by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words
This page describes Miscellaneous Notes on Different Aspect of Dana (generosity) 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 Pāramitā. 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).
For the edification of those aspirants who ardently strive for attainment of perfect Self-Enlightenment of a Buddha, or for Self-Enlightenment of a Paccekabuddha, or for the Enlightenment of a disciple of a Buddha, we provide herewith miscellaneous notes on different aspects of Generosity, which forms a part of the conditions for obtaining Enlightenment.
These notes are given in the form of answers to the following questions:
(i) What things are called Dāna?
(ii) Why are they called Dāna?
(iii) What are the characteristics, functions, manifestations and proximate causes of Dāna?
(iv) How many types of Dāna are there?
(v) What are the elements that strengthen the beneficial results of Dāna?
(vi) What are the elements that weaken the beneficial results of Dāna?
(This form of treatment will be adhered to when dealing with other Perfections too.)
(i) What things are called Dāna?
In brief, it should be answered that ‘the volition to give a suitable thing’ is called Dāna. The meaning will become clearer in the following passages.
(ii) Why are they called Dāna?
The volition is called Dāna because it is responsible for an act of generosity to take place. There can be no generosity without the volition to give; an act of generosity is possible only when there is the volition to give.
In this connection, by volition is meant:
(i) the volition that arises at the time of donation. It is called ‘muñca-cetanā’, ‘relinquishing’ volition, ‘munca’ meaning relinquishing. It is only this volition, which accompanies the act of relinquishing, that forms the true element of generosity.
(ii) The volition that arises in anticipation before one makes the donation is called ‘pubba-cetana’. This type of volition can also be considered as Dāna, provided that the object to be given is at hand at the time the intention, “I shall make an offering of this object”, occurs. Without the object to be given being actually in one’s possession, cherishing the thought of giving may be called ‘pubba-cetana’ but cannot qualify as Dāna: it can only be a benevolent thought of ordinary merit.
How volition comes to be taken as synonymous with Dāna is based on the grammatical definition of Dīyati anenāti dānam, that which prompts giving is generosity (dāna). (Volition, here, is definitely the determining cause of giving).
Things to be given are also called Dāna from the grammatical definition of Dīyatiti dānam which means objects which could be offered as alms.
Following these grammatical definitions, Text of the Canons mention two kinds of dāna, namely, volitional dāna and material dāna. In this connection, questions have been asked why objects to be offered are called dāna, since only volition is capable of producing results and material object is not. It is true that only volition is productive of results because volition is a mental action but. as explained above, volition can be called dāna only if it arises when there exist suitable things to be given. Therefore, material object for giving is also an important contributory factor for an act of giving to qualify as generosity (dāna).
For example, we say ‘rice is cooked because of the firewood’. Actually, it is the fire that cooks the rice. But there can be no fire without firewood. So fire burns because of firewood and rice is cooked because of fire. Thus, taking into consideration, these connected phenomena, it is not incorrect to say ‘rice is well cooked because of good firewood’. Similarly, we can rightly say ‘beneficial result is obtained because of objects of offering’.
Because things to be given away feature importantly in acts of generosity, the Canonical Text mention different types of Dāna, depending on different objects to be offered. Thus, in expositions on the Vinaya, we find four kinds of dāna, since the Buddha allows four kinds of requisites to the Sangha, the offerings made to the Sangha are naturally listed under these four kinds. Hence, this classification in the Vinaya expositions of four types of dāna, which is primarily based upon different kinds of object of offering.
According to the classification in the exposition on the Abhidhamma, everything in the world comes under six categories, which correspond to the six sense objects, there are six kinds of dāna depending upon whether it is a gift of visible object, of sound, of smell, of taste, of touch or of mind-object or dhamma. Here also, although there is no direct mention of six kinds of dāna in the Abhidhamma Teachings, if gifts were to be made of each of the sense objects, there would be six kinds of offering; hence this classification in the Abhidhamma expositions of six types of dāna.
In the Suttanta classification, there are ten kinds of dāna, namely, offering of various kinds of food, of drink, of transportation, of flowers, of perfumed powder, of scented unguent or ointment, of bed, of dwelling places and of facilities of lighting. Here again, the actual teaching in the Suttas relates only to the ten classes of objects which may be offered as alms. But when these ten objects are offered as alms, there would be then ten kinds of offering; hence this classification in the Suttanta expositions of ten types of dāna.
Maintaining that the Buddha teaches only these ten objects of offering, one should not consider that these are the only gifts to be given and that other gifts are not allowable. One should understand that the Buddha merely mentions the ten things most commonly offered as alms in practice; or as any material thing can be classified as belonging to one or the other of the ten types of gifts, one should take it that by these ten objects are covered also any object which is in daily use by the noble recipient.
From what has been said above, it should be well noted how a material object is an important contributory factor (for the arising) of volitional generosity. It will be seen that the various types of generosity which will be described henceforth include many that relate to objects of offering.
As a resume of this chapter, it should be remembered that volition is dāna because it prompts giving; the material thing is dāna because it is suitable thing to give.
(iii) What are the Characteristics, Functions, Manifestation and Proximate causes of Dāna?
(a) Dāna has the characteristic of abandoning (lakkhaṇa).
(c) Its manifestation is absence of attachment i.e. a sense of freedom from attachment that appears in the mind of the donor, or knowing that dāna is conducive to good destination and wealth, i.e. on thinking of the effects of giving, the donor senses that his act of generosity will result in attainment of rebirth in the human or devaworld and attainment of great wealth.
(d) The proximate cause of giving is having objects of offering in one’s possession. Without having anything to give, there can be no act of charity, only imagining that one gives. Thus objects to be offered are the proximate cause of Dāna.
(iv) How many types of Dāna are there?
The subject to be dealt with under this topic is quite vast as it entails considerable exercise of mental alertness and intelligence to study them.
Types of Dāna in Groups of Twos
1. Āmisa/Dhamma Dāna
Teaching the Buddha Dhamma in the form of talks, lectures, etc. is giving the gift of Dhamma. The Buddha said that this is the noblest of all types of dāna. (This classification of dāna into two types is made according to the objects of offering.)
In relation to this division of types of dāna, it is necessary to look into the question of what type of dāna accrues to one who erects pagodas and statues of Buddha.
There are some who maintain that although erecting of pagodas and statues of Buddha involves relinquishing of large amount of wealth, it cannot be an act of generosity (dāna), because they say, for an act of giving to become dāna, three conditions must be fulfilled: (1) there must be a recipient, (2) there must be an object for offering and (3) there must be a donor. In erecting pagodas and statues of Buddha, there is obviously the donor, but who receives his gift, they asked. In the absence of anyone to receive the gift, how can it be an act of generosity (dāna).
From their point of view, the pagodas and Buddha statues are not objects to be given as an act of dāna but rather, they serve as aids to recollection of the attributes of the Buddha. A builder of pagodas and Buddha statues has no particular receiver in mind to give them away. He builds them to help produce vivid visualization of the Buddha in the mind of the devotees so as to enable them to practise the Recollection of the Virtues of the Buddha. It should, therefore, be considered, they maintain, that erecting pagodas and Buddha statues is related to the Buddhānussati Meditation, cultivation of the Recollection of the Virtues of the Buddha, and is not act of generosity.
There are, again, some people who maintain that as the person, who builds pagodas and installs Buddha statues, undertakes these works in order to honour, to make homage to the most Homage-Worthy Buddha, his act must be considered as an act of honouring the Buddha (apacāyana), one of the ten qualities contributing to merit (puññakiriya-vatthu). They further say that since this kind of merit, namely, honouring those who are worthy of honour, is a practice of morality (cāritta-sīla), it should come under (observance of) sīla and not under (cultivation of) Buddhānussati Meditation.
But neither the merit of Buddhānussati Meditation nor the merit of honouring (apacāyana) involves relinquishing of objects of offering; whereas building a pagoda and installing Buddha statues require an expenditure of a large sum of money. Hence, these works of merit must be considered to come under Dāna.
Here the question may be asked: ‘If it comes under dāna, will it be an act of dāna when there is no recipient for it?’ According to the Texts, whether an offering should be regarded as an act of dāna may be decided by an analysis of its features, viz. characteristic, function, manifestation and proximate cause. We have already provided above what these four features are, for a true act of dāna. Now applying this test to the present problems, we find the characteristic of abandoning, since the person, who builds the pagoda and installs the Buddha statues, relinquishes a large sum of money; as for function, there is destruction of attachment to the objects of offering by the donor; as its manifestation, the donor senses that his act of generosity will result in attainment of rebirth in the human or deva-world and attainment of great wealth; and finally, as the proximate cause, there is the object to be offered. Thus, all the four features necessary for an offering to be truly an act of dāna are present here and we may, therefore, conclude that building a pagoda and installing Buddha statues is a true act of generosity.
As to the question of who receives the gift, it will not be wrong to say that all the devas and human beings, who worship at the pagodas and Buddha statues in memory of the virtues of the Buddha, are the recipients of the dāna. At the same time, as they serve as objects of worship for the devas and human beings in their recollection of the virtues of the Buddha, they also form the objects of offering. All the various material things in the world are utilized in different ways depending on their nature; food materials are utilized for consumption; clothing materials are utilized for wearing; material for religious devotion and adoration are utilized as objects of veneration.
If wells and tanks are dug near public highways, the general public could use them for drinking water, washing, etc. The donor would have no particular recipient in mind when he dug the wells and tanks. When, as he intended, the wayfarers, passing by the road, make use of his gifts, no one could say that his gift is not an act of dāna; even if he did not finalize it with a libation ceremony. (See below).
Now to wind up the discussion, it is quite proper to say that builder of a pagoda with Buddha statues is a donor, the pagoda and Buddha statues are objects of dāna, and devas and human beings who pay homage to them in adoration are the recipients of the dāna.
An additional question may be asked: “Is it really proper to refer to pagodas and Buddha statues as objects of dāna;may it not be sacrilegious to classify them as such?” Just as bookcases and shelves are used in the monasteries for holding Canonical Texts which are looked up as sacred (Dhamma-cetiya), so also pagodas and Buddha statues form storehouses for keeping sacred relics and objects of veneration. So it may be answered that it is quite appropriate to designate them as objects of generosity (dāna).
Whether A Libation Ceremony is Essential for An Offering to qualify as An act of Generosity:
The point to consider here is what constitutes an act of dāna when it is not finalised with a libation ceremony. Actually there is no mention of this requirement in the Texts. The practice is, however, or long standing tradition.
In the Commentary on Chapter: Cīvarakkhandhaka of the Vinaya Mahāvagga, we find the following reference to this tradition of libation ceremony. “There was a split among the bhikkhus of a monastery prior to the time of offering of robes after the Buddhist Vassa. When the time arrived, lay devotees came and offered robes, piled up in a heap, to one group of bhikkhus. The devotees then went to the other group of bhikkhus and performed the ceremony of libation, saying: “We offer to the other group of bhikkhus.” As to how the robes should be distributed among the Sangha, the Great Commentary says that if it was a region where the ceremony of libation is of no importance, the robes belonged to the group (of bhikkhus) which had been directly offered the robes. The group which received only ‘the libation’ had no claim to the robes. But if it was in a region where the libation ceremony is of importance, the group which received only ‘the libation’ had a claim to the robes because the ceremony of libation was performed with them; the other group to which the robes were offered directly had also a claim on them since they had the robes already in their possession. Therefore, the two groups must divide the robes equally among themselves. This method of distribution is a practice followed by tradition in regions on the other side of the Ocean.”
“Regions on the other side of the Ocean,” from Sri Lanka implies “the Jambudīpa”, i.e. India. Therefore, it should be noted that the ceremony of libation is a practice traditionally followed by the people of India.
Considering that there are regions where they set a great store by ceremony of libation and there are regions where they set no great store by the ceremony of libation, it cannot be said that an offering constitutes an act of generosity only when it is finalised by a ceremony of libation. The ceremony is important only for those who follow the tradition of libation; it is clear that no significance is attached to it by those who do not follow the tradition. It should be noted, therefore, that a libation ceremony is not a primary factor for the successful completion of an act of generosity.
(b) With respect to the gift of the Teaching (dhamma-dāna), there are, nowadays, people who are unable to teach the Dhamma, but who, bent on making a gift of the Teaching, spend money on books, palm-leaf scripts, etc. (of Canonical Texts) and make a gift of them. Although such a donation of books is not truly a gift of the Teaching, since a reader will be benefitted by reading in the books, practices and instructions which will lead one to Nibbāna, the donor may be regarded as one who makes a gift of the Teaching.
It is like the case of one who has no medicine to give to a sick person, but only a prescription for a cure of the illness. When the medicine is prepared as prescribed and taken, the illness is removed. Although the person does not actually administer any medicine, because of his effective prescription, he is entitled to be regarded as one who has brought about the cure of illness. Likewise, the donor of books on Dhamma who personally cannot teach the Dhamma enables the readers of his books to attain knowledge of the Dhamma and thus is entitled to be called the donor of the gift of Dhamma.
Now, to conclude this section, the pair of gifts mentioned above, namely, Amisa-dāna and Dhamma-dāna may also be called Amisa-pūjā, honouring with material things and Dhamma-pūjā, honouring with the Teaching; the terms means the same thing.
The word ‘Pūjā’ means ‘honouring’ and is generally used when a younger person makes an offering to an older person or a person of higher status. Depending on this general usage, some people have stated that dāna should be divided into ‘pūjā-dāna’ and ‘anuggaha-dāna’; ‘pūjā-dāna’, honouring with an offering when the gift is made by a younger person or a person of lower status to an older person or person of higher status; and ‘anuggaha-dāna’ offering to render assistance out of kindness when a gift is given by an older person or a person of higher status to one who is younger or of lower status.
But as we have seen before in the Chapter on ‘Prediction’, the word ‘Pūjā’ can be used for both the high or the low and the word ‘Anuggaha’ is likewise applicable to both cases. It is true that generally, ‘anuggaha’ is used when the giving is made by the high to the low or by the old to the young. But we must, however, remember the usages of ‘amisānuggaha’ and ‘dhammānuggaha’ to describe the assistance rendered and support given, for the progress and development of the Buddha’s Teaching. Here the word ‘anuggaha’is employed even though the gift is being made to the highest and the noblest Teaching of the Buddha. Thus, it should be noted that the division into pūjā-dāna and anuggaha-dāna is not an absolute division into two aspects of dāna, but rather a classification following common usage.
2. Ajjhattika/Bāhira Dāna
Offerings of one’s own person means giving away of one’s own life and limbs. Offerings of external properties include giving of all the external material possessions of the donor.
Even in this modern time, we read sometimes in the newspapers of offerings of one’s own limbs at the pagoda or of ‘honouring with the gift’ of burning oneself after wrapping the whole body with cloth and pouring oil on it. Some comments have been made on such kinds of dāna involving one’s limbs. According to them, such offerings of one’s life and limbs are deeds to be performed only by great Bodhisattas and are not the concern of ordinary persons. They doubt if such offerings made by ordinary persons produce any merit at all.
Now to consider whether such views are justified or not. It is not as if a Bodhisatta can suddenly make his appearance in this world. Only after gradually fulfilling the required perfections to the best of his ability, an individual grows in maturity and develops himself stage by stage to become a Bodhisatta. Ancient poets have written thus: Only by gradual venture, one ensures continuous improvement in rebirths to come. Therefore, we should not hastily condemn those who make offerings of parts of their body or the whole of their body. If a person, through unflinching volition and faith, very courageously makes an offering of his own body, even to the extent of abandoning his life, he is actually worthy of praise as a donor of the gift of one’s own person, Ajjhattika-dāna.
3. Vatthu/Abhaya Dāna
Offering of property (Vatthu-dāna) and granting of safety (Abhaya-dāna).
Vatthu-dāna is concerned with offering of material things. Abhaya-dāna means granting of safety or security with respect to life or property. This is usually an exercise of mercy by kings.
4. Vattanissita/Vivattanissita Dāna
Vattanissita-dāna is offering made in the hope of future worldly wealthy and pleasures, which means suffering in the cycle of existence. Vivattanissita-dāna is concerned with offering made in aspiration for Nibbāna which is free of the suffering of rebirth.
5. Sāvajja/Anavajja Dāna
Dāna tainted with fault (Sāvajja-dāna) and dāna untainted with fault (Anavajja-dāna).
Offering of meals with meat obtained from killing of animals is an example of dāna tainted with fault. Offering of meals which does not involve killing of animals is dāna untainted with fault. The first type is an act of generosity accompanied by demeritoriousness and the second type is dāna unaccompanied by demeritoriousness.
We see the case of some fishermen, who, having accumulated wealth from fishing, decided to give up the business thinking: “I shall abandon this demeritorious fishing work and adopt a pure mode of livelihood.” Engaging in other occupations, they find their prosperity declining and, therefore, had to revert to their old vocation, and their wealth grew. This is an example of dāna tainted with fault (Sāvajja-dāna) done in previous lives coming to fruition in the present life. Since that act of dāna was associated with the act of killing, at the time of its fruition too, success is achieved only when associated with act of killing (fishing). When not associated with an act of killing, the previous dāna tainted with fault cannot come to fruition and his wealth declines.
6. Sāhatthika/Anattika Dāna
7. Sakkacca/Asakkacca Dāna
Offering made with proper and careful preparation (Sakkacca-dāna) and offering made without proper and careful preparation (Asakkacca-dāna).
As an example, offering of flowers may be cited. Having gathered flowers from trees, a donor creates garlands of festoon with them, and arranges them to look as beautiful and as pleasant as possible, and makes his offering of flowers, then it is a sakkacca-dāna, offering made with proper and careful preparations. Without such careful preparations, when flowers are presented as they have been gathered from trees, thinking that the mere gift of the flowers is sufficient in itself, then it is asakkacca-dāna, offering made without proper and careful preparations.
Some ancient writers have translated ‘sakkacca-dāna’ and ‘asakkacca-dāna’ into Myanmar to mean ‘offering made with due respect’ and ‘offering made without due respect’. This rendering has, as often as not, misled the modern readers to think that it means paying due respect or without paying due respect to the receiver of the offering. Actually, ‘paying due respect’ here means simply ‘making careful preparations’ for the offering.
8. Nānasampayutta/Naṇavippayutta Dāna
Offering associated with wisdom (Nānasampayutta-dāna) and offering unassociated with wisdom (Naṇavippayutta-dāna).
Offering made with clear comprehension of volitional acts and the results they produce is said to be an offering associated with wisdom. When an offering is made without such comprehension and awareness, by just following examples of others making donation, it is naṇavippayutta-dāna. It must be mentioned that just awareness of cause and its ensuing effect, while an offering is being made, is sufficient to make it an offering which is associated with wisdom. In this connection, an explanation is necessary with respect to some exhortations which run like this: ‘Whenever an offering is made, it should be accompanied by Insight Knowledge (vipassanā-ñāṇa), in this manner, I, the donor of the gift, am anicca, of impermanent nature;and the recipient of the gift is also anicca, of impermanent nature. The impermanent I am offering the impermanent gift to the impermanent recipient. Thus, you should contemplate whenever you make an offering of gifts.’ This exhortation is made only to encourage the practice of developing Insight Knowledge (vipassanā-ñāṇa). It should not be misunderstood that an act of generosity is not one associated with wisdom, if the donor does not practise contemplation as exhorted.
As a matter of fact, whoever wants to develop real vipassanā-ñāṇa should first of all discard the notion of I, he, man, woman, i.e. the illusion of I, the illusion of Self, to discern that they are merely material aggregates and mental aggregates. Then one has to go on contemplating so as to realise that these aggregates of mind and matter are of the nature impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and insubstantiality. Without differentiation into aggregates of mind and matter, if one were to contemplate on conventional concepts of ‘I am anicca; the object of offering is anicca; the recipient is anicca’, no real insight Knowledge would be possible.
9. Sasaṅkhārika/ Asaṅkhārika Dāna
Offering made hesitatingly and only after being urged is Sasaṅkhārika-dāna and offering made spontaneously without being urged is Asaṅkhārika-dāna.
Here urging means prompting or entreating earnestly someone to give when he is hesitating or reluctant to do so. Such offering is made only with prompting. But, a simple request should not be taken as urging. For example, a person, who has not made any decision whether he will or he will not make a donation, is requested to make some alms contribution and he gives willingly without any hesitation. This is a spontaneous gift in response to a simple request. Such is an asaṅkhārika-dāna (one without prompting), and should not be called a sasaṅkhārika-dāna (just because it is made after a request). Another person is similarly approached and similarly requested to make a contribution but he is reluctant at first and refuses to do so. But when the request is repeated with a prompting
“Do make a gift, don’t flinch” and he makes a contribution. His dāna is made as consequence of urging is of sasaṅkhārika-dāna type (one with prompting). Even in the case where no one has made an approach to request for dāna, if one first thinks of making an offering, and then shrinks away from the idea, but after much self persuasion, selfinducement, finally makes the gift, his dāna is sasaṅkhārika type too.
10. Somanassa/Upekkhā Dāna
Offering made while one is in a joyful mood with a happy frame of mind is Somanassadāna. Offering made with a balanced state of mind, neither joyous nor sorrowful but equipoise is Upekkhā-dāna.
(When the act of giving is accompanied by pleasure, it is Somanassa-dāna; when it is accompanied by equanimity, it is Upekkhā-dāna.)
11. Dhammiya/Adhammiya Dāna
Offering of property earned in accordance with Dhamma by just means is Dhammiyadāna. Offering of property earned by immoral means, such as stealing, robbing, is Adhammiya-dāna.
Although earning of property by immoral means is not in accord with dhamma, offering as alms of such property is nevertheless an act of merit, but the good results accruing from this type of dāna cannot be great as those obtained from the first type, the dhammiya-dāna. A comparison can be made of these two different results with types of plant that will grow from a good seed and from a bad seed.
12. Dāsa/Bhujissa Dāna
Offering made with hopes of gaining worldly pleasures is Enslaving dāna (Dāsa-dāna), the offering that will enslave one. Being a slave to craving for sense-pleasures, one makes this kind of dāna to serve one’s Master, the Craving to fulfil its wishes. Offering made with aspiration for attainment of the Path and Fruition, the Nibbāna, is dāna for freedom, Bhujissa-dāna (offering made in revolt against the dictate of the Master, the Craving).
Sentient beings in the endless round of existences desire to enjoy the delightful pleasures of the senses (visible objects, sounds, smells, tastes, touch). This desire to revel in the so called pleasures of the senses is called Craving. Every moment of their existence is devoted to satisfying that Craving; fulfilling the needs of that Craving, they have becomes its servants. Continuous striving, day and night throughout their life for wealth is nothing but fulfilment of the wishes of the Craving which demands the best of food, the best of clothing and the most luxurious way of living.
Not content with being a slave to Craving in the present life, working to fulfil its every need, we make acts of dāna to ensure luxurious living in future. This type of offering accompanied by a strong wish for enjoyment of worldly pleasures continuously for lives to come, is definitely an enslaving dāna (dāsa-dāna).
This type of dāna in fulfilment of the wishes of Craving and which ensures servitude to Craving throughout the endless round of existence is performed, thinking it to be the best, before one encounters the Teachings of the Buddha. But once we are fortunate enough to hear the Buddha Dhamma, we come to understand how powerful this Craving is, how insatiable it is, how much we have to suffer for fulfilling the wishes of this Craving. Then resolving, “I will no longer be a servant of this terrible Craving, I will no longer fulfil its wishes, I will rebel against it, I will go against it and in order to uproot, to eradicate this evil Craving, one makes offerings with aspiration for attainment of the Path and Fruition, the Nibbāna. This dāna is called dāna made for freedom, Bhujissa-dāna (offering made in revolt against the dictates of the Master, Craving).
13. Thāvara/Athāvara Dāna
Offering of things of permanent, immovable nature, such as pagodas, temples, monasteries, rest houses and digging wells, tanks, etc., is Thāvara-dāna. Offering of things of movable nature meant for temporary use, such as food, robes, etc. movable gifts, is Athāvara-dāna.
14. Saparivāra/Aparivāra Dāna
Offering made with accompaniment of supplementary material that usually go along with such an offering is Saparivāra-dāna. For example, in offering robes as main item of gifts, when it is accompanied by suitable and proper accessories and requisites, it is a saparivāradāna;when there are no other objects of offering besides the main item of robes, it is a gift without accompanying thing, Aparivāra-dāna. The same differentiation applies to offerings made with other forms of gifts.
The special characteristic marks on the body of Bodhisattas, who have large retinue attending upon them, are the benefits that result from saparivāra type of dāna.
15. Nibaddha/Anibaddha Dāna
Offering made constantly or regularly such as offering of alms-food to the Sangha everyday is Constant dāna, (Nibaddha-dāna). Offering made not constantly, not on a regular basis but only occasionally when one is able to so, is occasional offering (Anibaddha-dāna).
16. Paramattha/Aparamattha Dāna
Tarnished offering (Paramattha-dāna). Untarnished offering (Aparamattha-dāna).
Offering which is tarnished by craving and wrong view is Paramattha-dāna. Offering which is not corrupted by craving and wrong view is Aparamattha-dāna.
According to Abhidhamma, one is corrupted when led astray by wrong view alone; but wrong view always co-exists with craving. When wrong view corrupts and leads one astray, craving is also involved. Therefore, both craving and wrong view are mentioned above. And this is how craving and wrong view bring about corruption. Having made an offering, if one expresses an ardent, wholesome wish: “May I attain speedily the Path and Fruition (Nibbāna) as a result of this act of merit”, the offering becomes one of Vivatthanissita type (see type 4 above), and it could serve as a strong sufficing condition for attainment of the Path and Fruition (Nibbāna). But instead of making such a wholesome wish for Nibbāna, when one, corrupted and led astray by craving and wrong view, aspires a result of this act of merit: “May I become a distinguished deva such as Sakka, the King of Tāvatiṃsa abode, or just a deva of the durable divine realms, his dāna cannot serve as a sufficing condition for attainment of Nibbāna and is classed as mere paramattha-dāna, the dāna which is bereft of the sufficing condition for attainment of Nibbāna, being tarnished by craving and wrong view. The dāna which is not tarnished by craving and wrong view but is made with the sole purpose of attaining Nibbāna is classed as aparamattha-dāna.
Much charity can also be practised outside the Teaching of the Buddha; but dāna of paramattha type is only possible then. It is only within the Teaching of the Buddha that dāna of aparamattha type can be practised. So while we are blessed with the rare opportunity of meeting with the Teachings of the Buddha, we should strive our utmost to ensure that our offering are the aparamattha type.
17. Ucchiṭṭha/Anucchiṭṭha Dāna
Suppose, while preparations are being made for a meal, a donee appears and one donates some of the food that has been prepared before one has eaten it; it is considered to be ‘the highest gift’ (agga-dāna) and it is also an anucchiṭṭha-dāna since the offering is not the leftover of a meal. If the donee arrives while one is eating the meal, but before eating is finished, and one makes an offering of the food taken from the meal one is eating, that is also considered to be an anucchiṭṭha-dāna; it can even be said to be a noble gift. When the offering is made of the food leftover after one has finished eating, it is a gift of the leftover, an ucchiṭṭha-dāna; a wretched, inferior one. It should be noted, however, that the humble offering made by one who has nothing else to give but the leftover meal could well be called an anucchiṭṭha-dāna. It is only when such an offer is made by one who can well afford to make a better gift that his gift is regarded as a wretched, inferior one, ucchiṭṭhadāna.
18. Sajiva/Accaya Dāna
Offering made while one is still alive is Sajiva-dāna. Offering which is meant to become effective after one’s death: “I give such of my property to such and such a person. Let him take possession of them after my death and make use of them as he wishes” is Accayadāna.
A bhikkhu (Buddhist monk) is not permitted to make an accaya type of dāna, i.e. he cannot leave his properties as gifts for others after death. Even if he should do so, it does not constitute an act of dāna; the would-be recipient also has no right of possession to them. If a bhikkhu gives from his properties to another bhikkhu while he still living, the receiver is entitled to what is given to him; or while the bhikkhu is till alive, some bhikkhu, who is on intimate terms (vissāssagaha) with him, can take it and come to possess it; or if he owns something jointly (dvisantaka) with another bhikkhu, when he dies the surviving bhikkhu becomes the sole owner. Unless these conditions are fulfilled, namely, giving his property during his lifetime, taking possession of it by reason of intimacy while he is still alive, or possessing it through dual ownership, the bhikkhu’s property becomes the property of the Sangha, the Order of Bhikkhus, when he dies. Therefore, if a bhikkhu makes an accaya-dāna, saying: “I give such of my property to such and such a person when I die. Let him take possession of them”, it amounts to giving a property which by then belongs to the Order of Bhikkhus. His giving does not form an act of dāna and the would-be recipient is also not entitled to it’s ownership. it is only amongst the laymen that such kind of gift, accaya-dāna, is possible and legal.
19. Puggalika/Saṅghika Dāna
Sangha means group, assemblage or community; here, the whole community of the ariya disciples of the Buddha is meant. In making an offering intended for the Sangha, the donor must have in his mind not the individual ariya disciples that constitute the Order, but the community of the ariya disciples as a whole. Then only his offering will be of the saṅghika type.
Dakkhināvibhanga Sutta (of Majjhima Nikāya Pāli Canon) give an enumeration of the 14 kinds of gifts to individuals (puggalika-dāna) and 7 kinds of gifts to the Sangha (saṅghikadāna). It is useful to know them.
There is yet another point of view in connection with this matter. At a time when there is no Teaching of the Buddha, immoral bhikkhus cannot cause any harm to the Teaching; but when the Teaching is in existence, they can bring harm to it. For that reason, no offering should be made to bhikkhus who is devoid of morality during the period when there is the Buddha’s Teaching. But that view is shown by the Buddha to be untenable.
At the conclusion of the discourse on seven kinds of offering to the Sangha (saṅghikadāna) (see below), the Buddha explains to Ānanda:
“Ānanda, in times to come, there will appear vile bhikkhus, devoid of morality, who are bhikkhus only in name, who will wear their robes round their necks. With the intention of giving up the Sangha, offerings will be made to these immoral bhikkhus. Even when offered in this manner, a saṅghika-dāna, an offering meant for the whole Sangha, I declare, will bring innumerable, inestimable benefits.”
There is still another point to take into consideration. Of the Four Purities of Generosity (Dakkhiṇā Visuddhi), the first Purity is: Even if the donee is of impure morality, when the donor is moral, the offering is pure by reason of purity of the donor. For these reasons also, one should not say that an immoral bhikkhu is not a donee, and that no benefit will accrue by making an offering to him.
It should be well noted, therefore, it is blameworthy only when we make an offering with bad intentions of approving and encouraging an immoral bhikkhu in his evil practices; without taking into considerations his habits, if one makes the offering with a pure mind, thinking only ‘one should give if someone comes for a donation’, it is quite blameless.
Some people consider that it is very difficult to put into actual practice the advice to ignore the personal character of the immoral recipient, who has appeared before one, and to make one’s offering with the mind directed not to him but to the noble Sangha, regarding him only as a representative of the Sangha. The difficulty arises only because of lack of habitual practice in such matters. In making reverential vows to the images and statues of the Buddha, regarding them as the Buddha’s representatives, one is so accustomed to the practice of projecting one’s mind from the images or statues to the person of the living Buddha, that, no one says it is difficult. Just as the householder Ugga during the Buddha’s time and the monastery donor of Jambu Dipa had habituated themselves to make offerings to an immoral bhikkhu as a representative of the Buddha, so also Buddhists of modern times should discipline their mind to become accustomed to such an attitude.
20. Kāla/Akāla Dāna
Offering of Kaṭhina robes at the end of the Buddhist vassa for the duration of one month, offering of robes at the beginning of the Buddhist vassa, offering of dietary food to the sick, offering of food to visiting bhikkhus, offering of food to bhikkhus, who is setting out on a journey, are gifts made at a specific time for a specific purpose and are called timely gifts, kāla-dāna; all other gifts made as one wishes without reference to any particular time are called akala-dāna.
Kāla-dāna is of greater merit than the akāla type because the offering is made to meet the specific needs at a specific time. The kāla type of dāna, at the time of its fruition, brings specific good results at the time they are needed. For example, if the donor wishes for something special to eat, his wish is immediately fulfilled; likewise if he wishes to have some special clothes to wear, he will receive them. These are examples of special merit that accrues from offerings made at specific times to meet specific needs.
21. Paccakkha/ Apaccakkha Dāna
The Pāli word, ‘paccakkha’ is made up of ‘pati’ and ‘akkha’. ‘Pati’ means towards; ‘akkha’ means five senses, viz. eye, ear, nose, tongue, body. Although ‘paccakkha’ is generally “before the eye”, its complete meaning should be “perceptible to the senses”. Thus paccakkha-dāna has wider scope, not just the kind of offering which can be seen by the donor but also those which can be perceived by his other senses, i.e. by sound, by smell, by taste and by touch. In this connection, it should be noted that offerings made in the presence of the donor, paccakkha-dāna, is not exactly the same as sāhatthika-dāna, that made with one’s own hands. Offerings made in one’s presence at one’s instance but not actually with one’s own hands are of the anattika-dāna type, offerings made at one’s request or command.
22. Sadisa/Asadisa Dāna
When offerings are made in a spirit of competition, donors make efforts to excel their rivals in the scale and magnificence of charity. In such competitions, the offerings that prove to be incomparable, inimitable is called unrivalled alms-giving, asadisa-dāna.
According to the Dhammapada Commentary, as explained in the story of Unrivalled alms-giving in the Loka-vagga, only one donor appeared during the time of each Buddha to make an unrivalled offering. The story runs as follows:
At one time, the Buddha, after going on a long journey followed by five hundred arahats, arrived back at the Jetavana monastery. King Pasenadi of Kosala honoured the Buddha and His five hundred disciples by inviting them to the palace and offering them alms on a magnificent scale. The King invited also the people of Sāvatthi to his ceremony of offering so that they could watch and rejoice in his meritorious deed. The next day, the people of Savatthi, rivalling the King, organized the resources of the whole city and gave offerings which surpassed those of the King, to the Buddha and His disciples. They invited the King to their ceremony to observe their deed and rejoice in it.
Catching on the spirit of competition, the King accepted the challenge of the citizens by conducting a more magnificent ceremony of offering the following day. The citizens in turn organized again another grand ceremony of offering to outdo the efforts of the King. In this manner, the keen contest between the King and his citizens went on until either side had made six offerings. (The contest still remained indecisive.)
As the seventh round came along, the royal donor was feeling despondent: “It will be very difficult to surpass the efforts of the citizens in this seventh round; and life would not be worth living, if I, the sovereign ruler of the land, were to lose to the people over whom I rule, in this round.” (To console him), his Queen, Mallikā, thought out a plan by which the King could make a truly majestic offering which the people would find impossible to match. She had a grand pavilion built, in which, five hundred great disciples of the Buddha, the arahats, were to sit in the pavilion with five hundred princesses fanning them and spraying perfumes and scented water in the pavilion. At the back of the five hundred arahats, there would be five hundred elephants, kneeling down and holding a white umbrella over each of the great arahats.
As the arrangements were being made according to the above plan, they found one tame elephant short of five hundred; so they had a wild, unruly elephant, which was notorious for its savagery, placed at the back of the Venerable Angulimala and made it hold a white umbrella like other elephants. People were amazed to find this savage beast taking part in the ceremony and holding an umbrella over the head of the Venerable Angulimala in a docile manner.
After the meal had been offered to the congregation, the King declared: “I made an offering of all the things in this, pavilion, allowable things as well as unallowable things. On this declaration, the people had to admit defeat in the contest, because they had no princesses, no white umbrellas, no elephants.
Thus the donor of the unrivalled dāna at the time of ‘the Supreme Being of the three Worlds, the Buddha Gotama’, was King Pasenadi of Kosala. It should be noted that each of the other Buddhas also had a donor who presented him with an incomparable, unrivalled dāna.
Type of Dāna in Groups of Threes
(1) Dāna can also be divided into three categories, namely, Inferior (Hīna), Medium (Majjhima), and Superior (Paṇīta). The degree of benevolence of an act is dependent upon the strength of intention (chanda), the conscious state (citta), energy (vīriya), and investigative knowledge (vimamsā) involved in the act. When these four constituent elements are weak, the dāna is said to be of inferior type; when they are of medial standard the dāna is regarded as of medium type; when all are strong, the dāna is considered to be of the superior order.
(2) When the act of dāna is motivated by desire for fame and acclaim, it is of inferior type; when the goal of dāna is for attainment of happy life as a human being or a deva, it is of medium type; if the gift is made in reverence to the ariyas or Bodhisattas for their exemplary habits of offering, it is an excellent gift of superior order.
(In the various discourses of the Pāli Texts are mentioned parks and monasteries which were given the names of the individual donors, for example, Jetavana, the garden of Prince Jāti; Anāthāpiṇḍikārāma, the monastery donated by the rich man Anāthapiṇḍika; Ghositārāma, the monastery donated by the rich man Ghosita. This system of nomenclature was adopted by the First Council Elders with the intention of encouraging others to follow the examples and thus acquire merit. So, donors today, when making such gifts, inscribe their names on marble or stone. In doing so, they should keep under control, by exercise of mindfulness, any desire for fame, bearing in mind that they make the gift in order to set an example to those who wish to acquire merit.)
(3) When the donor aspires for happy life as a human or celestial being, his gift is of inferior type; when the aspiration is for attainment of enlightenment as a disciple (sāvakabodhi-ñāṇa), or as a silent Buddha (paccekabuddha-ñāṇa), the gift is a medium one; when one aspires for Perfect Self-Enlightenment (sammāsambodhi-ñāṇa or sabbaññutañāṇa), one s gift is of superior order.
(By Bodhi or Enlightenment is meant knowledge of one of the four Paths. The sages of past had advised that, in order for the gift to serve as a means of escape from the round of rebirths (vivaṭṭanissita), one should never make a gift in a haphazard or casual manner, one should seriously (positively) aspire for one of the three forms of Enlightenment while making an offering.)
(4) Again, gifts may be of three types, viz. Dāna-dāsa, gift fit for a servant; Dānasahāya, gifts fit for a friend. and Dāna-sāmi, gifts fit for a master.
Just as in everyday life, one uses materials of good quality while offering the servants inferior quality, so also if one makes a gift of materials which are poorer in quality than those enjoyed by oneself, the gift is of inferior type (dāna-dāsa), fit for a servant. Just as in everyday life, one offers one’s friends things which one uses and enjoys, so also if one makes a gift of materials which are of the same quality as used by oneself, then the gift is said to be of medium type (dāna-sahāya). Just as in everyday life, one makes present of gifts to one’s superior of things better in quality than those enjoyed by oneself, so also if one gives dāna of superior quality materials, then the gift is said to be of superior order (dāna-sāmi).
(5) There are three types of Dhamma-dāna (the division being based on the meaning of the word ‘Dhamma’ for each type). In the first type of Dhamma-dāna, ‘dhamma’ is the one associated with the Āmisa dhamma-dāna, mentioned above under dāna categories by Twos. Therein, it was stated that Āmisa dhamma-dāna is the gift of palm-leaf scriptures or books of the Scriptures. In this classification. the ‘dhamma’ is the scriptures themselves, the Pariyatti Dhamma, that was taught by the Buddha and recorded on palm leaves or books as texts. The dhamma-dāna, therefore, means, here, teaching the Scriptures or giving the knowledge of the Buddha’s Teachings to others. The Pariyatti is the gift-object, the material that is given; the listener is the recipient and one who teaches or expounds the dhamma is the donor.
(In the second type of dhamma-dāna, the ‘dhamma’ refers to the ‘dhamma’ included in the Abhidhamma classification of dānas into six classes, namely, rūpa-dāna, sadda-dāna, gandha-dāna, rasa-dāna, phoṭṭhabba-dāna and dhamma-dāna. The dhamma in this particular case is explained as all that forms the object of the mind or mental objects.) The mental objects are: (1) the five sense organs (pasāda rūpas);(2) the sixteen subtle forms (sukhuma rūpas); (3) the 89 states of consciousness (citta); (4) 52 mental factors (cetasikas); (5) Nibbāna and (6) Concepts (paññatti). Whereas in Pariyatti dhamma, the ‘dhamma’ means ‘noble’; here it has the sense of ‘the truth concerning the real nature of things’.
Dhamma-dāna of this type is made through rendering assistance to those afflicted with (organic) disabilities, for example, weak eye-sight, trouble in hearing, etc. Helping others to improve their eye-sight is cakkhu (dhamma) dāna; helping them to improve their hearing is sota (dhamma) dāna, etc. The most distinctive dāna of this type is jīvita-dāna, the promotion of longevity of others. In a similar manner, the remaining dānas of the type, namely, gandha, rasa, phottabba and dhamma may be understood.
In the third type of dhamma-dāna, the ‘dhamma’ refers to the Dhamma of the Triple Gem, namely, the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha. As in the second type of dhammadāna, the Dhamma here means the Scriptures or the Teaching of the Buddha. Whereas in the second type the ‘dhamma’ is a gift-object for offering, while the listener is the recipient. In this third type, the Dhamma, which is a part of the trinity of the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha, itself forms the recipient to which offerings are to be made. When the Buddha and the Sangha become recipients, the associated Dhamma also becomes a recipient of offerings.
To give an illustration: The Buddha was residing in the Jetavana monastery in Savatthi. At that time, a rich householder who had faith in the Teaching, thought to himself thus: “I have had opportunities to honour the Buddha and His Sangha constantly with offerings of food, robes, etc. But I have never honoured the Dhamma by making offerings to it. It is time now that I should do so.” With this thought, he approached the Buddha and asked Him how to do about it.
The Buddha replied: “If you wish to honour the Dhamma, you should give food, robes etc. to the bhikkhu who is well cultivated in the Dhamma, but with the clear intention of honouring the Dhamma which he has realized.”
When the householder asked Him which bhikkhu would be appropriate to receive such an offering, the Buddha told him to ask the Sangha. The Sangha directed him to give his offerings to the Venerable Ānanda. So he invited the Venerable Ānanda and made a generous offering of food, robes, etc. to him, keeping in mind that he was honouring the Dhamma which the Venerable Ānanda had realized. This story is described in the introduction to the Bhikkhāparampara Jātaka, the thirteenth Jātaka of the Pakinnaka Nipāta.
According to the story, the householder is the donor; food, robes, etc. are material objects of offering, and the body of the Dhamma which lies embedded in the person of the Venerable Ānanda is the recipient of the gift.
This householder was not the only one who made such offerings at the time of the Buddha, keeping in mind the Dhamma as the recipient of offering. The Text clearly mentions that the great ruler, Siri Dhammāsoka (Asoka), with much pious reverence for the Dhamma built monasteries, 84,000 in all, one in honour of each of the 84,000 groups of Dhamma (Dhammakkhandha) which form the complete Teaching of the Buddha.
(Note of Caution)..... Many have heard of this great dāna of Asoka and have desired to imitate him in such giving. But it is important to follow his example in a proper manner. The real motive of the great King Asoka was not merely giving of monasteries, but the paying of respect to the groups of Dhamma individually. Building of monasteries serves only to provide him with materials for offering. Later generations of donors, who wish to follow the example of Siri Dhammāsoka, should understand that they build monasteries not just as objects for offering, not with the intention of acquiring the fame of being a monastery donor, but with the sole aim of paying homage to the Dhamma.
The significance of these dhamma-dānas may be appreciated when one remembers the importance of the Teaching (the Dhamma). The great Commentator, the Venerable Mahā Buddhaghosa concluded his work Aṭṭhasālinī, the Commentary to the Dhammasaṅgaṇī, the first book of the Abhidhamma, with the wish “May the true Dhamma endure long. May all beings show reverence to the Dhamma.——Ciram tiṭṭhatu saddhammo, dhamme hontu sagāravā, sabbepi sattā.” He made this wish because he was fully aware of the important role of the Dhamma. He realised that as long as the Dhamma endures, the Teachings of the Buddha cannot decline and everyone who honours the Dhamma will show reverence to the Teachings and follow them. And the Buddha had said: “Only those who see the Dhamma, see me.” And nearing the end of His life, the Buddha had said that “The Dhamma will be your teacher after I am gone.——So vo mamaccayena satthā.”
Therefore, one should strive to cultivate this third type of Dhamma-dāna which plays such an important role.
(6) Another three types of dāna are classified as Dukkara-dāna, gift which is difficult to be given; Mahā-dāna, awe inspiring gift of great magnificence; and Sāmañña-dāna, common forms of gifts, which are neither too difficult to make, nor too magnificent.
An example of the first type, Dukkara-dāna, may be found in the story of dāna given by Dārubhaṇḍaka Tissa. This story is given in the commentary to the 28th vagga of Ekadhammajhāna, Ekakanipata of the Aṅguttara Nikāya.
Dārubhaṇḍaka’s dāna involving the sacrifice ungrudgingly of twelve pieces of money which were needed for redeeming his own daughter from servitude and which had taken six whole months to earn is indeed a very difficult one to give and thus is known as Dukkara-dāna.
Another example of such gifts is found in the story of Sukha Sāmaṇera given in the tenth vagga of the Commentary to the Dhammapada. Before he became a sāmaṇera, he was a poor villager who wanted to eat the sumptuous meal of a rich man. The rich man Gandha told him that he would have to work for three years to earn such a meal. Accordingly, he worked for three years and obtained the meal he so earnestly longed for. When he was about to enjoy it, a Paccekabuddha happened to come by. Without any hesitation, he offered the Paccekabuddha the meal, which he had so cherished and which had taken him three years to earn.
Another example is provided by the Ummādantī Jātaka of Paññāsa Nipāta, which gives the story of a poor girl who worked for three years to get the printed clothes, which she wanted to adorn herself. When she was about to dress herself in the clothes, which she had so yearned for, a disciple of the Buddha Kassapa came by (who was covered only with leaves because he had been robbed of his robes by the dacoits). The giving away of clothes, which she so cherished and for which she had to work for three years, is also a Dukkara type of dāna.
Awe-inspiring gifts of great magnificence are called Mahā-dāna. The great Siri Dhammāsoka’s (Asoka's) gifts of 84,000 monasteries in honour of 84,000 passages of the Piṭaka are great dānas of this type. On this account, the Venerable Mahā Moggaliputta Tissa said: “In the Dispensation of the Buddha, or even in the life time of the Buddha, there is no one equal to you as a donor of the four requisites. Your offering is the greatest.”
Although Venerable Mahā Moggaliputta Tissa said so, the gifts of Asoka were made on his own initiative, without anyone to compete and, therefore, there is no need to classify them as Sadisa or Asadisa type of dāna. Passenadi Kosala’s gifts were made in competition with those of the citizens (of Savatthi) and are, therefore, termed ‘Asadisa-dāna’, the Matchless gift.
All other gifts of ordinary nature which are neither difficult to make nor of great magnitude are just common gifts, Sāmañña-dāna.
In addition to these, there is another classification of three Dhamma-dānas described in the Vinaya Parivāra Texts and its commentary, viz.:
(1) Giving to the Sangha gifts which were verbally declared to be offered to the Sangha,
(2) Giving to the Pagoda gifts which were verbally declared to be offered to the Pagoda, and
(3) Giving to the individual gifts which were verbally declared to be offered to the individual.
These are called Dhammika-dāna, gifts offered in connection with the Dhamma. (Further details of these types of gifts will be found below in accordance with the nine gifts of Adhammika-dāna).
Type of Dāna in Groups of Fours
The texts do not mention any type of gifts by fours. But Vinaya lists four kinds of requisites which may be offered as gifts. They are:
Gifts may also be classified into four types depending on the purity of the donor and the receiver, viz:
(1) Dāna whose donor has morality but the recipient has not.
(2) Dāna whose recipient has morality but the donor has not.
(3) Dāna whose both the donor and the recipient are immoral.
(4) Dāna whose both the recipient and the donor have morality.
Type of Dāna in Groups of Fives
(1) Gift made to a visitor.
(2) Gift made to one starting on a journey.
(3) Gift made to one who is ill.
(4) Gift made at the time of scarcity.
(5) Gift of newly harvested grains and crops made to those endowed with virtue.
The fifth type has direct reference to farmers and cultivators, but it should be understood that it also includes the first fruits of labour of any one who offers them as dāna before using them for oneself.
Five Kinds of Asappurisa-dāna
There are five kinds of gifts made by men of no virtue:
(1) Dāna made without seeing carefully that the gift to be offered is properly prepared, fresh. wholesome and clean.
(2) Dāna made without due reverence or considerations.
(3) Dāna made without offering it with one’s own hands; (For example, the dāna of King Pāyāsi, who instead of presenting the gifts with his own hands, had his attendant Uttara do so for him.)
(4) Dāna made in the manner of discarding one’s leftovers.
(5) Dāna made without the knowledge that the good deed done now, will surely bring good results in the future (kammassakatā-ñāṇa).
Five Kinds of Sappurisa-dāna
There are five kinds of gifts made by men of virtue:
(1) Dāna made after seeing carefully that the gift to be offered is properly prepared, fresh, wholesome and clean.
(2) Dāna made with due reverence, with the mind firmly placed on the material for offering.
(3) Dāna made with one’s own hands. (Throughout the beginningless cycle of existences, the beginning of which we have no knowledge, there have been many existences in which one is not equipped with hands and feet. In this existence, when one has the rare fortune of being equipped with complete limbs, one should avail oneself of this rare opportunity of offering gifts with one’s own hands, reflecting that one would work for liberation making use of the hands one is fortunate enough to be born with).
(4) Dāna made with due care, and not as if one is discarding one’s own leftovers.
(5) Dāna made with the knowledge that the good deed done now, will surely bring good results in the future.
These two groups of five kinds of gifts are described in the seventh sutta of the Tikanda Vagga, Pañcaka Nipāta, Aṅguttara Nikāya.
Another five kinds of gifts made by men of virtue (Sappurisa-dāna).
(1) Dāna made with faith in the law of cause and effect (saddhā-dāna).
(2) Dāna made after seeing carefully that the gift to be offered is properly prepared fresh, wholesome and clean (sakkacca-dāna).
(3) Dāna made at the right time, on the proper occasion (kāla-dāna). (When it is the mealtime, alms food is offered; when it is the Kaṭhina season, robes are offered).
(4) Dāna made with a view to rendering assistance to the recipient or to show kindness to him (anuggaha-dāna).
(5) Dāna made without affecting, in any way, one’s dignity and the dignity of others (anupaghāta-dāna).
All of these five kinds of gifts give rise to great wealth, riches and prosperity. In addition, saddhā-dāna results in fair, handsome appearance. As a result of sakkacca-dāna, one’s followers and attendants are attentive and obedient. Resulting from kāla-dāna are benefits that come at the right time and in abundance. As a result of anuggaha-dāna, one is well disposed to enjoy the fruits of one’s good deeds and is able to do so in full. As a result of anupaghāta-dāna, one’s property is fully protected against the five destructive elements (water, fire, king, thieves and opponents. This classification of five kinds of Dāna comes in the eighth sutta of the above Text).
The opposites of these five kinds of Dāna are not mentioned in the Texts; but it may be assumed that the five corresponding dāna made by men of no virtues would be as follows:
(1) Dāna made without believing in the law of cause and effect (asaddhiya-dāna), just to imitate others' dāna or to escape from being censured or reviled. (Such dāna will produce wealth and riches for the donor but he will not be bestowed with fine appearance.)
(2) Dāna made without seeing carefully that the gift to be offered is properly prepared, fresh, wholesome and clean (asakacca-dāna). (Wealth and riches will accrue from such dānas, but the donor will not receive obedience and discipline from his sub-ordinates.)
(3) Dāna made at inappropriate time (akāla-dāna). (It will produce wealth but its beneficial results will not be in great abundance and will not come at the time needed.)
(4) Dāna made perfunctorily (ananuggaha-dāna) without intention of assisting or doing honour to the recipient. (One may reap riches and wealth out of such deeds, but he will not be disposed to enjoy his wealth or he may be denied the occasion to enjoy them.)
(5) Dāna made in such a way that it will affect, in some way, one’s dignity or the dignity of others (upaghāta-dāna). (Wealth and riches may accrue from such dānas but they will be subject to damage or destruction by the five enemies.)
In view of the Kala-dāna and Akāla-dāna types of offering mentioned above, i.e. offerings made at appropriate or inappropriate times, it should be well noted that it is improper to make offerings, even with the best of intentions, of light to the Buddha during the day when there is light, or of food when it is afternoon.
Five Kinds of Immoral Gifts
The Parivāra (Vinaya Piṭaka) mentions five kinds of giving which are commonly and conventionally called by people as acts of merit, but which are nothing but harmful, demeritorious forms of offering.
(1) Gift of intoxicants (majja-dāna).
(2) Holding of festivals (samajja-dāna).
(3) Provision of prostitutes for sexual enjoyment of those who wish to do so (itthi-dāna).
(4) Dispatch of bulls into a herd of cows for mating (usabha-dāna).
(5) Drawing and offering of pornographic pictures (cittakamma-dāna).
The Buddha described these forms of offering as immoral, demeritorious gifts because they cannot be accompanied by good intentions, wholesome volitions. Some people think that by providing opium to an addicted person, who is nearing death because of the withdrawal of the drug, they are doing a meritorious deed of life-giving (jivita-dana). As a matter of fact, this does not constitute an act of merit, because it is unwholesome consciousness that motivates one to offer opium which is not suitable for consumption. The same consideration holds good in the case of offering of intoxicants.
Some people try to explain this inclusion of intoxicants as materials for offering by the King Vessantara by saying that the King had no intention of providing liquor to the drunkards; that it is only the volition that determines the merits of an offering; that King Vessantara did not want anyone to drink the intoxicants; there is no wrong intention involved. He merely wanted to avoid being criticised by those who would say that the King’s great dāna has no offerings of intoxicants.
(But such rationalization is untenable.) Great persons, like King Vessantara, do not worry about criticism levelled at them by others, especially when the criticism is unjustified. The fact of the matter is that it is only in drinking that the guilt lies; using it as a lotion or for medicinal preparations in a proper manner is not demeritorious. We should take it, therefore, that it is for such purposes that King Vessantara included intoxicants as materials for offering in his great dāna.
Five Kinds of ‘Great Gifts’ (Mahā-Dāna)
In the ninth Sutta of the fourth Vagga of the Aṭṭhaka Nipāta,Aniguttara Nikāya, are given comprehensive expositions of the Five Precepts beginning with the words: “Pañcimāni bhikkhave dināni mahādānāni,” describing the Five Precepts as the Five Kinds of Great Gifts (Mahā-dāna). But it should not be wrongly understood that sīla is dāna just because the Five Precepts are described as the Five Great Dāna in the Text mentioned above. The Buddha does not mean to say that sīla is not different from dāna or the two are exactly the same. Sīla is proper restraint of one’s physical and verbal actions and dāna is offering of a gift, and the two should not be taken as identical.
When a virtuous person observes the precept of non-killing and abstains from taking life of other beings, that virtuous person is actually giving them the gift of harmlessness (abhaya-dāna). The same consideration applies to the remaining precepts. Thus, when all the Five Precepts are well observed by a moral person, he is, by his restraint, offering all beings gifts of freedom from harm, from danger, from worries, from anxiety, etc. It is in this sense that the Buddha teaches here that observance of the Five Precepts constitutes offering of the Five Great Gifts (Mahā-dāna).
Types of Dāna in Groups of Sixes
Just as the Texts do not mention any list of gifts in groups of Fours as such, so there is no direct mention of types of gifts in groups of six in the Texts. But the Atthasālinā, the Commentary to Dhammasangani, the first volume of Abhidhamma, gives an exposition of six types of gifts in which the six sense objects provide materials for offerings, viz. the gift of colour, of sound, of odour, of taste, of objects of touch, and of mind-objects.
Types of Dāna in Groups of Sevens
Similarly, there is no mention of types of dāna in groups of sevens as such; but the seven kinds of Saṅghika-dāna, described above under the heading ‘Types of gifts in pairs’, subheading ‘Gifts to the Sangha’ may be taken to represent this type of dāna.
Types of Dāna in Groups of Eights
(A) The Buddha teaches the group of eight dāna in the first Sutta of the Fourth Vagga, Aṭṭhaka Nipāta, Aṅguttara Nikāya. The Eight dānas are:
(1) Dāna made without delay, without hesitation, as soon as the recipient arrives.
(2) Dāna made through fear of censure or of being reborn in the realms of misery and suffering.
(3) Dāna made because the recipient had in the past given him gifts.
(4) Dāna made with the intention that the recipient of the offering will make a return offering in future.
(5) Dāna made with the thought that making a gift is a good deed.
(6) Dāna made with the thought: “I am a householder who prepares and cooks food to eat;it would not be proper if I partake of the food without making offerings to those who are not allowed (by their disciplinary rules, i.e. Buddhist monks) to prepare and cook their own food?”
(7) Dāna made with the thought: “The gift I am offering will bring me a good reputation which will spread far and wide.”
(8) Dāna made with the idea that it will serve as an instrument to help one attain concentration when one fails to achieve it while practising Concentration and Insight Meditation.
Of the eight kinds of dāna, the last one is the best and the noblest. The reason is that this last type of dāna is unique, one which promotes joy and delight in one who is practising Concentration and Insight meditation, and renders great assistance to his endeavours in meditation. The first seven modes of giving do not arouse and encourage the mind in the work of Concentration and Insight Meditation and of them, the first and the fifth are superior ones (panita). The seventh type is an inferior one (hīna), while numbers 2, 3, 4, 6 are of medium status.
The eight categories of dāna may be divided into two groups: Puññavisaya-dāna, dāna which belongs to the sphere of meritorious giving and Lokavisaya-dāna, dāna which belongs to the sphere of worldly gifts. The first, the fifth and the eighth are Puññavisayadāna and the remaining five belong to the Lokavisaya type.
(B) Again, the third sutta in the Dāna Vagga, Aṭṭhaka Nipāta, Aṅguttara Nikāya provides another list of eight dānas.
(1) Dāna made out of affection.
(2) Dāna made under unavoidable circumstances, made reluctantly and showing resentment.
(3) Dāna made through bewilderment and foolishness without understanding the law of cause and effect.
(4) Dāna made through fear of censure, through fear of rebirth in the realms of misery and suffering, through fear of harm that may be caused by the recipient.
(5) Dāna made with the thought: “It has been the tradition of generations of my ancestors and I should carry on the tradition”.
(6) Dāna made with the objective of gaining rebirth in the deva realms.
(7) Dāna made with the hope of experiencing joy and delight with a pure mind.
(8) Dāna made with the idea that it will serve as an instrument to help one attain concentration when one fails to achieve it while practising Concentration and Insight Meditation.
Of these eight categories of dāna also, only the eighth kind is the noblest; the sixth and the seventh are Puññavisaya type of dāna and are quite meritorious. The remaining five are of inferior type belonging to the Lokavisaya types.
(C) Again, in the fifth sutta of the Dāna Vagga, Atthaka Nipāta,Aṅguttara Nikāya, the Buddha had taught comprehensively on the subject of gaining rebirths as a result of giving alms, danupapatti. According to the eight kinds of destination to be gained as future births, the dānas are divided into eight categories:
(1) Seeing the happy circumstance of rich and prosperous people in this life, one makes the dāna wishing for such wealth and comfortable life in the future and at the same time taking care to lead a life of morality. After death, his wish is fulfilled; he gains rebirth in the human world in happy, comfortable, wealthy circumstances.
(2) Hearing that the Catumahārājikadevas are (p1:) powerful beings leading a life of comfort and pleasures, one makes the dāna wishing for such powerful, comfortable life full of pleasures in the Catumahārājika deva-world (p2:) and at the same time taking care to lead a life of morality. After death, his wish is fulfilled; he is reborn in the Catumahārājika deva-world.
(3) Hearing that the Tāvatiṃsadevas are (repeat p1:) in the Tāvatiṃsa deva-world (repeat p2:) in the Tāvatiṃsadeva-world.
(4) Hearing that the Yāmadevas are (repeat p1:) in the Yāmadeva-world (repeat p2:) in the Yāmadeva-world.
(5) Hearing that the Tusitā devas are (repeat p1:) in the Tusitā deva-world (repeat p2:) in the Tusitā deva-world.
(6) Hearing that the Nimmānaratidevas are (repeat p1:) in the Nimmānaratideva-world (repeat p2:) in the Nimmānaratideva-world.
(7) Hearing that the Paranimmitavasavattīdevas are (repeat p1:) in the Paranimmitavasavattīdeva-world (repeat p2:) in the Paranimmitavasavattīdeva-world.
(8) Hearing that the Brahmās live a long life, having beautiful appearance and enjoying happy, blissful lives, one makes the dāna, wishing to be reborn in the Brahmā-world and at the same time taking care to lead a life of morality. After death, one gains rebirth in the Brahmā-world as one has wished.
It should not be concluded from the above statement that giving of alms alone is a sure guarantee for a happy life in the Brahmā-world. As stated under the eighth type, in the above two categories, it is only by making the mind soft and gentle through offering of alms and through development of concentration up to the Absorption stage, jhāna, by practising meditation on the four illimitables, namely, Loving-Kindness (Mettā), Compassion (Karuṇā), Sympathetic Joy (Muditā) and Equanimity (Upekkhā) that one can gain rebirth in the Brahmā-world.
(1) Giving of gifts which have been made clean, pure and attractive.
(2) Giving of gifts of choice materials and of excellent quality.
(3) Giving of gifts at proper and appropriate times.
(4) Giving of gifts which are suitable for and acceptable by the recipient.
(5) Giving of gifts, after making careful selection of the recipient and the objects to be offered (viceyya-dāna). Excluding persons of immoral conduct, the selected recipients should be moral persons who follow the Teachings of the Buddha. As to the materials to be offered, when possessing things of both good and bad quality, better quality materials should be selected for making a gift
(6) Giving of gifts according to one’s ability in a consistent manner.
(7) Giving of gifts with a pure, calm mind.
(8) Giving of gifts and feeling glad after having done so.
(E) A separate list of eight types of gifts made by persons of immoral conduct (Assappurisa-dāna) is not given as such in the Texts, but one could surmise that they would be as follows:
(1) Giving of gifts which are unclean, impure and unattractive.
(2) Giving of gifts of inferior quality.
(3) Giving of gifts at improper and inappropriate times.
(4) Giving of gifts which are unsuitable for the recipient.
(5) Giving of gifts without making careful selection of the recipient and the objects to be offered.
(6) Giving of gifts only occasionally although one is capable of doing so in a consistent manner.
(7) Giving of gifts without calming the mind.
(8) Giving of gifts feeling remorse after having done so.
Types of Dāna by Groups of Nines
The Vinaya Parivāra Pāli Text mentions the Nine types of giving which were taught by the Buddha as not valid as a deed of offering (Adhammika-dāna). The Commentary on the Text explains these nine types of gifts as follows:
Causing the gift which has been intended by the donor for a certain group of the Sangha:—
(1) to be given to another group of the Sangha,
(2) to be given to a shrine,
(3) to be given to an individual,
Causing the gift which has been intended by the donor for a certain shrine:—
(4) to be given to another shrine,
(5) to be given to the Sangha,
(6) to be given to an individual,
Causing the gift which has been intended by the donor for a certain individual:—
(7) to be given to another individual. (8) to be given to the Sangha, and
(9) to be given to a shrine.
Here the gift which has been intended by the donor means the four requisites of robes, food, dwelling place and medicines and other small items of necessities which the donor has already committed verbally to give to the Sangha, or a shrine, or an individual.
Once the Buddha was residing at the Jetavana Monastery in Sāvatthi. Then a certain group of people decided to make offerings of food and robes to the Sangha. Accordingly, they made necessary preparations and had the robes and food ready for the offering. A group of immoral bhikkhus went to the would-be donors and forcibly urged them to make the offering of robes to them instead. Being thus forced to give away the robes to the immoral bhikkhus, the people had only food left to offer to the Sangha. Hearing of this, the modest bhikkhus denounced the immoral bhikkhus and reported what had happened to the Buddha. It was then that the Buddha laid down the rule: “Whoever bhikkhu should knowingly appropriate for himself the gift which has been declared to be intended for the Sangha, there is an offence of expiation involving forfeiture (Nissaggiya Pācittiya Āpatti).”
In the explication that accompanies the rule, the Buddha explains: “If the gift already committed by word of mouth to be given to the Sangha is appropriated for oneself, there is the offence of expiation involving forfeiture (Nissaggiya Pācittiya Āpatti); if it is caused to be given to the Sangha other than the intended one or to a shrine, there is an offence of Dukkata Āpatti. Knowing the gift is intended for a certain shrine, if it is made to be given to another shrine or to the Sangha or to an individual, there is an offence of Dukkaṭa Āpatti. Knowing the gift is intended to be given to a certain individual, if it is caused to be given to another individual, or to the Sangha, or to a shrine, there is an offence of Dukkata Āpatti.”
The above story is given to illustrate how one’s well intentioned deed of merit could become vitiated through intervention and interference of undesirable intermediaries and how, due to their intervention, it could be turned into an adhammika-dāna. The Buddha also explained the nine unrighteous acceptances (adhammika paṭiggaha) of the nine adhammika-dāna and the nine righteous uses (adhammika paribhoga) of righteously offered requisites. It should be noted, however, that not every transfer of gifts from the recipient originally intended by the donor to another results in an adhammika-dāna. The donor himself may change his original intention for some good reason or may be persuaded by a well-wisher to transfer the gift for acquiring more merit.
An illustration of such transfer of gifts is found in the story of Mahā Pajāpati who had made a new robe intending it to be offered to the Buddha. The Buddha advised her to offer the robe to the Sangha instead. If it were an offence, the Buddha would not have given the advice. As a matter of fact, the Buddha knew that Mahā Pajāpati would gain much greater merit by offering the robe to the Sangha headed by Himself.
In another instance, the Buddha persuaded King Pasenadī of Kosala to change his mind about permitting a monastery for ascetics of another faith to be built close by the Jetavana monastery. The King had been bribed by the ascetics for granting land to build their monastery. Foreseeing endless disputes that would later arise, the Buddha first sent the Venerable Ānanda and other bhikkhus and later the two Chief Disciples, the Venerable Sāriputta and the Venerable Mahā Moggallāna, to dissuade the King from taking the bribe and granting the land to the ascetics. The King gave some excuse to avoid seeing the great Disciples. Consequently, the Buddha Himself had to go to the King and told him the story of King Bharu, mentioned in the Duka Nipāta, who, in a similar situation, had caused much suffering through taking bribes. Fully convinced of his wrong doing, King Passenadi made amends by withdrawing the grant of land and appropriating the building materials gathered on it by the ascetics. The King then had a monastery built with those materials on the very site and donated it to the Buddha.
As stated above, there is no offence when a donor changes his first intention for a good reason and makes the offer to another person. This has direct reference to one of the attributes of the Ariya Sangha. If a donor prepares gifts for bhikkhus who would be visiting him, and if, in the meantime, bhikkhus who are well-established in the higher Dhammas and who are members of the Ariya Sangha come into the scene, he may change his mind and offer the gifts to the newcomers to his better advantage. And they may also accept such gifts. They may also make use of the gifts so received. Being worthy of accepting such gifts originally intended for visitors is known as the pāhuneyya attribute of the Ariya Sangha.
Type of Dāna in Groups of Tens and Fourteens
As in the case of dāna in Groups of Fours, Sixes, or Sevens there is no direct mention of type of dāna in groups of Tens in the Texts. But the Commentaries provide a list of ten material things which may be offered as dāna.
(v) What are the elements that strengthen the beneficial results of Dāna?
(vi) What are the elements that weaken the beneficial results of Dāna?
At one time, the Buddha was residing at the Jetavana Monastery in Sāvatthi. At that time, He saw, by His supernormal psychic power of divine sight, that a certain female follower of His Teaching by the name of Nandamātā, was making an offering to the two Chief Disciples and the Sangha, in the distant town of Velukandaki.
He said to the bhikkhus:
“Bhikkhus, Nandamātā of Velukandaki is right now making a great offering to the Sangha headed by the Venerables Sāriputta and Moggallāna. Her offering has the distinguished feature of the donor possessing three special qualities of volitional purity, namely, (a) feeling happy before the act of offering; (b) having a clear, pure mind while making the offering and (c) rejoicing after having made the offering, and of the recipients possessing three special qualities of mental purity, namely, (a) being free of attachment (rāga) or practising to be liberated from it;(b) being free of ill will (dosa) or practising to be liberated from it, (c) being free of bewilderment (moha) or practising to be liberated from it.
“Bhikkhus, just as the water in the ocean is immeasurable, the benefit that will accrue from an offering distinguished by those six features is also immeasurable.
As a matter of fact, you speak of the water in the ocean as an immeasurably huge mass of water, likewise you say of such an offering, which is unique with these six features, as one that will bring an immeasurably huge accumulation of merit.”
According to this Pāli Text, it may be seen that the three qualities possessed by the donor and the three qualities possessed by the recipients form the elements that strengthen the beneficial results of dāna. It follows from it that, to the extent that the donor and the recipients are lacking in their respective qualities, to that extent will the act of dāna fall short of the full possible beneficial results.
Again, in the ninth birth story of Mahadhammapāla, in the Dasaka Nipāta of the Jātaka, it is mentioned that King Suddhodāna was a brahmin in a past life. The great teacher of the Texila, to whom he had entrusted his son for education, asked him why members of his clan did not die young but lived to a ripe old age.
He replied in verse:
We feel very happy before we ever make an offering, We are delighted and satisfied while making the offering; And we rejoice after having made the the offering, never feeling remorseful. For these three reasons people never die young in our clan.
From this story one can surmise that when an offering is made with fulfilment of these three volitional conditions, the benefit that accrues from it, is enjoyment of long life in the present existence.
Again, in the Atthasālini and the Dhammapada Commentary are mentioned four conditions that bring beneficial results in the present life from an act of offering:
(a) The materials to be offered as gifts have been acquired legitimately and equitably (Paccayānam dhammikata).
(b) They are given with faith and confidence and with fulfilment of three volitional conditions. (Cetanāmahattā).
(c) The recipient is one of high attainment, an arahat or an anāgāmin (Vatthusampatti).
Offerings of this kind, which bring beneficial results in the present life, were made by people, such as Puṇṇa, Kākavaliya and the flower girl Sumana, who reaped great benefits from their dānas which met these four conditions completely.
In the Attahasālinī, these four conditions for a gift are termed, ‘the four purities of gifts (dakkhinā visuddhi)’;in the Dhammapada Commentary, they are called ‘the Four Accomplishments (Sampadā)’.
Again, there is a list of four kinds of purity (dakkhinā visuddhi) connected with an act of dāna given in the Dakkhinā Vibhaṅga Sutta of the Uparipannāsa Pāli. They are:
(1) A gift made pure by the donor but not by the recipient. (Even if the recipient is of no moral virtue (dussīla), if the donor is virtuous and makes an offering of what has been acquired legitimately and equitably, with pure and good volition before, during and after giving the dāna and does it with full faith in the law of cause and effect, then the dāna is pure because of the donor and will bring great benefit.)
(2) A gift made pure by the recipient but not by the donor. (Even if the donor is of no moral virtue, and makes an offering of what has been acquired illegitimately and unequitably, and does not have pure, good volition before, during and after giving the dāna, and without faith in the law of cause and effect, if the recipient is morally virtuous, then the dāna is pure because of the recipient and will bring great benefits.)
(3) A gift not made pure either by the donor or the recipient. (When the donor of no moral virtue makes an offering of ill-gotten wealth to an immoral recipient with no pure, good volition before, during and after the act of offering and without faith in the law of cause and effect, the dāna will bring no great beneficial result, just as a poor seed planted on poor soil will not grow properly to produce good crops.)
(4) A gift made pure both by the donor and the recipient. (When the donor of moral virtue makes an offering of what has been acquired legitimately and equitably, with pure and good volition before, during and after the act of offering to a morally virtuous recipient, the dāna will bring great beneficial result, just as a good seed planted in good soil produces good crops.)
The third type, of course, is not concerned with purity at all, but it is mentioned to include all the cases involved. To summarise all that we have considered, there are five elements that strengthen the beneficial results of dāna:
(1) The donor observes the precepts and is of good moral conduct.
(2) The recipient is also morally virtuous.
(3) The materials offered have been acquired justly and rightly.
(4) The offering is made with happiness before, with pure satisfaction and delight during and with rejoicing after making the offer.
(5) The donor has complete faith in the law of cause and effect.
These five elements should accompany the dāna so that it will be of greatest purity and benefit; when they are lacking when offerings are made, to that extent will the dāna be deficient in beneficial results.
Footnotes and references:
Pāyāsi, a chieftain at Setavya in the kingdom of Kosala, was reborn in Catumaharajika as a result of his alms-giving in the human world. He related his past experiences to the visiting Mahāthera Gavampati. He said he had given alms without thorough preparation, not with his own hand, without due thought, as something discarded. Hence his rebirth in that lowest of the six celestial planes. But Uttara, the young man who supervised his alms-giving at his request, was reborn in a higher abode, Tāvatimsa, because he gave with thorough preparation with his own hand, with due thought, not as something discarded. The story teaches the right way of alms-giving.