Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

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

This page describes “material generosity (amishadana)” 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.

V.1. Material generosity (āmiṣadāna)

Material generosity (āmiṣadāna) is the root (mūla) of all good dharmas.

The yogin has the following thought: It is thanks to the first four recollections (anusmṛti) that I will succeed in curing the sicknesses of the disturbing emotions (kleśavyādhi). How am I going to get these four recollections? Now, in previous existences and in this present lifetime, the occasions of making gifts to the Three Jewels are rare. Why? In this beginningless universe (anādiko lokadhātu), beings are ignorant of generosity to the Three Jewels: this is why their merits (puṇya) become exhausted and disappear. But the Three Jewels have immense qualities: this is why gifts made to them are inexhaustible and necessarily lead to nirvāṇa. Furthermore, if the Buddhas of the past have first produced the mind, this was as a result of their numerous or less numerous gifts. And so the Buddha said that generosity is the first aid to Bodhi.

Furthermore, human life is impermanent (anitya) and wealth (dhana) slips by like a flash of lightning. If they should be given even when people do not ask anything of you, then why would you not give them when they beg of you to give them? It is necessary to give in order to create conditions favorable to Bodhi.

Furthermore, wealth is cause and condition for all kinds of disturbing emotions (kleśa) and misdeeds (āpatti), whereas morality (śīla), concentration (samādhi), wisdom (prajñā) and the various good dharmas are cause and condition for nirvāṇa. Consequently, if one must rid oneself of one’s wealth [because it is dangerous], why not make a gift of it to the excellent field of merit (puṇyakṣetra)?

[The two brothers who got rid of their gold].

Condemning avarice (mātsarya) in many ways and praising generosity (dāna) is called ‘recollection of material generosity’ (āmiṣadānānusmṛti).