Thus have I heard. At one time the Blessed One was dwelling at Sāvatthi, in Prince Jeta’s grove, in Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery. Then the Blessed One said to the monks:–
“Monks, if someone gave a hundred pots of food in charity ¹ in the morning, a hundred at mid-day, and a hundred in the evening; and another person were to develop a mind of loving-kindness — even for the time it takes to pull a cow’s udder — in the morning, again at mid-day, and again in the evening, the latter would be of greater fruit than the former.
“Therefore, monks, you should train yourselves thus: ‘We will cultivate the liberation of the mind through loving-kindness,² we will develop it, make much of it, make it a vehicle, make it a base, establish it as a foundation, practice it and perfect it.’”
1. This theme that giving charity is inferior to other wholesome deeds is expounded in the Kūṭadanta Sutta of the Dīghanikāya. Of course, one can also give food in charity while cultivating loving-kindness to make merit in both ways, and in most cases those who donate charity do so. The importance of the mental state in making merit should be stressed. Even if giving only a little or poor quality alms, if the mind is wholesome the merit is great. Even if giving a lot of good quality gifts, if the mind is full of pride then the merit is less. See also the last section of the Pāyāsi Sutta, where the ideal manner of giving gifts is explained: “Give alms respectfully (Sakkaccaṃ dānaṃ detha), give alms with your own hand (sahatthā dānaṃ detha), give alms thoughtfully (cittīkataṃ dānaṃ detha), give alms not as if discarding something (anapaviddhaṃ dānaṃ detha).
2. When the practice of loving-kindness (mettā bhāvanā) is well developed after breaking down the barriers discriminating between loved ones and enemies, without any limits to its extent, or direction, then it is very powerful.