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Begging As A Spiritual Path

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I've done some research, and it looks like we are in good company. Turns out begging is an ancient spiritual practice, accepted and respected in many parts of the world. Not only that, but giving to begggars is also a good thing.

Here's what I found on wikipedia:

In many, perhaps most, traditional religions, it is considered that a person who gives alms to a worthy beggar, such as a spiritual seeker, gains religious merit.

Many religious orders adhere to a mendicant way of life, including the Catholic mendicant orders, Hindu ascetics, some dervishes of Sufi Islam, and the monastic orders of Buddhism. In the Catholic Church, followers of Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Dominic became known as mendicants, as they would beg for food while they preached to the villages.

In many Hindu traditions, spiritual seekers, known as sadhus, beg for food. This is because fruitive activity, such as farming or shopkeeping, is regarded as a materialistic distraction from the search for moksha, or spiritual liberation. Begging, on the other hand, promotes humility and gratitude, not only towards the individuals who are giving food, but towards the Universe in general. This helps the sadhu attain a state of bliss or samādhi.

In traditional Shaivite Hinduism, old men, having lived a full life as a householder in the world, frequently give up materialistic possessions and become wandering ascetic mendicants (sadhus), spending their last months or years seeking spiritual enlightenment. Villagers gain religious merit by giving food and other necessities to these ascetics.

In Buddhism, monks and nuns traditionally live by begging for alms, as did the historical Gautama Buddha himself. This is, among other reasons, so that lay people can gain religious merit by giving food, medicines, and other essential items to the monks. The monks seldom need to plead for food; in villages and towns throughout modern Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and other Buddhist countries, householders can often be found at dawn every morning streaming down the road to the local temple to give food to the monks.

For those of you who are also following our first project on prayer - Praying For Prosperity - here's a link to  A Work In Progress - the next post in that series.

4 comments:

Cindy H said...

Wow, that's interesting! I had no idea! It's a good thing the priests and ministers here in the USA don't depend on us to feed them, they would have probably starved to death long ago! There are a lot of good people here in the good ole USA, but there are at least an equal amount of mean-spirited, greedy, uncaring people who don't believe in charity.

Two Feathers said...

I find it really interesting that it's the poorest countries where people are the most charitable...

Karla said...

Good point Shirley! It seems that in some cultures people understand and place great value on the importance of enlightenment and appreciate the work done by the spiritual leaders. Maybe here in the U.S. there are so many different religious entities (some being less than honest)that we have become suspicious of their work. That being the case, do you think it would be difficult for us to support a healer or religious leader in that way and have that same connection and benefit that others who embrace that philosophy in their part of the world do?

Two Feathers said...

In a way, my parents lived their whole lives "begging" ... As missionaries their sole financial support consisted of the people and churches who believed in what they were doing. The same thing happens when we give money to ... say for example ... the March of Dimes or the Salvation Army. We just don't tend to think of Missionaries or charitable organizations as beggars.

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