Alms or almsgiving exists in a number of religions. In general, it involves giving materially to another as an act of religious virtue. In
Abrahamic religions, alms are given as charity to benefit the poor. In Buddhism, alms are given by lay people to monks and nuns to nurture laic virtue, merit and blessings and to ensure monastic continuity. The word comes from Old English "ælmesse", "ælmes", from Late Latin "eleemosyna", from Greek "eleEmosynE" pity, alms, from "eleEmOn" merciful, from "eleos" pity.
In Buddhism, alms or almsgiving is the respect given by a lay Buddhist to a Buddhist monk or nun. It is not charity as presumed by Western interpreters. It is closer to a symbolic connection to the spiritual and to show humbleness and respect in the presence of normal society. [Indicative of the mutual nature of the almsgiving exchange, in some Theravada countries, if a monk were to refuse alms from someone—a gesture known as "turning over the rice bowl"—this would be interpreted as an act of excommunication. An example of such a refusal has occurred at times as a form of protest by Buddhist monks in response to offerings by military personnel in military-occupied Myanmar (Mydans,
20 September 2007, NYT).] The visible presence of monks and nuns is a stabilizing influence. The act of alms giving assists in connecting the human to the monk or nun and what he/she represents. As the Buddha has stated:
:Householders & the homeless [monastics] :in mutual dependence:both reach the true Dhamma.... (Itivuttaka 4.7) [Thanissaro (2001). [http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/iti/iti.4.100-112.than.html#iti-107] Almsgiving is also commended by the Buddha in a less prominent way in various other canonical texts such as the
TheravadaBuddhism, monks ( Pāli: " bhikkhus")and nuns go on a daily almsround (or "pindacara") to collect food. This is often perceived as giving the laypeople the opportunity to make merit (Pāli: puñña). Money should not be accepted by a Buddhist monk or nun, although nowadays not many monks and nuns keep to this rule (the exception being the monks and nuns of the Thai Forest Traditionand other Theravadatraditions which focus on vinayaand meditationpractice). In countries that follow MahayanaBuddhism, it has been impractical for monks to go on a daily almsround. In China, Korea and Japan, monasteries were situated in remote mountain areas where it could take days to reach the nearest town, thus making the daily almsround impossible. In Japan, the practice of a weekly or monthly takuhatsutook its place. In the Himalayan countries, the large number of bikshus would have made an almsround a heavy burden on families. Competition with other religions for support also made daily almsrounds difficult and even dangerous; the first monks in the Shilla dynasty of Korea were said to be beaten due to the Buddhist minority at the time.
In Buddhism, both "almsgiving" and, more generally, "giving" are called "dāna" (Pāli). [Nyanatiloka (1980), entry for "dāna" [http://www.budsas.org/ebud/bud-dict/dic3_d.htm] .] Such giving is one of the three elements of the path of practice as formulated by the Buddha for laypeople. This path of practice for laypeople is: dāna, sīla, bhāvanā. [Nyanatiloka (1980), entry for "dāna" [http://www.budsas.org/ebud/bud-dict/dic3_d.htm] ; and, PTS (1921-25), entry for "Puñña" (merit) [http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philologic/getobject.pl?c.2:1:3017.pali] .]
Generosity is also expressed towards other sentient beings as both a cause for merit and to aid the receiver of the gift. It is accepted that although the three jewels of refuge are the basis of the greatest merit, by seeing other sentient beings as having Buddhanature and making offerings towards the aspirational Buddha to be within them is of equal benefit. Generosity towards other sentient beings is greatly emphasised in Mahayana as one of the perfections (
paramita) as shown in Lama Tsong Khapa's 'The Abbreviated Points of the Graded Path' (Tibetan: "lam-rim bsdus-don"):
:"Total willingness to give is the wish-granting gem for fulfilling the hopes of wandering beings.:It is the sharpest weapon to sever the knot of stinginess.:It leads to
bodhisattvaconduct that enhances self-confidence and courage,:And is the basis for universal proclamation of your fame and repute.:Realizing this, the wise rely, in a healthy manner, on the outstanding path:Of (being ever-willing) to offer completely their bodies, possessions, and positive potentials.:The ever-vigilant lama has practiced like that.:If you too would seek liberation,:Please cultivate yourself in the same way." [Tsongkhapa & Berzin (2001), verse 15.]
Buddhism, giving of alms is the beginning of one's journey to Nirvana(Pali: "nibbana"). In practice, one can give anything with or without thought for Nibbana. This would lead to faith (Pali: "saddha"), one key power (Pali: "bala") that one should generate within oneself for the Buddha, Dhammaand Sangha.
According to the
Pali canon: :Of all gifts [alms] , the gift of Dhammais the highest. (Dhp. XXIV v. 354) [In Pali, this line is: "Sabba danam, Dhamma danam jinati"." This line can be found in the " Dhammapada", Chapter 24, verse 354. Thanissaro (1997) [http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/dhp/dhp.24.than.html#dhp-354] translates this entire verse as::A gift of Dhamma conquers all gifts;:the taste of Dhamma, all tastes;:a delight in Dhamma, all delights;:the ending of craving, all suffering: & stress.]
Christianityas a personal religion has no concept of a legal requirement to give alms, nevertheless giving to the poor is regarded as one of the highest duties for any Christian.The Book of James, chapter 1:27 (NIV) "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."] The offertoryis the traditional moment in every Roman CatholicMass, and Anglican Eucharistwhen alms are collected.
Eastern Orthodox Churchand the Eastern Catholic Churchesthe collection of alms and tithes has not been formally united to the offertory in any liturgical action. However, either having a collection plate in the narthexor passing it unobtrusively during the service is not uncommon. In Orthodox theology, almsgiving is an important part of the spiritual life, and fastingshould always be accompanied by increased prayer and almsgiving. [)
Giving of the rich versus the poor:Here Jesus contrasts the giving of the rich and the poor:"He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, "Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on."- ()
Giving out of Love and not out of duty:: "()"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
This indicates that we should give, for as god loves us so should we love the very least person, even if they do wrong against us or are offensive to us in any way, we should still love them and show compassion to them.This is what the Lord God expects.
Bhiksha" is a devotional offering, usually food, presented at a temple or to a swamior a religious Brahminwho in turn provides a religious service (" karmkand") or instruction.Bhiksha was a ritual for those who were monks so that their Ego was equated with all and self nullified. They asked for the material bhiksha for the survival and some educational social facility. The greater value of the Bhiksha was in asking begging for good timely wisdom for all by these saints. Many did so and are doing today. One of such sanit 400 years ago was Swami samarth ramdas ji guru of Shivaji a warrior hero of India Maharashtra who fought for self rule then. Swami ramadas ji asks for alms for wisdom and divine peace for all. His work is available on the sites named after him. His work is in form of dasbodha a book of wisdom.
Islamic scriptural rules on alms are quite reminiscent of the biblical instructions:
:"If you give alms openly, it is well; but if you do it secretly and give to the poor, that is better." - (Qur-an 2:271a)
zakat, or the giving of alms, is the third of the five pillars of Islam. Various rules attach to the practice, but in general terms, it is obligatory to give away 2.5% of ones savings and business revenue, as well as 5-10% of ones harvest, to the poor. The recipients include the destitute, the working poor, those who are unable to pay off their own debts, stranded travelers, and others who need assistance, with the general principle of "zakaah" always being that the rich should pay it to the poor.
In the Jewish tradition, charity represented by
tzedakah, justice, and the poor are entitled to charity as a matter of right rather than benevolence. Contemporary charity is regarded as a continuation of the Biblical Maaser Ani, or poor-tithe, as well as Biblical practices including permitting the poor to glean the corners of a field, harvest during the Shmita(Sabbatical year), and other practices. Voluntary charity, along with prayer and repentance, is regarded as ameliorating the consequences of bad acts.
* Mydans, Seth (
20 September 2007). "Monks Pressure Myanmar Junta" (New York Times). Retrieved 20 September 2007from "The New York Times" at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/20/world/asia/20cnd-myanmar.html?_r=1&hp=&adxnnl=1&oref=slogin&adxnnlx=1190317793-WFaRWsDL7E5KoNddBiTQ5A.
* Nyanatiloka Mahathera (4th ed., 1980). "Buddhist Dictionary: Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines." Kandy, Sri Lanka:
Buddhist Publication Society. ISBN 955-24-0019-8. Available on-line at: http://www.budsas.org/ebud/bud-dict/dic_idx.htm.
Pali Text Society(PTS) (1921-1925). "The Pali Text Society's Pali-English dictionary". London: Chipstead. Available on-line at: http://dsal.uchicago.edu/dictionaries/pali/.
Thanissaro Bhikkhu(trans.) (1997). "Tanhavagga: Craving" (Dhp XXIV). Available on-line at: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/dhp/dhp.24.than.html.
* Thanissaro Bhikkhu (trans.) (2001). "The Group of Fours" (Itivuttaka 4). Available on-line at: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/iti/iti.4.100-112.than.html.
Tsongkhapa& Alexander Berzin (trans.) (2001). "The Abbreviated Points of the Graded Path". Available on-line at: http://www.berzinarchives.com/sutra/sutra_level_2/abbrev_lamrim.html.
* [http://www.thaibuddhist.com/alms_round.html "The Morning Alms Round,"] article by Richard Barrow at ThaiBuddhist.com.
*Kariyawasam, A.G.S. (1995). "Buddhist Ceremonies and Rituals of Sri Lanka" (The Wheel Publication No. 402/404). Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society. [http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/kariyawasam/wheel402.html#ch5 Chapter 5,] section 1, pertains to almsgiving. Available from "Access to Insight" (1996 transcription) at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/kariyawasam/wheel402.html.
* Satish Chandra Few cents on life. Five pillars of life at [http://few-cents.blogspot.com]
* [http://www.survivorsareus.com/index.cfm/Importance_of_Zakat_Alms_to_the_Poor All about Zakat and many benefits of paying it]
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