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Alms collecting enough or too much?


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In my early stays in Thailand in the 90s my girlfriends occasionally took me to various Wats in heavily populated areas. Usually on the day that food is taken. I would see people who looked like they might be doing it tough hanging around and getting a feed after the monks had finished. At the time I understood this to be a form of charity.

Now I live in a rural area with many Wats around. Our nearest Wat has 5 monks at the moment. They take two routes every morning and walk around collecting alms. On the days that people bring food to the temple there is so much, the monks couldn't possibly eat it all. Even though some people remain behind and eat there is still a lot left over. Likewise each day they collect much more food than they could possibly eat. Nor is there anyone doing it tough or in need of charity in the area or if there is they don't go to the Wat for it. So after feeding a few dogs the rest is waste. I'll not even mention the orange bucket pile.

My question's are, shouldn't they stop collecting after they have enough? How much is too much?

I have some other thoughts about Buddhist practices but will leave them for the moment but I really hope that the faith doesn't go the same path of irrelevancy as the Christian church in Australia

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Monks never stop collecting even when they have enough. I know of people who go to the temple everyday to eat not got money to buy food, if they go to the temple, after the monks have eaten food is then given to the people at the temple.

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Wastage of food in general, throughout the world, is enormous; more than enough to feed all the starving and undernourished people in all the undeveloped countries. Credible research has put a figure of 1.4 billion tonnes on the amount of food wasted each year globally. Such wastage is not only due to wealthy Westerners not finishing the food on their plate, throwing stuff away because it's passed its use-by date, producers dumping the vegetables and fruit that do not look cosmetically nice because they know the consumers won't buy stuff that doesn't meet their appearance rating, and the food processing industry selecting only a part of the whole food, but also due to the lack of infrastructure in undeveloped countires where wastage takes place due to a lack of refrigeration and storage facilities and inadequate transport.


I would hope that the Buddhist system of gaining merit through donating food does not contribute to such wastage. If wastage is taking place in certain temples, I would think it would be up to the Abbot to ensure that such excess food is passed on to the poorest who might need it. I think it would be difficult for the Abbot to ask the locals to offer less food when wastage is taking place, because less food given might be interpreted by the laypeople as less merit gained.

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While it's interesting to think about, what does it really matter in the grand scheme of things?

Food, or perishable goods, aren't the only 'resources' wasted by cultural practices around the world.

And then there are many things that can be considered 'food' that are produce naturally every day that go unpicked, unharvested, unprocessed and then return back to the earth as natural elements to start the cycle all over once again.

Compare and Contrast.

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Monks live much better than many Thai people.

They own nothing, but have very much.

I once went to the wat with my wife and her mother.

We were asked to wait in the living quarters to meet the monk my mother in law wanted to see.

I was amazed at the things piled up in the living quarters.

Stacks of new televisions and DVD players and many other things..

I counted over 40 clocks on one wall!

I asked my wife why they had so many things they could not use.

She said that if people give them things, they must accept them.

Like I said, they "own" nothing, but have very much....too much!

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How about this monk in Lampang.

http://www.thaivisa.com/forum/topic/533877-lampang-monk-disrobed-after-being-discovered-in-bed-with-woman/

the monk is a famous preacher with a lot of followers. He did so well with donations that he was able to construct a golden teak wood accommodation for himself with a budget of 10 million baht.

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While it's interesting to think about, what does it really matter in the grand scheme of things?

Food, or perishable goods, aren't the only 'resources' wasted by cultural practices around the world.

And then there are many things that can be considered 'food' that are produce naturally every day that go unpicked, unharvested, unprocessed and then return back to the earth as natural elements to start the cycle all over once again.

Compare and Contrast.

Does it really matter? Are you kidding? Because waste takes place with many types of resources, it must be normal and therefore all waste is okay!! What sort of logic is that? wink.png
As a portion of the estimated 1.4 billion tonnes of food wasted each year, the total amount wasted by all Thai temples might be trivial. However, if there is waste, and I should add that I don't know personally that there is, then the attitude of mind that allows such waste is wrong, especially with such a fundamental resource such as food which is essential for life, and especially considering there are around a billion people in the world who are either starving or undernourished.
Food that's not harvested and is returned back to the earth through natural processes is in a different category. It's not waste because no human labour is involved. It's rather a missed opportunity.
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Does ever bit of food that you buy get eaten? All of it? Never leave anything on the plate behind? Never anything left in a serving bowl?
Your favorite local restaurants utilize every consumable/perishable they ever purchase?

If not, then how much waste is acceptable, and why?

"It's only waste when human labour is involved." OK, That one I have to think about that one.

I agree it's a missed opportunity. People don't have a clue what their actions can have, especially when those actions are multiple and cumulative.

Personally I am disgusted with the amount of resources wasted by people on the planet and try not to participate in it. I try to live a lean existence. I want to believe I am being a better person by not participating in glutenous Thanksgiving Feasts or materialistic horror of Christmas. But even I have my own personal greed for things. My greed and habits are responsible for wasted resources -- resources that 'could' have benefited a deserving person who needed them more than I.

I'm not so worried about wasted food. While I don't like the taking of life and having the product of that taking wasted, the elements do get returned.

Besides the lives taken, I worry MORE about what it takes to keep the planet covered in food and material goods 24/7 in such an abundance that people can afford to waste it.

I worry about the amount of naturally sequestered compartmentalized liquid, gaseous, and solid hydrocarbons that we suck up out of ground and convert into carbon and the cumulative actions that will ultimately have. If we stop loving hydrocarbons then I wonder how much 'food waste' will continue to occur at your local Wat.

Yes, I am a lunatic.

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Looked at in a micro sense it might not seem much. But in my view Buddhism still has the chance to remain relevant in a practical as well as a spiritual sense as Thai society develops rapidly. I think the Christian faith in many of our old countries lost that opportunity probably in the 50s and 60s, certainly by the 70s. By remaining focused inwards and not embracing change and the changed needs of the community. Now many have changed by and large too late.

How can the Buddhist faith remain relevant if waste is condoned and indeed sought after by the practitioners. One day people will ask why am I giving this.

The abbot has given no thought to this of this I feel certain and I see few signs yet of them getting ahead of the game.

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Besides the lives taken, I worry MORE about what it takes to keep the planet covered in food and material goods 24/7 in such an abundance that people can afford to waste it.

That's a good point. There are those who argue that the planet cannot sustain the ever- increasing food requirements for the ever-increasing world population and that the solution must be to enforce population control. That's one solution. However, a better solution in my view, or at least an additional solution, is to teach an attitude of non-wastage, recycling everything when practical, and moderation in consumption, which is a general Buddhist principle that is very relevant to the problem.

I worry about the amount of naturally sequestered compartmentalized liquid, gaseous, and solid hydrocarbons that we suck up out of ground and convert into carbon and the cumulative actions that will ultimately have. If we stop loving hydrocarbons then I wonder how much 'food waste' will continue to occur at your local Wat.

I wouldn't worry about that. Real pollution is always a concern, but CO2 is a clean, odourless gas, as pure as the mind of an enlightened Buddhist. wink.png If we stop loving hydrocarbons, food supply will become even more of a problem.
It seems to be an undeniable scientific fact that CO2 is a tremendous asset for increasing food production. If through some miraculous means we were able to reduce CO2 levels to pre-industrial levels (which is impossible of course) we'd be in big trouble. Using the same amount of water and fertilizers, global food production would be reduced by 1/3rd, causing a huge crisis. Most plants love CO2. The more the better. They not only thrive on it, they absolutely need it in order to grow at all.
During the next 40 years it is estimated that the 'fertilizer' effect of the additional CO2 we've put into the atmosphere will have the result of increasing the global value of agricultural production by almost 10 trillion dollars.
The following link to a pdf provides the details, if you're interested.
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