Sri Lanka's health ministry plans to draw up guidelines for giving alms to Buddhist monks, it announced on Tuesday, in light of growing concern over the monks' weight and health, Agence France Presse reported.
Buddhist monks rely heavily for their sustenance on food given to them by others. But those who donate food to the monks as part of religious tradition tend to give food that is high in sugar and fat, increasing the chances of monks developing preventable health conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
"The Medical Research Institute has been asked to prepare menus that could be used for alms givings," said the ministry in a statement, adding that the guidelines would be available next month, according to AFP.
"The Buddhist monks are offered alms (free offering of meals) by their devotees with most respect. They take extra care to ensure that food[s] offered are rich in taste. But food so offered has caused health problems for the monks," said Maithripala Sirisena, the minister of health, according to the Press Trust of India.
"The situation is further aggravated because monks do not engage in recreational activities or exercises to shed their excessive weight," he said, according to the BBC.
The new menu will advise monks to eat more fruit, vegetables and rice, and to cut down on wheat-based foods. The minister has also instructed health officials to open a ward specifically for the clergy at all hospitals, said the BBC.
There are over 40,000 monks in Sri Lanka, where a majority of the nation's 20 million people are Buddhist. Offering alms is believed to bring good fortune in this life as well as the next, according to AFP.
"For thousands of years, the tradition was for the devotees to offer food for the clergy. It was up to the monks to decide what is appropriate to consume," Buddhist monk Maadulaawe Sobitha told the BBC. "We have to be satisfied with whatever is given to us. We are not supposed to demand anything."