The “begging bowl” is a fixture of Buddhist mythology. Early monks carried only the robe on their backs and a begging bowl as they wandered from town to town. People they encountered would put rice in their bowls and that’s how they made their living, so to speak. One of the most famous Buddhist poets, Ryokan, wrote many poems about his begging bowl. Alice seems to be favoring this practice as she frequently carries around her “begging bowl” and places it in front of us whenever she wants food.
Our budding little Buddhist Alice and her begging bowl.
Some Poems by Ryokan (1758-1831)
Picking violets by the side of the road,
I forgot my begging bowl.
How sad you must be, my poor little bowl!
I forgot my bowl again!
Please nobody pick it up,
My lonely little bowl.
First days of spring …. blue sky, bright sun.
Everything is gradually becoming fresh and green.
Carrying my bowl, I walk slowly to the village.
The children, surprised to see me,
Joyfully crowd about, bringing
my begging trip to an end by the temple gate.
I place my bowl on top of a white rock and
Hang my sack from the branch of a tree.
Here we play with the wild grasses and throw a ball.
For a time, I play catch while the children sing;
Then it’s my turn.
Playing like this, here and there, I have forgotten the time.
Passers-by point and laugh at me, asking,
“What is the reason for such foolishness?”
No answer I give, only a deep bow;
Even if I replied, they would not understand.
Look around! There is nothing besides this.