Why do the sages and saints beg for food and wear hand me down clothes? This question sounds very intriguing and make us wonder about this special quality of the holy.
Some of the sages wear orange clothing which signifies renunciation and giving up of worldly life. While some other wear white clothes which signifies purity and godliness. Some wear black robes which suggest piety and some go without clothes also. But the true sages wear only the torn and worn out garments. These may be found in throwaway dumps or charitable institutions which collect old clothes.
Now the food eaten by such spiritual folks is also very frugal and simple. It may be tasteless or discarded. Some beg for meals or leftovers. Most of the religious institutions have kitchens which provide wholesome but simple meals. Some offer free food to a select few poor and needy. Many institutions collect money or food grains for such purposes.
It is mentioned in some spiritual texts that the true sages collect food by begging from 3-4 households only. If they don’t get it then they remain hungry for that day. In the similar manner they are given old and discarded clothes also.
The root cause of wearing good clothes and eating fancy foods are to quench the inherent desires of the body for any human being. The higher the desires the better are the two. These mundane desires leads one to still bigger and bigger desires and there is no level of satiation ever. However lower may be his want or needs, man never settles for torn garments or stale food. But these sages do.
The worn out and discarded garments and the leftover or throwaway food has become devoid of any personal desires or needs. Man wants to get rid of these things and doesn’t have any kind of craving or wanting for such things. Stale food or torn clothes are not some things which man desires. They do not carry any residual karma on them.
These food grains or clothes which are offered in charity being free from every desires and karma can be used by the sages for their personal use. Buddha used to stitch together old throwaway clothes and use it as a body covering in his early days of spiritual practices. The bhikshus too were given the idea of begging for food.
Begging also teaches one how to be humble and helps one to get over ones ego. When most of the folks close doors on these monks or sages, it teaches them humility and compassion. They learn never to curse or utter foul language to the one who insults or disregards them. Begging teaches one the path of renunciation and blessedness.
In today’s day and age, you may not find spiritual people begging for food or clothes since organized food camps and old clothes distribution centers have opened up. But frugal and simple living is the true measure of perfect spiritual discipline.
As a side note, it also bodes well for the environment and conservation of resources. When we know how this beautiful earth is fast hurtling towards an environmental crisis, it is better to become frugal and work towards saving our precious resources. So having these godly folks amongst us teaches us how to save this world.