Posted by: Upāsaka Subhavi | 02/08/2013

Contentedness with Food, Shelter and Clothing

Almsbowl as used by bhikkhus for going on alms...

 

There is a reflection that the bhikkhu/ni Sangha recite on the Four Requisites which clarifies the way a monk or nun should regard the food, shelter, clothing and medicine they receive. I never given too much thought to the Four Requisites as I always considered them the exclusive province of those who have gone-forth but the more I think about it the more I realize that, although the particulars may differ somewhat for a lay person, the emphasis on gratitude, contentment and simplicity is something sorely lacking in my life and the in society as a whole.

 

It seems that in NYC at least (and I’m sure in many other places as well) contentment with regard to one’s shelter is hard to come by. I know many people who spend their free time looking through the NY Times real estate section, checking listings on Craigslist or using apps like Trulia to find the best rentals or, dare I say, apartments up for sale. Until now I just considered this par for the course but I endeavor to be content with my dwelling and cultivate gratitude for it rather than pining for a place with more space, less mice, etc…

 

I still have work to do when it comes to food and simply bringing mindfulness to the act of eating itself will do much for my relationship to it. Clothing, however, is a different story. Despite the fact that I domn’t dress well nor do I care enough to do so I am at times plagued by the idea that I should be more presentable. This inevitably leads me to deprecate the clothes I own and, even if I am unwillingly to buy nicer replacements or spend my time trying to understand what’s en vogue, I end up with a generalized dissatisfaction towards them. How silly is that? If I cared enough I would surely change but, since I don’t I have just settled for being mildly displeased. There’s no gratitude or appreciation for wht I have nor any recognition of the fact that so many millions of people don’t have the luxury of being mildly uncomfortable about their appearance. Here too I will work to be thankful for the clothing I wear and for the people who made and sold it to me.

 

I don’t usually do this anymore but I want to include a relevant passage on the Four Requisites I have taken from ATI and a link to a talk on contentment by Ajahn Pasaano. May we all be grateful for our food, shelter and clothing!

 

THE FOUR REQUISITES: WHAT DOES A BHIKKHU NEED?   

The Buddha said that there were four necessities of life — clothing, food, lodging and medicine — and that they have to be treated properly:

“Properly considering the robe, I use it: simply to ward off cold, to ward off heat, to ward off the touch of flies, mosquitoes, simply for the purpose of covering the parts of the body that cause shame.

“Properly considering almsfood, I use it: not playfully, nor for intoxication, nor for putting on weight, nor for beautification; but simply for the survival and continuance of this body, for ending its afflictions, for the support of the chaste life, (thinking) I will destroy old feelings (of hunger) and not create new feelings (from overeating). Thus I will maintain myself, be blameless, and live in comfort.

“Properly considering the lodging, I use it: simply to ward off cold, to ward off heat, to ward off the touch of flies, mosquitoes, wind, sun and reptiles; simply for protection from the inclemencies of weather and for the enjoyment of seclusion.

“Properly considering medicinal requisites for curing the sick, I use them: simply to ward off any pains of illness that have arisen and for the maximum freedom from disease.” [OP pp.46-47; (Pali: M. I, 10; A. III, 387)]

Clothing, food, shelter and medicine are necessary whether one is a lay person or a bhikkhu. The bhikkhu, however, should take a completely balanced stance towards these fundamentals. Advertising and the latest fashion should not draw him, for he should be solely concerned with simplicity and lack of attachment towards things.[57] It seems that the original requisites were ‘basics’ that wandering bhikkhus could conveniently carry around, for example, an alms bowl, three robes, a sitting cloth, a needle-case, and a waist band. However, extra allowances were gradually given as the need arose, for instance, a water filter, a razor and its sheath, the stone and strop for sharpening it and then articles such as an umbrella and sandals. Later the commentaries allowed other similar items.

 

Source: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/ariyesako/layguide.html#possessions

 

And here is the link to the Dhamma talk: http://mirror1.birken.ca/dhamma_talks/indiv/Ab-Giri/01/A_Pasanno_PracticingContentment.mp3

 

 

 


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