revised on 2021-03-26
By Venerable Uttamo Thera（尊者 鄔達摩 長老）
The commentary explained it as the volition of relinquishing to others with requisites or other thing. It was non-greed and associated with the above volition. There is a Pāli word—cāga which means generosity and relinquishing. It mentioned ten objects of giving, these were; food and drink, robes or clothes, bedding and dwelling places, ointments, garlands, fragrances, lamps and vehicles. Robes or clothes, food and drink, bedding and dwelling places, and ointments are included in the four requisites of a monk. These are basic needs for a human being (clothes, food, dwelling and medicine). Monks also can use the other four objects—garlands, fragrances, and lamps and vehicles. The first three items can offer a Buddha image (shrine) and cetiya. Vehicles (cars) can be used for the monastery businesses. It seemed to be these objects were for giving to the monks. For lay communities and organisations, it can include many other things (e.g., refugee camps).
Dāna is quite an extensive subject. We can find about it in many suttas in Nikāyas. It can be said that the very basic and important practice in human societies. Without non-greed or relinquishment love and concerning for other will not happen with greed, selfishness and stingy we cannot share and help others. In the ten perfections (pāramīs) the first perfection appeared to the mind of the hermit Sumedha bodhisatta was dāna pāramīs. It seems to be the basic one and easier for practice and develop. Actually, dāna practice is very near to us. It is only we do not know or unaware of it. We all experienced it even at very young age. Our parents are very good example for dāna. They gave their time, energy and money to help and support us in all means and ways, which included good-will, love and concern for others. Therefore, we should not overlook its qualities and practice. It has profound and subtle meanings in itself. With a lot of practice, it can lead to other wholesome minds. It will overcome greediness, jealousy, miserliness, selfishness, etc.
The word charity can be said to be a kind of dāna. For a true bodhisatta his dāna practices would reach to the highest level of even relinquished his life for others. Why is there more ordinary and poor people than rich and prosperous people? Because very few people appreciate the practice. Therefore, it is very important to know the teaching of dāna by the Buddha. If we contemplate the trade war between U.S. and China can be seen the negative mental states of politicians and economists. It based on negative or unwholesome mental states of greediness, selfishness, envy, stinginess, ill-will, not concerning for others. All these negative minds lead to dispute and conflict. These were mentioned in the following two suttas; DN21: Sakkapañha sutta and MN18: Madhupiṇḍika Sutta. In DN21, the map reads like this:
craving, conceit, wrong view (taṇhā, māna, diṭṭhi = papañca) → thinking → desire → dear and not dear → envy and stinginess → rivalry and hostility
In the DN15: Mahānidāna Sutta, the Buddha described the human problems and conflicts as follows:
Dependent on craving (greed) → seeking → acquisition → ascertainment → desire and passion → attachment → possessiveness → stinginess → defensiveness → various evil, unskillful phenomena come into play: the taking up of sticks and knives; conflicts, quarrels, and disputes, accusations, divisive speech, and lies.
So, dāna practice is an antidote for craving(greed) which is the cause of sufferings. Therefore, giving, generosity and relinquishing are noble quality which is benefiting to oneself others and other people.
In order to make dāna practice more effective, we should have the knowledge about it from the texts. Here I cannot write it in details and only some of them for practical purpose. In the Book of the Eight of Aṅguttara Nikāya had two suttas on Dāna. These are:
Sutta 31: Dāna with eight motives (AN. 8.31 / 4. Dānavaggo 1. Paṭhamadānasuttaṃ)
All the above motives were explained by Yaw Sayadaw in one of his talks on dāna. Not all of the above offerings are wholesome giving. It seemed to be the Buddha continued the sutta (AN. 8.32 / 2. Dutiyadānasuttaṃ) with the following verses; faith, moral shame (hirī), wholesome giving were the three qualities (i.e., saddhā, sīla and dāna) followed by good people. These were the divine path to Heaven after death. Here faith means belief in the Buddha’s wisdom and law of kamma.
Sutta 33: Eight causes for Dāna (grounds) (AN. 8.33 / 3. Dānavatthusuttaṃ)
There are four kinds of donor:
There are three important mental states which have to be developed by every donor’s connection with any dāna. Before the offerings (preparation), one should have the gladdened mind (e.g., reflection on dāna as chances for doing goodness which the bodhisattas, noble people, sages and wise men were pursued) During the actual offerings, the mind should not be in restlessness but with mindfulness and pleasure. After the offering, one also has to take pleasure and joy about by reflection or reviewing on the merit (because one has conquered greed by following the way of wise and noble beings) There were ten reflections taught by the Buddha in some suttas. One of them was cāgānussati—reflection on one’s generosity or dāna which could lead to Samādhi (e.g., AN.6.10 Mahānāmasuttaṃ). The donors also can easily develop joy and pleasure by contemplation on the results and benefits gain by the recipients (e.g., giving foods and drinks to starving people or refugees).
Ledi Sayadaw wrote a booklet on dāna explained its meanings and results. This was called Dānādi Dīpanī with the mātikā (outline) of Dāna, its meanings and results. I will quote only some of them for general readers.
- Amisa dāna and Dhamma dāna
Giving things and giving Dhamma
It should not include harmful things such as, alcohols, drugs, poisons, arms, cigarettes, etc. Dhamma here is referring to the Buddha Dhamma in books, CDs and in other forms. The most important point on Dhamma is that it must be a real Dhamma of the Buddha without distorted his teachings. This is the Buddha’s knowledge and wisdom teaching which is the highest and noblest education. It transcends time and space, racism, nationalism, colour and cultural backgrounds which are man-made. So, it is universal in nature (universal truth). Today the world is urgently in need for this knowledge which can save human race from dangers and destruction.
Giving things gives the results of wealth, fortune and other things. Wealth can be harmful to oneself and others and to nature if we cannot use it property and wisely. Giving Buddha Dhamma can help humans become moral, virtuous, intelligent and wise. It can train humans to become true humans and how to solve and correct human’s behaviour and conduct; and social problems, starting from family life to international levels; transcending all dukkhas on the highest and noblest level.
Therefore, it is a priceless treasure, and the Buddha said that Dhamma dāna was the best gift in all everyone could receive.
- Giving dāna by oneself and asking for someone to do it on behalf of for oneself
The results are; superior and inferior results respectively
In DN23: Pāyāsi Sutta Prince Pāyāsi asked the young Brahmin Uttara helping him for his own dāna. So, Uttara was put in charge of the dāna distribution.
After both of them passed away, Prince Pāyāsi was reborn in the empty Serīsaka mansion in the company of the Four Great Kings. Uttara was in a good place, the Heaven of the Thirty-Three Gods.
- Thāvara dāna and Athāvara dāna
stable gift and Unstable gift
Building of Buddha images, cetiyas, bridges, etc., are long-lasting gifts.
Offering of foods, drinks, robes, etc., are not lasting long gift.
The results are; stable and unstable.
Offering rice and foods to the monks every day in the morning is niccabhatta dāna and singular to thāvara dāna. The merits of thāvara dāna are like a flowing river and it flows day and night.
- Nicca dāna and Anicca dāna
Giving constantly and only sometimes
Someone had constant dāna like a sotāpanna who was stable for good rebirth (sugati). It was mentioned in AN (Aṅguttara N.). Therefore, a human being should have one of the nicca or thāvara dānas. It is a wholesome habitual kamma.
- Jāna dāna and Ajāna dāna
Giving by understanding about the result and without it.
The results are: when receive the result, becoming a person with wholesome roots (non-greed, non-hatred and non-delusion—tihetuka), with sharp knowledge, and one can realize Nibbāna with practice. Without understanding, if one will become a person, he will be with two wholesome roots (without non-delusion), weaken in knowledge (ñāṇa).
- Vivaṭṭa dāna and vaṭṭa dāna
Giving for the supramundane happiness (i.e., Nibbāna) and mundane happiness (i.e., worldly happiness).
Vivaṭṭa dāna is called perfection of giving (dāna pāramī) It will lead to human happiness, celestial happiness and Nibbānic happiness.
Vaṭṭa dāna is not dāna pāramī. It will lead to human and celestial only, attaining worldly happiness and without Nibbāna. Therefore, every Buddhist if they make dāna always with the desire of ending dukkha.
- Ajjhattika dāna and Bāhira dāna
Giving one’s life and bodily parts and outside things
The first dāna can save people’s lives, so it is noble. This can be done when someone is still alive and after death (i.e., donate the body to hospitals).
- Vatthu dāna, Abhaya dāna and Dhamma dāna
Giving things, saving someone’s life or properties, and teaching Dhamma
- Sāvajja dāna and Anavajja dāna
Giving meat by killing animal (fish, chicken, cow, etc.) and giving things which never harm others.
The results: Sāvajja dāna can give the result of internal and external dangers, can be lost one’s life for wealth and fortunes. Therefore, we should abstain from any dāna harming oneself or others.
Understand of dāna is very important for how to do the right thing and in the right ways for better results to oneself and others.
Dāna practice is quite important for common people (worldlings) in the round of existence (saṁsāra). Sīla practice is also the same. It supports the beings in saṁsāra for good rebirths, wealth and security. It becomes decisive support condition for Nibbāna if practice rightly, properly and wisely (upanissaya paccaya). Therefore, it is a blessing for existence and ending of dukkha. Everyone desires for wealth and fortunes but not many can fulfill their desire and wishes. Very rich and super rich persons are very rare indeed. Why is that? Because man does not know the main cause of where the wealth and fortunes come from. People know only the supporting causes which are external. They do not know about the internal causes which are the more important ones. Even some external causes depend on them. These are kamma (past and present), effort and knowledge (intelligent and wise). Dāna (all kind of wholesome dāna) is the main cause for wealth and fortunes.
There are two kinds of rich people, i.e., richest and super-richest. For richest wealth and fortunes, external causes are possible (it even still more or less has to depend on past kamma, i.e., having merits in the past; on the four wheels discourse, AN. 4.31 Cakkasuttaṃ). We can find these richest men at the Buddha’s time and modern day (e.g., Anāthapiṇḍika and Bill Gate). For super-richest people, it mostly has to depend on past kamma (e.g., in the Buddha’s time, there were five super-richest persons, i.e., Jotika, Jatila, Mendaka, Punna and Kākavaliya). You cannot find the super-richest person in these days. There is worldly happiness which is wholesome and blameless. We can enjoy them but should not get lost in it.
There is also spiritual happiness which transcending of dukkha. So, the Buddha was not a pessimist but a great optimist. He penetrated all kinds of happiness clearly and thoroughly. Worldly happiness is inferior and not to last long when not using and enjoying it properly and wisely; it can lead to a lot of suffering for oneself and others. Therefore, the Buddha taught the way to the true and great happiness (i.e., Nibbāna). Worldly happiness is connected with craving, greed and clinging which always lead to birth, ageing, sickness and death. Every Buddha should practice dāna and other wholesomeness always with the intention and wish of transcending dukkha.
In the following I want to describe the power of kamma on great faith (saddhā) and generosity (cāga). It was connected to the five super-richest people in the time of Buddha Gautama. All of them were in Aṅga and Magadha regions, both belonged to king Bimbisāra. They were; 1. Jotika 2. Jatila 3. Mendaka 4. Punna and 5. Kākavaliya.
- Jotika: Born into a rich family in Rājagaha. He owned a stately mansion with seven tiered pinnacles. It was surrounded by seven walls, each of which had an entrance guarded by celestial demons (yakkhas). According to the story it was built with the help of Sakka—king of the gods and decorated with gold and jewels.
The fame of his wealth spread to far and wide and became a tourist spot. All his wealth and fortunes were the results of his past generosity. It connected to two of his past lives. The first one was he and his elder brother offered sugar came juice to many Pacceka-buddhas. He made the wish of enjoying the result of merit and at last realized Nibbāna. His elder brother only made the wish of realization of Nibbāna. After death, both of them were born in heaven. Next life both of them were born into a rich family by the names of Sena and Aparājita at the time of Buddha Vipassi. The elder brother Sena entered the monastic order after listening to the Buddha Vipassi’s teaching and became an arahant. Aparājita asked his brother what he had to do with his wealth. Ven. Sena asked him to build a perfume chamber for the Buddha. He built it with gold and jewels spreading around in and outside the chamber. The lesson here is merit made by taṇhā prolonging dukkha in saṁsāra.
Because of his strong faith and generosity, he gained his wealth in his last life as Jotika. After Ajātasattu became king, the king tried to take his mansion by force but did not success (celestial demons protected the place). At last, he ordained as a monk and became arahant.
- Jatila: After Buddha Kassapa passed away, an arahant went around for donations to build a stupa (made of gold) to enshrine the relics (sarīra) of the Buddha. The arahant came to the house of a goldsmith (past life of Jatila). At that time, the goldsmith and his wife were engaged in a heated quarrel. The goldsmith shouted to the arahant by saying as throwing the stupa into the river and went away. The wife warned him of his seriousness of the wrong speech. So, the goldsmith realized his mistake and wanted to make the atonement for it. Therefore, he made some gold flowers, put them into three gold pots and offered them to put into the relics chamber of the stupa of the Buddha. The goldsmith had three sons and only the youngest son helping him to make the gold flowers and pots.
In this last life as Jatila he was born from a rich man’s daughter who had an illicit love affair. She put the baby into a pot and floated it down the river stream. (the result of his unwholesome speech in the past life). A young woman was bathing in the stream found it and adopted the boy as her son. Later she sent him to Taxila for education where Jatila stayed at the house of a merchant. In due course he married the daughter of the merchant. After the marriage, a large mound of gold appeared at the backyard of their new house (the result of offered gold to relic chamber). Three sons were born to the couple. Before becoming a monk, he wanted to inherit his wealth to the sons and made a test for them. He gave them a mattock and asked them to dig the gold mound. Only the youngest son could dig the gold mound like a clay mound (the result of helping the goldsmith in his past life to make the gold flowers and pots. These three sons were related to the three sons of the goldsmith). Jatila became an arahant within a few days.
- Mendaka: He was a super-rich man. According to his family life, numerous life-size gold statues of goats appeared in his backyard. There were five persons in their family, with his wife, son daughter-in-law and the slave—Punna. Each person possessed miraculous quality related to their past merits. The rice pot used by his wife was later found to be miraculously filled up again. The granaries were also filled up in this way. Mendaka’s son (i.e. Visākhā’s father) had a money pouch which was filled with 1,000 coins and never out of cash by miraculously filling up again.
The results of these came from two merits connected with their past lives. Once he was a rich man (Mendaka’s past) in Bārāṇasī, there was a famine throughout the region. One day, they had cooked a meal just enough for the family members. A Pacceka-buddha stood at their door for alms food. They offer all the food to him.
Another was during the time, Buddha Vipassi he donated a monastery for the Buddha and a big sālā completed with platform for teaching. After the completion of these building, he gave foods to the Buddha and the Saṅgha for four months.
- and 5. Punna and Kākavaliya
Here will only mentioned Punna, because the wife of Kākavaliya only helping the two deities to pass the news to the other (a service). Both of them granted her a lot of gold buried under their trees. Both families were poor people and the workers for rich people, and not like the others mentioned above.
One day Punna was working in a field and Ven. Sāriputta came to his place for alms round. On that morning he had arisen from the highest meditation attainment called nirodha-samāpatti. He offered a tooth wood and water for him to brush his teeth. Brushing his teeth Sāriputta continued his alms round and on the way, he met Punna’s wife who sent foods to her husband. With strong faith and generosity, she offered all the foods to Sāriputta. And then she went back home again cooked foods for Punna. Therefore, on that day both of them ate their foods very late. After the meal they took for a nap. After the rest Punna went to the field and continued his ploughing. To his surprise, all the earth has already miraculously turned into lumps of gold.
All these miracles happened by wholesome power of the mind actions (Kammas) and merits. But some people (i.e., materialists, scientists and philosophers) will not accept these kinds of miraculous things because these are out of their knowledge. Actually, most human beings (except true and saintly Buddhists) do not know about the nature of the mind and its power (still there are very few people). By reading the Nikāya we can know more about the other richest lay followers of the Buddha and how they used their wealth for others. Just thinking about making money without sharing it with people in need, it just becomes greedier and more selfish. Only the wise and intelligent people know how to use the money and wealth (including power). Therefore, giving is a true blessing for oneself and others.
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 Ven. Sāriputta, with a large number of lay followers, went to see the Buddha for a Dhamma talk. Ven. Sāriputta 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. Sāriputta 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 Heaven (Cātummahārājika), 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 Heaven (Tāvatiṁsa), 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 Heaven (Yāma), 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—Aṭṭhaka, Vāmaka, Vāmadeva.... 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 (Nimmānarati 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 (Paranimmitavasavattin 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 7th 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 rāga (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 we will be sure to perform it if we know and understand the benefit and value of dāna or know about them. Even we can give up things too valuable for us, as an example, the dāna pāramī 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, Caṇḍa Pajjota 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, who became very poor then and knew about it. She was a rich man’s daughter and had strong saddhā (faith) before, 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 happened 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. The rich lady only gave eight coins for it instead of giving the 1000 coins this time. 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. It already has been mentioned an episode connecting with Ven. Mahākaccāna above before. (the commentary to AN 1: Chap.14, Etadagga Vagga)
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. (DhA. I. 324ff) 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 who 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 the king the episode. Therefore, the king took the poor lady as his consort. With strong saddhā (faith) and volition (cetanā), then the result is greater.
On one occasion the Buddha was staying near Vesāli, in the Great Forest, at the Gabled Pavilion. General Sīha went to the Buddha and asked him as it was possible to point out the fruit of giving visible in the here and now (AN. 5.34 Sīhasenāpatisuttaṃ or A. iii. 38f; iv. 79f). 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 breakup 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 Sīha: 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 Sāvatthī. 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 Sāvatthī. From the time when his mother was pregnant, all beggars in the village had difficulties in begging. They thought there must be a wicked and unfortunate 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, but with the boy they got nothing. So, when the boy could go out by himself for begging, and she left her son. He wandered alone in Sāvatthī 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:
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 Sāvatthī 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 saṅgha. 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 Pāli 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 Pāli Suttas, we 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, divines, 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 have the deep, profound, and immeasurable wisdom and how could he help them.
In the ten perfections (pāramīs), dāna pāramī is the first one to come. It has three levels in each pāramī. The lower, middle, and higher levels, respectively; in Pāli—pāramī, upa-pāramī, and paramattha-pāramī. 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-pāramī. 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 (diṭṭhi-taṇhā) 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 diṭṭhi-taṇhā. It needs to put a lot of effort. So, we need to know the benefits of dāna very clear and easier 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 pāramī. Can we recognize, or know a true/real bodhisatta among humans. Nowadays we have a lot of self-declared bodhisattas. In the Majjhima Nikāya, we found about two bodhisattas in two suttas, Ghaṭīkāra and Dakkhiṇā-vibhaṅga Suttas. In the Ghaṭīkāra 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 Metteyya bodhisatta of the future Buddha. Bhikkhu Ajita was the Metteyya bodhisatta and had supernatural powers. He got the robes offered by the Buddha’s foster mother Mahāpajāpati Gotamī bhikkhunī. Many monks there did not know he was the Metteyya bodhisatta. (Metteyya 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 diṭṭhi/taṇhā 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-diṭṭhi in the beginning. Why is that? Because it is the wisdom factor and the most important one in human 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; unwholesome 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 have 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 will always arise in the human world. A true bodhisatta only has the chances to develop his ten perfections (pāramīs) 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 and 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 (apāya‐bhūmi).
Developing the ten perfections is a noble sacrifice. So, if we give up a little happiness; we will have more and more happiness. Therefore, dāna practice is a very wholesome action creates happiness here and after (see the answers the Buddha gave to General Sīha, 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 and 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 taṇhā—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 cāga is one of them. Dāna is; the act of giving and gift. Cāga is; giving up and generosity. Caraṇa is good conduct. These three Pāli 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 jināti—The gift of Dhamma 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 contemplation. All the merits and wholesome dhammas as the support of ending saṁsāric 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.
revised on 2021-03-26; 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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