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Dakkhiṇāvibhaṅga Suttaṃ

(M.iii.253)

An Exposition of Gifts

376. Thus have I heard — At one time the Blessed One was dwelling among the Sakyans at Kapilavatthu in Nigrodha’s monastery. Then Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī, having taken a new pair of robes, approached the Blessed One, and having paid homage to the Blessed One, sat down at one side. Sitting at one side, Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī said to the Blessed One: “Venerable sir, this new pair of robes was spun and woven by me for the Blessed One. It would be good, Venerable sir, if the Blessed One would accept it out of compassion for me.”

When this had been said, the Blessed One said to Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī: “Give it to the Saṅgha, Gotamī. If you give it to the Saṅgha I will be honoured and the Saṅgha will be honoured too.”

For a second time … and a third time Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī said to the Blessed One: “Venerable sir, this new pair of robes was spun and woven by me for the Blessed One. It would be good, Venerable sir, if the Blessed One would accept it out of compassion for me.”

For a second time … and a third time the Blessed One said to Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī: “Give it to the Saṅgha Gotamī. If you give it to the Saṅgha I will be honoured and the Saṅgha will be honoured too.”

377. When this had been said, the Venerable Ānanda said to the Blessed One: “Venerable sir, let the Blessed One accept Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī’s new pair of robes. Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī has been of great service to the Blessed One. Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī is the Blessed One’s maternal aunt, she was his foster mother, and wet-nurse who gave him milk; when his own mother died she suckled the Blessed One. The Blessed One too, Venerable sir, has been of great service to Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī. Venerable sir, due to the Blessed One, Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī has gone for refuge to the Buddha, Dhamma, and Saṅgha. Due to the Blessed One, Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī abstains from killing living beings, from taking what is not given, from sexual misconduct, from telling lies, from indulgence in intoxicants that cause heedlessness. Due to the Blessed One, Venerable sir, Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī has unshakeable confidence in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Saṅgha, and is endowed with [254] the morality of the Noble Ones. Due to the Blessed One, Venerable sir, Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī is free from doubts about suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the path leading to the cessation of suffering. Venerable sir, the Blessed One has been of great service to Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī.”

378. “It is so, Ānanda. I declare, Ānanda, that if due to another person one has gone for refuge to the Buddha, Dhamma, and Saṅgha, it is not easy, Ānanda, to repay that person, that is to say, by paying homage (abhivādana), getting up from one’s seat (paccuṭṭhāna), performing reverential salutation (añjalikamma), doing service (sāmīcikamma), and supporting them with the requisites of robes (cīvara), almsfood (piṇḍapāta), dwellings (senāsana), medicine (gilānappaccaya), and medicinal requisites (bhesajjaparikkhārā).¹

I declare, Ānanda, that if due to another person one abstains from killing living beings, from taking what is not given, from sexual misconduct, from telling lies, from indulgence in intoxicants that cause heedlessness; it is not easy, Ānanda, to repay that person, that is to say, by paying homage, getting up from one’s seat, performing reverential salutation, doing service, and supporting them with the requisites of robes, almsfood, dwellings, medicine and medicinal requisites.

I declare, Ānanda, that if due to another person one has unshakeable confidence in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Saṅgha, and is endowed with the morality of the Noble Ones; it is not easy, Ānanda, to repay that person, that is to say, by paying homage, getting up from one’s seat, performing reverential salutation, doing service, and supporting them with the requisites of robes, almsfood, dwellings, medicine, and medicinal requisites.

I declare, Ānanda, that if due to another person one is free from doubts about suffering, the cause of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the path leading to the cessation of suffering; it is not easy, Ānanda, to repay that person, that is to say, by paying homage, getting up from one’s seat, performing reverential salutation, doing service, and supporting them with the requisites of robes, almsfood, dwellings, medicine, and medicinal requisites.

379. “Ānanda, there are fourteen kinds of gifts to individuals. What fourteen? One gives a gift to the Tathāgata, a worthy one (Arahant), a Fully Enlightened Buddha — this is the first gift to an individual. One gives a gift to a Solitary Buddha (Pacceka Buddha) — this is the second gift to an individual. One gives a gift to an Arahant, a disciple of the Tathāgata — this is the third gift to an individual. One gives a gift to one who is practising for the realisation of the fruit of Arahantship ² — this is the fourth gift to an individual. One gives a gift to a Non-returner — this is the fifth gift to an individual. [255] One gives a gift to one who is practising for the realisation of the fruit of Non-returning — this is the sixth gift to an individual. One gives a gift to a Once-returner — this is the seventh gift to an individual. One gives a gift to one who is practising for the realisation of the fruit of Once-returning — this is the eighth gift to an individual. One gives a gift to a Stream-winner — this is the ninth gift to an individual. One gives a gift to one who is practising for the realisation of the fruit of Stream-winning ³ — this is the tenth gift to an individual. One gives a gift to one outside of the Buddhist dispensation who is free from sensual desire — this is the eleventh gift to an individual. One gives a gift to an ordinary moral person — this is the twelfth gift to an individual. One gives a gift to an ordinary immoral person — this is the thirteenth gift to an individual. One gives a gift to an animal — this is the fourteenth gift to an individual.

“Herein, Ānanda, having given a gift to an animal, one may expect the gift to return a hundredfold. Having given a gift to an ordinary immoral person, one may expect the gift to return a thousandfold. Having given a gift to an ordinary moral person, one may expect the gift to return a hundred thousandfold. Having given a gift to one outside the Buddhist dispensation who is free from sensual desire, one may expect the gift to return times ten billion. By giving a gift to one practising for the realisation of Stream-winning, one may expect an incalculable and immeasurable result. What then can be said regarding a gift to a Stream-winner … to one practising for the realisation of the fruit of Once-returning … a Once-returner … one practising for the realisation of the fruit of Non-returning … a Non-returner … one practising for the realisation of the fruit of Arahantship … to an Arahant, a worthy one, a disciple of the Tathāgata … a Solitary Buddha. What then can be said regarding a gift to the Tathāgata, a worthy one, a Fully Enlightened Buddha‽

380. “Ānanda, there are seven kinds of gifts to the Saṅgha. What seven? One gives a gift to both Saṅghas with the Buddha as their leader — this is the first gift to the Saṅgha. One gives a gift to both Saṅghas after the Tathāgata has attained final cessation — this is the second gift to the Saṅgha. One gives a gift to the Bhikkhu Saṅgha — this is the third gift to the Saṅgha. One gives a gift to the Bhikkhuṇī Saṅgha — this is the fourth gift to the Saṅgha. One gives a gift saying: ‘Assign so many bhikkhus and bhikkhuṇīs to me.’ [256] This is the fifth gift to the Saṅgha. One gives a gift saying: ‘Assign so many bhikkhus to me.’ This is the sixth gift to the Saṅgha. One gives a gift saying: ‘Assign so many bhikkhuṇīs to me.’ This is the seventh gift to the Saṅgha.⁴

“In the future, Ānanda, there will be those defiling the yellow robes, immoral, and of evil character. The people will give gifts for the Saṅgha to these immoral individuals. Nevertheless I declare, Ānanda, that gifts to the Saṅgha are incalculable and immeasurable. In no way, Ānanda, do I say that a gift to an individual is ever of greater fruit than a gift to the Saṅgha.

381. “Ānanda, there are these four purifications of a gift. What four? Here, Ānanda, a gift is purified by the giver, not by the recipient. Here, Ānanda, a gift is purified by the recipient, not by the giver. Here, Ānanda, a gift is neither purified by the recipient, nor by the giver. Here, Ānanda, a gift is purified by the giver and by the recipient.

“And how, Ānanda, is a gift purified by the giver, not by the recipient? Here, Ānanda, the giver is virtuous and of good character, but the recipient is immoral, of evil character — thus, Ānanda, a gift is purified by the giver, not by the recipient.⁵

“And how, Ānanda, is a gift purified by the recipient, not by the giver? Here, Ānanda, the giver is immoral, of evil character, but the recipient is virtuous and of good character — thus, Ānanda, a gift is purified by the recipient, not by the giver.

“And how, Ānanda, is a gift purified neither by the giver, nor by the recipient? Here, Ānanda, the giver is immoral, of evil character, and the recipient is immoral of evil character — thus, Ānanda, a gift is neither purified by the giver, nor by the recipient.

“And how, Ānanda, is a gift purified by the giver and the recipient? Here, Ānanda, the giver is virtuous, of good character, and the recipient is virtuous and of good character [257] — thus, Ānanda, a gift is purified by the giver and by the recipient. These, Ānanda, are the four purifications of a gift.”

Thus spoke the Blessed One. The Fortunate One having said this, the teacher said further —

383. “Whoever is virtuous gives a gift to the immoral,
What is righteously obtained, with a mind of faith.
Firmly believing in the great fruit of kamma,
That gift is purified by the giver.

“Whoever is immoral gives a gift to the virtuous,
What is unrighteously obtained, without a mind of faith.
Not firmly believing in the great fruit of kamma,
That gift is purified by the recipient.

“Whoever is immoral gives a gift to the immoral,
What is unrighteously obtained, without a mind of faith.
Not firmly believing in the great fruit of kamma,
I say that that gift is not of abundant fruit.

“Whoever is virtuous gives a gift to the virtuous,
What is righteously obtained, with a mind of faith.
Firmly believing in the great fruit of kamma,
I say that that gift is of abundant fruit.

“Whoever, being dispassionate, gives a gift to one free from passion,
What is righteously obtained, with a mind of faith.
Firmly believing in the great fruit of kamma,
That gift is the best among material gifts.”

Notes:

1. Paying homage with the fivefold prostration, touching the knees, forearms, and head to the ground to show respect; getting up from one’s seat to greet them when they arrive; paying reverential salutation by joining the palms together in front of one’s chest or forehead; doing service such as preparing a seat, providing drinking water, washing their robes; providing robes, almsfood, seats, beds, or dwellings; giving medicines or providing medical treatment such as hot baths or massage.

2. After attain the third stage of a Non-returner, a meditator may choose to rest content with that great achievement or may continue to strive in meditation on the path leading to the realisation of Arahantship. Likewise, with the second stage of a Once-returner or the first stage of a Stream-winner. A meditator may choose to rest content with that achievement or may continue to strive to reach the higher goal. Gifts to those who are striving for the next highest stage are more fruitful than those who rest content with what they have already achieved.

3. A non-meditator who observes the five, eight, or the monastic precepts is not necessarily striving to attain Stream-winning. Only striving in mindfulness meditation (satipaṭṭhāna) can lead to the realisation of nibbāna. Whatever stage of insight a meditator has reached, whether that be the lowly stage of Analytical Knowledge of Body and Mind, or the relatively high stage of insight called Knowledge of Equanimity About Formations, he or she is striving to attain the path of Stream-winning. It is thus more beneficial to offer gifts to meditators who are striving for insight, than to virtuous monastics, or to observers of the Uposatha who are only engaged in tranquillity meditation, without any aspiration to attain the noble path. Those who have already attained the lower paths, have to strive again in meditation to attain the higher paths.

4. To give a gift to the Saṅgha (Saṅghika dāna), one asks for one or more to receive alms for the Saṅgha. Whether four senior monks are sent, or only one young novice is sent, the donor should keep in mind that the gift is intended for the Saṅgha. Doing so ensures that the gift is purified and given without any preference or prejudice. Any offerings that the appointed individual receives are to be shared with the Saṅgha; they are not his or her own property to make use of as one wishes. Virtuous monastics generally share whatever they receive on almsround with the Saṅgha anyway, but in the case of gifts to the Saṅgha, sharing is obligatory.

5. See the story of the Sri Lanka king by the name of King Saddhātissa.


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