by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 940,961 words
This page describes “community, the best field of merit” 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.
The Community is ‘the best field of merit for the world’ (anuttaraṃ puṇyakṣetraṃ lokasya).
There are two types of patrons (dānapati): the poor (daridra) and the rich (āḍhya). The poor dānapati is rewarded for his homage (vandana), his signs of respect (satkāra) and his eagerness (pratyutdgamana) toward the Community. The rich dānapati is rewarded, not only for his homage, his signs of respect and his eagerness toward the Community, but also for his gifts in kind (āmiṣadāna). This is why he Community is ‘the best field of merit of the world.”
Worked, plowed, planted at the proper time, watered and freely irrigated, a good field (sukṣetra) necessarily gives an abundant crop. It is the same for this field of merit, the Community. The plow of wisdom (prajñāhala) is used to plow up the roots of the fetters (saṃyojanamūla); the four immeasurables (apramāṇacitta) are taken to break it up and soften it; the dānapati sows the seeds of faith (śraddhā) and of generosity (dāna); he waters it with the water of the recollection of generosity (tyāgānusmṛti), respect (satkāra) and pure mind (viśuddhacitta). In the present lifetime (ihajanma) or in the next lifetime (parajanamani), he obtains an immense worldly happiness (apramāṇalaukikasikha) and obtains the fruits of the three Vehicles (yānatrayaphala).
Since gifts as small [as those of Bakkula and Koṭīviṃśa] produce such great fruits of retribution (vipākaphala), [the Community] is called ‘the best field of merit for the world’.