Begging bowl

Symbols and art

As a rule, all novices receive a begging bowl (Skt. patra) when they enter an order of monks or nuns. They use it for collecting the food that laymen and women donate. A begging bowl is one of the few possessions monks and nuns are allowed to own.

The Buddha’s begging bowl, along with his walking stick and cloak, ranks among the most important contact relics. According to some legends, the four heavenly kings each presented the Buddha with a begging bowl after his awakening. He is said to have melted them down into a single bowl from which he ate his first meal as the Buddha. After his death, his begging bowl was venerated as a relic. Today, different monasteries claim to be in possession of the original bowl.