by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words
This page describes The method of fulfilling the Perfection of Generosity (Dana Parami) contained within the book called the Great Chronicle of Buddhas (maha-buddha-vamsa), a large compilation of stories revolving around the Buddhas and Buddhist disciples. This page is part of the series known as on Miscellany. This great chronicle of Buddhas was compiled by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw who had a thorough understanding of the thousands and thousands of Buddhist teachings (suttas).
A Bodhisatta fulfils the Perfection of Generosity by serving the interest of beings in several ways, such as attending to their welfare, giving up own life and limb, warding off the danger that would befall on them, instructing them in the Dhamma, etc.
(a) Gift of material objects (āmisa-dāna)
Of these three kinds, gift of material objects to be given by the Bodhisatta can be twofold (i) gift of internal objects and (ii) gift of external objects.
External objects for offering (according to Suttanta method of enumeration) consist of ten kinds: food, drink, garment, vehicle, flowers, unguent, bedding, dwelling place and lighting material. These offerings become manifold when each of them is divided into various things, such as hard food, soft food, etc., in the case of food.
Likewise, (according to the Abhidhamma method of enumeration) offerings are of six kinds, when analysed by way of six sense objects, e.g. gift of visible things, gift of sounds, etc. These sense objects become manifold, for example, the gift of visible things alone may be one of blue, one of yellow, etc.
Likewise, there are inanimate things, such as rubies, gold, silver, pearls, coral, etc; or paddy fields, other arable plots of land, parks, gardens, etc; and there are also animate ones, such as female slaves, male slaves, cattle, etc. Thus things to be given are plenty.
How a Gift of External Objects is made
When a Bodhisatta makes a gift of external objects, he offers whatever is necessary to the needy. When he knows, by himself, that someone is in need of something, he gives it away even not asked, more so when asked. When giving gifts, he does so freely, with no conditions.
When there are sufficient objects to offer, he gives them to each recipient sufficiently. But when there are not enough to give, he divides (into equal portions) what could be divided and gives.
There is a special point to note. In making gifts, he does not give things, which would cause harm to others, such as arms, poisons and intoxicants; nor does he make gifts of playthings, which are not beneficial but would cause negligence and playfulness.
To a sick recipient, he does not offer unsuitable food or drink. He offers him only what is suitable and in proper quantity and measure.
Likewise, when asked, he gives to householders what is good for householders and to bhikkhus what is appropriate to them. (He does not give householders things acceptable to bhikkhus or vice versa.) And he makes his offerings without causing trouble to those close to him such as his mother, father, kinsmen and relatives, friends and colleagues, children, wife, slaves, and workers.
Having promised an excellent gift, he does not give something inferior. He does not give, expecting gain, honour, fame or reward, nor does he give anticipating benefits, such as good existence, wealth or prosperity, other than Omniscience. He makes his offerings with the one and only wish, Omniscience.
He does not make his offerings, detesting the recipients or the gift materials. Even to the recipients, who, without restraining themselves, abuse and revile him, he does not give in an irreverential manner (as if he is discarding refuse) and with annoyance. He always gives with reverence, a serene mind and full of compassion. His generosity is totally free of the belief that noisy acclamation is auspicious, but it is associated with the staunch faith in the Law of Kamma and its fruits.
He makes his offerings without subjecting the recipients to the trouble of showing respect and humbleness to him. Without any wish to deceive or to cause disunity, he gives only with a mind of great purity. He does not use harsh, abusive words, nor does he give with a pout and sullenness; he gives only with sweet words of endearment, a smile on his face and a serene, calm disposition.
Whenever attachment to or craving for a particular object appears excessively in him because of its superior quality, or because of long personal use, or because it is the nature of greed to crave, hanker after objects of value and excellence, the Bodhisattais aware of this greed and he quickly dispels it by seeking a recipient for it.
Suppose he is about to partake a meal, which is just enough for one, and someone presents himself and asks for it. Under such circumstances, a Bodhisatta does not think twice to forego his meal and offer it right away to the recipient respectfully, just as the Bodhisatta Akitti the Wise had done.
When asked for his own children, wife, slaves, etc., he first explains to them his proposed act of giving. Only when they become satisfied and happy does he give them away, who are happy to assist him in his fulfilment of pāramīs. But, he does not make such an offering if he knows that those who ask for them are non-humans, such as ogres and demons, etc.
Likewise, he will not give up his kingdom to those who will bring harm or suffering to the people and who will work against their interest, but only to those who would protect them in a righteous manner.
This is how the practice of giving external objects is pursued.
How a Gift of Internal Objects is made
A Bodhisatta makes his offering of internal objects in two ways:
(i) Just as a person, for the sake of food and clothing, gives himself to another in servitude and serves as a slave, even so the Bodhisatta gives away his whole body, placing himself at the service of others, not desiring at all the pleasures of senses or a good existence, but wishing only the supreme welfare and happiness of beings and to bring to the highest stage his fulfilment of the Perfection of Generosity, e.g. The gift of his whole body.
(ii) He gives, without hesitation or wavering, his limbs and organs such as the hands, the feet, the eyes etc., to anybody who is in need of them. As in the case of external objects, he has no attachment to or craving for these various limbs and organs of his, nor has he one iota of reluctance in so doing e.g. The gift of his limbs and organs.
Two Objectives of Giving
In sacrificing his limbs and organs or the whole body, the Bodhisatta has two objectives: (i) to fulfil the wish of the recipient and let him enjoy whatever he needs, and (ii) to gain mastery over the performance of meritorious deeds of perfections by giving generously without the slightest attachment to the objects offered. The Bodhisatta gives the internal objects of his whole body or any parts thereof, big or small, just as he dispenses offerings of external possessions in charity, believing: “I will certainly attain Omniscience through such generosity.”
In these acts of offering, he gives only what would be truly beneficial to the recipient. In particular, he does not give knowing his own body or its parts to Mara or his company of deities who wish to cause injury to him, thinking: “Lest this should prove fruitless to them.” Likewise, he does not give his body or its parts to those possessed by Mara or his associates or to the insane. But to all others who ask for them, he makes an immediate offer because of the rarity of such a request or opportunity to make such a gift.
(b) The Gift of Harmlessness (Abhaya-dāna)
The Bodhisatta makes the gift of harmlessness by giving protection to beings and saving them, even at the sacrifice of his own life, when they are subjected to harm and danger by kings, thieves, fire, water, enemies, wild beasts, such as lions, tigers, and nāgas, ogres, demons, etc.
(c) The Gift of Dhamma (Dhamma-dāna)
The gift of the Dhamma means unequivocal teaching of truth with a pure mind completely free from defilements of greed, hate, etc.
To future Disciples of a Buddha who have a strong wholesome desire to realize sāvaka bodhi, the Bodhisatta gives discourses on taking refuge in the Triple Gem, morality, guarding the doors of sense faculties, moderation in eating, practice of wakefulness, the seven good dhammas, practising concentration and insight meditation, the seven kinds of purification, the Knowledge of the four Paths (magga-ñāṇa), three kinds of knowledge (vijjā), the six Higher Knowledges (abhiññās), the four Analytical Knowledge (paṭisambhidā-ñāṇa) and the Enlightenment of a Disciple (sāvaka bodhi).
He gives the gift of Dhamma by elaborating on the attributes of the above mentioned topics, establishing in the Triple Refuge, morality, etc., those who have not yet been so established, and helping those who have already been established purify their practices.
Likewise, to beings who aspire to become Paccekabuddhas and Sammāsambuddhas, the Bodhisatta gives the gift of Dhamma by explaining it clearly the characteristics, functions, etc., of the ten pāramīs; by elaborating upon the glory of Bodhisattas throughout the three stages of their existence, viz., at the moment of fulfilment of pāramīs, of becoming a Buddha and of fulfilment of the duties of a Buddha; by establishing them in the practices for attainment of Paccekabodhi or Sammā-sambodhi;and by purifying the practices of those who are already established in them.
Suttanta Classification of Dāna into Ten Kinds
When a Bodhisatta gives material gifts, he makes an offering of alms-food with the wish: “Through this material gift, may I help beings achieve long life, beauty, happiness, strength, intelligence and attain the supreme fruit of arahantship.”
Similarly, he makes an offering of drink to assuage the thirst for sensual defilements of beings.
He makes an offering of garments to gain golden complexion and adornment of moral shame and moral dread; of vehicles to become accomplished in various psychic powers and gain the bliss of Nibbāna; of perfumes to produce the sweet fragrance of incomparable morality;of flowers and unguents to be endowed with splendour of Buddha qualities; of seats to win the seat of Enlightenment under the Bodhi-tree; of beds to acquire the ‘sleep of a Buddha’ which is entering into the fourth jhāna according to the saying: “Lying on the left is the sleep of the sensuous, lying on the right, that of a lion, lying with upturned face, that of a peta, entering into the fourth jhāna is the sleep of a Buddha”; of dwelling places, such as rest houses, etc., to become a refuge of beings; and of lamps to acquire the five-eyes.
Various Kinds of Dānas with Their Respective Objects He makes a gift of colour (rūpa-dāna) to acquire the aura which constantly illumines an area of eighty cubics around the Buddha’s body, even in the darkness of a thick forest, at midnight, on a new moon day, with rain clouds covering the sky; of sound (sadda-dāna), to acquire a voice like that of the Brahmā; of tastes, to become a person endearing to all beings; of tangibles, to acquire the fruit of gentleness of a Buddha (Buddha sukhumālatā); of medicines, to attain the fruit of the ageless and deathless Nibbāna; of freedom to slaves, in order to gain emancipation from slavery of defilements; of blameless amusement, so as to delight in the true Dhamma; of his own children, in order to make all beings his children of Ariyan birth (by permitting them into the Order); of his wives such as Queen Maddī, in order to become lord of the whole world; of ten kinds of treasures (such as gold, gems, pearls, coral etc.), in order to achieve the major characteristics of physical beauty of a Great Being; of various adornments, in order to achieve the eighty minor characteristic marks of physical beauty; of his worldly wealth, in order to win the treasury of the True Dhamma; of his kingdom, in order to become the King of the Dhamma; of pleasance or garden, ponds and groves, in order to achieve the super-human transcendental dhamma of jhānas, liberation, concentration, Path and Fruition; of his feet to whoever wants them, to enable himself to approach the tree of Enlightenment with feet marked with auspicious wheels; of his hands, as he wishes to extend the helping hand of the true Dhamma to get beings across the four wild floods;of ears, nose, etc., to be endowed with faculties of faiths, etc.; of eyes, to be endowed with the All-seeing Eye (Samanta-cakkhu of a Buddha), that is, Omniscience; of the gift of flesh and blood with the wishful thought: "May my body bring welfare and happiness to all-beings, at all times, even when I am seeing, hearing, recollecting or helping myself. May it be the means for sustaining all the world"; of the gift of the head, the top-most part of the body, in order to become a supreme one in all the world.
In making such gifts, the Bodhisatta does so not by seeking wrong means nor by illtreating others; nor through fear or shame; nor by causing vexation to the recipient; nor does he give inferior objects when he has superior ones to offer; nor does he extol himself while disparaging others; nor does he wish any fruit other than Buddhahood in making his gifts; nor does he give with loathing, disgust, detestation, contempt or despise. As a matter of fact, he gives after careful preparation of materials with his own hands, at the proper time, with due reverence to the recipient, without discrimination, filled with joy at all three moments (that is, before, while and after giving.)
Therefore, there is no feeling of remorse after making the gift. He does not become haughty or disdainful towards recipients but speaks endearingly to them. Understanding the speech of the recipient, he is accessible to them. When he makes an offering, he does so together with additional materials along with it.
For example, when he wishes to offer alms-food, he thinks: “I will make this offer of alms-food along with suitable accompaniments.” and makes an offer of drinks, robes etc., as well. And when he wishes to offer robes, he thinks: “I will make this offer of robes along with suitable accompaniments.” and makes an offer of food, etc., as well. The same method is followed with regard to gifts of vehicles, etc.
Whenever he wishes to make a gift of visible forms (rūpa-dāna), he makes a gift of sound (sadda-dāna), etc., as accessories to accompany it. The same method is followed with regard to gift of sound, etc.
In making ten kinds of offering of food, drink etc., following the Suttanta way of giving, the materials offered are tangible and easily intelligible. In the Abhidhamma way of making gifts, which are objects of senses, such as form, sound, etc., It is not perceptible also, as to what constitutes a rūpa-dāna, or how one should be mentally disposed, to effect a gift of rūpa. How such gifts should be made is explained below.
Abhidhamma Classification of Dāna into Six Kinds
According to six kinds of offering following the Abhidhamma classifications, the gift of colour (rūpa-dāna) should be understood thus: Having acquired a gift of material, such as flowers, garments or mineral elements of blue, yellow, red, white colour etc., one regards them only as colour and thinking: “I shall make a gift of colour; this is my gift of colour”, and offers the flower, the garment, etc., which has the colour intended as a gift. This kind of offering is known as gift of colour (rūpa-dāna).
If it is not possible for a person, who wants to make a gift of a particular colour, by separating it out from the material of that colour, he can make an offer of a flower, garment or mineral element which has the colour of his choice, thinking: “I shall make a gift of colour, this is my gift of colour.” This is how an offer of colour (rūpa-dāna) is made.
The gift of sound (sadda-dāna) should be understood by way of sound of drums, etc. When making such a gift, it is not possible to give sound the way one gives lotus bulbs and roots, i.e. after pulling them out or a cluster of blue lotuses, by placing it in the hands of the recipient. One makes a gift of sound by giving sound-producing objects such as drums or bells. Thinking: “I will make a gift of sound,” he pays homage to the Triple Gem by playing one of these musical instruments himself or causing others to do so;or thinking: “This is my gift of sound,” he erects on the stupa platforms, bells or bronze drums himself or causes others to do so; or by giving voice stimulant, such as honey, molasses etc., to Dhamma preachers; by announcing and inviting people to listen to the Dhamma, or by giving a talk on the Dhamma, by discussing Dhamma with those who have approached him; or by expressing appreciation for the good deeds of feeding monks or building monasteries or causing others to do so. Such a gift is known as the gift of sound (saddadāna).
Likewise, the gift of scent (gandha-dāna) is made when, after acquiring some delightfully fragrant objects in the form of roots, branches or powder, considering it only as scent (not as an object) and thinking: “I shall make a gift of scent; this is my gift of scent,” he offers it to the Triple Gem;or he relinquishes short pieces of fragrant wood, such as aloe, sandal, etc., with the intention of making a gift. Such a gift is known as the gift of scent (gandhadāna).
Likewise, the gift of taste (rasa-dāna) is made when, after getting a delightfully flavoured root, bulb, globule, fruit, etc., considering it (not as a material object but) only as taste, and thinking: “I shall make a gift of taste; this is my gift of taste,” he offers it to a recipient; or he makes an offering of tasteful food, such as rice, corn, bean, milk, etc. Such a gift is known as the gift of taste (rasa-dāna).
The gift of tangibility (phoṭṭhabba-dāna) should be understood by way of couches, cots, beds, chairs, etc., and by way of spreads, coverlets, blankets, etc. Having acquired some soft, delightful tangible objects, such as couches, cots, chairs, spreads, coverlets, blankets, etc., and considering them (not as material objects but) only as tangible quality, and thinking: “I shall make a gift of tangibility; this is my gift of tangibility,” he makes a gift of some such tangible objects. Such a gift is called the gift of tangibility (phoṭṭhabba-dāna).
The gift of Dhamma (dhamma-dāna) means the gift of dhammārammaṇa (one of the six sense objects). In accordance with the dictum, “ojā, pāna, jīvita are to be taken as dhammadāna”, dhamma-dāna should be understood by way of nutriment, drink and life.
To explain further: Having acquired some such material as butter, ghee, etc., which is rich in nutrient (ojā), and considering it only as a nutrient, actually a dhammārammaṇa, and thinking: “I shall make a gift of dhammārammaṇa; this is my gift of dhammārammaṇa,” he makes a gift of butter, ghee, etc; or a gift of eight kinds of drink (pāna) made from fruits and roots; or, thinking: “This is a gift of life”, he makes gifts of materials which are conducive to life-prolongation such as offering of food by tickets, etc., or gets physicians to attend to the sick and afflicted; or causes fishing nets, bird-cages, traps to be destroyed; or liberates those who have been imprisoned, or causes a proclamation to be made by beating of gongs: “Slaughter of animals is forbidden; no fish or meat is to be sold”, he undertakes himself or cause others to do so for the protection of lives of beings. Such a gift is known as the gift of dhamma (dhamma-dāna).
The Bodhisatta dedicates all the said accomplishments in generosity to the happiness and welfare of the whole world of beings till they attain Nibbāna. He dedicates them as supporting requisites to his attainment of Supreme Enlightenment, to his inexhaustible will (chanda), energy (vīriya), concentration (samādhi), wisdom (paññā) and emancipation (vimutti) through arahatta-phala.
In fulfilling the Perfection of Generosity, the Bodhisatta develops the perception of impermanence with regard to his life and his possessions. He considers these possessions as belonging to others as well. He constantly and continuously develops great compassion towards beings. In developing such compassion, he is gathering essence of merit, worth extracting from his wealth. Just like a person, whose house is blazing, removes himself and all his most valuable belongings to a safe place, so does the Bodhisatta saves himself and his valuable assets from the great mansion of three abodes (realms of devas, humans and Brahmās), which are raging with eleven fires of rāga, etc., by giving them away generously without leaving anything behind. He does so without concern, without discrimination as to what is to be given away or what is to be kept for personal use.
(This is the method of fulfilling the Perfection of Generosity.)
Footnotes and references:
The Bodhisatta, in one of his births, was a Brahmin magnate of Bāransai named Akitti, who, after giving away all his wealth, retired to a forest. There he continued to distribute his newly acquired possession to others even when he had nothing to eat but kara leaves.
Five eyes: fivefold Eyes of Wisdom, which the Sub-Commentary explains as follows: (i) Buddha-cakkhu, the Buddha-Eye, complete intuition of another’s inclinations, intentions, hopes, hankerings, will, dispositions, proclivities, moral state; (ii) Samanta-cakkhu;the Eye of Allround Knowledge, the eye of a being perfected in wisdom; (iii) Dhamma-cakkhu (or Ñānacakkhu), the Eye of Truth, perception of the attaiment of the first three maggas which lead to the fourth and final magga, arahatship; (iv) Dibba-cakkhu: the Eye of Supernormal Power, the Deva-Eye of super senuous perception, the "clear" sight of seer, all pervading and seeing all that proceeds in hidden worlds; and (v) Pasāda-cakkhu, (or Mamsa-cakkhu), the physical eye.
Queen Maddi: wife of Prince Vessantara who was well known for his generosity as a Bodhisatta. Read Chapter II RARE APPEREANCE OF A BUDDHA.
Four floods: Ohga: The four floods of desires for sensuality, existence, wrong views and ignorance.
Dhammārammana: According to A Manual of Abhidhamma by Nārada Thera, “Dhammārammana includes all objects of consciousness. Dhamma embraces both mental and physical phenomena”, pp 126, 128, 181. U Shwe Zan Aung’s Compendium of Philosophy describes object of consciousness “as either object of sense or object of thought.” It continues to mention that “the object of thought also consists of five sub-classes (i) citta (mind); (ii) cetasika (mental properties); (iii) pasada-rūpa and sukhuma-rūpa (sensitive and subtle qualities of body); (iv) paññātti (name, idea, motion, concept); and (v) Nibbāna” and concludes “these are collectively termed Dhammārammana” (pp 2-3).
Eight kinds of drink (pāna): drink made from mango, from rose-apple: from plantain, from anana, from honey-fruit, (Bassia latifolia); from grapes, from edible roots of water-lily; from the fruit of pharusaka.
Offering of food by tickets, salāka bhatta, read Anudīpānī Chapter VI Pāramīta (Prefections).
Eleven fires of rāga, etc., fires of passion, hate, bewilderment, birth, ageing, death, grief, lamentation, pain, distress and despair.