Brief notes on Buddhist thought and practice
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The Mendicant Life

Like all wandering ascetics, every morning Siddhartha and his five companions would get up, take their alms bowls, and beg for food from door to door. This was a common custom in those days, when there were many wandering monks. People believed that if you helped an ascetic, you would get some of the merit he developed.

Many of the people he begged from could see that Siddhartha was different from most monks. He still looked and acted like a prince. His clothes weren’t even ragged yet. So people gave him the best food they had.

Still, instead of feeling satisfied with that, the first time he looked into his bowl, Siddhartha was disgusted! He had always lived like a prince. All his life he had been given the best food available, served in an attractive way, "fit for a king," you could say. Now, even though the people were giving him their best, it was still mostly the scraps and leftovers of common people’s dinner.

Finally, though, he learned to eat it. He reminded himself that he had left home by choice, and had to accept all of the conditions of such a life.

  1. Put yourself in Siddhartha's place. What other conditions of the mendicant's life would be difficult to adjust to?
  2. If you were one of the people, would you be more likely to give food to a "princely beggar," or less?
Next time: King Bimbasara

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