By Venerable Uttamo Thera（尊者 鄔達摩 長老）
This is on dāna practice. In all world, great religions have dāna practice. Mostly dāna is a blessing for the giver, but not all of them. For example, if someone offered liquor and drugs to drunkards and drug addicts.
Dāna practice is the way of progress in this life and for the future to come. There were many stories in the time of the Buddha and modern-day stories. There are many ways of giving. The best way of giving is with understanding and knowledge. There was a sutta in the Aṅguttara Nikāya, On Giving. The discourse discusses the possible motivations for generosity, and rates in ascending order the results they can lead to. It is interesting to mention here.
Once time Ven. Sariputta, with a large number of lay followers, went to see the Buddha for a Dhamma talk. Ven. Sariputta said to the Buddha; “Might there be the case where a person gives the gift of a certain sort, and it doesn't bear great fruit or a great benefit, whereas another person gives a gift of the same sort and it bears great fruit and great benefits.” The Buddha answered as it was right. Then Ven. Sariputta asked the Buddha the cause and reason for this. He answered him the seven kinds of motivations and their results.
- Having given the gift seeking his profit, with a mind attached to the reward, seeking to store up for himself, with the thought of enjoying it after death. After death, born in the company of the four Great Kings (Catummahārājika Heaven), from here after death, return to this world.
- Someone gives a gift with the thought giving is good” on the break-up of the body, after death born in the company of the devas of the 33 (Tavatimsa Heaven), from here after death return to this world.
- Someone gives a gift with the thought “This was given in the past, done in the past, by my father and grandfather. It would not be right for me to let this old family custom be discontinued”. After death born in the company of the devas of the Hours (Yāma Heaven), from here after death return to this world.
- Someone gives a gift with the thought “I am well off. These are not well off. It would not be right for me, being well-off, not give a gift to those who are not well off.” After death born in the company of the contented devas (Tusita Heaven) from here after death return to this world.
- Someone gives a gift with the thought “Just as there were the great sacrifices of the sages of the past-Athaka, Vamaka, Vamadeva,....etc. In the same way, will this be my distribution of gifts,” after death born in the company of the devas who delight in creation (Nimmanarati Heaven), from here after death coming back to this world?
- Someone gives a gift with the thought “When this gift of mine is given; it makes the mind serene. gratification and joy arise.” After death born in the company of devas who has power over the creations of others (Paranimmitavasavatti Heaven). From here after death come back to this world.
- Someone gives a gift with the thought “This is an ornament for the mind, a support for the mind.” After death born in the company of Brahma’s Retinue( the lowest of the first jhāna plane). Then, having exhausted his kamma, he is a non-returner. He doesn't come back to this world.
The commentary explained the 7 th giver as giving with the enrichment of samatha-vipassanā practices. There are also some givings not become dāna practices; such as giving to someone for fear(e.g., mafia gang), giving by expecting something(e.g., bribery), giving with raga( sexual desire), etc. Giving is not an easy thing to do; you have to make an effort. Why is that? Because every living being more or less has lobha(greed) and self-view. Greed of covetousness, confiscation, clinging with craving, etc. All these make dāna difficult to perform. Therefore we have to make an effort to do it. But if we know and understand the benefit and value of dāna or knowing about them, and will be sure to perform it. Even we can give up things too valuable for us, as an example, the dāna parami of a Bodhisatta.
There was a very touching story to the heart at the time of the Buddha. It represented an unselfish nature and right motivation of a dāna. Also, it gave immediate results in the present life. It was about Ven. Mahākaccāna and a poor lady. He was the foremost disciple in the detailed exposition of brief sayings, and a native of Avanti, to the far south-west of the Ganges basin. King of Avanti, Chandapajjota heard about the Buddha and sent Mahākaccāna and others to invite the Buddha.
After they listened to his talk and became monks. Later they became arahants and went back to Avanti to see the king. On the way back they went for alms-round in a village and did not get anything. There was a young lady, now became very poor and knew about it. Before she was a rich man’s daughter and had strong saddhā(faith), she had a beautiful, long, and shining black hair. There was another rich man's daughter who wanted to buy her hair and paid 1000 coins for it. This was happening sometimes ago, but this poor lady did not sell it. This time she urgently needed the money to prepare the meal for the monks.
Therefore she cut her beautiful long hair and sent the maid to sell it to the rich lady. This time instead of giving the 1000 coins, she only gave eight coins for it. The maid became very sad and cried. The poor lady prepared the meal for the monks, and each monk received one coin value of food (the monk's number were eight). When the monks were receiving the meal, the poor lady did not dare to come out to meet the monks. In the past, the beauty of a woman was long, soft, shining black hair.
But Ven. Mahākaccāna knew all these things and invited the lady to come out. She came out, and as soon as bowing to the monks, her hairs were growing back to normal. Scientists will take it as supernatural. No, this is super normal, and it is by the mind or mental laws, cause and effect. Insects, birds, jets, airplanes, etc. can fly, but scientists cannot fly in the air. Above before already has mentioned an episode connecting with Ven. Mahākaccāna.
A lay-man, Soreyya had an evil thought and changed into a woman. There were two main causes, including in these two episodes, internal and external ones. More important is the internal ones. The mind of the lady and Soreyya; and the purified hearts of the arahants. If we can accept the atomic power, this is not difficult to understand. The mind is more powerful than matter. Therefore all human beings especially someone has power (political leaders, governments), wealth (tycoons, business people, business corporations), scientists, etc. should know how to use their mind properly and wisely for the benefit of the human race, not to harm them and destroy the Earth.
Ven. Mahākaccāna went to see the king, and he told him the episode. Therefore the king took the poor lady as his consort. With strong saddhā (faith) and volition (cetana), then the result is greater. On one occasion the Buddha was staying near Vesali, in the Great Forest, at the Gabled Pavilion. General Siha went to the Buddha and asked him as it was possible to point out the fruit of giving visible in the here and now. The Buddha answered in positive and gave five results of it. These are:
- One who gives, who is a master of giving, is dear and charming to people at large. We can see this kind of giver in the past and present.
- Furthermore, good people, people of integrity, admire one, who gives who is a master of giving: this too is the fruit of giving visible in here and now. The people mentioned here are moral and virtuous people; sages and noble beings (ariyas). Therefore the giver has the chances to close and near them. On learning their teachings gain knowledge. He will live the wholesome and progressive life, towards the noble direction, and even he can end dukkha. We can see this kind of giver in Buddha’s time and present Theravadin countries.
- Furthermore, the fine reputation of one who gives, a master of giving is spread far and wide: this too is a fruit of giving visible in here and now.
- Furthermore, when one who gives, a master of giving, approaching by the assembly of people—noble warriors, brahmans, householders, or contemplatives—he/ she does so confidently and without embarrassment: this too is a fruit of giving visible in here and now. These results of (1) to (4) are visible in here and now.
- Furthermore, at the break up of the body, after death, one who gives, the master of giving, reappears in a good destination, the heavenly world: that is a fruit of giving in the next life.
When these five results of giving were mentioned to General siha : he replied the Buddha that the four fruits of giving (from (1) to (4)) visible in here and now were not by faith (saddhā) in him. He knew it with experiences because he was a master of giving. But the last fruit, after death, reappeared in a good destination, the heavenly world, he did not know, that was he believed in the Buddha by conviction (saddhā). Some people are not giving to others, but they spend it themselves. Even worse than these are people not only not give to others but also not spend by themselves.
Even the worst of all are encouraging people not to give. There was once a very wealthy man named Ānanda in Sāvatthi. He was a miserly man and encouraged his son Mūlasiri not to give. This rich man had five pots of gold buried in his house and died without revealing its location to anyone. He was reborn in a village of beggars not far from Sāvutthi. From the time his mother was pregnant beggars in the village had difficulties in beggings. They thought there must be a wicked and misfortunate person among them.
By dividing themselves up in groups with the process of elimination. They found out the pregnant woman, and she was driven out of the village. A son was born to her, and he was very ugly and repulsive. If she went out alone by begging and got something. And with the boy got nothing. So, when the boy could go out by himself for begging, and she left her son. He wandered alone in Sāvutthi for begging and remembered his past life and old home. After arriving there, he went straight into the house. When the children of Mūlasiri saw him, they were frightened and crying. The servants beat him and threw him out of the house.
The Buddha was on his alms-round and saw the incident. Then the Buddha told Mūlasiri that the ugly young beggar was his father of previous life. He did not believe it. Therefore the Buddha asked the beggar to show them the buried gold. And Mūlasiri became a lay disciple. Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follow: Verse 62: “I have sons and wealth; with this, the fool is afflicted. Indeed he is not his own, how can sons and wealth be his.”( From the Dhammapada: The Fool)
The above story warning us a very important lesson; wrong view, unwholesome mental states, thoughts, and actions gave miserable sufferings to beings. Even the negative energies effect on others. Why nowadays humans have a lot of problems and sufferings than before? We need to contemplate and find out the causes to correct it. There was also another interesting story on giving in the time of the Buddha.
The story of a childless rich man:
On one occasion, King Pasenadi went to see the Buddha. He told the Buddha about a rich man who had died in Sāvatthi without leaving heirs. Therefore he had to confiscate all the man’s properties. This man was very rich and stingy. While he was alive and did not give anything in charity. And even was reluctant to spend his money on himself. So he ate very sparingly and wore cheap and coarse clothes. Then the Buddha told the king and audience about this rich man and one of his past lives. At that time also he was a rich man.
One day, when a Solitary-buddha came and stood for alms at his house. He was on his way out that asked his wife to offer foods to the Solitary-buddha and left. It was very rare that her husband gave his permission to give things to someone. So she filled up the alms bowl with choice foods. The rich man again met the Solitary-buddha on his way back home and looked into his alms-bowl. And found out that his wife had offered a lot of good foods.
So, he thought that this monk would only have a good sleep after a good meal. It would have been better if the servants were given such good foods because they would give him better service. He has regretted to ask his wife to offer foods to the Pacceka-buddha. There was also another incident connecting with him. He had a brother and who was also rich. The brother had an only son. Coveting his brother's wealth and killed his young nephew and wrongfully inherited his brother’s wealth. Because the man had offered alms foods to the Pacceka-buddha that he became a very rich man in his present life. He regretted having offered foods to the Solitary-buddha that no wishes to spend anything even on himself.
Because he had killed his nephew for the sake of wealth that he had suffered in hells for seven existences. This evil kamma having come to an end and he was born in this life as a rich man. But here also he had not gained any wholesome actions. After hearing the story, the king remarked; “Ven. Sir! Even though he had lived here in the lifetime of the Buddha himself, he had not made any offering of anything to the Buddha or his sangha. Indeed, he had missed a very good opportunity and had been very foolish.”
Then the Buddha spoke the following verse: Verse 355: “Wealth destroys the foolish, but it can’t destroy those who seek the other shore (Nibbāna). By his craving for wealth, the fool destroys himself and would destroy others.”
(From the Dhammapada: Craving). What do we learn from this story and teaching? It taught us the importance of the mind. Even we cannot think about foolish and stupid things which most people are thinking all the times.
Also, it reminds us of the first and second verses of the Dhammapada; The Pairs. Even we are doing good things should not let unwholesome mental states come in between them. We have already discussed the possible motivations for generosity (dāna). It should be like the sixth number giver, giving with joy and happiness before, during, and after the charity.
The-pye-kan Sayadaw commented on these two stories. These rich men were like the alchemist’s billows, which breathing in and out, but without life. Therefore they were dead people. How many dead politicians and wealthy men in the world today? Most of them are fighting for power and wealth. Not for the welfare of the human race and the mother Earth. We can see them clearly in today situations of the world. Temperature is rising every year and getting hotter and hotter. We are killing animals in a very cruel way. One way of eating them is roasting meat.
Now the sun is roasting human skin if human beings are continuing doing foolish, silly, and stupid things, the sun will roast our flesh. Talking about dāna will never end. So, here will do a general contemplation on its subject. The Buddha’s teachings are wisdom teachings or wisdom education. Wisdom has the qualities of deep, profound wide, and immeasurable. If you can only see it superficially, then it is superficial. Like the Buddha’s wisdom, then it is immeasurable.
We study, research, and practice the Buddha’s teaching is inheriting his wisdom. As a human being, this task is precious and priceless. And not like all the others worldly knowledge and educations which if we human begins cannot use it wisely and properly, can create great sufferings and disasters. Dāna subject is one of the very basic teachings of the Buddha. So, we can find them a lot in the Pali suttas. Most people will think, including many Buddhists, the Buddha’s teachings are not concerning with worldly matters and human societies if we research the Pali Suttas and can find out that this Great man (the greatest of all) was a human being, born on this Earth by a woman, and living on this earth, after his great enlightenment, and teaching living beings (mostly humans) for 45 years without rest. He was not living in heavens and talking to super beings liked bodhisattas, deities, devines, etc. As a human being and living on this Earth and if not talking to humans whom he had to communicate? He was talking to all walks of life, from lower to higher caste, and from beggars to the kings. Therefore he had to talk about men, societies, and human problems and how to deal with them. If he did not has the deep, profound, and immeasurable wisdom and how could he help them.
In the ten perfections (paramis), dāna parami is the first one to come. It has three levels in each parami. The lower, middle, and higher levels, respectively; in Pali- parami, upa-parami, and paramatthā-parami. Except for one’s bodily part, giving outside properties, such as wife, children, wealth, etc. are an ordinary one. Giving up one’s bodily parts, such as eye, kidney, etc. is upa-parami. It can be counted only when one is still alive. Maybe not after death; such as donate one’s body.
Even after death, donate one’s body is not many people can do it. We can see how strong wrong view and craving (ditthi-tanhā) is — this is me, and this is mine. After death, donate one’s body is quite a noble thing to do. Because it can save some one’s life or vision (i.e., for an eye), etc. Therefore dāna-giving practice is not very easy for everyone, especially someone has strong ditthi-tanhā. It needs to put a lot of effort. So, we need to know the benefits of dāna very clear and more easy to let go of our attachments to outside things.
For a true bodhisatta follows the ways of becoming a future Buddha, even to give up his own life is not difficult-paramattha dāna parami. Can we recognize, or know a true/real bodhisatta among humans. Nowadays we have a lot of self-declared bodhisattas. In the Majjima Nikāya, we found about two bodhisattas in 2 suttas, Ghatikāra and Dakkhinā-vibhaṅga Suttas. In the Ghatikāra Sutta, it mentioned about Gautama bodhisatta as Jotipāla young brahman in the time of Kassapa Buddha. Jotipāla—the Gautama bodhisatta even did not know himself as a true bodhisatta.
In the beginning, he did not want to meet the Kassapa Buddha. In the second sutta, it mentioned about the Metteya bodhisatta of the future Buddha. Bhikkhu Ajita was the Metteya bodhisatta and had supernatural powers. He got the robes offered by the Buddha’s foster mother Mahāpajāpati bhikkhuni. Many monks there did not know he was the Metteya bodhisatta. (Metteya bodhisatta was not in the original sutta. I had heard about it from a talk by a monk).
For a real bodhisatta, even if he knows it himself will not declare about it. People have very deep-rooted-ditthi/tanhā that is even doing wholesome things always calculate loss and profit. Therefore the results of merits are mostly mixed ones. Not always good in the beginning, in the middle and the end. We had seen the extreme self-views of nationalism, fascism and racism, which had done a lot of atrocities during the second world war. They were not only harming others but also leading to their sufferings in the end. Even some were not wanting to say sorry or asking forgiveness out of conceit. They would never heal their wounds. In the Noble Eightfold Path; The Buddha arranged Right View-Sammā- dhitthi in the beginning. Why is that? Because it is the wisdom factor and the most important one inhuman knowledge. Even, the intention is good without the right view, the results usually follow unsatisfactorily. With the right view and right thinking will be followed. With the right thinking or thought, then the right speech and right action would be followed respectively. These are causes and effects relationship. The right view has two kinds; worldly and spiritual. Without Worldly right views cannot develop spiritual right view. The most fundamental worldly right view is the belief in the law of kamma.
Every human happiness, peace, and prosperity based on this very important fundamental law. It is not making by humans. It is the law of nature; a truth. The sun is rising in the east and set in the west. We can express the laws of kamma in a simple slogan “Action begets reaction”—Wholesome actions beget wholesome results; nwholesome actions beget unwholesome results. The law of karma is deep, profound, and complex. One of the four inconceivable phenomena that are not to be conjectured about—the mechanism and precise working out of the results of kamma.
To become a Buddhist, at least has faith in the law of kamma. Therefore whatever kind of action we made, it will bear fruit and never wasted and will give the result sooner or later. Another one very important point needs to contemplate is why are we coming to this human world? We were not sent here by God, or without reasons. One of your past good kammas sent you to here— cause and effect relationship. After born as a human being, what do you want to do? Most people will think indulgence in sensual pleasures or seeking sensual pleasures—including politicians, economists, scientists, and highly educated people.
Very few people are thinking about the welfare of oneself and others. Just looking at nowadays the world situations, the internal and external ones. The Buddha taught us very clearly. By protecting ourselves, and we protect others, and vice versa. To achieve this inspiration, the human has to do goods. For wanting to do goods, a human should has right view, right thinking and has ethical standards and values for actions. The human world is the great field of merits which other realms of existence do not have.
Therefore a Buddha always will arise in the human world. A true bodhisatta only has the chances to develop his ten perfections (paramis) in this world. So, every human should take these chances to do goods for developing the perfections. Not comes here as a human to harm oneself & others. We should not do stupid and foolish things by wasting our times as a precious human. After that, we will go back to our frequent homes—the four woeful planes (apāyabhūmi)
Developing the ten perfections is a noble sacrifice. So, if we give up a little happier; and more - happier. Therefore dāna practice is a very wholesome action creates happiness here and after (see the answers the Buddha gave to General Siha, the faith of giving). We can protect our wealth from fire, flood, kings(governments), thieves, or hateful heirs by giving. If we die cannot take any wealth and properties with us—come naked, go naked.
So do not become a naked ascetic. Therefore using our wealth, intelligence, skills, etc. by doing all kinds of goodness and we should take all the wholesome kammas with us. This is called wholesome kammic bank account. This kind of bank account following you like a shadow as mentioned by the Buddha in the second verse of Dhammapada:
“All mental phenomena have mind as their forerunner; they have mind as their chief; they are mind-made. If one speaks or acts with a pure mind, happiness follows him like a shadow that never leaves him.”
A human bank account cannot be safe; it still has outside dangers and only last for this life. The wholesome kammic bank account has more increments, and you will have it until your last life in Saṁsāra (the round of rebirths), and every deposit has the seven mind moments of increments. Only this kind of person is the richest man in the world and a true super- billionaire. Humans do not have these kammic bank deposits and accounts, and then all are naked ascetics—came naked and will go naked. Then their most possible existences are in the woeful and miserable planes.
The most pitiful man will be the naked billionaire (Because he has the best chance for doing good). In Buddha’s time & our time, there were some stories about people who were very rich and became richer and richer. Not because they were stingy and only making money. Because they had done a lot of merits in their past lives and continued to do more and more in this life. I have already mentioned some of them in the 5th blessing—Having made merits in the past. So, wealth and fortunes come from the results of giving, and not by stingy, envy and avarice. It is also one way of practice to conquer tanhā- craving, greed, or reducing it. Wealth is like burning charcoal if you are clinging to it and become more suffering. By letting go of it have peace and happiness. The Buddha mentioned the five wholesome dhammas in many suttas. These are saddhā, sīla, suta, cāga and paññā-conviction, virtue, learning, generosity, and discernment.
These are also called noble growth. These dhammas have the power of fulfilling one’s wishes. Instead of relying on outside power, Buddhists should develop them. Dāna or cāġa is one of them. Dāna is; the act of giving and gift. Cāga is; giving up and generosity. Carana is good to conduct. These 3 Pali words have a close relationship. Dāna-giving and gifts are many ways. Giving one’s time and energy for any wholesome matters to others also include in it.
Sabbadānaṁ dhammadānaṁ jinati—The gift of Dhama is greater than all other gifts. Because it related to intelligence, knowledge, discernment, or wisdom. Without merits and discernment /wisdom—all beings wandering in the round of existence is very painful. They are also supporting each other. The most important for giving is right and wise motivations.
Give a gift with the thought “This is an ornament for the mind, a support for the mind.” This is giving with the enrichment of samatha-vipassanā practice or wise ncontemplations. All the merits and wholesome dhammas as the support of ending saṁsaric dukkha or Nibbāna Element. All living beings and non- living beings are parts of the whole nature. We all are related to each other. One affects others, especially human beings.
cited from https://oba.org.tw/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=4702&p=36957#p36957 (posted on 2019-11-18)
- Content of "Maṅgala Sutta – Protection with Blessing"
- Content of Publications of Ven. Uttamo
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