What angered me in reading about wealthy AOL ashramites reportedly being sent out into the streets of Bangalore to do some play begging is that this greatly confuses matters and may make it that much harder for those who are destitute and actually do need alms.
Given the above report that Sri Sri did not himself grow up in povertly it is all the more repugnant that he is reportedly turning mendicancy into a game for his affluent ashramites to play at.
There is a proverb from someone who travelled in Asia:
'Beware of fat persons in thin countries.'
If approached for alms by some sadhu with a pot belly, I'd offer the buy the bastard a package of urine sugar test strips to see if he's got diabetes yet and pissing sugar in his urine.
One very experienced traveller to India provided descriptions and information here:
](Note from corboy--I would change Phil's advice in one area. Do NOT give candy to begging children. Some dentists doing pro bono medical care in the Third World have sent home reports that they see terrible cases of tooth decay in local children given too much candy by tourists. In areas where dental care is hard to get, anything that promotes tooth decay is a disaster. )
We tipped beggars 2-5 rupees. Everyone makes his/her own decisions about beggars. We gave to the elderly and infirm, and occasionally to families. But watch out for a scam--we saw old men rading crutches among themselves...there was a different man sitting outside the restaurant with crutches in front of him every time we walked by. Beware of women who trade babies for the same reason. Bottom line suggestion: I would rarely give beggars 100 rupees....big sums of money are best given to reliable charities. I'd stick with 2-5 rupees, unless you really believe this is a special case. If you start giving 10 rupee notes, you will be mobbed by beggars. With 2-5 rupees, you won't. (I know that we are talking the difference between 15 cents (5 rupees) and 30 cents (10 rupees). Its just that for Indians, the 10 rupees will go much further and is akin to giving a homeles person $5 instead of spare change. Givng more than 10 rupees to beggars marks you as a mark. (REMEMBER, I am writing after a trip in 1996. If you are reading this post in 1998, check the current rate of conversion!!!)
(*Note from Corboy: This site is excellent for currency conversion--and for metrics, too.
])Phil S continues
: Always give beggars money when you are leaving a place, as you get in the car. Otherwise, you will be mobbed. Everyone makes their own decision about children. We have been advised by some to carry candy to give to children, since children beggars may be giving the money to their parents. On the other hand, we saw plenty of homeless children. I don't mind giving children 2-5 rupees, but doing it only when we believed they were truly in need (not sent by their parents to beg). Begging is the hardest, most heart-wrenching thing about India. Beggars routinely make hand-signs for being hungry. We ended up setting a daily limit of money we would give away (50-100 rupees) and that was it for the day.
Here is a thread giving varying opinions on professional religious mendicancy in India. Last thing needed is for Sri Sri to add to an already existing mess that troubles many people.
Sadhus and sanyassis do
solicit alms as part of the religious tradition. So do Buddhist monks. But they did this in ways that did not
stress the society on which they relied for support.
The monastics behaved in harmony with the environment. In rice paddy areas of asia, the monks avoided tramping through rice paddies where seedlings were planted---they knew to avoid destroying the plant that was the food grain on which all lives depended.
Sadhus traditionally begged for a single days supply of food and took only what was offered. In his memoir, Ochre Robe
, Agehananda Bharati gave a detailed description of the alms protocol for the sadhus when he walked through India in the late 1940s to 1950s. A begging monk followed a traditional pattern of behavior which ensured that the beggar lived 'low maintainance' and did not put an intolerable strain on a village and its resources--or its collective patience.
Bharati tells us this:
* The monk woke up early, prayed and bathed. Then he began his day's walk so that he would arrive at the next village right at the time breakfast was ready for the locals.
The monk went door to door favoring no particular household. If one followed textual protocol one did exactly that...a monk did not head straight for the richest house in town. He went door to door, and took only what each household could afford to give, which added up to food supply for the next 24 hours. You ate what people in the area ate, and Bharati was precise about this---if in the wheat growing area, you were given chapatti or roti (flatbreds) you'd store them in a fold of your robe. Lentil stew (dal) would go in your begging bowl. If in a rice growing area, you'd put the rice along with the dal stew into your begging bowl.
THe monk then ate by himself, rested, then spent the rest of the day teaching and answering questions.
Next day he would move on to the following village. If a monk needed to stay longer, due to monsoons or illness he would negotiate terms.
But note that the old protocol was designed to ensure that the begging monk provided a resource by teaching, and his behavior, food intake, and itenerary were designed never to put intolerable strain on local resources.
A search of 'beggars' on India Mike's forum turned up scads of citations.
Scams and Tragedies
A little girl kidnapped by beggars
Milk scam in Dharamsala (HH Dalai Lama lives there, so the place is packed with visitors)
Milk and Rice scam
The general and complex topic of Baksheesh
Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 08/11/2009 11:35PM by corboy.