Takuhatsu (托鉢)

Takuhatsu (pindapata in Sanskrit) is one of the forms of ascetic practice for monks of Ancient Indian religions, including Buddhism and Jainism, and it is an ascetic practice to make monks go around the homes of believers, beg for the least amount of food and so on required, and let the believers earn merit. It is also called kotsujikigyo, zudagyo, or gyokotsu.

Takuhatsu in India

Because monks in religions in Ancient India usually deny desires for possessions, they only possess sanne-ippatsu (three robes and one begging bowl), bare necessities, and they do not engage in productive activities such as agriculture in order to devote to ascetic practices. Because of this, monks needed to supply the least amount of food required to maintain their bodies from believers other than the monks, and under such a situation, exchanges between monks, who are usually involved in ascetic practices in mountains and woods and do not relate much to other people, and believers who live in towns and villages were born.

Arakan, which is one of the names for those that practice asceticism in Buddhism and other religions in Ancient India, is a transcription of Arhat in Sanskrit, which means 'a person who deserves to receive a offerings' shown in Chinese translation 'ogu,' and also, biku (Buddhist priest) is a transcription for Sanskrit bhiksu, which means 'begging person.'

However, on the other hand, 'people who only beg for food' (pindola) were seen as vulgar people by lay believers. As a result, even though they had similar activities, those that did not possess personality as monks could not receive offerings from lay believers.

Takuhatsu in Buddhism

Takuhatsu was also introduced into Buddhism, which is one of the Ancient Indian religions. Takuhatsu is still practiced in the present day, in the year 2006, in Theravada Buddhism of Southeast Asia. Nowadays, takuhatsu is practiced every morning, and the foods taken back to the religious community are divided equally between everyone by those in charge.

In "Hokkukyo Sutra" (Words of Truth, Dhammapada), an anecdote is recorded that Brahman (priest of Hinduism, members of the highest caste) challenged Shaka to a debate, who was practicing takuhatsu, and instead, was influenced by Shaka to be a lay believer.

Takuhatsu in Japan

Takuhatsu was also introduced to Japan from China and the Korean Peninsula along with Buddhism.

In the Nara period, Gyoki and others practiced takuhatsu in a form of kanjin (temple solicitation) to prepare social infrastructure such as embankments for rivers and maintenance of wells and reservoirs, and to erect the Great Buddha, which also had the meaning of charity.

Takuhatsu in this kind of situation also had the meaning of publicity along with the collection of funds, so it was practiced not only in their neighborhood but also in distant places.

These takuhatsu in distant places led to propagation of the Jodo (Pure Land) Sect by wanderers called hijiri, such as Kuya, at the end of Heian period.

On November 9, 1872, Takuhatsu was banned (ordinance No. 25 of Kyobusho (the Ministry of Religion)). The ban was removed on 15 August, 1881 (ko dai 8 go (ordinance No. 8 of the first part) of the Ministry of Interior), but a license given by the chief abbot needed to be carried.

Takuhatsu in present days practices in two manners; that of visiting homes of supporters of the sect in groups, and that of begging for almsgiving by standing without moving in front of gates of temples and on the crossings of busy streets by individuals.

Further, it is common to assume that police permission to use roads based on the Road Traffic Act is not required for takuhatsu.

As seen above, takuhatsu in Buddhism in Japan lost its original purpose, because Mahayana Buddhism that spread in Eastern Asia including Japan, being different from Theravada Buddhism, does not prohibit the possession of articles, and as a result, it became possible to maintain temples by the rent paid by tenant farmers in the management of contributed manors and others, and there was no more need for takuhatsu for the purpose of maintenance.

[Original Japanese]