by Ashin Janakabhivamsa | 66,666 words
English translation of "Abhidhamma in Daily Life" by Professor Ko Lay. Revised by Sayadaw U Silananda, International Theravada Buddhist Missionary University, Yangon, 1999...
Offerings of goods, robes, monasteries, etc are classified as vatthu (material) Dana, while the goodwill in these charitable acts is called cetana (volition). It is this cetana that produces beneficial results here and in the next existences, not the material things that are offered. This mental attitude which is projected onto the offertories determines the good results in future existences. If the offertories are good and noble, so also in the cetana.
A Further explanation: If, during an offering of alms-food to the Sangha, a donor has as his object of awareness the food he offers and the Sangha he is offering to; then a continuous stream of cetana (volition) occurs incessantly in his mind-continuum.
That cetana arises and disappears in very rapid succession, but does not disappears totally. The forces created by the cetanas just lie dormant to produce corresponding results later. (How the forces of kamma remain dormant in the mind-body-continuum will be explained in a section on kamma).
Taking into consideration that more than one trillion units of consciousness can occur and disappear within the snap of fingers, one might imagine the magnitude of cetana that occurred during an almsgiving rite which lasts, three hours.
Offertories and Recipient Promote Keen Cetana
Although offertories such as alms-food and recipients of offertories cannot follow the donor to the next life and bring benevolent, they certainly help to promote a keen cetena in the donors. For example offering specially prepared alms-food to the Sangha incites a vigorous cetana whilst offering ordinary alms food incites a somewhat feeble cetana. Again, charity given to worthy recipients incite a strong cetana whereas charity given to nominal recipient incite a frail cetana. In this way, offertories donated and the persons receiving the charity help promote a keen cetana in the mind of the donors.
The Quantity of Offertories
The respective efforts exerted to offer different amounts of offer different amounts of offertories may differ accordingly. For the zealous efforts in procuring a large quantity of offertories there will arise a strong cetana. Procuring only a small quantity of offertories will naturally call for less efforts and the corresponding cetana will be relatively less. In preparing for a large amount of offertories the pubba cetana (prior volition) will accordingly be immense, and vice versa. Therefore Dana of large and small quantity differ in effects because of the duration of cetana in each case.
If the Dana be grand and lavish so also is the cetana. During the time of Dana, the munca cetana (the prevailing volition) will also be in proportion to the Dana. After the Dana had been made, apara cetana (the post-charity cetana) will also be of equal scale whenever you think of this Dana again and again. Such states of mind are of common occurance.
Lavish Dana but Meager Cetana
Some donors offer alms-food, building, clothes, ritually or perfunctorily. If so, even though may be lavish and grand, their cetana is no match to it - they do not feel appreciate joy because the good deed was done with little volition. Therefore quantity or quality alone cannot determine the generosity of a donor. When King Dutthagamani Abaya was on his death-bed, he did not feel much joy in his merit of building the great Maha Cedi Pagoda, instead he felt great joy in recalling his small merit of offering one meal to a monk in the forest. Due to this great cetana he was reborn in the celestial abode of Tusita Devas. Therefore keep in mind that cetana only will determine your destiny, not the quantity or value of gifts you have offered. Cetana is more important than the lavishness of your charity.
Charity is Analogous to Sowing Seeds
Recipients are the fields
Donors are the farmers,
Offertories are the seeds sown
Benefits are the fruits
In the Peta Vathu Pali text it is said, "The recipient of the charity is like the land; the donor the farmer, the offertories the seeds sown. The benefits accrued later through out samsara are the fruits that are borne from the plants.
Let us elaborate:
- In agriculture, the type of soil whether good or bad, determines the yield. Similarly, the integrity and nobility of the recipient determine the nature of beneficial results.
- Just as vitality of the seeds sown determined the growth and productivity of the plants; the purity of offerings, gifts, whether they are procured through right livelihood or not, and the quantity, determine the nature of beneficial results.
- Just as farmers will reap harvest in conformity with their skill in farming and efforts, so also donors will enjoy results depending on their level of intelligence, appreciative joy and their sincere effort in giving Dana.
- Farmers have to prepare to till and plough their fields properly, before sowing the seeds to ensure a good yield. Likewise donors must have pubba cetana (pre-charity goodwill) before giving Dana. Result will depend on the intensity of their pubba cetana.
- Farmers need to weed and water their fields; only then the plants will flourish. In the same way donors need to recall their charity and feel satisfaction for the meritorious deed. This apara cetana (post-charity volition) of the donor determined the nature of beneficial results.
- If farmer, through folly, destroy their sprouts and seedlings they cannot enjoy the product of their labor. Similarly if donors feel that they shouldn't have done the almsgiving and regret for it afterwards, then they fail to enjoy good results due to their feeble apara cetana.
- Even though the land and seeds are all in good condition, the sowing should be done in the right season, the right time so as to get a healthy crop. In the same way one should give alms to the needy, at the suitable time and place. Such charity brings about the best results.
There are such valuable lessons and guidance regarding Dana in the Peta Vatthu Pali text. Therefore in giving charity, the correct choice of recipient, the appropriateness of the time and place are very important. The Dana must be done with a blissful mind and cheerful volition. Moreover, one should not do Dana with a view to getting worldly wealth because such a wish is associated with greed and craving. Your cetana should be as pure as possible.
The Recipient Also Determines the Result
In the Peta Vatthu Pali Text it is mentioned that recipients of Dana are like fields where the seeds are sown. Farmlands, in general, are of three grades; the very fertile, the mediocre and the poor. Likewise, recipients are also of different grades. Just as farms free of weeds and grass are highly productive, so also if recipients are void of greed, hatred and ignorance, the donors enjoy benefits all the more. Just as farms will yield a plentiful harvest when they are rich in manure and fertilizers, so also good results will be accrued by donors when the recipients are persons of virtue and wisdom.
Sanghika Dana (Charity Meant for the Order of the Sangha)
The Pali word Sanghika Dana means offering alms and other requisites to the Order of the Sangha. Suppose you donate one kyat to an association; all members rich or poor, are entitled to that one kyat. Similarly if a bowl of alms-food or a set of robes is offered to the Sangha, then all members of the order are entitled to those offertories. You need not go around the world to give alms to the Order of the Sangha. An offer to any member of the Sangha in general will automatically amount to Sanghika Dana. All members are entitled to such offertories. They can share it between them.
How to Projects One’s Goodwill
In offering Sanghika Dana, a donor’s mind must be directed to the Order of the Sangha in general. Even though you utter, “Sanghassa demi - I offer it to the Order of the Sangha”, if you have in mind a particular monk or a particular monastery, your charity cannot be Sanghika Dana. Offering alms food to any monk on daily alms-round, or to certain monk designated by the Order can be classified as true Sanghika Dana, when only the donor’s mind is truly directed to the whole of Sangha.
Mental Attitude While Offering Alms-Food
The virtuous devotee, endowed with great faith in the Buddha wishing to promote long endurance of his teaching and emergence of succession of good, dutiful Sangha who would maintain the prosperity and purity of sasana, should support the Sangha organization by offering regular alms-food to its members. But when the alms-food has been prepared ready for offering, the devotee must remove any attachment as, “This is my Sayadaw; this is the monks I have helped ordained.” Instead, he must incline his mind to the whole Sangha while making the offering uttering at the same time, “I offer this to the Sangha, Sanghassa demi.” When the Dana performance is made daily in such a manner, the offering becomes a true Sanghika Dana.
The Invited Meal Can Become A Sanghika Dana
Going to a nearby monastery, the invitation must be offered to the responsible head-monk. “Reverend Sir, I wish to make an offering of alms-food at my house tomorrow at 6 am. Be kind enough to arrange to send one or two or three monks to partake of the meal. (One should not mention including yourself or the head-monk in making the invitation.)”
And, while making preparation for the tomorrow’s offering of meals, one’s mind should be directed to the whole Sangha, not to any particular monk of a particular monastery, and repeating often “Sanghassa demi.”
When the monk arrives the next morning for meal one must not feel let-down or disappointed if the recipient monks happens to be one of lower rank or junior status. One should remind one self, “The offering is not made to him in particular, it is meant for the whole Sangha” and make the meal offering with genuine respect and due devotion.
If the monk who comes to receive the offering should be the head monk himself, the devotees should not feel exultant either, he should remind himself that the offering is being made not just to the head monk only, but to the whole Sangha of which he is a member. Thus, when one can incline towards whole Sangha, the offering make to a monk appointed by the Sangha can be counted as Sanghika Dana, offering made to the whole Sangha.
A Donor’s Goodwill
Once upon a time an immoral monk who was disliked by most devotees and donors are assigned by the Sangha. But a donor was not despaired, having his mind directed upon the Order of Sangha he respectfully offered food and other requisites to this bad monk. He treated this immoral monk as if he was Buddha himself, washing the feet of the monk as he arrived, seating him on a well scented seat under a canopy. Since his mind was directed onto the whole community, his charity qualifies as sublime Sanghika Dana, although the recipient is bad Bhikkhu.
Let us go further. Noticing the reverence he got from this donor, as mentioned above, the bad Bhikkhu considered to have found himself a devoted donor. The same evening the bad Bhikkhu wanted to do some repairs to his monastery; so he came to his donor to borrow a hoe. This time, the donor treated him with disrespect. He nudged the hoe with his foot and said rudely, “There!”
His neighbor asked him about the two different treatments he accorded to the monk. He replied that in the morning his reverence was directed to the Order of the Sangha and not to any monk in particular. For his rude behavior in the evening, he said, “The bad monk, as an individual, deserved no homage or respect.” The lesson is that when offering is made you should project your mind onto the whole Sangha Order so as to be able to count it as a Sanghika Dana.
How Good Results Differ According to Dana
Even if you offer alms to one, or two or more Bhikkhus, if you select them in personal terms the Dana becomes punggalika Dana (charity meant for individuals.) If you do so, even though you offer alms to a thousand Bhikkhus, you are only doing puggalika Dana. Except Dana specially offered to Buddha and Paccekabuddhas, Sanghika Dana excels all other forms of Dana. When we talk of Sanghika Dana, the Arahats are also included. In the case of punggalika Dana, Arahats may or may not be included. So we can safely deduce that Sanghika Dana amounts to offerings alms to the holiest Bhikkhus whereas punggalika Dana needs careful selection of the recipients Bhikkhu. It is quite logical to conclude that Sanghika Dana is much more powerful and much more beneficial than punggalika Dana.
Offerings of the Buddha
During the time of Gotama Buddha devotees were privileged to offer alms to the Buddha in person. But today the Buddha is no more with us in person. So we have to learn from the texts how to offer alms in devotion to the Buddha.
First you must prepare alms-food enough for one Bhikkhu and place in front of a statue of Buddha. If there happens to be no statue nearby, you can create a mental image of the Buddha and offer alms and reverence to that image. Then you must dedicate your cetana to the Buddha in person.
After such offering, the alms food may be given to a devotee who does voluntary service in keeping the pagoda precinct clean and tidy, whether he is lay person or Bhikkhu. A voluntary worker who keeps uposatha Síla (Eight Precepts) can eat the alms-food before doing any service if the noon is drawing near.
At the time of great ceremonious charity if one wishes to offer alms-food to the Sangha led by the Buddha, the same procedure should be adopted to make offering of alms-food to the Buddha.
In offering robes in devotion to the Buddha the same attitude should be maintained. Monks who give voluntary services to pagodas are entitles to attire themselves in such robes. Care should be taken that offering flowers, incense or joss sticks, bouquets and water at the pagoda should not become a mess in front of statues and images. Your Dana must be given with tidiness, you will get good results in this life and hereafter. Your future existences will also be clean and flawless.
How to Pay Homage from a Distance
Usually, most devotees pay homage and offer alms to the Buddha images in their own household because they cannot afford the time to visit pagodas and monasteries everyday. There have been arguments on whether this is a deed of merit or not. Since we have already learnt that the deciding factor is the cetana, we can be sure that great benefits will be realized. If your volition is projected onto the Buddha, it is decidedly kusala cetana, so there is no reason not to gain any merit.
On hundred and eighteen aeons, kappa (worlds) ago, the Atthadassi Buddha attained Enlightenment. One day a layman saw the Buddha and his Arahat disciples traveling through the air by supernormal power, he offered flowers and scents from a distance. Due to his single good deed he was never reborn in the four woeful states for thousand of years and became an Arahat in the time of our Gotama Buddha. He was then known as Desapujaka Thera.
Three types of Cetana
All forms of charity for three types of cetana namely
- Pubba cetana (prior volition)
- Munca cetana (prevailing volition)
- Apara cetana (post-charity volition)
a. Pubba Cetana
The good volition which occurs while procuring and preparing for charity is pubba cetana. Your cetana must be free from vain pride or selfishness such as, “I am the builder of this pagoda, I am the donor of this monastery; I am the donor of offertories” etc. While you are preparing for the charity you and members of your family must not indulge in quarrels and disagreements. You must not be hesitant in carrying on with the good deed once you have already decided. When you feel delighted and cheerful during our preparations throughout, you may then rest assured pure and sincere pubbha cetana will prevail.
b. Munca Cetana
Munca means renunciation, or detachment. Therefore, in the act of giving charity you must renounce the offertories from your possession completely. In offering alms-food to a bhikkhu your thought should be “I renounce this alms-food from my possession” and then physically offer alms to the recipient. This is munca cetana (prevailing volition). While performing kusala (good) deeds, no akusala (bad) minds such as greed, pride, anger, or attachment to the recipient, etc. should interfere. You should not crave for future benefits. Just freely let go the offertory generously.
c. Apara Cetana
The third cetana, which occurs at the completion of the deed of the merit, is the bliss of accomplishment you enjoy for having done a virtuous act. You feel joyous for your accomplishment of the deed, recall it often and wish to repeat it soon. This is the burgeoning of your apara cetana (post-charity volition).
However at a later time apara cetana can be contaminated if you feel dissatisfied at the loss of the property donated or if you feel disappointed with the abbot for whom you have donated a monastery. Then you might ponder, “May be I should not have given that charity.” If so, not only your apara cetana is spoiled but also you develop an evil attitude of dissatisfaction (akusala dosa).
Building monasteries, constructing pagodas, etc. are Dana of great magnitude. There is also Dana of less magnitude when you offer alms or garments or when you give food, water, etc; to the needy. In giving charity of a great magnitude, you are liable to encounter interference from within yourself as well as from malicious elements.
Therefore if you plan to perform Dana of great magnitude you should not only plan for yourself but also seek good advice from friends and learned teachers. Only then you will get worthy recipients for your Dana. Choice of recipient is not so important in doing Dana of small magnitude; even feeding animals has its own merit. The crucial factor in doing Dana is to have the right attitude. Try to perform Sanghika Dana whenever possible. Never be attached to the offertories you intend to donate. Let your mind be filled with complete renunciation of the material things that you have set aside for charity. This attitude is called mutta cagi (mutta means detachment, renunciation and cagi means one with generous habit). So all donors should bear in mind not to be attached to the recipient; not to be attached to the offertories; not to pray or long for worldly luxury in the abode of humans and Devas; only to have the noble desire to attain the supreme bliss of Nibbána. This will make you the ideal donor.
The Classification of Good Deeds (Kusala)
In the chapter on cetasika (mental factors) we have come across alobha (non-attachment), adosa (non-hatred) and amoha (non-delusion). These are called the three roots of hetuka (fundamentals). Like the roots of a tree which support the whole organism to be vigorous, these hetuka (roots) cause growth and development of the corresponding cittas and cetasikas.
Therefore kusala citta (good minds) can also be classified into two types:
- Dvihetuka kusala citta, which is good mind associated with two roots - alobha and adosa.
- Tihetuka kusala citta, the good mind associated with all three roots - aloba, adosa and amoha.
a. Dvihetuka Kusala Citta
When a person fosters a good mind with aloba (non-greed) and adosa (non-hatred) his meritorious mind belongs to Dvihetuka kusala citta. Samma ditthi (right belief) is the acceptance of the cause and effect of kamma. This wisdom, which is included in the ten moral deeds, is also called Kammasakata Nana.
When an infant or even a wild tribe gives away something in charity, he feels a certain joy for having done so. But this joy is not accompanied by Kammasakata Nana, so there is no amoha in his kusala citta. There only are present two roots - aloba and adosa. Hence such citta is termed dvihetuka kusala citta.
Today, many Buddhists perform charities and alms-giving customarily without the proper knowledge about kamma and its effect. Such generosity is dvihetuka kusala citta. Even the learned do good deeds perfunctorily, so their kusala falls into the same category. In a nutshell, all good deeds done without insight-wisdom are classified as dvihetuka kusala.
b. Tihetuka Kusala Citta
A good mind associated with three roots alobha, adosa and amoha is called Tihetuka kusala citta. All good deeds done with the accompaniment of Kammasakata Nana (understanding of kamma and its result) fall into this category. Today many educated devotees do good deed for the sake of Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha as well as for their parents and elders with good attitude. Since their minds are associated with clear comprehension of resulting benefits in samsara, their deeds become Tehetuka kusala. If charity is done with vipassana thought, “These material things are really material groups, rupa, kalapa, associated with anicca, dukkha and anattá characteristics” it is needless to say that such mentality is decidedly Tihetuka kusala citta at tis best. It is therefore imperative that elders and parents should teach their young about kamma and its result, as well as the basic understanding of anicca, dukkha and anattá before doing meritorious deeds and before sharing the merits gained.
Superior and Inferior Kusala
In Pali, ukkattha means the superior while omaka is inferior. With both dvihetuka and tihetuka citta, if they are preceded and succeeded at the moment of arising of pubba cetana or while apara cetana is arising respectively by kusala cittas, the deed is classified as ukkattha kusala (superior good deed). If they are preceded or succeeded by akusala cittas, the deed is classified as omaka kusala (inferior good deed).
When we say preceded or succeeded by good or bad minds, we men only the attitudes directly related to the good deed done. If kusala and akusala ciita are not connected with the good deed done, we cannot say there is accompaniment of their kusala or akusala.
Let us suppose a devotee just before he gives a great Dana is furious with a debtor and sues him. This is, of course dosa akusala. But if his wrath does not affect him with respect to giving charity and he feels delighted after meritorious deed, his dosa akusala arising from his wrath does not adversely affect the quality of his Dana kusala.
Summing up, we have thus, tihetuka ukkattha means good deed done with both pubba cetana and apara cetana. If one of these cetana is missing ir becomes tihetuka omaka kusala. If both cetana are absent, the deed belongs all the more to the tihetuka amoka type. Similarly dvihetuka ukkattha and dvihetuka omaka should be understood. In the classification of síla (moral precept) too, the categories of pubba, munca and apara cetana; those of dvihetuka and tihetuka; of ukkattha and omaka can be applied similarly.
- A meritorious deed accompanied by insight of kamma and its effect is tihetuka kusala.
- If such insight is absent it becomes dvihetuka kusala.
- If a good deed is preceded and succeeded by kusala citta, it is ukkattha kusala.
- If kusala citta arises before and after a good deed, it is omaka kusala.
Another Method of Classification
Dana may be classified into three levels:
This classification is based on the offertories donated. If the offertories are inferior to what you consume, it is hina Dana (inferior charity). If you donate things that are of equal quality to what you use, it is majjhima Dana (mediocre charity). Of you give away offertories better than what you consume, it is panita Dana (supreme charity). Hina Dana is also known as dasa Dana that given to a slave, majjhima Dana is sahaya Dana that given to friends and associates; and panita as sami Dana, that given to one’s superior.
Feeble desire, effort and volition make hina Dana; mediocre desire, effort and volition make majjhima Dana; vigorous will, industry and volition make panita Dana.
Charity done with the hope of getting praise such as donor of monasteries or pagodas or popularity is hina Dana. Charity performed with speculations of benefits in future existences throughout samsara is majjhima Dana. Charity given without consideration for future benefits but with sincere goodwill in conformity with the custom of the virtuous and the wise is panita Dana.
Good deeds done without any hope for benefit is far nobler than those done with some hope for future rewards. Selfless, altruistic goodwill for the welfare of others belongs only to the noblest personages such as Bodhisattvas.
Charity given with the hope of acquiring worldly luxury is hina Dana, charity given with the intention of escaping from samsara is majjhima (medium). Great charities of Bodhisattvas who give them as fulfillment of Dana parami in the hope of helping sentient beings to free themselves from samsara are listed as panita Dana. Such are varying degree of goods deeds dependent upon one’s mental attitudes. (In other moralities such as Síla etc. also similar varying degrees of good deeds can be found).
The Benefits of Dana
The benefits of Dana need no elaboration. The good of feeding a small animal just once brings about (a) long life, (b) beauty, (c) prosperity, (d) strength and (e) wisdom for the next one hundred existences. When reborn in human or Deva world, due to his Dana in this life, he outshines other beings.
In the time of Kassapa Buddha there were two monks who were good friends. One of them was a generous donor while the other was not. Since they both observed Síla (precepts), they were reborn as humans and Devas up to the time of Gotama Buddha. In each and every existence, the generous always excelled the other in status. In the final existence they were both reborn as humans in the court of King Kosala. The generous donor became a prince, and the other, the son of a minister. While the prince slept in a golden cradle under a regal white umbrella, the other slept in a wooden cradle. Although they both attained Nibbána ultimately the benefits they enjoyed in each existences were quite different.
Does Dana Prolong Samsara?
Some heave the wrong belief that Dana prolongs samara (the cycle of rebirths). In the story of two friends, we have seen that the one who gave charity was not late in attaining Nibbána. Therefore it is illogical to assert that Dana prolongs samasara. In fact, the impurity of the mind of the donor is responsible for the round of rebirths. One’s lustful greed to enjoy luxuries of humans and Devas for the Dana given causes one to linger in the cycle of samsara.
Some erroneously say that Buddha himself has to struggle longer in samsara because he cherishes Dana in every existences. This is absolutely untrue. Due to Dana parami (perfection of charity) an infinite number of Buddhas have attained Supreme Enlightenment while we are still swimming along the stream of deaths and rebirths. Can we attribute this to our Danas which far exceed those of the Buddhas? The Bodhisattva Vessantara who gave charity in an unprecedented magnitude attained Buddhahood after only two existences. Therefore it is quite obvious that Dana is not the cause of long sufferings in samsara.
We have now seen that Dana does not lengthen samsara. It is only our consciousness soiled with tanha (lust) that plays a great influence upon us and prolongs the samara. All Bodhisattvas strive only for Sabbannuta Nana (Omniscient Wisdom) and they have to wander around in samsara until all essential paramis requisite for it are fulfilled. They have to accumulate the wisdom deserving of a Buddha. An apt analogy would be a mango fruit. It will not ripen until and unless it is mature.
Two Types of kusala (Wholesome Deeds)
A good deed not with the hope of escape from samsara but to enjoy the luxuries of humans and Devas is known as Vatta nissita kusala. A good deed done with a view of attaining Nibbána is known as Vivatta nissita kusala. Even wholesome deeds such as Dana, Síla, etc, if of the Vatta nissita type, will lengthen one’s suffering in samsara. On the other hand, all forms of Vivatta nissita kusala will propel you to escape from samsara and assist you to attain your noble desire which is Nibbána.
How Dana Assists the Fulfillment of Perfection
Generous donors are usually endowed with wealth in their future lives so that they can lead an easy life. The wealth - who had done Vivatta nissita kusala in the past life - can observe Síla (precepts) and keep uposatha Síla (Sabbath). The poor and needy, having to struggle for a living cannot observe precepts. In pursuing education too, the rich have the facilities. Let alone costly schools, even in monastic schools where education is free of charge, children of the rich outnumber the poor. And the children of the wealth naturally receive more attention.
A wealthy person can easily practice the virtue of patience when he faces insolence or insult because he can ignore them with his own will power and self-esteem. But a poor person, if he is insulted, is obsessed by the complex that poverty invites injustice or insult and so he reacts vigorously. Since a rich person generally enjoys respect from various sectors he usually shows loving-kindness and compassion to them. A poor man is usually deprived of love and respect from others so he fosters anger or vain pride instead of loving-kindness and compassion. Therefore Dana (charity) helps the fulfillment of other parami perfections such as khanti (patience) and mettá (loving-kindness).
In this world it is difficult for the poor to keep promises. Here too, Dana helps one to be honest and to keep promises. Without Dana, it is very difficult to fulfill parami perfections. That is why each and every Bodhisattva first fulfilled the perfection of Dana parami. Dana comes first in the ten Perfections. Our Buddha Gotama fulfilled the required paramis starting with Dana. As the recluse Sumedha he fulfilled the Dana parami first. And King Vessantara, the last life as Bodhisattva, fulfilled Dana parami as the final stage of all perfections.
Those Who Can Do Without Dana
There is a class of people who do not need to perform deeds of charity. They are the great yogis who strive earnestly to escape from samsara in the present existence. They are occupied full time in samatha and vipassana work. If they spend their time in the performance of Dana, it will only be a waster of time and effort. Dana is not necessary for them as they are fully intent on gaining liberation very soon, they must zealously practice meditation day and night. Once a Bhikkhu from Madalay who was always eager to perform Dana came to practice meditation under the guidance of Maha Gandhron Sayadaw who was our Preceptor. One morning the Sayadaw saw the Bhikkhu gathering flowers to offer the Buddha. The Sayadaw admonished the Bhikkhu saying, 'While undertaking meditation practices, be intent only on your practice, you may offer flowers later on."
The Maha Gandharon Sayadaw, himself was engaged day and night in the practice of meditation being fully resolved to liberate himself from samsara in this very existence. Whether he achieved his noble aim and not, I am not in a position to know. The Maha Gandharan Sayadaw spent all his time meditation alone in his cave. Yet he did not forget to give Dana; once he came out from the cave he gave away the offertories in his possession to other Bhikkhus. Dana is unnecessary for a person engaged full-time in meditation. Of course charitable deeds can be done when there is time to spare. Dana is for those living the ordinary life of lay persons, as they can afford the time to do so.
The Joy of Giving Dana
Giving Dana (charity) is indeed joyful. The generous and the charitable always feel compassion for the poor and needy. This is followed by mettá (loving-kindness) towards all creatures. Then you cultivate Mudita (sympathetic joy) to those who are already wealthy and prosperous. So your face beams like the full moon and appearance suggests tranquility and auspices.
Recipients of charity, in return, will reciprocate loving-kindness and wish for happiness. They will also nurture Mudita (sympathetic joy) for the donor. Thus we can say that Dana is the main cause of flourishing of the Four Brahma Vihara Cittas (the Four Sublime States of Mind. In this way a sublime, profound Dana paves they way for cultivation of upekkha.
The Generous are the Wealthy
Really wealthy persons who are free from the worry of livelihood are few in numbers. The poor, destitute and needy are comparatively numerous. The poor are bound to be those who had no credit of Dana in their previous existences. And the wealthy are definitely generous donors in their past lives. Should these rich people be contented in being prosperous in this existence? Surely not. For their wealthy and possession cannot follow them in their next life. They will no more be wealthy once they pass away. Therefore the wealthy ought to leave certain portion of their property to their heirs and give away the remaining in charity to the needy. Only then they will be prosperous in the next lives up to the attainment of Nibbána. The golden rule in that: “Generous donor in previous life is the wealthy in this life; generous donor in this life is the wealthy in the existence to come.”
Wealthy is but temporary possession; wealthy is for just once existence, one life. We should not regard our wealth as 'ours'. It should be 'ours', for the welfare of the needy.
We should not hesitate to give away our wealth to those who really need it.
A Rich Person is like A River, etc
A virtuous rich person can be compared to a river, a tree or rain, as mentioned in the Loka Niti. Although a river contains a large amount of water, it does not drink a drop. A river serves only for the good of others. People come to the river to wash, to bathe or to drink. Likewise trees do not consume the fruits they bear. Fruits are borne for other people. Rain falls not only into lakes and wells but also onto barren plains and desserts.
Similar righteous rich people accumulate wealth, not just for their own use but also to help needy. They spend their wealth of the poor. Like rain which falls into lakes and barren plains alike, they help look after not only the prestigious (abbots) Sayadaw but also the poor.
As has been shown Dana (generosity) enhances the Four Sublime States (Four Brahama Vihara), Dana causes a person to have a cheerful beaming countenance. The generous are blessed with kusala in this existence. We all should never neglect the virtue of Dana, which is so powerful as to expedite sentient beings to Nibbána.
A virtuous life means the regular observance of moral precepts (Five Precepts, Eight Precepts, etc.) earning right livelihood (samma ajiva), bathing and wearing clean clothes emanating mettá, karuna and Mudita and giving charity generously and willingly to all without distinction. Such a way of life brings satisfaction and happiness. One should then develop a wholesome desire to attain Nibbána which is the complete cessation of all sufferings. There is no reason why you should linger in samsara. Dana will propel you to realize Nibbána in the shortest time.
We Cannot Do Without Dana
One must not assume that what is said covers all the benefits of Dana. To enumerate all the benefits of Dana would indeed require a separate treatise in itself. If a person discards Dana according to the belief of some malicious quarters, sociable relations would cease and mettá (loving-kindness) will disappear. The rich will no more be charitable to the destitute. They will cultivate an attitude of disregarded and say, “Oh. Let them die. Who cares?” Humanity without Dana will in fact be very much uncivilized. And of course, incivility of mind eventually leads to savagery in physical action.
The Bodhisattva attained Self-Enlightenment and became the Tathágata after renouncing wealth, power and glory of the crown only with the help and support of numerous donors offering him alms-food, etc. He was then able to preach his Noble Dhamma and establish the Holy Order of the Sangha to propagate his sasana with the support of wealthy devotees like Anathapindika Visakha, King Bimbisara, etc. If there had been no such generous donors there never would have been the Buddha, but also countless previous Buddhas would not have attained Omniscience if the world were void of Dana. I would thus like to make an ardent wish, “ Let there be no persons who denounce and ignore the benevolent deed of Dana, now and forever.”
It is not feasible to list completely the benefits you get by generosity, by giving charity. Had there been no Dana, there also would be no Buddhas to show us the way to Nibbána. Bear in mind that the cream of the society, the luxurious celestial beings, all of them are attributable to their charity; the poor and the destitute are those without generosity. Should you earnestly wish to escape from samsara, resort to Dana.