Ch. 12. Requisites of the Bhikkhu
A monk is like a house pet: helpless on his own, absolutely and vulnerably dependent on the kind hand that feeds him, but at the same time of therapeutic value to that kind hand (not to mention cute as a kitten in his fluffy robes and under his bald head). Like house pets bhikkhus live simple lives, need and possess little: they do not have a motorboat on the lake nor a puppy they are trying to put through college.
Monastics are also deliberately renunciates, which means that their lifestyle leaves almost no channels for the pursuit of sensual pleasures or accumulation of stuff, nor for the intractable issues that accompany these. The effect is that we settle into a state of quiet contentment, of not struggling with the world on the other side of the looking glass, not compelled as the laity is for financial or familial reasons to struggle in that world.
At the same time the presence of monastics moderates by example the excesses of the laity, makes teachings and pastoral care readily available and incurs less expense than the support of virtually any other clergy.
Accepting the generosity of the lay graciously, having no resources at all of one’s own that are not donated, puts the monastic in an uncommon frame of reference, but also does the same for the lay donor. Remarkably, every time the monastic accepts something the lay donor receives a gift. This is paradoxical to the Western observer, but if you look again, you cannot mistake the sugar plums dancing in the donor’s eyes.