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This doctrine of Karma, a fundamental pillar of Buddhist ideology, asserts that all individuals are responsible for their past and present actions and conversely what we are today is a result of our past actions.
The direction given by Gautam Buddha is to ‘act in a way such that you earn merit or good karma’
or engage in pursuits that increase your merit – spend every moment of your limited time on earth earning karma
In my experience I believe that it is this clear directive that makes the buddhists so different from me and the paradigm I live in.
So while we have been trained to pursue the accumulation of wealth and achievements, Buddhists are trained to pursue the accumulation of Good Karma.
And so we see intense engagement in prayer, meditation and devotional pilgrimages and an indifference to – or at least a lower level of interest in the material world.
There are many ways to earn Karma, and at the Kyakhatwine Monastery in Myanmar, donating food and alms to monks, is one way.
Monks in Myanmar may eat only what they have received as alms from others. And so they spend their mornings walking around town with their bowl in hand, begging for food. They convene together at the monatsery at around 12 noon, they eat their frugal meal together in a large hall. The noon meal is the last solid meal they have in the day, the first being a little rice at breakfast.
Naturally for this to work the community is required to participate. And the society participates more than wholeheartedly. The first activity of every household is to prepare meals for the monks who will come begging in the morning. It is only after the monk’s meal is cooked, that the woman of the house begins working on her household chores.
On special days, people visit the monastery to make larger donations. On a visit to Kyakhatwine Monastery in the Mon district in Myanmar, I observed the donation ritual at noon time.
The monks had all returned to the monastery and had finished their prayers. They were now ready to eat and arrived from their chambers to the dining hall in a single file.
People waiting along the side, with quiet solemnity, bowed before them and offered them money or rice.
The dining hall:
Donors waiting to serve the monks
The young monks arrive