The Dane (alms giving) Table

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Yesterday I was invited to participate in the 3 month alms-giving ceremony held to invoke blessings upon my friend Suba’s dad Mr. Edmond Fernando who passed away in Sri Lanka. Being so far away from home, I along with all of Suba and Mahesh’s other friends could not attend the funeral, but attending the Dane gave us a way to pay our respects and participate.

I wanted to write this very special blog as a tribute to the tremendous effort Suba and Mahesh and their friends had put into making the entire ceremony as authentic as they could despite full time jobs, children and a host of other commitments in this foreign land……

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The table of food was covered with a white cloth until the Buddhist Monks had finished chanting Pansil (5 precepts) and the dedication of the food to the Sangha (Buddhist Clergy). The Dane and the previous night’s Bana (Buddhist Sermon) are considered to be very meritorious acts that generate a lot of good Karma which will hopefully transfer to make the next life of the person who passed away a better one.This ceremony was about “giving”, one of the pivotal points of Buddhist Philosophy.

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The first food to be served was the Buddha Pooja (offerings to the Buddha). This tray usually contains a little bit of every dish served at the ceremony and is not eaten by humans afterwards, but given to animals and  birds……

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Some of the food on the table had been prepared by Suba and her helpers in their  home, while other dishes were contributions from friends. This is the one occasion in Sri Lankan cooking that the cook does  not taste the dish while cooking or before serving. Food prepared for dedication to the Sangha has to be “untouched” by lay people.

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There were dishes of every description including most of those found at a typical Sri Lankan Dane Table.

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The food had to be served before mid-day, so the next hour or so of the ceremony was quite busy while everyone took turns to serve the monks.

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The Monks ate their meals in silence and with great discipline. It was their final meal of the day and they will not eat any other solid food till breaking their fast the next morning.

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I got to serve a plate of Auwulpath (sweets or dessert).

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Kiri Peni (Curd and Treacle) was also served.

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The meal finished with offering Bulath (Betel Leaf)….It is not an easy task finding Betel Leaf in New Zealand. I imagine these came from Fiji.

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After the meal, the Pirikara (gifts) were offered including Ata Pirikara (the 8 Gifts – which denotes a complete set of things a Buddhist Monk needs including a Robe and Bowl).

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Then it was time to transfer the blessings we had all earned to Suba’s dad who passed away 3 months ago…..

During the chanting the family holds onto the jug of water and pours it into the cup until it overflows to signify the blessings and good Karma directed towards their loved one.

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The final part of the ceremony was the post lunch sermon, where the Monk talked about what it is like to be a parent and the bond between children and their parents…….

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Then the Karandhuwa (the representation of the Buddha) was taken away…..

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And finally the Monks left the house…

That’s when the fun part began, where we got to eat all that yummy food……

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Tables were setup and loaded with food….

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Kiwi Fruit Curry – a dish unique to Sri Lankans living in New Zealand…

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Pol Sambol (Coconut Sambol)

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Fish Curry

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Polos Curry (Young Jackfruit Curry)

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And this is what I ate……

It was truly a  blessing to be able to attend this ceremony and be transported home for a short time…thank you my friends…

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5 Comments Add yours

  1. Neelika Jayawardane says:

    Thanks for explaining the terminology, Sandy. I passed on the link to this post to two of my friends here, both converts to (Tibettan) Buddhism. They were instrumental in how I learnt to understand the sutras better – amazingly, through Tibettan Buddhism, too. Tibettans in the US have adapted well to explaining the unfamiliar for/to the uninitiated. And for those of us SL buddhists who simply knew the ceremonial/pansala-going without understanding the scriptures (like many churchgoing Christians), or how to begin a journey of peace, while being ok with the great complexity of life…that sort of explanation was a lovely and transformative experience.

    On the other hand, my friends, Inez and Doug, always ask about what it’s like to live in a ‘real’ Buddhist country/community, where the intricate links between the ceremonial/philosophical are practiced as an everyday ordinary part of life ? (!). So this helps!

    1. I am glad it was useful. I had the advantage of enjoying simple Sri Lankan village life in between leaving Zambia and coming to New Zealand. So I got to experience a lot of the traditions first hand. I think it is the best part about being Sri Lankan – this whole blending of community and religious philosophy…….

  2. Very nice to see your photos and description of this Dane

    1. Glad you liked it. Been to a few more since then, but nothing as complete as this.

  3. Sanjeewa says:

    Excellent for everyone.

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