The Great Chronicle of Buddhas
by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words
This page describes Four Kinds of Offerings to the Sangha 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).
Four Kinds of Offerings to the Sangha
Summary: Four Kinds of Offerings to the Sangha (as described in The Vinaya Piṭaka)
The Vinaya Piṭaka, the Book of Discipline for members of the Order gives a description of the four categories of offerings made intentionally for the Sangha. But these four categories of saṅghika-dāna do not concern the lay donor; only the seven types of saṅghika-dāna mentioned above concern them. The Vinaya distinctions are made for the
Order only so that they would know how to distribute the offerings amongst themselves.
The four categories are:—
(a) Sammukhībhūta Saṅghika.
Offerings to be distributed amongst the Sangha who are actually present at the time and place. Suppose an offering of robes is made at a certain place in towns or villages where some bhikkhus have gathered together, and the offering is made to the noble Sangha as a whole by the donor saying: “I give to the Sangha.” It will be difficult to reach all the noble Sanghas in the town or the village concerned. The distribution is, therefore, to be made amongst the Sangha present at the place at the time. Hence it is called ‘Sammukhībhūta Saṅghika’ (Sammukhībhūta—present at the time and place; Saṅghika—belonging to the Sangha.)
(b) Ārāmaṭṭha Saṅghika.
Offerings to be distributed amongst the Sangha residing in the whole compound of the monastery. Suppose a donor comes into the compound of a monastery and makes an offering of robes to a bhikkhu or bhikkhus whom he meets, saying: “I give to the Sangha.” As the offering is made within the compound of the monastery, it belongs to all the Sangha residing in that whole compound of the monastery, not just to the bhikkhus who are in the vicinity. Hence it is called ‘Ārāmaṭṭha Saṅghika’ (Arāmaṭṭha - residing in the compound; Saṅghika - belonging to the Sangha.)
(c) Gatagata Saṅghika.
Offerings which belong to the Sangha of whichever place they (have gone to) have been taken to. Suppose a donor comes to a monastery where a solitary bhikkhu resides and makes an offering of one hundred robes, saying: “I give to the Sangha.” If the residing bhikkhu is well-versed in the Disciplinary rules, he can take possession of all the offerings for himself by simply remarking: “At the present moment, in this monastery, I am the sole Sangha; all these one hundred robes, therefore. belong to me and I take possession of them.” He has the right (according to the Vinaya rules) to do so; he cannot be faulted for monopolising the offering made to the Sangha. If the bhikkhu is not proficient in Vinaya rules, he would not know what to do. And without resolving, determining: “I am the sole owner. I take possession of them,” and suppose he left for another place taking the robes with him, and the bhikkhus he met there should ask him how he came by the robes. Suppose, on learning how he had come by them, these bhikkhus claimed their share of the robes, saying: “We also have the claim on them,” and consequently all the robes were divided equally with them. Then this sharing of the robes is deemed to be a good one. But suppose, without sharing the robes, he should continue on his way and encounter other bhikkhus, these bhikkhus would also be entitled to receive their share of the robes. In this way, wherever the bhikkhu would go, taking the robes with him, the bhikkhus of those places would be entitled to the robes. Hence it is called ‘Gatagata Saṅghika’ (Gatagata - wherever one has gone; Saṅghika - belonging to the Sangha.)
(d) Catuddisā Saṅghika.
Offerings which belong to all bhikkhus who come from the four directions. Such offerings include gifts which are weighty and important, which are to be treated with deference, for example, monasteries. They are not to be apportioned but for use by Sangha coming from all directions. Hence it is called ‘Catuddisa Saṅghika’ (Catuddissā - from four directions; Saṅghika - belonging to the Sangha.)
Not being mindful of the fact that these four categories are mentioned in the Vinaya rules to provide measures for distinction of ownership and distribution of the offerings made to the Sangha, some (bhikkhus) make use of these Vinaya provisions when lay people make offerings. To give an illustration, suppose a donor, actuated by pious devotion to a certain bhikkhu, builds a monastery, though not intending for him, but for the whole Sangha. For the libation ceremony, he invited ten bhikkhus including the bhikkhu to whom he has so much devotion. After recitation of the Parittas, when the time comes for actual announcement of the offer, the bhikkhu wants to be offered the monastery as a puggalikadāna; offering made to a particular individual because he feels that living in a monastery meant for the whole Sangha entails so much liabilities and responsibilities. But the donor prefers to make it a saṅghika-dāna because, he believes, such dāna is superior and of much merit. The congregation resolves the disagreement between the donor and his preceptor by asking the donor to make the offering saying: “I give this monastery to the Sangha who is present here now” (Sammukhībhūta Sangha). Then nine bhikkhus of the congregation, saying to the remaining one: “We relinquish all our right of possession of the monastery to your reverence,” hand over the new monastery to him and leave.
In this manner, such procedures are liable to be followed, believing that by so doing the donor’s wish for a saṅghika-dāna is fulfilled and the recipient who prefers individual ownership is also happy since the nine co-owners have relinquished their right of possession of the monastery making him the sole owner.
But, in reality, such a procedure is not proper and should not be followed. The gift of a monastery is a weighty, important one; the ten bhikkhus to whom the monastery has been offered cannot make any kind of apportionment of the offering between them; and the donor’s gift amounts to be only a gift to the ten bhikkhus present on the occasion only and not to the Sangha as a whole.
Footnotes and references:
Parittas: lit. protection; it is a Buddhist custom to recite certain suttas such as Mañgala, Ratana, Metta, etc. to ward off evil influences.