OK this is a subject I almost qualify as an expert on, having spent at least a year living at western Therevada temples as both a lay person, temple boy and monk(briefly) The monks start by saying prayers, with the lay people praying or joining in on the Pali chanting. Then the monks are presented the food, just present it the same way you see the Asians doing it. Unlike begging monks in Thailand, lay people cook their very finest best and tasty exotic dishes specially for the monks, to be honest with you you probably shouldnt try to make your own Southeast Asian dishes as you'd have to be a pretty good cook to compete with the natives, Fruit is OK but theres usually no shortage of it, believe it or not you couldn't really go wrong with vegeburgers, or even hamburgers(I'm a vegetarian so I would recommend vege) They will even eat fast food as a break from their everyday Asian food,' as the monks at the temple get very few opportunities to eat western food, they might really like to try vegeburgers and fries even, We had one guy bring donuts to the temple, he was my saviour, I was getting so burned out on Cambodian food. And don't be at all offended if the monks don't eat your food, after the monks are done eating everyone else sits around and eats what the monks didn't, at my temple this was a veritable feast, maybe 8 different dishes plus rice of restaurant quality Cambodian (or Thai ) food, all you can eat, with leftovers.
And yes the previous poster is right, you're not going to run into too many vegetarians in South East Asian culture. But the head monk might be.
But my point is it doesn't have to be vegeburgers, but some of the monks, maybe not all seemed to like it when someone brought western food to the temple as it didn't happen that often. I wouldn't bring them some cooked up entre of ?????? as they're not going to know what it is and trust it. Fried Chicken might be an option.
I've never been to Europe, so I can't guarantee this will work the same way it would here, but if it doesn't work, and no one eats your food, maybe next time try the fruit, or the Donuts, or pastries, I'm sure you have lots of them in Belgium!!
If your worried about the cost for 20EU in food for the monks, you'll get to participate in a 20EU restaurant quality meal with the lay people, at least thats how its worked at all the Thervada temples I attended, I've never seen them turn Buddhists away, or refuse to feed them. One last thing small bite taste test the food before you serve yourself a serving, you're presumably no going to like every dish they have and some, not all will be very spicy, so be forewarned.
And last you don't even have to bring food, but it would be seen as a friendly gesture, whether they like your food or not, also bring a small donation; the good southeast Asian inscense, the dark kind not the much cheaper yellow kind(it smells bad) a minimum of 3EU, and some small candles for the altar(try an asian market) these are traditional gifts, and by bringing what's traditional for Asians, it shows you have a sensitivity to their culture and customs, and they'll be more likely to accept you and be friendly, especially if you know to bow three times to the head monk(saying NAMO TATSAH PAQOUWATOE ARAHATOH SAMHAH SAMBUDDHASSA)not outloud or very quietly. And you need to pay attention to their sitting posture, you start out sitting kneeling on your feet, then sitting sideways with both your feet going to the left or the right, then finally when its too hard to sit that way, crossed legged. They are going to be a little bit suspicious of westerners coming to the temple, and making at least an attempt to do things traditionally will help them open up to you, because when they do you'll have friends for life. sincerely former monk John
Oh and don't point your feet towards the monks even when stretching, its a sign of disrespect.
Last edited by lyndon taylor
on Tue Jun 18, 2013 3:17 am, edited 1 time in total.
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community that has so generously given me so much, sincerely former monk John