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Buddhist Monk’s Begging Bowls



The begging bowl or alms bowl is one of the simplest but most important objects in the daily lives of Buddhist monks. It is primarily a practical object, used as a bowl in which to collect alms (either money or food) from lay supporters.

But the begging bowl also has symbolic significance associated with the historical Buddha. According to one legend, when he began meditating beneath the Bodhi Tree, a young woman offered him a golden bowl filled with rice, thinking he was the divinity of the tree. He divided the rice into 49 portions, one for each day until he would be enlightened, and threw the precious bowl into the river.

The bowls are all made laboriously by hand. They are constructed from eight pieces of steel – particularly auspicious as this invokes the eight spokes on the Buddhist Wheel of Dharma and the enlightenment of Lord Buddha.  The seams of the bowls are then fused with copper to give them their distinctive pattern. Some of the finished bowls are polished to give them a clear, natural metal finish, but others are coated with layers of black lacquer.