The Pali term "piṇḍapāta" means "food offered in the bowl", that is to say any kind of food offered by a person to a bhikkhu while pouring it into his bowl. A person who is used to search for his food in this manner is called a piṇḍapātika.
"piṇḍapāta" = "food obtained by means of a bowl"; "ika» = "the one who searches (for something)"
Literally, "piṇḍapātika" therefore means "the one who collects some food by means of the bowl", that is to say a person who got used to perform an alms round in order to provide for his dietary needs.
When this practice is conveniently carried out, with steadiness and diligence, along with the determination of not breaking it, we say that there is "piṇḍapātikaṅga " (state of mind of the food obtained by means of a bowl).
For adopting this dhutaṅga, it is convenient to utter the following phrase whether in Pali, or else in the language of one's choice...
«atirekalābhaṃ paṭikkhipāmi, piṇḍapātikaṅgaṃ samādhiyāmi.»
«I renounce to any food coming from another source than the food obtained by means of the bowl, I will train into eating only food obtained through collect by means of the bowl.»
According to restrictions, there do exist three kinds of practitioners of the piṇḍapāta dhutaṅga:
The bhikkhu who is a noble practitioner of the piṇḍapāta dhutaṅga can accept some food coming from a house that he has already passed or a house in front of which he hasn't passed yet. He can also accept food coming from an inn or someone who takes his bowl at another spot for pouring food in it. Nevertheless, a noble practitioner of the piṇḍapāta dhutaṅga won't have to accept food while waiting at a spot in the hope to receive some from a person who issued an invitation for it, even the very same day (to come to receive this food).
The bhikkhu who is an intermediate practitioner of the piṇḍapāta dhutaṅga will be eligible to accept some food while waiting at a spot in the hope to receive some from a person who issued an invitation to him the very same day (to come to receive this food), but not if this person has issued an invitation for it the day before.
The bhikkhu who is an ordinary practitioner of the piṇḍapāta dhutaṅga can accept food offered by a person who has invited him, whatever the invitation day is.
By practising the piṇḍapāta dhutaṅga, we can benefit with the following merits...
Remark: Only the practice of a dhutaṅga enables one to truly understand its merits.
As soon as a bhikkhu who practises the piṇḍapāta dhutaṅga accepts and consumes a food obtained in a way different from collecting by means of the bowl, he breaks his dhutaṅga.
It is not convenient that a bhikkhu who practises the piṇḍapāta dhutaṅga neither accepts, nor consumes of these 14 kinds of food (mentioned before), otherwise he breaks his dhutaṅga from the moment he consumes some.
If some dāyakas wish to offer one of the 14 kinds of food (mentioned before) to a bhikkhu who practises the piṇḍapāta dhutaṅga by making it convenient, and thus, instead of saying «May you accept this food meant for the saṃgha, Venerable!», they tell «In our house, There are bhikkhus who come to receive some food by collecting it by means of their bowl. May you also accept this food with your bowl, Venerable!», this bhikkhu can accept and consume it while remaining respectful of his dhutaṅga.
According to the texts of «visuddhi magga», a practitioner of the piṇḍapāta dhutaṅga can accept one of the above mentioned 14 kinds of food, if it is offered in the context of the food collection made by the bhikkhu from house to house. To that sake, this intention must be specified through the turn of phrase utilised by the dāyaka wishing to offer the food.
The bhikkhu who practises the piṇḍapāta dhutaṅga can also accept and consume some medical products offered to the saṃgha, likewise the food offered to the saṃgha and cooked in a monastery, by this food must be accepted by someone who comes close to the bhikkhu in order to pour it inside of his bowl, when he goes to collect his food in a village (or he comes back from it). The same thing applies regarding fruits that grow on the trees located inside of the monastery premises.
Naturally, a bhikkhu who practises the piṇḍapāta dhutaṅga can accept the belongings for fulfilling four necessities, even apart from daily collection as to robes, lodging and medicines.
In the first place, the bhikkhu who proceeds to an inhabited area is liable to conveniently comply with all the sekhiyas which Buddha has established. By suitably following these points of conduct, the bhikkhu will but help the saddhā of the dāyakas to accrue and his vigilant and self-composed attitude will increase his reputation, and thus, the one of the saṃgha.
His robes must be well folded and regular, all around the body. The one of the bottom should come down at approximately eight fingers (breadth of the fingers) below the knees, and the one situated above around four fingers below. If the wind blows, so that the robe is not lifted up, the bhikkhu must tie up the tail of his robe by means of a little stud. Wrists must be delicately covered up. He must not watch everything that is happening, likened to a forest crow. He must constantly gaze down at the ground with dignity (at approximately four cubits ahead of him, thus nearly two meters). Except a danger, the bhikkhu must not lift up his robe while proceeding to or coming back from an inhabited area. He must not cover his head with a cloth either, even if the sun is strong or it rains. To protect himself, he must use a fan used for that sake. He must not talk, neither laugh loudly. If he is to talk (with a good reason), he must do in a low voice. He must not wave his body, arms or his head, neither put his hands on the hips, nor cross his arms, not walk on the heels.
Also refer to: The 75 sekhiyas
It is convenient that the bhikkhu who practises the piṇḍapāta dhutaṅga adopts a support of kammaṭṭhāna (samatha or vipassanā) that is convenient for himself, while he proceeds to collect his food and while collecting it. That is of very high benefit, as much to himself as to others.
In Buddha's time, a renowned bhikkhu, the Venerable mahāthera Subhūti used to develop mettā permanently, even while going to collect his food. Owing to this uninterrupted practice of benevolence towards his donors and all beings he came across, he reached the first jhāna, and soon after, he became an arahanta. His mettā was based on these words:
«sukhitā hotha, dukkhāmuccatha», which means «May you be healthy and happy; may you be free from suffering! »
The life of a bhikkhu is this kind of existence in which we are largely satisfied of the food obtained after having done a round, by means of one's own legs. We are merely contented with that which people are willing to give us, even with leftovers. A bhikkhu, even puthujana, can eradicate greed, hence considerably reduce the kilesās owing to the piṇḍapāta dhutaṅga. He is therefore happy and quiet in his mind. He is free from worries and anxieties for obtaining his food (work, growth, preparation, etc.). He remains serene.
The one who regularly practises the food collection by means of his bowl will not come across obstacles, neither interdiction; the one who adopts this dhutaṅga can proceed wherever he wants to, in each of the four directions. Owing to this practice, he can do away with a feeling of lassitude and laziness. This means of livelihood is perfectly pure (by this mean provide for his needs, no akusala can ever be committed). The one who provide for his body's needs through such a practice is therefore free from all faults.
For these reasons, "Buddha's sons" whom bhikkhus are, who live within the sāsana, are liable to be respectful while proceeding to collect their food. As frequently promoted by Buddha, each bhikkhu should behave in this way daily.
Origin: Book in Burmese language
Author: Monk Devinda
Translator: Monk Dhamma Sāmi
Date of translation: 2004, January
Update: 2005, June the 18th