Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 940,961 words

This page describes “other kinds of generosity” as written by Nagarjuna in his Maha-prajnaparamita-sastra (lit. “the treatise on the great virtue of wisdom”) in the 2nd century. This book, written in five volumes, represents an encyclopedia on Buddhism as well as a commentary on the Pancavimsatisahasrika Prajnaparamita.

Part 5 - Other kinds of generosity

There is also mundane generosity (laukikadāna) and supramundane generosity (lokottaradāna), the generosity approved of by the āryas (āryavarṇitadāna) and the generosity disapproved of by the āryas (āryāvarṇitadāna), the generosity of the buddhas and bodhisattvas (buddhabodhisattvadāna) and the generosity of the śrāvakas (śrāvakadāna).

1) What is mundane generosity (laukikadāna)? Mundane generosity is the generosity of ordinary people (pṛthagjanadāna) and also the generosity used by the āryas with an impure mind (sāsravacitta). Some say that [only] the generosity of worldly people constitutes mundane generosity, whereas the generosity of the āryas, even though carried out with impure mind, is supramundane because their fetters (saṃyojana) are cut (chinna). Why? Because these āryas have obtained the concentration of non-thought (apraṇihitasamādhi).[1]

Furthermore, mundane generosity is impure (aviśuddha), whereas supramundane generosity is pure (viśuddha).[2] There are two kinds of fetters (saṃyojana): i) those that depend on craving (tṛṣṇāpekṣa); ii) those that depend on wrong views (dṛṣṭyapekṣa).[3] When these two kinds of fetters are present, the generosity is mundane; when they are absent, the generosity is supramundane.

When the three obstacles (āvaraṇa)[4] fetter the mind, the generosity is mundane. Why? Dharmas, resulting from causes and conditions (hetupratyaya) are truly without substantial self (anātmaka); nevertheless, we say: “I am giving and someone is receiving”; this is what is called mundane generosity. Besides, [the notion] of self (ātman) has no precise attribution (aniyatasthāna): sometimes it is the self that is taken as ātman and not as other; sometimes it is other that is taken as ātman and not as self.[5] As a result of this imprecision, there is no true ātman. Moreover, the thing given (deyadravya) exists solely as a result of the complex of causes and conditions (hetupratyayasāmagrī) and all the dharmas are in themselves nonexistent (anupalabdha). They are like a cloth (paṭa) that results from a collection of causes and conditions but which ceases to exist as soon as one pulls out the silken thread or threads of which it is composed. In the same way the dharmas have as sole characteristic the absence of own-characteristic [142b] (animittalakṣaṇa); they are eternally empty of self nature (svabhāvalakṣaṇa). But people have hallucinations (abhiprāya) and take them to be existent. This mistake (viparyāsa) and this error characterize the mundane generosity. – But when the mind is free of the three obstacles (āvaraṇa), the characteristic of dharmas (lakṣaṇadharma) is truly cognized and the mind is free of error (viparyāsa): then generosity is supramundane.

2) Supramundane generosity is the generosity approved of by the āryas (āryavarṇitadāna); mundane generosity is the generosity disapproved of by the āryas (āryāvarṇitadāna).

Moreover, pure (viśuddha) generosity free of stains (vimala) and conforming to the true nature (bhūtalakṣaṇa) of dharmas is the generosity approved of by the āryas; the impure (aviśuddha) generosity, mixed with fetters (saṃyojana), errors (viparyāsa) and obstinacy (cittasaṅga) is the generosity disapproved of by the āryas.

Finally, the generosity associated with the knowledge of the true nature (bhūtalakṣaṇaprajñā) is the generosity approved of by the āryas; in the contrary case, it is disapproved of by the āryas.

3) When one gives without seeking [the welfare] of beings or without wanting to know the true nature (bhūtalakṣaṇa) of dharmas, but only for the purpose of escaping from birth (jāti), old age (jarā), sickness (vyādhi) and death (maraṇa), this is the generosity of the śrāvakas. When one gives for all beings or again in order to know the true nature of dharmas, this is the generosity of the Buddhas or bodhisattvas.

When one is incapable of fulfilling (paripūrṇa) all the qualities (guṇa) [required for true generosity] but one is seeking to obtain a small portion of them, this is generosity of the śrāvakas. When one wishes to fulfill all the qualities, this is generosity of the Buddhas or bodhisattvas.

When one gives out of fear of old age, sickness and death, this is generosity of the śrāvakas; when one gives to acquire buddhahood, to convert beings and without fear of old age, sickness and death, this is generosity of the Buddhas or bodhisattvas.[6] At this point, the story of the P’ou sa pen cheng king (Bodhisattvajātakasūtra) should be told.

[The sumptuous alms of Velāma].{GL_NOTE::}

Jātakas and avadānas of this type relating to all kinds of gifts could be cited at length here. Those are outer gifts (bāhyadāna), but what are inner gifts (ādhyātmikadāna)?[7]

Footnotes and references:

1.

See above, Treatise, I, p. 322–323F.

2.

Impure generosity, practiced by worldly people, rests on belief in the ātman and in dharmas, for the donor says to himself: “It is I who am giving something. Actually, there is no ātman and no dharmas, for everything is transitory (anitya), impure (aśubha), empty (śūnya) and without substantial self (anātmaka). The supramundane generosity, which the Mppś has described above (Treatise, I, p. 297F), the ‘higher gift’, is based essentially on knowledge without concept (nirvikalpakajñāna) which makes it triply pure (trimaṇḍalapariśuddha) and which consists of making no distinction between giver (dāyaka), the thing given (deya) and the recipient (pratigrāhaka). Cf. Pañcaviṃśati, p. 264; Śatasāhasrikā, p. 92; Bodhicaryāvatāra, IX, st. 168; Pañjikā, p. 604; Uttaratantra, p. 120, 254; Saṃgraha, p. 185, 225; Siddhi, p. 629 as note.

3.

See above, Treatise, I, p. 424F.

4.

The three obstacles that render the gift mundane consist of the belief in the ātman and dharmas which makes the donor say: “It is I who am giving something to someone.” The supramundane gift makes no distinction between donor, recipient and gift, is free from these three obstacles and is “triply pure” (trimaṇḍalapariśuddha). See also below, p. 724F.

5.

One of the four errors (viparyāsa) consists precisely of taking as self that which is not the self (anattani attā ti vipallāso); cf. Aṅguttara, II, p. 52; Kośa,V, p. 21; Śikṣasamuccaya, p. 198, l. 11.

6.

Generosity of the bodhisattvas has as its aim the welfare of all beings and perfect buddhahood; cf. Kośa, IV, p. 238.

7.

Outer and inner gifts are defined in Bodh. bhūṃi, p. 114–115: tatra sarvadānaṃ katamat. sarvam ucyate samāsato dvividhaṃ deyavastu. ādhyātmikaṃ ca bāhyaṃ ca. tatr’ ā majjñaḥ svadehaparityāgo bodhisattvasya kevalādhyātmikavastuparityāga ity ucyate. yat punar bodhisattvo vāṃtaśijīvināṃ sattvānām arthe bhuktvā bhuktvā annapānaṃ vamati tat saṃsṛṣṭam ādhyātmikabāhyavastudānaṃ bodhisattvasyety ucyate. etad yathoktaṃ sthāpayitvā pariśiṣṭadeyavastuparityāga bāhyadeyavastuparityāga evety ucyate.