A highlight of Little Dust’s visit to Orange in January was being invited twice for a lunch dana (meal offering) by members of the Thai community at Lord St Thai restaurant.
The restaurant owners mentioned that it had been a very long time since they last had the opportunity to offer food to a monk. This beautiful practice goes back to the time of the Buddha and is the main way that Buddhists make merit to help ensure a good rebirth. Offering food to the Sangha is easy to do in Buddhist countries like Thailand, or in major urban areas of Australia where there are temples and communities of monks and nuns. However, in regional rural areas of Australia, this practice is simply not possible because there are no temples and no Sangha to offer to.
Many Buddhist immigrants to Australia deeply miss these sorts of spiritual practices, which were common features of their life in their original homelands but are keenly missed here in Australia. Without these everyday spiritual activities, Buddhist immigrants often feel a sense of cultural displacement and alienation from their religious identities.
Seeing the Thai community’s heartfelt emotion at being able to participate once again in the ancient Buddhist cultural activity of offering food to the Sangha was wonderful. Such events demonstrate the need for organisations like Central West Buddhists and Little Dust to continue their work in prioritising the needs of Buddhists in regional areas to give them the same access to religious activities that many Buddhists take for granted.
In addition to the offering of a meal, we also recited the three refuges and five precepts, took some time to do meditation and listened to the Dhamma. It was a pleasure to be joined by Venerable Lama Chewang Norbu Bhutia of the Karma Yiwong Samten Ling Tibetan Buddhist Centre for one of the meal offerings. These occasions at Lord St Thai were wonderful opportunities for developing spiritual friendship and I look forward to returning again soon.
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