A Field of Merit

In the early years of the sangha, cloth was scarce and monks patched together whatever they could find to cover their bodies. But as the Buddha’s renown grew, there came to be enough cloth to choose a pattern for robes. One day Ananda, the Buddha’s attendant, offered to make him a new robe and asked, “How should it look?” The Buddha was reportedly standing on a hill overlooking rice paddies at the time and said with a smile, “The fields of Magadha are beautiful, are they not?” Ananda understood. Since that time, the rice field design has been the symbol of Buddhist monks across traditions, and the connection between the order of monastic renunciants and the common people who support them undeniable and true.

The Buddha referred to the Sangha as ‘a field of merit for the world’, and this is the reality every man and woman is born into when they don the robes. They let go of who and what they were before and become a field in which the seeds of many good deeds can be sown. While food given will sustain the monk and cloth will keep them warm, the goodness generated by each act of generosity, kindness, and respect will support the giver for a long time to come.

Tahn Pamutto’s last days in NYC were a wonderful reminder of the many seeds sown over the last nine months and the many people who take part in the life of every practitioner – friends and supporters from his time at Empty Cloud, the enormously generous Indonesian Buddhist Family, and the monks and laypeople who were at his ordination last year, including his preceptor.

May they all enjoy happiness and good fortune as one time comes to an end and a new one begins! As long as people gather to do good things and honor what is worthy of honor, there will not cease to be a field for the growing of one’s own happiness and freedom in the world!