Subharo wrote:I've mentally struggled a long time to try to understand the Buddha Puja as being something other than completely daft.
Do you mean food offerings in particualar or Puja
I was referring to food offerings in particular (including gilampase/nampana/7-day tonics, as well as medicines) to a Buddha Rupa, which is the topic of this thread.
I'm glad you like participating in them, as well as Ajahn Sumedho, and other Westerner monks who have integrated deeply into any Hindu-style
ethnic Asian Buddhist customs. I've also participated in many of these food offerings myself
, and I try to be a good sport about it, although I must confess that my heart will unfortunately never really be into it. That's just the kind of monk I am. The above post is the story I need to tell myself to not go crazy while being all-but-coerced into participating (if I want to continue living in a given monastery harmoniously). I admire your ability to just go with the flow, and suspend whatever it is in your mind that needs suspending.
There is a Sutta which plausibly suggests that such reverence towards the "post-parinibbana Buddha" (that this thread is discussing, namely food offerings) was not practised in Early Buddhism (other than the complete non-mentioning of said custom, let alone the exhortation to do it). I can't find it right now (maybe later, I'll link to it if possible), but I'm 99% sure it's in the MN, and it takes place after the Buddha had pari-nibbana'ed. To paraphrase, a brahmin approaches Ananda, and asks "now that the Buddha is gone, who is it then, that you now dwell reverential towards (instead of the Buddha)"? Ananda answers, saying "we now dwell reverential to any arahant among us who posesses these ten qualities
", then Ananda goes on to list those ten qualities (and they include things such as psychic powers). I agree with Ananda that that's what still remains for us to reverence, in lieu of a living Buddha, when we can. That's what I can "get behind", emotionally. That's what makes much more sense to me, to be reverencing.
That's my perspective as a Westerner bhikkhu, which anyone is free to disagree with. And I feel that the Suttas agree with my perspective (or at least, do not contradict it).
The point I'm making here is that Ananda does NOT answer the brahmin by saying "what do you mean, 'who do we reverence now, other than the Buddha'? Of course we continue to reverence the Buddha. Didn't you notice that 10-foot-tall golden statue of the Buddha in our shrine room, that we make offerings to, such as candles, incense, and food
, before every meal we eat?"
Ananda takes the brahmin's question at face value, implying that of course you can't continue reverencing the Buddha, who has pari-nibbana'ed, as though he were still alive
Don't get me wrong, I'm not against reverencing the Buddha
, in whatever way the Buddha actually told us to
. It's just that I do not particularly dig
Hindu-style rituals which, when taken at face value, seem to strongly imply
that the Buddha must still be up there somewhere, looking down upon us from the heaven called "Nibbana", where he finds it pleasing, and is appeased, whenever we make sacrificial offerings of food to him.
I wasn't born in India or Sri Lanka. Is that so wrong? I prefer not to view Buddhism through Hindu-tinted glasses (unless I am virtually forced to).
I have no expectation that this cultural tradition will ever end. That's why you'll see that I've been careful to never speak in a way stating that I oppose it, or would ask that it be stopped. In fact, I pointed out positive aspects about it, much like the ones you made in your Ajahn Sumedho quotation.