Daily Alms Round
One of the important ascetic practices with monks of the Thai Forest tradition of Theravadan Buddhism is going on daily alms round (Pali: pindapata). According to the teachings of the Buddha, there are two main purposes in going on alms round. The first concerns the monk, who in going is reminding himself to be humble; the other concerns the person offering alms, who in so doing is practicing generosity. This tradition dates back to before the Buddha, who lived in India more than 2,500 years ago.
Daily alms round starts at 7:30 AM. The route varies, as the monk(s) walks around different parts of Old Englewood, generally returning to the monastery by 9:30 AM. Those wishing to offer early morning alms may do so by leaving them on the table with the Buddha image situated on the exterior of the east side of the monastery residence building. Food may also be directly offered to the monk(s) at the monastery between 10:30-11 AM. The monk(s) does not eat after noon, so please do not offer food after that time.
HOW TO OFFER FOOD TO A MONK ON ALMS ROUND
Place the foods directly into the monk's bowl without touching the monk. This is usually done in "noble silence," as going on alms round is a solemn practice for monks.
As for what kinds of food one puts in a monk’s bowl, it should be nutritious and small enough to fit in the bowl. A piece of fruit, a sandwich, a slice of pizza, an egg or muffin, a spoonful of cooked rice or roasted vegetables, etc. are good items to offer. Bottles of water are NOT good offerings because they are heavy and the monks have plenty of water at their residence. Other than that, monks can eat just about anything a layperson eats. Consider that in offer alms to a monk, we are simply sharing part of a meal we may have already prepared for ourselves. If food requires preparation, please do so before offering it. Raw/uncooked meat or fish should not be offered. All foods should be ready for consumption.
Once the monk determines that he has enough food to sustain him for the day, he returns to the residence. Please don’t take offense if you have prepared something and by the time you meet him he doesn’t accept your offering. Your intention to be generous is already a meritorious act. Perhaps another hungry person in the community would be grateful for your donation, or you can bring it to the monastery and offer it there.
For additional information about this practice go to http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/economy.html.