by Andreas Kretschmar | 246,740 words

The English translation of the Bodhisattvacharyavatara (“entering the conduct of the bodhisattvas”), a Sanskrit text with Tibetan commentary. This book explains the bodhisattva concept and gives guidance to the Buddhist practitioner following the Mahāyāna path towards the attainment of enlightenment. The text was written in Sanskrit by Shantideva ...

Text Section 292 / Stanza 32

In India the custom still exists of giving donations of food to a group of poor people. A benefactor, for instance, will give food to a group of maybe five hundred beggars.

Limiting one’s generosity to only one particular group is called generosity toward an inferior object [yul dman pa], or toward an inferior object of focus [dmigs yul dman pa].

A sponsor might donate food continuously, a constant food supply [nar ma’i zas / nam rgyun gyi zas], for a limited period, like a year, six months and so forth. He might also give food just once, his generosity continuing for the time-span it takes to complete the action [bya rdzogs skar cig ma] of giving the food. To limit one’s generosity to a certain and limited period of time is called generosity with an inferior time-span [dus dman pa]. What the donor gives is merely food, which is called an inferior substance [dngos po dman pa].

This custom of feeding beggars is practiced all over the world. People merely donate food, without donating any valuable gifts [yon ’bul ba med pa] such as money or gold, which could truly change the lives of those who are hungry. The donation of food might be made in a condescending way, shouting at the recipients or even beating them. This style of generosity is called inferior application [sbyor ba dman pa].

The benefit achieved is that the recipients will have a full stomach for half a day. That is called inferior benefit [phan ’dogs dman pa]. Nevertheless, in a worldly context, such benefactors are praised by other people as having accomplished great virtue.

In the old days in India the local kings would always collect taxes from their subjects. Then, to improve their own image, they would sometimes announce a great spectacle of generosity and give food to all their subjects. That kind of generosity is really not amazing. First, the king takes money from his subjects, then he gives them a meal in return.

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