. I hope you have had a restful day to enjoy the memories of a successful almsgiving.

    1. Thank you, Bushlady. Dancer really is too much! Otherwise, I would have covered the chairs and put the table cloths a day or two prior to the event. I've tried doing that in the past and found all the covers on the floor! So, now, I wait until the morning of and he still messes them up! I couldn't rest much, yesterday, as I still had to finish up my Christmas gifts shopping! The house has not been ETE'd, either! I'll wait until after Christmas to put everything away and take a nice, long rest!


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