91 Jīvikā Sutta

The Buddha explains the reasoning behind why monks beg for food.

This discourse was taught by the Blessed One, taught by the Arahant, the fully enlightened Supreme Buddha. This is as I heard,

“Monks, begging for food is a lowly means of livelihood. In this world, monks, it is demeaning to say, ‘You go around as a beggar with a bowl in your hand!’

Yet, monks, begging for food has a noble purpose. There are monks who have taken it up delightedly. They do not go on alms gathering because they have been forced into it by kings or robbers, nor because they have been pressed by debtors, nor because of fear, nor because they don’t have alternative means of livelihood, but only with the thought, ‘We have fallen into birth, aging, and death, sorrow, crying, pain, grief, and despair; overcome by suffering, beset by suffering. Oh, we must put an end to this whole mass of suffering!’

Monks, even though one becomes a monk with this noble intention, if he is greedy for sense pleasures, strongly passionate, angry, corrupt in thought, unmindful, lacking awareness, unconcentrated, confused, and lives with his sense faculties uncontrolled, he will not fulfill the purpose of becoming a monk. He is like a firebrand from a funeral pyre, burnt at both ends and in the middle covered with excrement, which cannot be used as wood for making fire and is not considered like a tree branch in the forest. By such a simile I speak about this person: He has missed out on the enjoyments of a layman and does not fulfill the purpose of becoming a monk.”

This is the meaning of what the Blessed One said. So, with regard to this, it was said:

One who has missed out on the layman’s enjoyment and has failed to reach the goal of the monk-life is an unfortunate man! His noble qualities die like a firebrand used at a funeral.

In the world, there are unrestrained evil people wearing robes. As a result of their evil actions, these evil people are reborn in hell.

It is far better for a monk who does not have virtue or restraint to swallow a fiery hot iron ball than to eat the alms food given by the people.

This, too, is the meaning of what was said by the Blessed One. This is exactly as I heard.

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Itivuttaka 91 Jīvikā Sutta: Livelihood

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