On November 24, I helped make a nice breakfast and lunch for Pa-Auk Forest Monastery, Pyin Oo Lwin. I organized 28 monks including myself to be the donors for the whole day meals + fresh squeezed apple juice, for a full value of 1,250,000 Myanmar Kyat. It fed approximately 530 yogis across four sections in Pa-Auk Forest Monastery. But how is that possible for monks to donate money?
Listen and I will explain:
At the end of rainy season and also on the Full Moon Day of February, it is sort of like Buddha-Christmas and we get lots of gifts. Besides robes, which I have received three high quality cotton robes and one synthetic robe, we also got a few other gifts like a razor, blades, broom and dustbin set and a nice little high powered torch (flash light) along with some other non-mentions . That was nice. A few days later, came these two requisite slip papers worth 45,000 myk. Below are those items.
Monks are not allowed to touch money, and we can only ask for things from people who invite us. There are several ways that a monk can be invited. Most of my donors have given me full invitations that do not expire by time, and are only limited to their abilities and faith that I’m supposed to gauge on my own. These slips are of a different class of donor. It allows the monk-recipient to ask for anything he needs having the value up to 45,000 Myanmar Kyat from the monastery steward.
This method is very popular in Thailand and recently crept into the Pa-Auk monasteries by osmosis. It is very convenient but can also make the mind wander thinking of things he might need. While some vinaya monks who do not use this method call these, “money vouchers.” They are what they are: invitations for items that a monk needs up to a certain value.
We can use these donation slips to request, phone top-ups, replace broken this or that, or use it for medical expenses not covered in the “Pa-Auk HMO”, like blood tests or external doctor visits (although usually free). So, I’m looking at this slip, thinking how valuable it is and thinking what I could ask for. As a monk, those are stupid thoughts, so I decided to round up 27 other monks to use their slips to make a meal donation for the day. Not everyone is in a position to be able to give away these slips, but I’m quite well supported and don’t need to worry about telephone top-ups or the HMO deficiencies. There are roughly 170 monks, so I figured it could be possible to get 20% without sweating.
I made a sheet that looked like the picture below and passively placed it next to the leftover food table. It is not official so I could not ask to put on the notice board. Within 2 days, the list was filled up and we made the donation. There were also roughly 10 others who came late but could not be included in the list. If you are wondering why there are four languages, look at the countries of those who donated.
A week or two later, I gave back the slips and we personally handed them to the lady in charge of the office. It was nice event. Although meal donations by the locals are down because nobody is allowed inside to witness their donations and help serve, there is still a long waiting list to donate the daily meals. I tried for Thanksgiving Day but the best I could do was grab a cancellation on November 24th. Otherwise, I probably would have needed to wait until January or February 2021.
And so that is how 28 monks made a donation for the rest of sangha.