How To Offer Food To Bhikkhus

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1)    One should not offer food to bhikkhus after noon time. This is because bhikkhus have to abide by the precept to refrain from eating at the disallowed hours (ie. after noon till the break of dawn). Bhikkhus are also not allowed to store their food. Hence, one should offer food to bhikkhus during the period of time that they are allowed to take their meals ie from break of dawn till the time of the midday sun. However, there is no time restriction to the offering of medicine.

The Buddha had laid down rules for the bhikkhus, such that bhikkhus are not allowed to partake any food not offered in the proper manner to bhikkhus. Therefore while performing dana, one should stand or kneel before a bhikkhu within reachable distance of his arm, meaning one should avoid standing/kneeling too far away; he could then place the food into the bhikkhu’s hands, alms bowl or plate.

2)    In accordance to the Vinaya (precepts), after a bhikkhu has eaten and turned down further food offerings, he is not allowed to partake food that is not leftover. As such, when offering food, please do not ask whether the bhikkhu “wants or doesn’t want” food, or whether he has “had sufficient” food.

If one were to hold food in his hands with the intention of offering to a bhikkhu, but notice that the bhikkhu did not respond, or if the bhikkhu were to cover his alms bowl, then one should not be insistent in making the offering.

3)    When offering fruits or vegetables containing seeds (ie. plants with the residual potential to grow), such food needs to be made allowable first.

  • The offeror holding the fruits and vegetables, and the bhikkhu would say to him/her thus: “Kappiyaṃ karohi”, meaning “Make this allowable”.
  • The offeror should then break or puncture the skin of the fruit with a  knife or fork. Then the offeror should reply“Kappiyaṃ, bhante”, meaning “Venerable Sir, (this is) allowable”.

There are five methods of making allowable such food, namely:

  • To damage with fire: to burn with fire or to pass through fire.
  • To damage with a knife: to use a knife or fork to break or puncture the skin of the fruit
  • To damage with finger nails: to break the skin of the fruit using finger nails.
  • Seedless: plants such as bananas that are already without seeds
  • Seeds removed: an example would be the removal of seeds from an apple.

Point to note: All food to be made allowable should be in contact with one another, or linked by contact. By making allowable one of the fruits/vegetables, the rest of the fruits/vegetables on the same plate will then be considered to have been made allowable together. After this, one can then offer the fruits/vegetables by hand to the bhikkhu.

Scale of Return In Offerings

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The Buddha then explained the benefits of these fourteen types of offerings:

  • By making an offering to an animal, with a pure mind, the offering may be expected to repay a hundredfold.
  • By making an offering with a pure mind to an immoral ordinary person, the offering may be expected to repay a thousandfold.
  • By making an offering to a virtuous ordinary person, the offering may be expected to repay a hundred-thousandfold.
  • By making an offering to one outside the dispensation who is free from lust for sensual pleasures due to attainment of jhana, the offering may be expected to repay a hundred -thousand times a hundred-thousand fold
  • By making an offering to one who has entered upon the way to the realisation of the fruit of stream-entry, the offering may be expected to repay incalculably, immeasurably.
    • What then should be said about making an offering to a stream-enterer,
    • or to one who has entered upon the way to the realisation of the fruit of once-return,
    • or to one who has entered upon the way to the realisation of the fruit of non-return,
    • or to a non-returner,
    • or to one who has entered upon the way to the realisation of the fruit of arahantship,
    • or to an arahant,
    • or to a Paccekabuddha,
    • or to a Buddha, the Fully Enlightened One ?

Here, an offering means one offers food enough for once only. If a giver offers many times, such as, over many days or many months, there are no words to describe the benefits of those offerings. These are the different types of personal offerings (patipuggalika- dakkhina).

The Seven Kinds Of Offerings To The Sangha

The Buddha then explained to the Venerable Ananda: ‘There are seven kinds of offerings made to the Sangha, Ananda.
[1] One makes an offering to a Sangha of both bhikkhus and bhikkhunis headed by the Buddha: this is the first kind of offering made to the Sangha.
[2] One makes an offering to a Sangha of both bhikkhus and bhikkhunis after
the Buddha has attained Parinibbana: this is the second kind of offering made to the Sangha.
[3] One makes an offering to a Sangha of bhikkhus: this is the third kind of offering made to the Sangha.
[4] One makes an offering to a Sangha of bhikkhunis: this is the fourth kind of offering made to the Sangha.
[5] One makes an offering, saying: ‘Appoint so many bhikkhus and bhikkhunis to me from the Sangha’: this is the fifth kind of offering made to the Sangha.
[6] One makes an offering, saying: ‘Appoint so many bhikkhus to me from the Sangha’: this is the sixth kind of offering made to the Sangha.
[7] One makes an offering, saying: ‘Appoint so many bhikkhunis to me from the Sangha’: this is the seventh kind of offering made to the Sangha.’ These are the seven types of offering to the Sangha.
The Buddha then compared personal offerings to offerings to the Sangha: [ In future times, Ananda, there will be members of the clan who are ‘yellow-necks’, immoral, of evil character. People will make offerings to those immoral persons on behalf of the Sangha. Even then, I say, an offering made to the Sangha is incalculable, immeasurable. And I say that in no way does an offering to a person individually, ever have greater fruit than an offering made to the Sangha.]

14 Types of Personal Offerings

In the Dakkhinavibhavga Sutta, the Buddha explains the fourteen types of personal offerings (patipuggalika-dakkhina):
Ananda, there are fourteen types of personal offerings:

[1]  One makes an offering to a Buddha: this is the first type of personal offering.

[2]  One makes an offering to a Paccekabuddha: this is the second type of personal offering.

[3]  One makes an offering to an arahant, a disciple of the Buddha: this is the third type of personal offering.

[4]  One makes an offering to one who has entered upon the way to the realisation of the fruit of a arahantship: this is the fourth type of personal offering.

[5]  One makes an offering to a non-returner (anagami): this is the fifth type of personal offering.

[6]  One makes an offering to one who has entered upon the way to the realisation of the fruit of non-return: this is the sixth type of personal offering.

[7]  One makes an offering to a once-returner (sakadagami): this is the seventh type of personal offering.

[8]  One makes an offering to one who has entered upon the way to the realisation of the fruit of once-return: this is the eighth type of personal offering.

[9]  One makes an offering to a stream-enterer (sotapanna): this is the ninth type of personal offering.

[10]  One makes an offering to one who has entered upon the way to the realisation of the fruit of stream-entry: this is the tenth type of personal offering.

[11]  One makes an offering to one outside the dispensation who is free from lust for sensual pleasures due to attainment of jhana: this is the eleventh type of personal offering.

[12]  One makes an offering to a virtuous ordinary person (puthujjana): this is the twelfth type of personal offering.

[13]  One makes an offering to an immoral ordinary person: this is the thirteenth type of personal offering.

[14]  One makes an offering to an animal: this is the fourteenth type of personal offering