Lucky-Draw and Devas

lucky draw calc
Calculation of odds.


Do you believe in devas?

Devas are the Buddhist equivalent to angels. Ok .. Here is the story. I was on alms round two weeks ago and a regular supporter invited us to ask for anything for our studies at school. I needed some pens, so I asked for some pens. He told me to wait and showed up with a huge pen gift-box. He opened it up for me and there was a fat and expensive Cross pen inside. It was probably worth over $100 and there was no way that I would accept it. I refused it a few times despite his insistence, and then he finally agreed to get me disposable pens the next day.

The monk next to me, seeing all of this happen felt sorry for him and asked for a phone top-up card even though he really did not need it. His intention was to make the donor happy or successful in giving. The next day, the donor showed up with 4 packs of pens and 3 phone top-up cards. (Excessive donations are common in the Buddhist world.)  He said, “You can share it with your friends.” The pens and cards were in my hands when the monk next to me said, “Wait.. repeat after me.” I knew what was coming and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

He said, “Saṅghassa demi, Nibbānassa paccayo hotu” and then the lay devotee repeated after him. That means, “This is for saṅgha (a communal donation) and may you reach Nibbāna. This is a common formula blindly chanted before giving which is said for the purpose to give the donors extra merit. By giving a saṅgha donation instead of an individual donation, one gets the donation merit of giving to all monks instead of a few individuals. That is good, but if you take it literally, it means that it is no longer a donation for us, but a donation to the community of monks and should be distributed fairly.  We actually have a rule about diverting saṅgha gains to oneself. Giving things to saṅgha is very common, and it has sort of become an empty tradition to give to saṅgha even when the donations are really intended to be given as individual property. Very few communities actually take such things seriously but Pa-Auk and some other communities are such monasteries that treat saṅgha donations with respect. Because I was brought up at Pa-Auk, I was familiar with the rules and did not want to break them.

So even though the donation was meant for us, it was given to saṅgha, and I thought we would have to follow the same procedure to distribute the gains fairly. However, there was one exception that I was unaware of.   We were outside of the monastery during the donation and we could have divided the goods up between us as a “mini-community”.  However, we didn’t and as soon as we entered the university grounds which is also a monastery, the goods automatically became saṅgha property while I was researching what the exact rules were. In the end, it was definitely communal property.

I was now responsible for the burden of making sure the distribution was done correctly.  I went to the chief monk a few days later and asked him if we could give it to saṅgha during the next upostha meeting, and he agreed that my volition was good and granted my wish. He suggested “lucky-draw” as a fair distribution system, and I also thought it would be good too. Lucky draw is the same as a raffle or lottery. We give tickets to everyone who participates and then draw tickets from the box. If you are lucky, you win the lucky-draw.

The meeting was today and as I was getting permission from the saṅgha and asking everyone to remain silent as a way to consent to the lucky-draw distribution system, one monk yelled out that we should give it to the Mahathera or eldest monk in the meeting. After some deliberation, it was agreed to continue with lucky-draw.

I passed out the numbers and then put duplicates in a Tupperware container. We had seven drawings for 3 x phone cards, and 4 x pen packets. The phone cards were worth 5000 kt each or about $5. I am not sure how much the pens are worth, but the cards were considered the big prizes.  As I gave out the numbers, I thought about the wish of the monk who wanted to give everything to the eldest monk. I had decided to give my lottery ticket, to him in order to help him win. There were three elder monks in total. I sort of had a subtle wish or thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice if the three elder monks could win the phone cards?”  There were 29 numbers in the pot, and 4 chances for the three elder monks (3 + my ticket I gave to the elder).

I picked the numbers, mixing them, shaking them and then blindly pulling them out of the pot. #29 was first. That was my ticket that I had given to the eldest monk. That was cool and sort of perfect too. The second number was called, “#3.” That number belonged to the 2nd eldest monk. That was really cool too. And what was the third number? Do you believe in Devas? The third number was #1. The three phone cards were given to the three senior monks. The rest of the prizes were pens. The monk who suggested we give all of the cards and pens to the eldest monk won a set of pens along with three other monks. The lucky-draw was finished, and I was so joyous!

I kept thinking to myself.. “What are the odds of that happening?” … “That is sooo auspicious” … “What are the odds of that happening?” I think everyone was really happy that day. It was auspicious. One of the students in our diploma class has a PhD in Mathematics and when I had a chance, I paid him a visit. I told him the story, and then asked him what the odds were for this to happen.

OK.. here are the figures.. 29 tickets, 4 tickets among the 3 elder monks. I thought the odds would be over 1000 to 1, but I did not know the answer. Maybe it was only 100 to 1 or so.. and with 4 tickets from 29 in the pot, maybe it was not such a big deal. So what were the calculated odds for all of the elders to receive the 3 big prizes calculated by the math doctor?

7914 to 1, or basically 8000 to 1 odds.
Do you believe in Devas?
Picture is the formula used…I do not know how it works, but I trust the doctor.

Article by Bhikkhu Subhuti

Bhikkhu Subhuti is an American Buddhist Monk with roots in both Sri Lanka and Myanmar Forest Traditions. He currently resides in Myanmar but his heart sometimes floats back to Kauai, HI where he spent six months in 2015.

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