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An Anthology of Buddhist Texts, Dharma Talks, Book Excerpts, an Quotations Prepared for DHARMA FLOWER SANGHA



An Anthology of Buddhist Texts, Dharma Talks, Book Excerpts, and Quotations

Prepared for DHARMA FLOWER SANGHA March 2012

Phap Hoa Buddhist Temple . 85 Prospect Street . Vernon . CT . 06066


Cover illustration by Sally Rippin, from Becoming Buddha Illustrations by George Keyt


“And how is a family [person] accomplished in generosity? Here, Byagghapajja, a family man dwells at home with a mind devoid of the stain of stinginess, freely generous, open-handed, delighting in relinquishment, one devoted to charity, delighting in giving and sharing. In this way, a family man is accomplished in generosity.” (Anguttara Nikaya 8:54)

This booklet is an offering of the Dharma and may be freely reprinted. Some material is copyright. Please do not remove attributions.

Sabbe sattā bhavantu sukhitattā



TABLE OF CONTENTS Definitions and Texts


Dana, by Damien Keown


A Treatise on Giving, by Achariya Dhammapala


The Practice of Giving, with Marcia Rose


Generosity: The Inward Dimension, by Nina Van Gorkom


Giving from the Heart, by M. O’C. Walshe


Shall We Pave the Planet, or Learn to Wear Shoes?, 50 By David Loy The Practice of Giving, by Susan Elbaum Jootla


Practical Advice for Meditators, by Bhikkhu Khantipalo


Generosity’s Perfection, by Sharon Salzberg


Dana: An Introduction, by Ellison Banks Findly




DEFINITIONS AND TEXTS Dā na Dāna (Pāli, Sanskrit: दान dāna) is generosity or giving. In Hinduism and Buddhism, it is the practice of cultivating generosity. Ultimately, the practice culminates in one of the perfections (pāramitā): the perfection of giving - dānapāramitā. This can be characterized by unattached and unconditional generosity, giving and letting go. (from Wikipedia) “Therein, what is kalyāṇa-mittatā? To follow after, to frequent the company of, and associate with, such persons as have saddhā, virtuous, learned, generous and wise; to resort to and consort with them, to be devoted to them, enthusiastic about them, mixed up with them.” (from the Dhammasaṅgaṇi)

GENEROSITY: dāna A treasure "And what is the treasure of generosity? There is the case of a disciple of the noble ones, his awareness cleansed of the stain of stinginess, living at home, freely generous, openhanded, delighting in being magnanimous, responsive to requests, delighting in the distribution of alms. This is called the treasure of generosity." (AN 7.6) A requisite for spiritual progress "Without abandoning these five qualities, one is incapable of entering & remaining in the first jhana... the second jhana... the third jhana... the fourth jhana; incapable of realizing the fruit 9

of stream-entry... the fruit of once-returning... the fruit of nonreturning... arahantship. Which five? Stinginess as to one's monastery [lodgings], stinginess as to one's family [of supporters], stinginess as to one's gains, stinginess as to one's status, and ingratitude. Without abandoning these five qualities, one is incapable of entering & remaining in the first jhana... the second jhana... the third jhana... the fourth jhana; one is incapable realizing the fruit of stream-entry... the fruit of once-returning... the fruit of non-returning... arahantship. "With the abandoning of these five qualities, one is capable of entering & remaining in the first jhana... the second jhana... the third jhana... the fourth jhana; capable of realizing the fruit of stream-entry... the fruit of once-returning... the fruit of nonreturning... arahantship..." (AN 5.256-263) The rewards of giving "These are the five rewards of generosity: One is dear and appealing to people at large, one is admired by good people, one's good name is spread about, one does not stray from the rightful duties of the householder, and with the break-up of the body at death, one reappears in a good destination, in the heavenly worlds." (AN 5.35) [The Buddha:] "Then there is the case where a certain person refrains from taking life, refrains from taking what is not given, refrains from sensual misconduct, refrains from false speech, refrains from divisive speech, refrains from abusive speech, refrains from idle chatter, is not covetous, bears no ill will, and has right views. And he gives food, drink, cloth, vehicles, garlands, scents, creams, bed, lodging, & lamps to brahmans & contemplatives. With the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the company of human beings. There he experiences the five 10

strings of human sensuality [delightful sights, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations]. It's because he refrained from taking what is not given, refrained from sensual misconduct, refrained from false speech, refrained from divisive speech, refrained from abusive speech, refrained from idle chatter, was not covetous, bore no ill will, and had right views that he reappears in the company of human beings. And it's because he gave food, drink, cloth, vehicles, garlands, scents, creams, bed, lodging, & lamps to brahmans & contemplatives that he experiences the five strings of human sensuality. [Similarly for the case of rebirth in the company of devas] "...It's because he refrained from taking what is not given... and had right views that he reappears in the company of devas. And it's because he gave food, drink, cloth, vehicles, garlands, scents, creams, bed, lodging, & lamps to brahmans & contemplatives that he experiences the five strings of divine sensuality. But at any rate, brahman, the donor does not go without reward." [The brahman Janussonin:] "It's amazing, Master Gotama, it's astounding, how it's enough to make one want to give a gift, enough to make one want to make an offering, where the donor does not go without reward." "That's the way it is, brahman. That's the way it is. The donor does not go without reward." (AN 10.177) Never underestimate the power of small gifts "Even if a person throws the rinsings of a bowl or a cup into a village pool or pond, thinking, 'May whatever animals live here feed on this,' that would be a source of merit." (AN 3.57) What isn't given is lost So when the world is on fire with aging and death, one should salvage [one's wealth] by giving: what's given is well salvaged. 11

What's given bears fruit as pleasure. What isn't given does not: thieves take it away, or kings; it gets burnt by fire or lost. (SN 1.41) Overcoming miserliness Conquer anger with lack of anger; bad, with good; stinginess, with a gift; a liar, with truth. (Dhp 223) What the miser fears, that keeps him from giving, is the very danger that comes when he doesn't give. (SN I.32) No misers go to the world of the devas. Those who don't praise giving are fools. The enlightened express their approval for giving and so find ease in the world beyond. (Dhp 177) Giving even one's last meal "If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared, if there were someone to receive their gift. But because beings do not know, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they eat without having given. The stain of miserliness overcomes their minds." (Iti 26) Giving at the proper time In the proper season they give — those with discernment, responsive, free from stinginess. Having been given in proper season, with hearts inspired by the Noble Ones — straightened, Such — their offering bears an abundance. Those who rejoice in that gift or give assistance, they, too, have a share of the merit, and the offering isn't depleted by that. So, with an unhesitant 12

mind, one should give where the gift bears great fruit. Merit is what establishes living beings in the next life. (AN 5.36) To reap the highest rewards, to whom should we give? "Even if a person throws the rinsings of a bowl or a cup into a village pool or pond, thinking, 'May whatever animals live here feed on this,' that would be a source of merit, to say nothing of what is given to human beings. But I do say that what is given to a virtuous person is of great fruit, and not so much what is given to an unvirtuous person. And the virtuous person has abandoned five factors and is endowed with five. "Which five has he abandoned? He has abandoned sensual desire... ill will... sloth & drowsiness... restlessness & anxiety... uncertainty. These are the five factors he has abandoned. And with which five is he endowed? He is endowed with the aggregate of virtue of one beyond training... the aggregate of concentration of one beyond training... the aggregate of discernment of one beyond training... the aggregate of release of one beyond training... the aggregate of knowledge & vision of release of one beyond training. These are the five factors with which he is endowed. "I tell you: What is given to one who has abandoned these five factors and is endowed with these five, bears great fruit." (AN 3.57) There are these eight individuals who are worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of reverential salutation, the unsurpassed field of merit for the world. Which eight? The one who has entered the stream, the one who has entered upon the course for the realization of the fruit of stream-entry, the once-returner, the one who has entered upon the course for 13

the realization of the fruit of once-returning, the non-returner, the one who has entered upon the course for the realization of the fruit of non-returning, the arahant, the one who has entered upon the course for arahantship These are the eight individuals who are worthy of gifts, worthy of hospitality, worthy of offerings, worthy of reverential salutation, the unsurpassed field of merit for the world. (AN 8.59) How a person of integrity gives a gift "These five are a person of integrity's gifts. Which five? A person of integrity gives a gift with a sense of conviction. A person of integrity gives a gift attentively. A person of integrity gives a gift in season. A person of integrity gives a gift with an empathetic heart. A person of integrity gives a gift without adversely affecting himself or others. (AN 5.148) Many fruits [General Siha:] "Is it possible, lord, to point out a fruit of generosity visible in the here & now?" [The Buddha:] "It is possible, Siha. One who gives, who is a master of giving, is dear & charming to people at large. And the fact that who gives, who is a master of giving, is dear & charming to people at large: this is a fruit of generosity visible in the here & now. "Furthermore, good people, people of integrity, admire one who gives, who is a master of giving. And the fact that good people, people of integrity, admire one who gives, who is a master of giving: this, too, is a fruit of generosity visible in the here & now. "Furthermore, the fine reputation of one who gives, who is a master of giving, is spread far & wide. And the fact that the fine reputation of one who gives, who is a master of giving, is spread


far & wide: this, too, is a fruit of generosity visible in the here & now. "Furthermore, when one who gives, who is a master of giving, approaches any assembly of people — noble warriors, brahmans, householders, or contemplatives — he/she does so confidently & without embarrassment. And the fact that when one who gives, who is a master of giving, approaches any assembly of people — noble warriors, brahmans, householders, or contemplatives — he/she does so confidently & without embarrassment: this, too, is a fruit of generosity visible in the here & now. "Furthermore, at the break-up of the body, after death, one who gives, who is a master of giving, reappears in a good destination, the heavenly world. And the fact that at the break-up of the body, after death, one who gives, who is a master of giving, reappears in a good destination, the heavenly world: this is a fruit of generosity in the next life." When this was said, General Siha said to the Blessed One: "As for the four fruits of generosity visible in the here & now that have been pointed out by the Blessed One, it's not the case that I go by conviction in the Blessed One with regard to them. I know them, too. I am one who gives, a master of giving, dear & charming to people at large. I am one who gives, a master of giving; good people, people of integrity, admire me. I am one who gives, a master of giving, and my fine reputation is spread far & wide: 'Siha is generous, a doer, a supporter of the Sangha.' I am one who gives, a master of giving, and when I approach any assembly of people — noble warriors, brahmans, householders, or contemplatives — I do so confidently & without embarrassment. "But when the Blessed One says to me, 'At the break-up of the body, after death, one who gives, who is a master of giving, reappears in a good destination, the heavenly world,' that I do not know. That is where I go by conviction in the Blessed One." 15

"So it is, Siha. So it is. At the break-up of the body, after death, one who gives, who is a master of giving, reappears in a good destination, the heavenly world." (AN 5.34) Many motives, many fruits "Sariputta, there is the case where a person gives a gift seeking his own profit, with a mind attached [to the reward], seeking to store up for himself [with the thought], 'I'll enjoy this after death.' He gives his gift — food, drink, clothing, a vehicle; a garland, perfume, & ointment; bedding, shelter, & a lamp — to a brahman or a contemplative. What do you think, Sariputta? Might a person give such a gift as this?" "Yes, lord." "Having given this gift seeking his own profit — with a mind attached [to the reward], seeking to store up for himself, [with the thought], 'I'll enjoy this after death' — on the break-up of the body, after death, reappears in the company of the Four Great Kings. Then, having exhausted that action, that power, that status, that sovereignty, he is a returner, coming back to this world. "Then there is the case of a person who gives a gift not seeking his own profit, not with a mind attached [to the reward], not seeking to store up for himself, nor [with the thought], 'I'll enjoy this after death.' Instead, he gives a gift with the thought, 'Giving is good.' He gives his gift — food, drink, clothing, a vehicle; a garland, perfume, & ointment; bedding, shelter, & a lamp — to a brahman or a contemplative. What do you think, Sariputta? Might a person give such a gift as this?" "Yes, lord." "Having given this gift with the thought, 'Giving is good,' on the break-up of the body, after death, reappears in the company of the Devas of the Thirty-three. Then, having exhausted that ac-


tion, that power, that status, that sovereignty, he is a returner, coming back to this world. "Or, instead of thinking, 'Giving is good,' he gives a gift with the thought, 'This was given in the past, done in the past, by my father & grandfather. It would not be right for me to let this old family custom be discontinued'... on the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the company of the Devas of the Hours. Then, having exhausted that action, that power, that status, that sovereignty, he is a returner, coming back to this world. "Or, instead... he gives a gift with the thought, 'I am well-off. These are not well-off. It would not be right for me, being welloff, not to give a gift to those who are not well-off'... on the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the company of the Contented Devas. Then, having exhausted that action, that power, that status, that sovereignty, he is a returner, coming back to this world. "Or, instead... he gives a gift with the thought, 'Just as there were the great sacrifices of the sages of the past — Atthaka, Vamaka, Vamadeva, Vessamitta, Yamataggi, Angirasa, Bharadvaja, Vasettha, Kassapa, & Bhagu — in the same way will this be my distribution of gifts'... on the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the company of the devas who delight in creation. Then, having exhausted that action, that power, that status, that sovereignty, he is a returner, coming back to this world. "Or, instead... he gives a gift with the thought, 'When this gift of mine is given, it makes the mind serene. Gratification & joy arise'... on the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the company of the devas who have power over the creations of others. Then, having exhausted that action, that power, that status, that sovereignty, he is a returner, coming back to this world.


"Or, instead of thinking, 'When this gift of mine is given, it makes the mind serene. Gratification & joy arise,' he gives a gift with the thought, 'This is an ornament for the mind, a support for the mind.' He gives his gift — food, drink, clothing, a vehicle; a garland, perfume, & ointment; bedding, shelter, & a lamp — to a brahman or a contemplative. What do you think, Sariputta? Might a person give such a gift as this?" "Yes, lord." "Having given this, not seeking his own profit, not with a mind attached [to the reward], not seeking to store up for himself, nor [with the thought], 'I'll enjoy this after death,' " — nor with the thought, 'Giving is good,' " — nor with the thought, 'This was given in the past, done in the past, by my father & grandfather. It would not be right for me to let this old family custom be discontinued,' " — nor with the thought, 'I am well-off. These are not well-off. It would not be right for me, being well-off, not to give a gift to those who are not well-off,' nor with the thought, 'Just as there were the great sacrifices of the sages of the past — Atthaka, Vamaka, Vamadeva, Vessamitta, Yamataggi, Angirasa, Bharadvaja, Vasettha, Kassapa, & Bhagu — in the same way this will be my distribution of gifts,' " — nor with the thought, 'When this gift of mine is given, it makes the mind serene. Gratification & joy arise,' " — but with the thought, 'This is an ornament for the mind, a support for the mind' — on the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in the company of Brahma's Retinue. Then, having exhausted that action, that power, that status, that sovereignty, he is a non-returner. He does not come back to this world. "This, Sariputta, is the cause, this is the reason, why a person gives a gift of a certain sort and it does not bear great fruit or 18

great benefit, whereas another person gives a gift of the same sort and it bears great fruit and great benefit." (AN 7.49) The greatest gift A gift of Dhamma conquers all gifts (Dhp 354) "Generosity: dana, caga", edited by John T. Bullitt.Access to Insight, 12 February 2012, . Retrieved on 28 February 2012.

In generosity and helping others, be like a river, In compassion and grace, be like the sun, In concealing others’ faults, be like night, In anger and fury, be as if you had died In modesty and humility, be like the earth, In tolerance, be like the sea, Appear as you are, or be as you appear. [Seven Advices, Rumi]


DĀNA Damien Keown Dāna One of the most important virtues for lay Buddhists in particular is dāna, which means ‘giving’, or generosity. The primary recipient of lay Buddhist generosity is the sangha—since monks and nuns possess nothing, they are entirely dependent upon the laity for support. The laity provides all the material needs of the monastic community, everything from food, robes, and medicine to the land and buildings which constitute the monastic residence. In the kathina ceremony, which takes place following the annual rains retreat in countries where Theravāda Buddhism is practiced, cotton cloth is supplied to the monks by the laity for the purpose of making robes. The relationship is not just one-way, for in return monks provide Dharma teachings to the laity, and the gift of the Dharma is said to be the highest of all gifts. At all levels of society—between family members, friends, and even strangers—generosity is widely practiced in Buddhist countries and seen as an indication of spiritual development. This is because the generous person, as well as being free from egocentric thoughts and sensitive to the needs of others, finds it easier to practice renunciation and cultivate an attitude of detachment. The story of Prince Vessantara, the popular hero of the Vessantara Jātaka, is well known in South Asia. Vessantara gave away everything he owned, even down to his wife and children! Many Theravāda sources praise dāna, and Mahāyāna sources emphasize the extreme generosity of bodhisattvas, who are disposed to give away eve parts of their bodies, or their lives, in order to aid others. As we shall see below, dāna 20

is also the first of the ‘Six Perfections’ (pāramitā) of a bodhisattva. … Central to a bodhisattva’s practice are six virtues known as the Six Perfections. As the bodhisattva practices these perfections he progresses through a scheme of ten stages (bhumi) each of which is a major landmark on the way to nirvana. Once he reaches the seventh stage it is impossible for him to fall back, and it is certain that he will reach nirvana. Although this scheme constitutes a reformulation of the early teachings, the new way to nirvana is not radically different from that taught in the Eightfold Path, and it can be seen that the three divisions of the latter—Morality, Meditation, and Wisdom—feature among the Six Perfections. (from Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction)

GENEROSITY: The Second Precept The feeling of generosity and the capacity for being generous are not enough. We also need to express our generosity. We may feel that we don’t have the &me to make people happy—we say, “Time is money,” but &me is more than money. Life is for more than using &me to make money. Time is for being alive, for sharing joy and happiness with others. The wealthy are o.en the least able to make others happy. Only those with &me can do so. —Thich Nhat Hanh, For a Future to be Possible


A TREATISE ON GIVING Achariya Dhammapala The perfection of giving should be reflected upon thus: “Possessions such as fields, land, bullion, gold, cattle, buffaloes, slaves, children, wives, etc., bring tremendous harm to those who become attached to them. Because they stimulate desire they are wanted by many people; they can be confiscated by kings and thieves; they spark off disputes and create enemies; they are basically insubstantial; to acquire and protect them one has to harass others; when they are destroyed, many kinds of calamities, such as sorrow, etc., follow; and because of attachment to these things, the mind becomes obsessed with the stain of stinginess, and as a result one is reborn in the plane of misery. On the other hand, one act of relinquishing these things is one step to safety. Hence one should relinquish them with diligence.” Further, when a suppliant asks for something, a bodhisattva should reflect: “He is my intimate friend, for he divulges his own secret to me. He is my teacher, for he teaches me: ‘When you go you have to abandon all. Going to the world beyond, you cannot even take your own possessions!’ He is a companion helping me to remove my belongings from this world which, like a blazing house, is blazing with the fire of death. In removing this he helps me to get rid of the worry it costs me. He is my best friend, for by enabling me to perform this noble act of giving, he helps me to accomplish the most eminent and difficult of all achievements, the attainment of the plane of the Buddhas.” He should further reflect: “He honors me with a lofty task; therefore I should acknowledge that honor faithfully.” And: 22

“Since life is bound to end I should give even when not asked, much more when asked.” And: “Those with a lofty temperament search for someone to give to, but he has come to me on his own accord because of my merit.” And: “Bestowing a gift upon a suppliant will be beneficial to me as well as to him.” And: “Just as I would benefit myself, so should I benefit all the world.” And: “If there were no suppliants, how would I fulfill the perfection of giving?” And: “Everything I acquire should be obtained only to give to others.” And: “When will beggars feel free to take my belongings on their own accord, without asking?” And: “How can I be dear and agreeable to beggars, and how can they be dear and agreeable to me? How can I give and, after giving, be elated, exultant, filled with rapture and joy? And how can beggars be so on my account? How can my inclination to giving be lofty? How can I give to beggars even without being asked, knowing their heart’s desire?” And: “Since there are goods, and beggars have come, not to give them something would be a great deception on my part.” And: “How can I relinquish my own life and limbs to those who ask for them?” He should arouse a desire to give things away without concern by reflecting: “Good returns to the one who gives without his concern, just as the boomerang9 returns to the one who threw it without his concern.” If a dear person asks for something, he should arouse joy by reflecting: “One who is dear is asking me for something.” If an indifferent person asks for something, he should arouse joy by reflecting: “Surely, if I give him something he will become my friend, since giving to those who ask wins their affection.” And if a hostile person asks for something, he should be especially happy, thinking: “My foe is asking me for something; though he is hostile towards me, by means of this gift he will surely become my dear friend.” Thus he should give to neutral and hostile people in the same way he 23

gives to dear people, having first aroused loving-kindness and compassion. If, due to their cumulative force, states of greed should arise for things which can be given away, the bodhisattvaaspirant should reflect: “Well now, good man, when you made the aspiration for full enlightenment, did you not surrender this body as well as the merit gained in relinquishing it for the sake of helping all beings? Attachment to external objects is like the bathing of an elephant; therefore you should not be attached to anything. Suppose there is a great medicine-tree, and someone in need of its roots takes away its roots; someone in need of its shoots, bark, trunk, limbs, heartwood, branches, foliage, flowers, or fruits takes away its shoots, bark, trunk, etc. The tree would not be assailed by such thoughts as: ‘They are taking away my belongings.’ In the same way, when I have undertaken to exert myself for the welfare of all the world, I should not arouse even the subtlest wrong thought over this wretched, ungrateful, impure body, which I have entrusted to the service of others. And besides, what distinction can be made between the internal material elements (of the body) and the external material elements (of the world)? They are both subject to inevitable breaking-up, dispersal, and dissolution. This is only confused prattle, the adherence to this body as ‘This is mine, this am I, this is my self.’ I should have no more concern over my own hands, feet, eyes, and flesh than over external things. Instead I should arouse the thought to surrender them to others: ‘Let those who need them take them away.’” As he reflects in this way, resolved upon full enlightenment without concern for his body or life, his bodily, vocal, and mental actions will easily become fully purified. When his bodily, vocal, and mental actions, along with his livelihood, become purified, he abides in the practice of the true way, and through 24

his skillful means in regard to gain and loss, he is able to benefit all beings to an even greater extent by relinquishing material gifts and by giving the gift of fearlessness and the gift of the true Dhamma. This is the method of reflecting on the perfection of giving. from “A Treatise on the Pāramīs, by Ācariya Dhammapāla,” translated from the Pāli by Bhikkhu Bodhi (Buddhist Publication Society, The Wheel Publication No. 409/411)

The Buddha taught, over and over, that generosity is the first door we walk through if we are serious about our spiritual work. Without generosity enlightenment is flatout impossible. We're too self-centered. Unless our rela&onships are bathed in generosity they don't have a chance. At the other extreme, generosity can bu6ress a faltering rela&onship, giving other paramitas &me to work their magic. It fuels the li6le extras, the surprise moments that keep us fresh and interes&ng. —from Love Dharma, by Geri Larkin


THE PRACTICE OF GIVING Q&A with Marcia Rose The Gift That Cannot Be Given: Q & A with Marcia Rose Can you suggest any ways to develop my dana practice? The Buddha taught: "If you knew as I know the benefit of generosity, you would not let an opportunity go by without sharing." The Buddha taught and lived what is really a "way of life": giving and receiving the practice of dana. The cultivation of dana offers the possibility of purifying and transforming greed, clinging, and self-centeredness, as well as the fear that is linked to these energies of attachment. Dana practice is the foundation of Buddhist spiritual development. Generosity is the ground of compassion; it is a prerequisite to the realization of liberation. The Tibetans have a practice to cultivate generosity. They take an ordinary everyday object such as a potato or a turnip, and hold it in one hand and pass it to the other hand, back and forth, until it becomes easy. They then move on to objects of seemingly greater value, such as a mound of precious jewels or rice. This “giving” from hand to hand ultimately becomes a symbolic relinquishment of everything—our outer material attachments and our inner attachments of habits, preferences, ideas, beliefs—a symbolic “letting go” of all the ways that we create a “self” over and over again. In our Vipassana practice, this is really what we are doing, but without the props. We learn to give and to receive, letting go of control, receiving what is given—receiving each moment of our lives just as it is, with the trust that it is just right, just enough for our spiritual growth to unfold from. 26

As our dana practice deepens, we begin to know more directly the ephemeral nature of all things. What can we really possess, after all? Our realization that there is actually nothing that can be held on to can become a powerful factor in cultivating our inner wealth of generosity, which is a wealth that can never be depleted, a gift that can forever be given, a seamless circle that feeds itself. As the Buddha tells us, “The greatest gift is the act of giving itself.” The Buddha taught “kingly or queenly giving,” which means giving the best of what we have, instinctively and graciously, even if none remains for ourselves. We are only temporary caretakers of all that is provided; essentially, we own nothing. As this understanding takes root in us, there is no getting, possessing, and giving; there is just the spaciousness that allows all things to remain in the natural flow of life. Someone once asked Gandhi, “Why do you give so much? Why do you serve all these people?” Surprisingly, Gandhi answered, “I don’t give to anyone. I do it all for myself.” The aim and the fruit of our dana practice is twofold: we give to help and free others, and we give to help and free ourselves. Here are some questions we can ask ourselves to help determine if we are giving and receiving with mindfulness: • What is happening in my body when I give? • What is happening in my mind? • Is there a sense of ease, openness, and nonsentimental lovingkindness and compassion in my heart, body, and mind? • Is there a feeling of depletion, weakness, fear, anger, or confusion—a contraction of my heart, body, and mind? • Can I go beneath my stories, ideals, and beliefs about how I want the exchange to be or not to be, or how I believe it is “supposed to be” or “not supposed to be”? 27

• Can I mindfully recognize when I am caught in stories, beliefs, or wishful or aversive thoughts in relation to generosity? Mindful attention can also help us to know more clearly how much to give in particu lar situ ations —or whether or not it’s appropriate to give at all. Here are some questions to consider: • Am I giving beyond what is appropriate, or giving beyond what may be healthy for myself emotionally and/or physically? • Are my heart, body, and mind relaxed, open, and joyful when I feel I’ve given “just enough,” or do I experience anguish and contraction of the heart, body, and mind in giving “too much”? • Am I aware of when the most generous act might be to step back and simply let people take care of themselves, to let go and allow a particular situation to “just be” and work itself out? Using these questions as guidelines, we can begin to understand the “middle way” of the Buddha’s teaching of dana. Mindfulness is what allows insight to arise in a perfectly natural way and what allows us, in turn, to let go—to recognize ourselves as aspects of the natural flow of life, and in this recognition to give and receive effortlessly in healthy and wise ways. (from Tricycle magazine, Summer 2003)


GENEROSITY: THE INWARD DIMENSION Nina Van Gorkom "As from a heap of flowers many a garland is made, even so many good deeds should be done by one born a mortal." (Dhammapada 53)

The giving away of useful or pleasant things is an act of generosity. However, if we only pay attention to the outward deeds we do not know whether or not we are being sincerely generous. We should learn more about the mind which motivates our deeds. True generosity is difficult. While we are giving, our thoughts may not all be good and noble. Our motives for giving may not all be pure. We may give with selfish motives — expecting something in return, hoping to be liked by the receiver or our gift, wanting to be known as a generous person. We may notice that there are different thoughts at different moments, some truly generous, and others having different motives. The Buddha taught that there is no lasting mind or soul which undergoes different experiences. Our experiences themselves are different moments of consciousness, which arise one at a time and then fall away immediately. Each moment of consciousness that arises and falls away is succeeded by the next moment of consciousness. Our life is thus a series of moments of consciousness arising in succession. Gradually we can learn to distinguish different types of consciousness. There is consciousness which is unwholesome or unskillful, and there is consciousness which is wholesome or skillful, and besides these there are other types of consciousness which are neither wholesome nor unwholesome. Only one type of consciousness occurs at a time, 29

but each type is accompanied by several mental factors. Unwholesome types of consciousness are accompanied by unwholesome mental factors, such as attachment, stinginess, jealousy or aversion. Wholesome types of consciousness are accompanied by beautiful mental factors, such as generosity, kindness or compassion. Three of the unwholesome mental factors are "roots of evil." These are the strong foundation of unwholesome types of consciousness: attachment or greed, aversion or anger, and ignorance. Each of these unwholesome factors has many shades and degrees. We may know that there is attachment when we are greedy for food or desire to acquire someone else's property. However, we may not realize that there is also attachment when we enjoy natural scenery or beautiful music. In society attachment of a subtle kind is considered good, provided we do not harm others. The unwholesome has a wider range than what we call in conventional language "immoral." It can include states that are weaker than the immoral. We cannot force ourselves not to like beautiful things; there are conditions for the arising of attachment. But we can learn to know the difference between the moments which are wholesome and the moments which are unwholesome. A degree of selfishness persists even in moments of subtle attachment. These are different from selfless moments of consciousness accompanied by generosity, when we do not think of our own enjoyment. There is attachment time and again, when we stand up, move around, reach for things, eat or go to sleep. We think of ourselves and want to acquire pleasant things for ourselves. We expect other people to be nice to us, and this is also a form of attachment. We may wonder whether attachment to relatives is wholesome. Attachment to relatives is not wholesome; it is dif30

ferent from pure loving-kindness, which is wholesome. When we cling to the pleasant feeling we derive from the company of relatives or dear friends, there is attachment. When we are genuinely concerned for someone else we do not think of ourselves, and then there is wholesome consciousness. We are so used to living with attachment that we may have never considered the difference between the moments of attachment and the moments of unselfish love. The different types of consciousness succeed one another so rapidly that so long as we have not developed understanding of them, we do not notice that they have changed. The unwholesome root of aversion also has many degrees. It can manifest as slight uneasiness or as coarse anger or hate. Aversion does not arise at the time as attachment. When there is attachment consciousness likes the object that is experienced and when there is aversion consciousness dislikes the object. Attachment arises with certain types of consciousness, not with all types, and so does aversion. Ignorance is an unwholesome root that arises with all types of unwholesome consciousness. It is the root of all evil. Ignorance does not know what is wholesome and what is unwholesome, it does not know anything about what is real. Whenever there is attachment or aversion, at the same time there is also ignorance. The three beautiful roots are: non-attachment or generosity, non-aversion or kindness, and understanding or wisdom. Each type of wholesome consciousness is rooted in nonattachment and non-aversion, and it may be rooted in understanding as well. Each of these beautiful roots has many degrees. Without the assistance of non-attachment and non-aversion wholesome consciousness could not arise motivating acts of generosity. Attachment cannot exist at the same time as gener31

osity. When one is truly generous one gives impartially and does not restrict one's generosity to people one likes or to the members of one's family. The purpose of all kinds of wholesomeness should be to eliminate defilements, to get rid of selfishness. The Buddha taught the wisdom that can eradicate the clinging to the idea of self, but if one does not learn to get rid of stinginess and clings to one's possessions, one cannot give up the clinging to self. When we see that true generosity is beneficial and that selfishness and stinginess are harmful, we would like to have more moments of generos- We should be concerned only ity. However, in with developing wholesome spite of our wishes, we notice that states of mind and not with u n w h o l e s o m e the reactions of other people. types of consciousness often arise. Then we are disappointed with ourselves. We should acquire understanding of what conditions the arising of unwholesome consciousness. We must have been full of attachment, aversion and ignorance in the past, even in past lives. Such tendencies have become deeply rooted; they have been accumulated. What is past has gone already, but the unwholesome tendencies that have been accumulated can condition the arising of unwholesome consciousness at the present time. We have accumulated not only tendencies to evil but also inclinations to the wholesome. That is why there can also be moments of generosity and kindness at the present time. When an unwholesome type of consciousness arises we accumulate more unwholesomeness; when a wholesome type arises we accumulate more wholesomeness. 32

The Buddha taught different ways of developing wholesomeness, and when we learn about these ways there are already conditions for more wholesomeness. We find opportunity for generosity not only while we are giving but also before the actual giving, when we try to obtain the things we intend to give, and afterwards when we recollect our giving. When we are honest with ourselves we can notice that before, during and after the giving, opportunities for generosity are often spoilt by unwholesome consciousness. We may get tired when we have to buy or prepare the gift, and then aversion arises. While we are giving the gift the receiver may be ungrateful and fail to respond to our gift in the way we expected and then we may be disappointed. However, when we have right understanding of what wholesomeness is, we should be concerned only with developing wholesome states of mind and not with the reactions of other people. Wholesomeness is wholesomeness and nobody else can change the wholesome consciousness that arises. Before we learned about the Buddha's teachings we did not consider generosity in this way, we did not pay attention to the moments of consciousness. Through the Buddha's teachings we learn about things as they really are. After the act of giving the opportunity to recollect our generosity with wholesome consciousness can be wasted by unwholesome consciousness. At first we may have been generous, but afterwards we may find that the gift was too expensive and regret have spent our money. The Buddha taught that there is no self that can exert power over the different types of consciousness that arise; they arise because of their appropriate conditions. Through his teachings we can learn about the different types of consciousness and about our accumulated tendencies. Thus there will be more understanding of what is real, and this too is wholesome. 33

When one has accumulated the tendency to stinginess it is difficult to be generous, but through the understanding of what the Buddha taught inclinations can be changed. We read in the commentary to the Subhabhojana Jataka (Stories of the Buddha's Former Births, Jatakas, Book V, No. 535) about a monk in the Buddha's time who practiced the utmost generosity. He gave away his food, and if he received drink sufficient to fill the hollow of his hand, he would, free from greed, still give it away. But formerly he used to be so stingy that "he would not give so much as a drop of oil on the tip of a blade of grass." In one of his past lives, when he was named Kosiya, he lived as a miser. One day he had a craving for rice porridge. When his wife suggested that she would cook porridge not only for him but also for all the inhabitants of Benares, he felt "just as if he had been struck on the head with a stick." Then his wife offered to cook for a single street, or only for the attendants in his house, only for the family, only for the two of them, but he turned down all her offers. He wanted porridge cooked for himself alone, in the forest, so that nobody else could see it. The Bodhisatta, who was at that time the god Sakka, wanted to convert him and came to him with four attendants disguised as brahmans. One by one they approached the miser and begged for some of his porridge. Sakka spoke the following stanza, praising generosity (387): From little one should little give, from moderate means likewise, From much give much: of giving nothing no question can arise. This then I tell you, Kosiya, give alms of that is thine: Eat not alone, no bliss is his that by himself shall dine, By charity you may ascend the noble path divine.

Kosiya reluctantly offered them some porridge. Then one of the brahmans changed into a dog. The dog made water and a drop of it fell on Kosiya's hand. Kosiya went to the river to wash 34

and then the dog made water in Kosiya's cooking pot. When Kosiya threatened him he changed into a "blood horse" and pursued Kosiya. Then Sakka and his attendants stood in the air and Sakka preached to Kosiya out of compassion and warned him of an unhappy rebirth. Kosiya came to understand the danger of stinginess. He gave away all his possessions and became an ascetic. We may find it difficult to part with our possessions, but when we die we cannot take them with us. Life is short: thus when we have an opportunity for generosity we should use it in order to combat selfishness. Each moment of generosity now will condition the arising of generosity in the future. Good deeds bring about pleasant results and bad deeds bring unpleasant results. This is the law of kamma and its fruit, of cause and effect.[7] A deed (kamma) can produce result in the form of rebirth. Wholesome kamma can produce a happy rebirth and unwholesome kamma can produce an unhappy rebirth. Besides the human plane of existence, there are other planes which are happy or unhappy. Birth in the human plane or in a heavenly plane is a happy rebirth conditioned by wholesome kamma; birth in a hell plane, as a ghost or as an animal is an unhappy rebirth conditioned by unwholesome kamma. Kamma can also produce results in the form of pleasant or unpleasant sense experiences arising in the course of life. Seeing and hearing are types of consciousness that are results of kamma. We see and hear pleasant or unpleasant objects according to the kamma that produces these experiences. Stinginess can bring about — either in this life or in a future life — the very result we fear: loss of possessions. Generosity can bring about pleasant results, such as prosperity. However, when we perform acts of generosity we should not cling to pleasant results; clinging is unwholesome. Kamma will produce 35

its appropriate result whether we think of it or not. While we are giving we can have right understanding of kamma and its result, without clinging. We may do good deeds with the understanding of what wholesomeness is. As we have seen, understanding is a beautiful root which may or may not accompany wholesome consciousness. When understanding accompanies the wholesome consciousness, it increases the degree of wholesomeness. We cannot make understanding arise at will; it arises when there are conditions for it. Learning what the Buddha taught is a condition for greater understanding. There are still other ways of practicing generosity, even when we do not have things to give. The appreciation of other people's good deeds is also a type of generosity. When we notice that someone else is doing a good deed we can appreciate his wholesomeness, and we may express this with words of approval and praise. We may be stingy not only with regard to our possessions but also with regard to words of praise. Gradually one can learn to be generous in appreciating the wholesomeness of others. In Thailand I had an opportunity to learn about this way of generosity, which I had not heard of before. I received a book that was printed on the occasion of the birthday of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit of Thailand. This book mentioned many of her good works, such as promoting the teaching of Buddhism, supporting temples, improving the standard of living of the people in the provinces by setting up different projects for them. When one reads this one can sincerely admire and rejoice in the good works of Her Majesty. In Thailand I also often heard the Thais saying, "anumodana," which means "thanks," with the inclina36

tion of their head and clasped hands. This they do when they respect and appreciate the wholesomeness of others, usually on occasions of presenting food to the monks or giving books on the Buddhist teachings. It can become a wholesome custom to express one's appreciation on such occasions. When we know about this way of generosity we may remember to speak about others with wholesome consciousness. In the development of wholesomeness one has to be farsighted. One should realize that whatever wholesomeness or unwholesomeness one accumulates today will produce its effects in the future, even in future lives. One can become more adept in evaluating the circumstances one is in and the friends one has. One will then be able to judge whether or not one's surroundings and friends are favorable for the development of wholesomeness. One will know what kind of speech should be avoided, what kind of speech cultivated. Often conversation tends to be about the bad qualities of others or about useless matters which are not helpful for the development of wholesomeness. Since we often become engaged in conversation with others, we should learn how to turn the conversation into an opportunity for wholesomeness. Another way of generosity is the "sharing" of one's wholesome deeds with others. This does not mean that other people can receive the pleasant results of our good deeds. The Buddha taught that beings are "heirs" to their deeds. We each receive the results of the deeds we have done ourselves. Sharing wholesomeness with others means that our good deeds can be the condition for the arising of wholesome consciousness in others when they rejoice in our good deeds. We can share wholesomeness even with beings in other planes of existence, provided they are in planes where they can receive the benefits.


The commentary to the Without the Walls Sutta[8] narrates that King Bimbisara offered a meal to the Buddha and omitted to dedicate his merits to other beings. Ghosts, his relatives in a former life, had hoped for this in vain, and because they were disappointed, in their despair they made a horrible screeching noise throughout the night. The Buddha explained to King Bimbisara why the ghosts had screeched. Then King Bimbisara made another offering and uttered the dedication, "Let this be for those relatives." The ghosts benefited from his gifts immediately; they had wholesome states of consciousness and their sufferings were allayed. Lotus-covered pools were generated for them in which they could bathe and drink, and they took on the color of gold. Heavenly food, heavenly clothing and heavenly palaces manifested spontaneously for their use. This story illustrates that one can share one's good deeds with departed ones. If one's departed relatives are not able to receive the merit, other beings can. It is understandable that we are sad when we lose loved ones, but if we know how to develop what is wholesome we can find great consolation. Instead of becoming filled with sadness and aversion, we should dedicate our good deeds to all those who are able to rejoice in them, then our consciousness will be wholesome. It can become our custom to share wholesomeness with others; we need not even specify to whom we wish to dedicate it. It is a Buddhist custom when a meal or robes are offered to monks to pour water over one's hands while the monks recite words of blessings, in order to give expression to one's intention to dedicate this deed to other beings. The water symbolizes a river which fills the ocean, and even so a wholesome deed is so plentiful that it can also be shared with others.


Good deeds are usually classified as threefold: as generosity, morality, and mental development. This threefold classification should not be considered a rigid one. Morality, or abstinence from evil deeds, can also be seen as an aspect of generosity, as an act of kindness to others. When we abstain from evil deeds we give other beings the opportunity to live in peace, free from harm. If we want to develop generosity, we should not neglect mental development — the development of wholesome states of mind. We should know when consciousness is unwholesome and when wholesome in order to develop generosity and other good qualities. Knowing more about one's different types of consciousness is mental development. The "stream-winner" is the noble person at the first stage of enlightenment. He has developed right understanding of the different mental and physical phenomena that appear at the present moment and has seen realities as they are. With the attainment of enlightenment he experiences Nibbana, the unconditioned reality, for the first time. At the moment of enlightenment the wrong view of self is eradicated, and with it stinginess too is destroyed. Stinginess can never arise again, and he thus has perfect generosity. An ordinary person may be able to suppress stinginess temporarily, for example, at the time of giving, but stinginess is bound to arise again so long as its accumulated tendency remains. The stream-winner, through right understanding, has eradicated the tendency to stinginess and can never be overcome by it any more. Learning from the Buddha's teachings how to develop wholesomeness and to eradicate defilements is the greatest blessing. Therefore the teaching of the Dhamma, the Buddha's teaching, should be considered as the giving of the highest gift. In learning what the Buddha taught and in developing wholesomeness we correct our views about what is worthwhile striv39

ing for and what is not, about what is real and what is mere illusion. Before we heard about the Buddha's teachings we may have considered the enjoyment of pleasant sense objects to be the goal of our life. After we learn the Buddha's teachings we may gradually come to see that selfish attachment gives unrest of mind and that it is harmful to ourselves and others. We may come to understand that wholesomeness is beneficial both for ourselves and for others, that it brings peace of mind. Our outlook on what is worthwhile in life can change. We correct our views about reality when we understand what wholesome kamma is and what unwholesome kamma is, when we understand that kamma brings its appropriate result. We correct our views when we understand that not a self but different types of consciousness, wholesome and unwholesome, motivate our deeds, when we understand that these types of consciousness arise because of different conditioning factors. There are many degrees of correcting one's views. By developing understanding of realities the wrong view of self can be eradicated, and thereby perfect generosity can emerge. The effect of learning the Dhamma should be that we become less selfish and more generous, that we have more genuine concern for other people. (from "Dana: The Practice of Giving", selected essays edited by Bhikkhu Bodhi. Access to Insight, 5 June 2010, authors/various/wheel367.html . Retrieved on 28 February 2012.)


GIVING FROM THE HEART M. O’C. Walshe Giving comes very naturally to some people — they enjoy giving and are unhappy if they cannot do so. And though it is obvious that one can give foolishly, it is in general a very good and meritorious thing to give. This is recognized in, probably, all religions: in Christianity we are told that it is more blessed to give than to receive, and in Islam there is a positive injunction to give part of one's wealth to the poor. Perhaps, however, we ought to start by squarely facing a point which may worry some people: the question of giving to the Sangha. In a phrase which lay Buddhists may frequently hear chanted, or even chant themselves, the Sangha is described as anuttaram punnakkhettam lokassa, "an unequalled field of merit -making for the world," meaning that the merit to be gained by giving to the Sangha is unequalled. Well of course, not all the lay people who hear or join in such chanting know what the words mean, but of those who do, Westerners who are Buddhists or Buddhist sympathizers sometimes react to this notion with a degree of indignation, considering the words tactless or worse! In fact some, whose conditioning was at least partly under the influence of the Lutheran Christian tradition, are reminded of the abuses to which Martin Luther objected in the Church of his day, when "good deeds" were very largely associated in the popular mind with maintaining priests and monks, who in some cases at least were idle and corrupt, in the style to which they were accustomed. Such misgivings are perhaps understandable, but can be countered by a proper explanation, and will in any case not take root provided the Sangha is patently seen to be well conducted 41

(supatipanno). The traditional Buddhist community consists of four groups: monks, nuns, male and female lay followers. Though the original order of nuns has died out, there are women who have undertaken the holy life and live virtually as nuns, and there is every indication that their numbers will grow. The relation between the first two groups and the latter two is one of symbiosis. After all, the Sangha has a priceless gift to give, the gift of the Dhamma. Sabbadanam dhammadanam jinati: "The gift of the Dhamma excels all other gifts" (Dhp. 354). Members of the Sangha also have an inescapable obligation to live according to the Vinaya and to strive continuously for enlightenment. It is in fact only by so doing that they can claim to be "an unequalled field of merit-making," and if they fail in this obligation they are letting down not only themselves but also the laity who support them. A monk or nun who cannot observe the rules should, and in certain cases must, leave the Order. This could be regarded, at least in part, as the price to be paid for abusing the generosity of lay supporters. It was mentioned above that, according to the Bible, it is more blessed to give than to receive. It is interesting to note that, just as in the practice of metta-bhavana, the meditation on universal love, there is given an actual method for fulfilling that difficult Judaeo-Christian injunction "love thy neighbor as thyself," so too Buddhism can give a precise technical meaning to this biblical statement. If we receive something pleasant, this in Buddhism is considered to be vipaka, the result of previous meritorious conduct. It is nice while it lasts, but when it is finished, its virtue is exhausted. To give, however is kusala kamma, skilled action, which will be productive of some pleasant vipaka or result for the giver. In this way it can be clearly seen to be more "blessed" to give than to receive. True, this "blessing" remains purely mundane and limited, being "meritmaking for the 42

world" (lokassa). But as all our actions are habit-forming, giving once inclines us to give again, so that the result tends to be cumulative. Also, of course, this king of kusala kamma can lead on to other things, and it is not for nothing that dana is listed as the first among the ten paramis or "perfections," coming even before sila or morality. It is, after all, possible for an immoral person to be generous! The late Dr. I.B.Horner selected ten Jataka stories to illustrate the ten perfections, in a little book that is widely used as an introductory Pali reader, and she used the delightful story of the self-sacrificing hare (No. 316) to illustrate the perfection of giving. Strangely enough, though, to the Western mind at least, the most popular Jataka story on this theme is the very last, the Vessantara Jataka (No. 547), in which the Bodhisatta gives everything away including, finally, his wife and children — a distinctly dubious moral, one might think! But in Thailand this story has been singled out and is regularly made the subject of special readings and sermons for the edification of the laity. Giving is something that comes from the heart, and as I have said, there are people who enjoy giving for its own sake — which is fine provided the giving is balanced with wisdom. There are of course other people who are reluctant givers, and they are often the same people who find it difficult to say "please," "thank you," "I'm sorry," and so on. For all such types the brahmavihara meditations on love and compassion would be beneficial, to enable them to open up their hearts. Recently, in Britain, we have had a magnificent example of the power of giving from the heart, and from what to many must have seemed an unexpected source. Moved by the plight of the starving people in Ethiopia, the rock star Bob Geldof organized the fantastic international Live Aid concert which raised millions of pounds — in its way, and with the aid of modern technology, the most 43

spectacular act of generosity in history, touching the hearts of millions, and transcending the boundaries not only of politics and religions, but also that gulf that exists between those addicted to this particular form of entertainment and those who dislike it. It is perhaps hardly necessary to point out that dana has to be exercised with discretion, and is as much subject to the rule of the middle way as everything else. It is not the best way to bring up a child, for instance, to give it everything it wants — or thinks it wants. Contrary to some trendy theories recently current, it does no harm to frustrate a spoilt brat occasionally! Nor, of course, is it the highest kind if giving if one expects something in return — even a nice rebirth in some heavenly realm! That is a kind of giving which is basically rooted in attachment and is therefore of limited kammic value. In point of fact, one of the true benefits to the giver is precisely that the act of spontaneous giving is a very fine way of helping to overcome attachment. And that is the intended point of the Vessantara story. We Westerners think of the unfortunate wife and family the Bodhisatta "sacrificed" (though of course there was happy ending and they came back to him, in the story!), but the intention is to regard them as objects of attachment, to be given up as such. As a matter of fact, despite the popularity of this particular story, modern scholars consider that it was not originally a Buddhist tale at all, and was somewhat unskillfully adapted to provide a "Buddhist" moral. The more we consider the question of dana, the more aspects emerge, and we see that there are many ways of giving, skillfully or otherwise. We may conclude with an amusing canonical example of the alleged results of relatively unskillful giving. In the Payasi Sutta (No. 23 of the Digha Nikaya) we read of the debate between the skeptic Prince Payasi, who did not 44

believe in an afterlife, and the Venerable Kumara-Kassapa. After listening to a brilliant series of parables from the monk, Payasi declares himself converted, and decides to establish a charity "for ascetics and brahmans, wayfarers, beggars and the needy," and he appoints the young brahman Uttara to organize the distribution. (N.B. This is the correct version — there is an error in the Rhys Davids translation at his point.) Uttara complains that the food and clothing he is called upon to distribute are of such poor quality that Payasi would not touch them himself, and Payasi finally gives him leave to supply "food as I eat and clothes as I wear." At the conclusion of the sutta, we are told of the rewards the two men received after death. Payasi, who had established the charity grudgingly, was indeed reborn in a heavenly world, but in the very lowest, that of the Four Great Kings, where he was lodged in the empty Serisaka mansion (vimana). Here, indeed, he was visited by the Venerable Gavampati, an arahant who made a habit of taking his siesta in the lower heavens. And so the story was brought back to earth. But Uttara, who had reorganized the charity and given from the heart, was born in a higher heaven, among the Thirty-three Gods. Probably few Westerners will give in order to be reborn among the Thirty-three Gods, and perhaps the only reward some people look to is an easing of the conscience: being aware of some particular need — of which the case of Ethiopia is the outstanding current example — people feel unable to live with themselves if they do not give something. This is certainly better than hoping for a heavenly reward, but an easy conscience, too, may perhaps sometimes be purchased a little too easily. Best let the giving itself be its own reward, and leave it at that! "Dana: The Practice of Giving", selected essays edited by Bhikkhu Bodhi. Access to Insight, 5 June 2010, authors/various/wheel367.html . Retrieved on 28 February 2012.


WHAT IS GENEROSITY? James L. Halbirt Contemplating generosity, I see that generosity removes us from being selfish, stingy, grasping, and craving individuals. I have seen suffering that is much greater than my own. As a result, my compassion for those less fortunate is the spontaneous expression of an understanding. It is in the giving openheartedly of my time, energy, material objects, kindness, and love to those less fortunate. Every day I give effort and generosity in some form or manner. Practicing generosity is learning to be kind to one another. Practicing the kindness of generosity breaks down the barriers between ourselves and others. We connect with people rather than dismiss them or ignore them. We care for ourselves by caring for the welfare of others. Our generous nature activates freedom from the isolating prison of our ego. From a prison point of view, we make ourselves felt in the society, which gives us strength of mind for an authentic atonement for our evil karmic obstacles. Our generosity and compassion are connected—a strong feeling for all beings that suffer. Generosity frees the energy of compassion within us to feel for others. Your suffering is the reflection of our shared suffering. Contemplating generosity, I see compassion for the suffering of others and a way to assist in ending it. We embrace the sorrow with our heart. At the turn of the twenty-first century, one million people were murdered. I was a part of that aversion to humanity. When we connect with all peoples, it creates a joy of happiness and brings us together. Our generosity breaks down the walls of our prison, and we are free in the mind. 46

Generosity gives into the joy of facing our own sadness, fear, anxiety, allowing us to die to our limited ideas of how things should be and to love and accept the truth of things as they are. We face the world with a clean, purified heart of the moment to moment of radiant pure Being. This generosity becomes the natural expression of a connected and loving heart. Our time, our energy, our forgiveness, and willingness to be fair and just with all people mean we are creating a good world in which to live. Generosity breaks down the barriers of fear of a convicted felon, but more importantly, it connects us with the extended family of humanity. Contemplating generosity is evidence of our compassionate mind. Compassion and generosity begin to flow when we contemplate the feeling of extending it to all beings. This contemplation is helpful in opening up the path for generosity to flourish. This strengthens our commitment to being helpful in the cessation of suffering. Generosity removes the cloud of our self-centeredness and allows for compassion to flow unabated. We extend it to our family, friends, and particularly those in dire need. It is evident that compassion and generosity are the mixture of a loving and caring mind. In contemplating the nature of generosity in ourselves, we remove the soiled and dirty nature of our negative emotions and fathom the greater good of the virtues of compassion and generosity. When we contemplate the importance of generosity, we adhere to the preciousness of human life—we put others first. In doing so, we conquer our anxiety, our agitation, our selfcenteredness and become a partner in the appreciation of our good fortune and gratitude of being born human. We extend our sense of peace and goodwill for the well-being of all humans. James L. Halbirt is incarcerated in California and is a student in the Buddhist Correspondence Course sponsored by Chuang Yen Monastery.



David R. Loy Buddhism

is known as the Middle Way. Shakyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, renounced a privileged life of pleasure and leisure for the arduous life of a forest dweller, but his severe ascetic practices did not lead to the enlightenment he sought. The middle way he discovered does not simply split the difference between sense-enjoyment and sense-denial. It focuses on calming and understanding the mind, for such insight is what can liberate us from our usual preoccupation with trying to become happy by satisfying our cravings. The goal is not to eliminate all desires, but to experience them in an non-attached way, so we are not controlled by them. Contrary to the stereotype of Buddhism as a world-denying religion, that does not necessarily involve transcending this world in order to experience some other one. It means attaining a wisdom that realizes the true nature of this world, including the true nature of oneself.(1) These concerns are reflected in the Buddhist attitude toward wealth and poverty: To know the dhamma, to see things truly, is to recognize the self as a conditioned, temporal reality and to reject self-indulgent cravings as harmful illusions. Thus, a non-attached orientation toward life does not require a flat renunciation of all material possessions. Rather, it specifies an attitude to be cultivated and expressed in whatever material condition one finds oneself. To be non-attached is to possess and use material things but not to be possessed or used by them. Therefore, the idea of non-attachment applies all across Buddhist society, to laymen and monk alike. (2 ) 48

The main issue is not how poor or wealthy we are, but how we respond to our situation. The wisdom that develops naturally from non-attachment is knowing how to be content with what we have. Santutthi paramam dhanam, "the greatest wealth is contentment" (Dhammapada verse 204). This does not mean that Buddhism encourages poverty or denigrates wealth. As Shakyamuni Buddha emphasized many times, the goal of the Buddhist path is to end our dukkha (often translated as "suffering" but better understood as "ill-being" or "unhappiness"). He summarized his teachings into four noble (or ennobling) truths: life is dukkha. The cause of dukkha is craving (tanha). There is an end to dukkha (nirvana). The way to end dukkha is to follow the eightfold path (magga).None of these truths involves recommending poverty, for poverty is a source of unhappiness in itself and also makes it more difficult to follow a spiritual path.3 In the Anguttara Nikaya, for example, the Buddha says that poverty (daliddiya) is miserable, because it leads (among other things) to borrowing, mounting debts and ever-increasing suffering (III, 350-352). Sakyamuni also said that there are three types of people in the world. Some are blind in both eyes, because they know neither how to be successful in the world nor how to live a virtuous life; some are blind in one eye, because they know how to pursue worldly success but do not know how to live virtuously; and a few are blind in neither eye, because they know how to do both (Anguttara Nikaya I, 128). As this implies, Buddhism recommends neither material nor spiritual (or moral) deprivation. Nevertheless, it would be a big mistake to conclude that Buddhism approves of a life devoted primarily to acquiring wealth. The ultimate goal of liberating insight may be more difficult to pursue if we are destitute, but a life focused on money may be as bad, or worse. Shakyamuni warned repeatedly against 49

that danger: "those people who, having obtained vast wealth, are not intoxicated by it, are not led into heedlessness and reckless indulgence which endangers others, are very rare in this world" (Samyutta Nikaya I, 74). An intense acquisitive drive for material riches is one of the main causes of our dukkha. It involves much anxiety but very little real satisfaction. Instead, the Buddha praised those who renounce all psychological attachment to material things in favor of a life devoted wholeheartedly to the path of liberation, by joining the sangha community of bhikkhu monks and bhikkhuni nuns. The material needs of such renunciates are known as the four requisites: food sufficient to alleviate hunger and maintain one's health, clothing sufficient to be socially decent and to protect the body, shelter sufficient for cultivating the mind, and health care sufficient to cure and prevent disease. Needless to say, this is hardly a recommendation of wealth. In fact, today these four requisites could be used as a benchmark for measuring the level of subsistence below which people should not be allowed to fall. On the other side, however, and despite all the cautions above about not being attached to riches, Buddhism does not claim that wealth is in itself an obstacle to following the Buddhist path. The five basic precepts that all Buddhists are expected to follow -- to avoid killing, stealing, lying, sexual misconduct, and intoxicating drugs mention nothing about abstaining from wealth or property, although they do imply much about how we should pursue them. The value of money cannot be compared with the supreme goal of enlightenment, yet properly acquired wealth has traditionally been seen as a sign of virtue, and properly used wealth can be a boon for everyone. Wealth creates greater opportunities to benefit people, and to cultivate non-attachment by developing one's generosity.


The problem with wealth, then, is not its possession but its abuse. The wise realize that wealth is not a goal in itself but can be a valuable means for reducing dukkha and promoting spiritual advancement. "Wealth destroys the foolish, though not those who search for the Goal" (Dhammapada 355). In short, what is blameworthy is to earn wealth improperly, to become attached to it and not to spend it for the well-being of everyone, instead squandering it foolishly or using it to cause suffering to others. (4) Right livelihood, the fifth part of the eightfold path, emphasizes that our work should not harm other living beings and specifically prohibits trading in weapons, poisons, intoxicants, or slaves. That wealth can indicate virtue follows from the Buddhist belief in karma and rebirth. If karma is an exceptionless law of the universe, what happens to us later (either in this life or in a future lifetime) is a result of what we have done in the past and are doing now. This makes wealth a consequence of previous generosity, and poverty a result of misbehavior (most likely avarice or seeking wealth in an immoral way). Not all contemporary Buddhists accept that karma is so inexorable, or understand it so literally, but this traditional belief implies our personal responsibility for whatever happens to us and (in the long run, at least) complete harmony between our morality and our prosperity. Today the effects of economic globalization and a concern for social justice cast a somewhat different light on this issue, and it is one that we shall return to later. Buddhist Economics Everything mentioned above concerns attitudes that we as individuals should cultivate or avoid. What do they imply about how society as a whole should be organized? What kind of economic system is compatible with Buddhist teachings? Bud51

dhism, like Christianity, lacks an intrinsic social theory. The Buddha never taught specifically about economics in the sense that we understand it now. This means that we cannot look to traditional Buddhist texts for specific answers to the economic issues that concern us today. However, some Pali sutras do have significant social implications. Perhaps the most important is the Lion's Roar Sutra (Cakkavatti-sihanada Sutra), which shows how poverty can lead to social deterioration. In this sutra the Buddha tells the story of a monarch in the distant past who initially respected and relied upon the Buddhist teachings, doing as his sage advised: "Let no crime prevail in your kingdom, and to those who are in need, give property." Later, however, he began to rule according to his own ideas and did not give property to the needy. As a result, poverty became widespread. Due to poverty one man took what was not given [i.e., stole] and was arrested. When the king asked him why he stole, the man said he had nothing to live on. So the king gave him enough property to carry on a business and support his family. Exactly the same thing happened to another man, and when other people heard about this they too decided to steal so they would be treated in a similar way. This made the king realize that if he continued to give property to thieves, theft would continue to increase. So he decided to get tough on the next one: "I had better make an end of him, finish him off once for all, and cut his head off." And he did. At this point in the story we might expect a parable about the importance of deterring crime, but it turns in exactly the opposite direction: Hearing about this, people thought: "Now let us get sharp swords made for us, and then we can take from anybody what is not given, we will make an end of them, finish them off 52

once and for all and cut off their heads." So, having procured some sharp swords, they launched murderous assaults on villages, towns and cities, and went in for highway-robbery, killing their victims by cutting off their heads. Thus, from the not giving of property to the needy, poverty became widespread, from the growth of poverty, the taking of what was not given increased, from the increase of theft, the use of weapons increased, from the increased use of weapons, the taking of life increased . . . (Digha Nikaya III, 65 ff.) (5) The long-term result was degradation of life and social collapse. Despite some fanciful elements, this myth has clear economic implications. Poverty is presented as a root cause of immoral behavior such as theft and violence. Unlike what we might expect from a supposedly world-denying religion, the Buddhist solution to such deprivation is not accepting one's "poverty karma." The problem begins when the king neglects his responsibility to give property to those who need it. This influential sutra implies that social breakdown cannot be separated from broader questions about the benevolence of the social order. The solution to poverty-induced crime is not more severe punishment but helping people provide for their basic needs. However, notice also what the sutra does not say. Today we usually evaluate such situations by talking about the need for "social justice" and the state's role in "distributive justice." This emphasis on social justice, so central in the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), is not important in traditional Buddhism. As the above story indicates, this does not mean that Buddhism is insensitive to the problem of poverty. But emphasis on karma implies a different way of understanding and addressing that social problem. The traditional Buddhist solution is dト]a, "giving" or generosity. 53

Dana is the most important concept in Buddhist thinking about society and economics, because it is the main way our nonattachment is cultivated and demonstrated. We are called upon to show compassion and help those who need it. The doctrine of karma implies that such unfortunates are reaping the fruit of their previous deeds, but this is not understood in a punitive way, and the importance of generosity for those walking the Buddhist path does not permit us to be indifferent to their misfortune. We are expected, even spiritually required, to lend what assistance we can to them. The appeal is not to justice for a victim of circumstances. Instead, it is the morality and spiritual progress of the giver that is the issue. In the language of contemporary ethical theory, this is a "virtue ethics." It offers a different perspective that cuts through the usual political opposition between conservative (right) and liberal (left) economic views. According to Buddhism, no one can evade responsibility for one's own deeds and efforts, but generosity is not merely optional: we have a spiritual obligation to respond compassionately to those in need. The king started the social breakdown when he did not. Does this emphasis on dana offer a viable alternative to contemporary Western discourse about social justice? However valuable individual generosity may be as a personal trait, it is difficult to see how that by itself could be an adequate response to the widespread social problems being created by rapid economic globalization. It is also difficult for many Buddhists today to accept that the increasing poverty apparently caused by impersonal economic developments is really just an effect of individual bad karma created in previous lifetimes. The concept of social justice may not be original to Buddhism but it is not incompatible with Buddhist teachings, and some socially engaged Buddhists are attempting to incorporate it. 54

In modern times, the social consequences of dana in most Asian Buddhist countries have become somewhat limited, because the popular emphasis has been on "making merit" by supporting the sangha, which has been dependent on that support (bhikkhu and bhikkhuni are not allowed to work for money). Karma is often understood in a commodified way, as something that can be accumulated by dana-giving, and the amount of merit gained is believed to depend upon the worthiness of the recipient. Since members of the Buddhist sangha are viewed as the most worthy recipients, one receives more merit from donating food to a well-fed bhikkhu than to a poor and hungry layperson. This preoccupation with accumulating merit (usually for a better rebirth) may be incompatible with the Buddhist emphasis on non-attachment, and seems to encourage a "spiritual materialism" ultimately at odds with the highest goal of spiritual liberation. The benefits of this support rebound on the rest of society, since the sangha is primarily responsible for practicing and propagating the teachings of Buddhism. Nevertheless, I wonder if the present economic relationship between sangha and laypeople should be re-examined. Rural Thailand, for example, needs new hospitals and clinics more than it needs new temples. According to the popular view, however, a wealthy person gains more merit by funding the construction of a temple whether or not one is needed in that area! Such a narrow but commonplace understanding of dana as merit-making has worked well to provide for sangha needs, but this cannot be an adequate spiritual response to the challenges provided by globalization. One possible Buddhist alternative, or supplement, is the bodhisattva ideal emphasized in Mahayana Buddhism. The bo55

dhisattva is a spiritually-advanced person wholly devoted to responding to the needs of all beings, not just those of the sangha. A bodhisattva's entire life is dana, not as a way to accumulate merit but because of the bodhisattva's insight that he or she is not separate from others. According to the usual understanding, a bodhisattva does not follow the eightfold path but a slightly different version that emphasizes perfecting six virtues: dana (generosity), sila (morality), ksanti (patience), virya (vigor), dhyana (meditation) and prajna (wisdom). The most important virtue is believed to be dana, since that implies all the others. Of course, such a religious model is not easily institutionalized. Yet that is not the main point. Today dana cannot substitute for social justice, but there is also no substitute for the social practice of dana as a fundamental aspect of any healthy society. When those who have much feel no responsibility for those who have noting, a social crisis is inevitable. A Buddhist View of Globalization The above reflections on dana and merit-making bring us to the larger issue of a Buddhist perspective on the economic globalization. We have already noticed that traditional Buddhist teachings do not include a developed social theory but do have many important social implications. Those implications can be developed to analyze and understand the new world order. The first thing to be noticed is also perhaps the most important: as the parable of the unwise king shows, Buddhism does not separate economic issues from ethical or spiritual ones. The notion that economics is a "social science" discovering and applying impersonal economic laws obscures two important truths. First, who gets what, and who does not, always has moral dimensions, so production and distribution of economic goods 56

and services should not be left only to the supposedly objective rules of the marketplace. If some people have much more than they need, and others have much less, some sort of redistribution is necessary. Dana is the traditional Buddhist way of redistributing. The second important truth is that no economic system is value-free; every system of production and consumption encourages the development of certain values and discourages others. As Phra Payutto, Thailand's most distinguished scholarmonk, puts it: It may be asked how it is possible for economics to be free of values when, in fact, it is rooted in the human mind. The economic process begins with want, continues with choice, and ends with satisfaction, all of which are functions of the mind. Abstract values are thus the beginning, the middle and the end of economics, and so it is impossible for economics to be valuefree. Yet as it stands, many economists avoid any consideration of values, ethics, or mental qualities, despite the fact that these will always have a bearing on economic concerns.6 This clarifies the basic Buddhist approach. When we evaluate an economic system, we should consider not only how efficiently it produces and distributes goods, but also its effects on human values, and through them its larger social effects. The collective values that it encourages should be consistent with the individual Buddhist values that reduce our dukkha. The crucial issue is whether our economic system is conducive to the ethical and spiritual development of its members, because individual and social values cannot be delinked. Much of the philosophical reflection on economics has focused on questions about human nature. Those who defend market capitalism argue that its emphasis on competition and personal gain is grounded in the fact that humans are fundamentally self-centered and self-interested. Critics of capitalism 57

argue that our basic nature is more cooperative and generous that is, we are naturally more selfless. Buddhism avoids that debate by taking a different approach. The Buddha emphasized that we all have both unwholesome and unwholesome traits (kusala-/akusalamula). The important issue is the practical matter of how to reduce our unwholesome characteristics and develop the more wholesome ones. This process is symbolized by the lotus flower. Although rooted in the mud and muck at the bottom of a pond, the lotus grows upwards to bloom on the surface, thus representing our potential to purify ourselves. What are our unwholesome characteristics? They are usually summarized as the "three poisons" or three roots of evil: lobha (greed), dosa (ill-will) and moha (delusion). (7) The goal of the Buddhist way of life is to eliminate these roots by transforming them into their positive counterparts: greed into generosity (dana), ill-will into loving-kindness (metta), and delusion into wisdom (prajna). If collective economic values should not be separated from personal moral values, the important issue becomes: which traits does our globalizing economic system encourage? Greed Greed is an unpopular word both in corporate boardrooms and in economic theory. Economists talk about demand, but their concern to be objective and value-neutral does not allow them to evaluate different types of demand. From a Buddhist perspective, however, our capitalist system promotes and even requires greed in two ways. The "engine" of the economic process is the desire for continual profits, and in order to keep making those profits people must keep wanting to consume more. 58

Harnessing this type of motivation has been extraordinarily successful depending, of course, on your definition of success. According to the Worldwatch Institute, more goods and services were consumed in the forty years between 1950 and 1990 (measured in constant dollars) than by all the previous generations in human history. (8) This binge did not occur by itself; it took a lot of encouragement. According to the United Nations Human Development Report for 1999, the world spent at least $435 billion the previous year for advertising, plus well over $100 billion for public relations and marketing. The result is 270 million "global teens" who now inhabit a single popculture world, consuming the same designer clothes, music, and soft drinks. While this growth has given us opportunities that our grandparents never dreamed of, we have also become more sensitive to the negative consequences: its staggering ecological impact, and the worsening mal-distribution of this wealth. A child in the developed countries consumes and pollutes 30 to 50 times as much as a poor one in an undeveloped country, according to the same UNHDR. Today 1.2 billion people survive on less than a dollar a day, and almost half the world's population live on less than two dollars a day. The 20% of people in the richest countries enjoy 86% of the world's consumption, the poorest 20% only 1.3% -- a gap that globalization is increasing, not decreasing. Clearly something is very wrong with this new world order. But these grim facts about "their" dukkha should not keep us from noticing the consequences for "our own" dukkha. The problem is not merely how to share the wealth. How much does our economic system promote individual dukkha by encouraging us to be greedy? And how much does our pooled greed promote


collective dukkha, by contributing to the recurrent social crises now afflicting almost all the "developed" nations? From a Buddhist perspective, the fundamental problem with consumerism is the delusion that genuine happiness can be found this way. If insatiable desires (tanha) are the source of the frustration (dukkha) that we experience in our daily lives, then such consumption, which distracts us and intoxicates us, is not the solution to our unhappiness but one of its main symptoms. That brings us to the final irony of this addiction to consumption: also according to the 1999 UNHDR, the percentage of Americans who considered themselves happy peaked in 1957, despite the fact that consumption per person has more than doubled since then. At the same time, studies of U.S. households have found that between 1986 and 1994 the amount of money people think they need to live happily has doubled! That seems paradoxical, but it is not difficult to explain: when we define ourselves as consumers, we can never have enough. For reasons we never quite understand, consumerism never really gives us what we want from it; it works by keeping us thinking that the next thing we buy will satisfy us. Higher incomes have certainly enabled many people to become more generous, but this has not been their main effect, because capitalism is based upon a very different principle: that capital should be used to create more capital. Rather than redistributing our wealth, we prefer to invest that wealth as a means to accumulate more and spend more, regardless of whether or not we need more. In fact, the question of whether or not we really need more has become rather quaint; you can never be too rich. This way of thinking has become natural for us, but it is uncommon in societies where advertising has not yet conditioned people into believing that happiness is something you 60

purchase. International development agencies have been slow to realize what anthropologists have long understood: in traditional cultures, income is not the primary criterion of wellbeing. Sometimes it is not even a major one, as Delia Paul discovered in Zambia: One of the things we found in the village which surprised us was people's idea of well-being and how that related to having money. We talked to a family, asking them to rank everybody in the village from the richest to the poorest and asking them why they would rank somebody as being less well off, and someone as poor. And we found that in the analysis money meant very little to the people. The person who was ranked as poorest in the village was a man who was probably the only person who was receiving a salary. (9) His review of the literature led Robert Chambers to conclude: "Income, the reductionist criterion of normal economists, has never, in my experience or in the evidence I have been able to review, been given explicit primacy." (10) To assume that we in the "developed" world know something about worldly wellbeing which such people do not looks increasingly like a form of cultural imperialism. Our obsession with economic growth seems natural to us because we have forgotten the historicity of the "needs" we now take for granted, and therefore what for Buddhism is an essential human attribute if we are to be happy: the importance of self-limitation, which requires some degree of non-attachment. Until they are seduced by the globalizing dream of a technological cornucopia, it all the things they might have. Their ends are an expression of the means available to them. We project our own values when 61

we assume that they must be unhappy, and that the only way to become happy is to start on the treadmill of a lifestyle increasingly preoccupied with consumption. All this is expressed better in a Tibetan Buddhist analogy. The world is full of thorns and sharp stones (and now broken glass too). What should we do about this? One solution is to pave over the entire earth, but a simpler alternative is to wear shoes. "Paving the whole planet" is a good metaphor for how our collective technological and economic project is attempting to make us happy. Without the wisdom of self-limitation, we will not be satisfied even when we have used up all the earth's resources. The other solution is for our minds to learn how to "wear shoes," so that our collective ends become an expression of Material wealth has become increasingly important the renewable means that the biobecause of our eroding faith sphere provides. Why do we assume that in any other possibility of salva7on. "income/consumption poverty" must be dukkha? That brings us to the heart of the matter. For us, material wealth has become increasingly important because of our eroding faith in any other possibility of salvation - for example, in heaven with God, or the secular heaven of a worldly utopia, or even (when we despair about the ecological crisis) the future progress of humankind. Increasing our "standard of living" has become so compulsive for us because it serves as a substitute for traditional religious values. If so, our evangelical efforts to economically "develop" other societies, which cherish their own spiritual values and community traditions, may be viewed as a contemporary form of religious imperialism, a new kind of mission to convert the heathen. . . . Despite their benighted violence, do "Third World 62

terrorists" understand this aspect of globalization better than we do? Ill-will Conventional economic theory assumes that resources are limited but our desires are infinitely expandable. Without self-limitation, this becomes a formula for strife. As we know, desire frustrated is a major cause perhaps the major cause -- of ill will. The Buddha warned against negative feelings such as envy (issa) and avarice (macchariya). (11) Issa becomes intense when certain possessions are enjoyed by one section of society while another section does not have the opportunity to acquire them. Macchariya is the selfish enjoyment of goods while greedily guarding them from others. A society in which these psychological tendencies predominate may be materially wealthy but it is spiritually poor. The most important point, from a Buddhist point of view, is that our economic emphasis on competition and individual gain my benefit is your loss encourages the development of ill will rather than loving-kindness. A society where people do not feel that they benefit from sharing with each other is a society that has already begun to break down. Delusion For its proponents, the globalization of market capitalism is a victory for "free trade" over the inefficiencies of protectionism and special interests. Free trade seems to realize in the economic sphere the supreme value that we place on freedom. It optimizes access to resources and markets. What could be wrong with that? Quite a bit, if we view "free trade" from the rather different perspective provided by Buddhism. Such a different view63

point helps us to see presuppositions usually taken for granted. The Buddhist critique of a value-free economics suggests that globalizing capitalism is neither natural (as economists, eager to be scientific, would have us believe) nor inevitable; despite its success, it is only one historically conditioned way of understanding and reorganizing the world. The critical stage in the development of market capitalism occurred during the industrial revolution (1750 1850 in England), when new technologies led to the "liberation" of a critical mass of land, labor, and capital. They became understood in a new way, as commodities to be bought and sold. The world had to be converted into exchangeable "resources" in order for market forces to interact freely and productively. There was nothing inevitable about this. In fact, it was strongly resisted by most people at the time, and was successfully implemented only because of strong government support for it. For those who had capital to invest, the industrial revolution was often very profitable, but for most people industrial commodification seems to have been experienced as a tragedy. The earth (our mother as well as our home) became commodified into a collection of resources to be exploited. Human life became commodified into labor, or work time, also priced according to supply and demand. Family patrimony, the cherished inheritance preserved for one's descendants, became commodified into capital for investment, a new source of income for an entrepreneurial few. All three became means which the new economy used to generate more capital.


From a religious perspective, an alternative way to describe this process is that the world and its beings (including us) became de-sacralized. When things become treated as commodities they lose their spiritual dimension. Today we see biotechnology doing this to the genetic code of life; soon our awe at the mysteries of reproduction will be replaced by the ultimate shopping experience. The developed world is now largely desacralized, but this social and economic transformation is far from finished. That is why the IMF and the World Trade Organization have become so important. Their role is to ensure that nothing stands our revealing term for it -- into resources and markets. This commodified understanding presupposes a sharp duality between humans and the rest of the earth. All value is created by our goals and desires; the rest of the world has no meaning or value except when it serves our purposes. This now seems quite natural to us, because we have been conditioned to think and live this way. For Buddhism, however, such a dualistic understanding is delusive. There are different accounts of what Buddha experienced when he became enlightened, but they agree that he realized the nondual interdependence of things. The world is a web; nothing has any reality of its own apart from that web, because everything is dependent on everything else, including us. The Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh has expressed this well: If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow, and without trees we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. . . . If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the tree cannot grow. In fact, nothing can grow. Even we cannot grow without sunshine. And so, we know


that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-are. And if we continue to look, we can see the logger who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be transformed into paper. And we see the wheat. We know that the logger cannot exist without his daily bread, and therefore the wheat that became his bread is also in this sheet of paper. And the logger's father and mother are in it too. . . . You cannot point out one thing that is not here -- time, space, the earth, the rain, the minerals in the soil, the sunshine, the cloud, the river, the heat. Everything coexists with this sheet of paper. . . . As thin as this sheet of paper is, it contains everything in the universe in it. (12)

This interdependence challenges our usual sense of separation from the world. The feeling that I am "in here," behind my eyes, and the world is "out there," is at the root of our dukkha, for it alienates us from the world we are "in." The Buddhist path works by helping us to realize our interdependence and nonduality with the world, and to live in accordance with that. This path is incompatible with a consumerist way of understanding that commodifies the earth and thus reinforces our dualistic sense of separation from it and other people. Conclusion Buddhism began with the enlightenment of Shakyamuni Buddha. His "awakening" (the literal meaning of "Buddha") shows us the possibility of a different way of life, based on a different way of understanding the relationship between ourselves and the world. From a materialistic perspective, including the "social science" of economics, such religious responses are superstitious and escapist. From a Buddhist perspective, however, economic growth and consumerism are unsatisfactory alternatives because they evade the basic problem of life by distracting us with symbolic substitutes such as money, status, and power. Similar critiques of idolatry are found in all the great religions, 66

and rampant economic globalization makes that message all the more important today. NOTES 1. As it spread and adapted to different cultures, Buddhism has changed so much that it is difficult to generalize about its teachings. In this short essay, however, there is no space to distinguish between the different Buddhist traditions. My focus is on the teachings of Shakyamuni as preserved in the Theravada Buddhism of south and southeast Asia. The Pali sutras, which are believed to record his original teachings, provide a foundation generally accepted by all Buddhist traditions. The Nikayas cited in my text are an important part of those teachings. The Dhammapada is a very popular collection of Buddhist aphorisms taken from the Pali canon. In a few places I refer to the teachings of Mahayana Buddhism, which today are found predominantly north of the Himalayas. 2. Russell F. Sizemore and Donald K. Swearer, "Introduction" to Sizemore and Swearer, eds., Ethics, Wealth and Salvation: A Study in Buddhist Social Ethics (Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina, 1990), p. 2. 3. For an example of the latter, see the story of the poor peasant in Digha Nikaya III 189-192. 4. See, for example, Anguttara Nikaya IV 285 and II 67-68, Samyutta Nikaya I 90 5. In The Long Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Digha Nikaya, trans. Maurice Walshe (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1995), pp. 396-405 6. P. A. Payutto, Buddhist Economics: A Middle Way for the Market Place, trans. Dhammavijaya and Bruce Evans, second ed. (Bangkok: Buddhadhamma Foundation, 1994), p. 27.


7. The familiar Tibetan Buddhist mandala known as the "Wheel of Life" symbolizes the three poisons as a cock (greed), a snake (ill-will) and a pig (delusion), joined together at the center or axle of the wheel, which as a whole represents samsara, this world of dukkha. 8. Alan Durning, How Much Is Enough? (New York: Norton, 1992), p. 38. 9. Quoted in Robert Chambers, Whose Reality Counts? (London: Intermediate Technology, 1997), p. 179. This book has the wittiest endnotes I have ever read! 10. Whose Reality Counts? p. 178. 11. See, for example, Majjhima Nikaya I 281-283, II 247, and III 204. 12. Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of Understanding (Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press, 1988), pp. 3-5. 13. I am grateful to Jon Watts for his comments on an earlier draft of this paper. BIBLIOGRAPHY Chambers, Robert. Whose Reality Counts? (London: Intermediate Technology, 1997). Durning, Alan. How Much Is Enough? (New York: Norton, 1992). Hanh, Thich Nhat. The Heart of Understanding (Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press, 1988). The Long Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Digha Nikaya, trans. Maurice Walshe (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1995). Payutto, P. A. Buddhist Economics: A Middle Way for the Market Place, trans. Dhammavijaya and Bruce Evans, second ed. (Bangkok: Buddhadhamma Foundation, 1994).


Sizemore, Russell F. and Donald K. Swearer, eds., Ethics, Wealth and Salvation: A Study in Buddhist Social Ethics (Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina, 1990).

SUGGESTED FURTHER READINGS Buddhist Peace Fellowship webpage at < index.html> David R. Loy, "The Religion of the Market" in Visions of a New Earth: Religious Perspectives on Population, Consumption and Ecology, edited by Harold Coward and Dan Maguire (Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 1999. P. A. Payutto, Buddhist Economics: A Middle Way for the Market Place, translated by Dhammavijaya and Bruce Evans, second ed. (Bangkok: Buddhadhamma Foundation, 1994). Russell F. Sizemore and Donald K. Swearer, eds., Ethics, Wealth and Salvation: A Study in Buddhist Social Ethics (Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina, 1990). E. F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered (New York: Harper, 1975). (, accessed 28 Feb 2012)


THE PRACTICE OF GIVING Susan Elbaum Jootla Giving (dana) is one of the essential preliminary steps of Buddhist practice. When practiced in itself, it is a basis of merit or wholesome kamma. When coupled with morality, concentration and insight, it leads ultimately to liberation from samsara, the cycle of repeated existence. Even those who are wellestablished on the path to emancipation continue to practice giving as it is conducive to wealth, beauty and pleasure in their remaining lifetimes. Bodhisattas complete the dト]a parami or perfection of giving to the ultimate degree by happily donating their limbs and their very lives to help other beings. Like all good deeds, an act of giving will bring us happiness in the future, in accordance with the kammic law of cause and effect taught by the Buddha. Giving yields benefits in the present life and in lives to come whether or not we are aware of this fact, but when the volition is accompanied by understanding, we can greatly increase the merits earned by our gifts. The amount of merit gained varies according to three factors: the quality of the donor's motive, the spiritual purity of the recipient, and the kind and size of the gift. Since we have to experience the results of our actions, and good deeds lead to good results and bad deeds to bad results, it is sensible to try to create as much good kamma as possible. In the practice of giving, this would mean keeping one's mind pure in the act of giving, selecting the worthiest recipients available, and choosing the most appropriate and generous gifts one can afford.


The Factor of Volition The volition of the donor before, during and after the act of generosity is the most important of the three factors involved in the practice of giving: "If we have no control over our minds we will not choose proper gifts, the best recipient..., we will be unable to prepare them properly. And we may be foolish enough to regret having made them afterwards."[1] Buddhist teaching devotes special attention to the psychological basis of giving, distinguishing among the different states of mind with which one may give. A fundamental distinction is made between acts of giving that lack wisdom and those that are accompanied by wisdom, the latter being superior to the former. An example of a very elementary kind of giving would be the case of a young girl who places a flower on the household shrine simply because her mother tells her to do so, without having any idea of the significance of her act. Generosity associated with wisdom before, during and after the act is the highest type of giving. Three examples of wise giving are: giving with the clear understanding that according to the kammic law of cause and effect, the generous act will bring beneficial results in the future; giving while aware that the gift, the recipient and the giver are all impermanent; and giving with the aim of enhancing one's efforts to become enlightened. As the giving of a gift takes a certain amount of time, a single act of giving may be accompanied by each of these three types of understanding at a different stage in the process. The most excellent motive for giving is the intention that it strengthens ones efforts to attain Nibbana. Liberation is achieved by eliminating all the mental defilements (kilesa), which are rooted in the delusion of a controlling and lasting "I." Once this illusion is eradicated, selfish thoughts can no longer arise. If we aspire to ultimate peace and purity by practicing 71

generosity, we will be developing the dana parami, the perfection of giving, building up a store of merit that will bear its full fruit with our attainment of enlightenment. As we progress towards that goal, the volition involved in acts of giving will assist us by contributing towards the pliancy of the mind, an essential asset in developing concentration and wisdom, the prime requisites of liberation. Ariyas — noble ones, those who have attained any of the four stages of holiness — always give with pure volition because their minds function on the basis of wisdom. Those below this level sometimes give carelessly or disrespectfully, with unwholesome states of mind. The Buddha teaches that in the practice of giving, as in all bodily and verbal conduct, it is the volition accompanying the act that determines its moral quality. If one is offering something to a monk, doing so without adopting a respectful manner would not be proper. Throwing a coin to a beggar in order to get rid of him would also be considered a defilement of giving. One should think carefully about the relevance and the timing of a gift for it to bring the best results. A gift given through an intermediary — for example, having a servant give food to a monk rather than giving it by one's own hand — also detracts from the value of the gift. When one gives without realizing that one must experience the results of one's deeds, an act of giving again diminishes in meritorious potency. If one only plans on giving a donation but does not fulfill one's plan, the merit earned will be very slight. Thus we should always follow up our intentions of generosity expeditiously, unless something intervenes to prevent our doing so. If, after hav72

ing given a gift, we should subsequently regret our action, much of the merit of the deed will be lost. A moral person gives politely and respectfully. Whether the gift is spontaneous or planned, he or she will make sure that the timing and contents of the gift are appropriate for the receiver. Many housewives in Buddhist countries regularly invite a few monks to their homes to receive almsfood early in the day. Before feeding the family, these women always offer the food to the bhikkhus with their own hands. One might contribute to a certain cause from fear that friends would disapprove if one did not give. Giving in response to such social pressures will have weak, though still beneficial, results. Charitable actions undertaken to gain a good reputation are also selfish and hence not a very valuable kind of giving. Nor can it be praiseworthy when one gives merely to return a favor or in expectation of a reward. The former is like repaying a debt, the latter analogous to offering a bribe. The Recipient of Gifts The purity of the recipient is another factor which helps determine the kammic fruitfulness of a gift. The worthier the receiver, the greater the benefits that will come to the donor; hence it is good to give to the holiest people available. The Buddha teaches that the worthiest recipients of gifts are the ariyas, the noble ones, such as the Buddha himself and those of his disciples who have reached supramundane paths and fruits; for it is their purity of mind, attained by wisdom, that makes the act of giving capable of yielding abundant benefits. Therefore, to earn the maximum merit, we should give as much as we can, and as often as possible, to the noble ones. Gifts to a bhikkhu who strives for the state of a noble one, or to a Buddhist meditator who lives by the Five Precepts, will also yield bountiful results. 73

When ariyas accept offerings, they do so to provide an opportunity for the donor to earn merit. Non-returners and Arahats in particular, who have attained the two highest stages of sanctity, have eliminated desire for sense objects. Thus when they are given gifts their minds remain detached from the objects presented and are filled with compassion for the giver. The story of Sivali in the Dhammapada Commentary is an example of the great merit which even a small gift can yield when presented to the Sangha led by the Generosity lies at the heart of spiritual Buddha. At the time of prac&ce. Extending generosity to Vipassi Buddha, the ourselves and others gladdens our citizens of a country heart, is a direct way of healing were competing with division, and brings joy. their king to see who could make the great(from Heart of Wisdom, Mind of Calm, est offering to the by Chris7na Feldman) Buddha and Sangha. The citizens had obtained everything for their offering except fresh honey, and they sent out messengers, each with plenty of money, to buy the missing ingredient. One of these men met a villager who happened to be bringing a newly harvested honeycomb into the city for sale. The messenger was only able to buy it from the peasant when he had offered his entire allowance of a thousand pieces of money, which was far more than a single honeycomb was worth. The villager said: "Are you crazy?... This honey isn't worth a farthing but you offer me a thousand pieces of money for it. What is the explanation for this?" The other man told him that the honey was worth so much to him because it was the final item on the menu for the citizens' offering to the Buddha. The peasant spon74

taneously replied, "If that is the case, I will not sell it to you for a price; if I may receive the merit of the offering, I will give it to you." The citizens were impressed with the faith of this man who so readily gave up a windfall and enthusiastically agreed that he should receive the merit of the offering. Because of this simple gift at the time of the Vipassi Buddha, the villager was reborn numerous times in celestial planes and then became the prince who inherited the throne of Benares. In his final lifetime, he became the Elder Sivali and attained Arahatship as a disciple of the present Buddha. Even after that, his gift of the honeycomb continued to bear fruit. To honor the one who had made the sweet gift aeons before, the gods provided lodging and food for the Buddha and five hundred of his monks, including Sivali, when for several days they had been walking along a deserted road. The practice of giving is also beneficial when directed to someone who is not spiritually advanced. If the donor's intention is good, then even though the receiver is immoral, the donor will earn merit and further, by his act of giving, he will strengthen within himself his own disposition to renunciation. A gift mentally offered to the noble Sangha but physically presented to a monk who is morally corrupt will still bear great fruit. To be sure, we should not pretend that a bad person is good, but we must be most careful of our own attitude while giving, as our attitude is the factor over which we have most control. The Objects to be Given The third factor involved in giving is the gift itself, which can be either material or immaterial. Dhamma-dana, the gift of the noble teachings, is said by the Buddha to excel all other gifts (Dhammapada, 354). Those who expound his teachings â&#x20AC;&#x201D; monks who preach sermons or recite from the Tipitaka, teachers of 75

meditation â&#x20AC;&#x201D; frequently share the Truth, thus practicing the highest kind of generosity. Those of us who are not qualified to teach the Dhamma can give the gift of the Dhamma in other ways. We can donate Dhamma books or pay for the translation or publication of a rare or new manuscript propagating the Buddha-Word. We can discuss the Dhamma informally and encourage others to keep precepts or to take up meditation. We might write an explanation of some aspect of the Dhamma for the benefit of others. Giving cash or labor to a meditation center or helping support a meditation teacher can also be considered the gift of the Dhamma, as the purpose of the center and the teacher is We should not pretend that a the transmission of the bad person is good, but we Buddha's teaching. must be most careful of our The most comown a:tude while giving, as mon type of gift is mateour a:tude is the factor over rial things. A material which we have most control. object need not have a high monetary value for it to bring great results, as the story of Sivali and the honeycomb illustrates. If a poor man gives a monk the cup of rice that was to be his only food for the day, the man is making a great donation which may bear abundant fruit, while if a prosperous merchant, knowing in advance that the monk was coming for alms, were to give the same small portion of rice, he would reap meager fruits. We should try to give things whose quality is at least as good as those we use ourselves, like the people of Burma, who buy the best fruits on the market as gifts for the monks although these fruits are much too expensive for them to consume themselves. Gifts to the Sangha may consist of food, robes, medicine or monasteries, each of which has a wide range. The 76

limits are set by the rules of the Vinaya to keep the Bhikkhu Sangha pure and strong. Lay people who understand the monks' rules can earn vast merit by donating the proper things at the proper time to the order of monks and nuns. A story about Visakha, the Buddha's chief woman lay disciple, offers a delightful illustration of the results of large-scale charity. When Visakha was to be married, elaborate preparations and gifts were arranged by her father. He gave her five hundred cartloads each of money, of gold, silver and copper implements. Then he decided that she must also take cattle with her. He gave orders to his men to allow out of their pen just as many animals as would fill a particular lane. When the cows has filed out and stood close together in that road, he had the corral closed, saying, "These cattle are enough for my daughter." However, after the gate had been latched securely, powerful bulls and milk cows jumped over the barrier to join the animals going with Visakha. Her father's servants could not keep them inside no matter how hard they tried. All these cattle came to Visakha because, in a former lifetime long ago at the time of the Buddha Kassapa, she had given a generous gift of five kinds of dairy products to a company of 20,000 monks and novices. As the youngest of the seven daughters of King Kiki of Benares, she continued to urge the monks to take more milk, curds, ghee, etc., even when they said they had eaten enough. That gift earned her the merit of having such a large number of cattle go along with her at her marriage in the lifetime when she was Visakha, and no one could prevent this merit from bearing its fruit. Material gifts of a religious nature would include contributions towards the erection of a new temple or shrine, gold leaf to help gild the umbrella of a shrine, or the purchase of a Buddha statue for a temple. The recipients of such gifts are the gen77

eral public â&#x20AC;&#x201D; whoever comes to the temple or worships before the Buddha image. Mundane gifts to the citizens of one's town would include donations to various welfare organizations, a contribution to a hospital or public library, keeping a neighborhood park neat and clean. If one does not merely contribute funds for such projects but provides physical labor as well, the kammic results will be even greater. Gifts of this sort can be quite meritorious if preceded, accompanied and followed by pure mental volitions. The Perfection of Giving There is a mode of giving which completely disregards the qualities of the recipient and even the mundane fruits of the merit acquired by giving. Such generosity springs from the motive of renunciation, the thought of eliminating one's attachment to one's possessions, and thus aims at giving away the dearest and most difficult gifts. Bodhisattas give in this manner whenever the opportunity presents itself, strictly in order to fulfill the dÄ na parami, the "perfection of giving," which is the first of the ten perfections they must cultivate to the highest degree in order to attain Buddhahood. A Bodhisatta's work to complete the perfection of giving demands much more of him than other beings could emulate. Many Jataka tales relate how the Bodhisatta who was to become the Buddha Gotama gave things away with absolutely no thought of himself or of the mundane benefits that might follow. A Bodhisatta's only concern in practicing generosity is to fulfill the requirements for Buddhahood. The Basket of Conduct contains ten stories of the Bodhisatta's former lives. In one of these lifetimes he was a brahman named Sankha who saw a Paccekabuddha, or non-teaching enlightened one, walking barefoot on a desert path. Sankha 78

thought to himself, "Desiring merit, seeing one eminently worthy of a gift of faith, if I do not give him a gift, I will dwindle in merit." So the brahman, who had a very delicate constitution, presented his sandals to the Paccekabuddha even though his own need for them was greater (Division I, Story 2). Another time the Bodhisatta was a great emperor named Maha-Sudassana. He had criers proclaim several times every day, in thousands of places throughout his empire, that anyone who wanted anything would be given it if he just came there and asked. "If there came a mendicant beggar, whether by day or by night, receiving whatever goods he wanted, he went away with hands full." MahaSudassana gave with completely openhanded generosity, "without attachment, expecting nothing in return, for the attainment of Self-Awakening" (I,4). A Bodhisatta must give more difficult gifts than material goods to fulfill the highest form of the perfection of generosity. He must freely give the parts of his body, his children, his wife, and even his own life. As King Sivi, our Bodhisatta plucked out both his eyes with his bare hands and gave them to Sakka, the king of the gods. Sakka had come to Sivi in the guise of a blind old man, just to provide him with the opportunity to make this remarkable gift. Sivi did this with no hesitation prior to the act, nor with any reluctance during the act, nor with any hint of regret afterwards. He said that this gift was made "for the sake of Awakening itself. The two eyes were not disagreeable to me. Omniscience was dear to me, therefore I gave my eyes" (I,8). As Prince Vessantara, the Bodhisatta gave the auspicious, powerful royal elephant to the people of a rival kingdom merely because they had requested it. As a result of this liberality, he 79

and his wife and two small children were banished to a remote mountain. They lived there in the forest, Vessantara tending his son and daughter in their hut while his wife spent the days gathering the wild fruits on which they lived. One day a traveler chanced by and asked the Bodhisatta to give him the children. Vessantara gave them away without any hesitation at all. Later he gave away his virtuous wife too. "Neither child was disagreeable to me, the Lady Maddi was not disagreeable. Omniscience was dear to me, therefore I gave away those who were dear" (I, 9). It should be noted that at that time, a man's children and wife were generally considered his property. Ages before, the Lady Maddi had aspired to be the wife of the Bodhisatta and to share whatever trials he had to undergo along the path to Buddhahood. The result of her own kamma complemented Prince Vessanatara's volition and led to her being given away. Their children must also have been experiencing the results of their own past deeds when they had to leave their parents. Another time the Bodhisatta took birth as a wise hare. That existence came to an end when, joyously, he jumped into a fire after inviting a famished brahman (again, Sakka in disguise) to eat him roasted. Because of the purity of the Bodhisatta's mind while making this highest gift of his entire body and life, the blazing fire did not hurt him as it burned his flesh. In relating the story he said that, in fact, the fire had calmed him and brought him peace as if it had been cool water, because he had accomplished the complete perfection of giving. The Ultimate Goal of Giving The goal of the Buddhist path is emancipation from the suffering of repeated existence in samsara. The Buddha taught that uprooting ignorance and the mental defilements it nurtures will bring us to Nibbana, the utter cessation of suffering. 80

Unwholesome mental tendencies make us cling to what we mistakenly take to be our "selves," they keep us struggling to satisfy our insatiable sense desires with objects that are inherently transitory and thus unsatisfying. The Buddha said that the practice of giving will aid us in our efforts to purify the mind. Generous gifts accompanied by wholesome volition help to eradicate suffering in three ways. First, when we decide to give something of our own to someone else, we simultaneously reduce our attachment to the object; to make a habit of giving can thus gradually weaken the mental factor of craving, one of the main causes of unhappiness. Second, giving accompanied by wholesome volition will lead to happy future births in circumstances favorable to encountering and practicing the pure Buddha Dhamma. Third, and most important, when giving is practiced with the intention that the mind becomes pliant enough for the attainment of Nibbana, the act of generosity will help us develop virtue, concentration and wisdom (sila, samadhi, pa単単a) right in the present. These three stages make up the Buddha's Noble Eightfold Path, and perfecting the path leads to the extinction of suffering. If we give in the hope of winning luxury in future lives, we may attain our aim providing that we adhere to the principles of virtuous conduct. According to the Buddha, however, the motivation of working for liberation is far superior to that of aiming at mundane happiness in future births. This is because a gift made with the desire for pleasure is accompanied in part by the unwholesome psychological root craving (tanha). The merits earned by such gifts are exhausted in transient pleasure, and such mundane happiness keeps us revolving in the round of rebirth, which in the deepest sense is always dukkha, subject to suffering. Giving associated with craving cannot contribute to the one form of happiness that does not perish, release from the round, which comes only with the full elimination of craving. 81

Gifts untainted by craving and attachment can only be made during a Buddha Sasana, the period when the teachings of a Buddha are available. So when we give now, during such a time, we should do so with the aim of putting an end to craving. With the end of craving, suffering ceases, and that is liberation. May the merits of this gift of the Dhamma be shared by all beings! "Dana: The Practice of Giving", selected essays edited by Bhikkhu Bodhi. Access to Insight, 5 June 2010, authors/various/wheel367.html . Retrieved on 28 February 2012.

The Buddha spoke about three kinds of giving: beggarly giving, friendly giving and kingly giving. Beggarly giving is when we give the least of what we have. We give what we don't really need, what we would never miss, what we might have otherwise thrown away. Friendly giving is when we give what we use and like — not our very best — but what we can afford and might appreciate having as a gi? ourselves. Kingly giving is of a different order altogether. It is when we give the very best of what we have, when we give more than we keep for ourselves, when we give more than we can afford, when we give with no expecta7on of reciprocity. In awakened awareness we give because the joy of generosity far exceeds the paltry sa7sfac7on of hoarding or displaying wealth. We give because this very life is a gi? itself and wants to be completely used up, wants to spread perfume around everyone it meets. (from Passionate Presence, by Catherine Ingram)


PRACTICAL ADVICE FOR MEDITATORS Bhikkhu Khan7palo An understanding of the value of meritorious deeds or skillfulness will come in useful here. As merit purifies the mind, it will be an excellent basis for mind-development, and both the ease with which absorptions are gained and the ease with which insight arises are to some extent dependent upon merit. Meritorious deeds are not difficult to find in life. They are the core of a good Buddhist life: giving and generosity, undertaking the precepts, help and service to others, reverence, listening wholeheartedly to Dhamma, setting upright one's understanding of Dhamma â&#x20AC;&#x201D; all these and more are meritorious deeds which bring happiness and emotional maturity. Merit, one should always remember, opens doors everywhere. It makes possible, it makes opportunities. To have a mind at all times set upon making merit, is to have a mind that may be trained to develop absorptions and insight. Obviously it follows that to try to practice meditation while all the time retaining one's old cravings, likes and dislikes is, to say the least, making one's path difficult if not dangerous. Meditation implies renunciation, and no practice will be successful unless one is at least prepared to make efforts to restrain greed and hatred, check lust, and understand when delusion is clouding the heart. How far one carries renunciation and whether this involves outward changes (such as becoming a monk or nun), depends much on a person and his circumstances, but one thing is sure: inward renunciation, an attitude of giving-up with regard to both unskillful mental events and bodily indulgence, is absolutely essential. 83

GENEROSITY’S PERFECTION Sharon Salzberg The cultivation of generosity is the beginning of the Buddhist path. When the Buddha taught, he always began with generosity. The path begins there because of the joy that arises from a generous heart. Pure, unhindered delight flows freely when we practice generosity. We experience joy in forming the intention to give, in the act of giving, and in recollecting the fact that we’ve given. If we practice joyful giving, we grow in self-esteem, selfrespect and well-being, because we continually test our limits. Our attachments say, “I will give this much and no more,” or “I will give this article or object if I am appreciated enough for doing so.” In the practice of generosity, we learn to see through our attachments. We see they are transparent, that they have no solidity. They don’t need to hold us back, so we can go beyond them. Therefore, the practice of generosity is about creating space. We see our limits and we extend them continuously, which creates a deep expansiveness and spaciousness of mind. This happiness, self-respect, and spaciousness is the appropriate ground for meditation practice to flourish. It is the ideal place from which to undertake deep investigation, because with this kind of inner happiness and spaciousness, we have the strength and flexibility to look at everything that arises in our experience. The aim of giving is twofold. The first is to free our minds from the conditioned forces that bind and limit us. Craving, clinging, and attachment bring confinement and lack of self 84

-esteem. If we’re always looking for some person or thing to complete us, we miss the degree to which we are complete in every moment. It’s a bit like leaning on a mirage only to find that it can’t hold us; there’s nothing there. The second purpose is to free others, to extend welfare and happiness to all beings, to lessen the suffering in this world. When our practice of generosity is genuine, we realize inner spaciousness and peace, and we also extend boundless caring to all living beings. The movement of the heart in practicing generosity mirrors the movement of the heart that inwardly lets go. So the external training of giving deeply influences the internal feelingtone of the meditation practice, and vice versa. If we cultivate a generous heart, then we can more easily allow things to be the way they are. The movement of the heart in As we learn praccing generosity mirrors the how to give at the movement of the heart that most obvious level— inwardly lets go. giving material objects to others—in that giving, we develop the ability to let go, to let things be as they are. We begin to see that compulsive attachment really doesn’t bring us any happiness, whereas the benefits of being able to give fully with a pure intention are innumerable. The Buddha talked about many worldly benefits that come from giving. When people are generous, other beings love them quite a lot. Such love occurs without a sense of contrivance or expectation: we don’t give so we can become popular. Being loved is not part of the motivation for giving. It’s just a law of the universe: as we give, we receive. So there is an openness that beings feel toward us and a great deal of love. The Buddha taught that a generous person can enter any group without fear. Once again, such courage is without contriv85

ance; it’s not thought out or planned. It’s just the natural consequence of opening one’s heart. A certain brightness grows within us as we learn to give, and people are drawn to us and trust us. These types of worldly happiness are all types of spiritual happiness as well. There’s value in a single act of giving that goes beyond what we would normally conceive. The Buddha said that when we offer someone food, we’re not just giving that person something to eat; we’re giving far more. We’re giving them strength, health, beauty and clarity of mind, even life itself, because none of those things is possible without food. We’re offering the stuff of life itself. That single moment of offering someone food represents a tremendous part of the spiritual path. All four of the qualities known as the brahma-viharas, or divine abodes, are found in that single moment. Love, or metta, is there because we feel goodwill toward the person who is receiving; we feel a sense of oneness with them, and want them to be happy. We feel compassion in that moment because we wish that being to be free from pain or suffering. There’s that trembling of the heart that responds to a being and wants them to be free of pain. We also experience the third divine abode—sympathetic joy. We rejoice in the happiness of someone else rather than feel envy or jealousy. The last divine abode, equanimity, is also found in the act of giving because we’re willing to let go of an object of craving—to give it away to others. All four of these qualities are found in that one moment of giving. At that moment, we’re abandoning desire and grasping. We’re abandoning ill will and aversion. And we’re abandoning delusion as well, because when we perform a wholesome or skillful action we understand that what we do in our life—the choices we make, the values we hold—matters. 86

In an act of giving we’re aligning ourselves with certain values. We develop love, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. We let go of grasping, aversion, and delusion in a single act of giving. That’s why the Buddha said that if we knew as he did the power of giving, we wouldn’t let a single meal pass without sharing something. To rejoice in our ability to make choices, to cultivate the good, to let go of that which harms us and causes suffering for us will give us the confidence and joy to keep practicing, to do things that are difficult and unfamiliar to us. As we keep rejoicing in generosity, we will keep on purifying. No one of us can do these things perfectly; it is a practice. We practice generosity with others and with ourselves, over and over again, and its power begins to grow until it flows almost like a waterfall. This is who we become, this is how we continually are able to touch on and deepen a true and genuine happiness. (from Shambhala Sun magazine, summer 2005)

The prac7ce of generosity is a good way to counteract whatever tendency to stealing we might have. To prac7ce generosity is to make a conscious effort to give away whatever we can — money, 7me, food, feeling — as a way of realizing that generosity is perfectly safe and it's even a relief to give things away. (from Taking Our Places, by Norman Fischer)


DANA: AN INTRODUCTION Ellison Banks Findly When a person goes forth from home into the homeless life, a momentous transition occurs. Moving from a stable, settled life centered around the domestic fires, the renunciant is now a wandering mendicant, free from domestic responsibilities but dependent upon the same culture for the maintenance of life needs. In the Pali Buddhist context, as in those of other early heterodox Indian traditions, the domestic agent or householder and the renunciant become the two primary poles of religious choice, but they are not, however, independent of one another. While the renunciant depends on the householder for food, clothing, and resting place, the householder depends on the renunciant for exemplifying the fullness of the spiritual quest and for providing the opportunity for making merit. This interdependence is expressed in the practice of dana or donation, present in a number of early South Asian traditions but developed with great complexity and nuances in early Buddhism. The relationship between Buddhist donors and renunciants is a dynamic one, with each responding fully and flexibly to the other. As negotiations unfold, clear and precise dana relationships emerge and, as these relationships become formalized and institutionalized, something like a "contract" merges. Through the process of negotiating this dana contract, the genesis of a genuinely cooperative society is in evidence that is marked by a spectrum of reciprocity between householders and renunciants. The rise of Buddhism in the sixth and fifth centuries BCE coincides with the appearance of the gahapati or householder as the mark of a newly influential social grouping. The occupation88

al range of the gahapati, a functional alternate to the vessa (Skt. vaisya) in the Pali Vinaya and Nikayas, is wide and he (together with the gahapatani, his wife) is often described as a figure of substantial wealth. The reciprocal relationship that develops between this emerging householder sector and the young Sangha meets the Buddhist community's needs for material support as well as the householders' needs for clear religious involvement and demarcation not available to them at the time. In return for their giving gifts, householders receive appropriate merit normally reflected in better rebirths in the future. In return for their receiving gifts, Sangha members have to make sure that their public behavior and appearance conform to householders' expectations, for householders are not shy about complaining of breach in what they perceive to be monastic etiquette. With the accumulation of property as a more broadly significant phenomenon, then, wealth is not discredited in the new religion but rather given serious spiritual cachet. The evolution of dana relationships and their codification in a "danic system" is one that incorporates at least two processes. The first is the adaptation of ideas and practices already known to the young tradition from its religious environment, in particular those with origins in Brahmanism and Jainism. Followers of Gotama Buddha have substantial contact with followers of these traditions, and many aspects of what comes to be the full Pali practice of dana are drawn from contemporary and antecedent Vedic culture: e.g., the dakkhineyya or 'giftworthiness' of a donee, the constructs of causality that describe the production of future fruit resulting from present action, and the paradigm of creating bodies for ancestors by offering pinda or rice cakes. The second is the new configuration of ideas of relationship, of values that inform them, and of 89

structures that ritualize them, in ways that respond more directly to changes that are taking place in north Indian culture. Central here are the ethics of acquiring and using wealth, the precise posture of the person inclined to give (e.g., her or his confidence), and donees as fields of merit, with implications for how merit can get transferred. This reconfiguration of ideas of relationship, then, is accompanied by the forthright acknowledgement that the worldly-otherworldly division of personnel must be mediated with clear attention to the particular parties' mutual benefit. Thus, Pali Buddhism's practice of dana arises out of both the enduring ties it has to extant religious traditions and the new, often radical, proposals it offers One of the great beneficiary groups of this openness is women, who carve new places for themselves as charitable donors in their own right and who, because of the depth of their material support of the Sangha, exert significant influence on the development, especially, of disciplinary prac&ce.

about religious life; that is, the power of the new dana practices derives from its descent—and divergence—from older established religious patterns. As with so much else in the history of Buddhism, dana practice is based in a Buddhist posture of accommodation. In dana, this accommodation is both behavioral and doctrinal, and takes place between householders and the Sangha as the dynamic of their reciprocity is an often shifting balance of needs and responses. It is clear from the Vinaya texts that the relationship of Sangha to benefactor has to be managed carefully, and that there is a proper threshold of dependency that has to be maintained with self-conscious delicacy. The institution of the Sangha needs the wealth of an affluent society for 90

its survival and growth, and because the emergent householders find themselves as a group without clear religious placement in a cultural matrix where status within ritualized hierarchy is essential, the relationship between the two becomes carefully guarded and nurtured. This emergent contract between donors and renunciants is a prime example of the Buddhist posture of accommodation because the transactions of giving and receiving are honed continually for precision and efficacy. Especially intricate is the balance between the elements of straight-forward exchange, e.g. gifts of food for gifts of teaching (and vice versa), and elements of patronage or grant-making that involve more complicated ties and obligations. Moreover, the dana contract's use of ideas of credit and debit, currencied transactions, and savings and surplus tie early Buddhism to rising mercantile and financial interests of the time. Such connections make the young religion an especially competitive one among its sectarian rivals as it, unlike most of them, takes seriously the need for material support and the complexity of guaranteeing its physical continuation over time. The accommodational bent of early Buddhism is seen as well in the community's self-conscious willingness to adapt and compromise, especially in response to local and what might be called minority issues. One of the great beneficiary groups of this openness is women, who carve new places for themselves as charitable donors in their own right and who, because of the depth of their material support of the Sangha, exert significant influence on the development, especially, of disciplinary practice. This accommodational approach in the tradition is also responsible for the soteriological elevation of the lay householder. Instead of rejecting the salvific role of ordinary folk as is 91

done in earlier Vedic contexts, Buddhism redefines the householder life in the light of its essential interconnections with the renunciant life, thereby making the householder life itself of prodigious salvific value. Arising as part of substantial cultural change, early Buddhism thus adapts to it by making ongoing and fairly rapid response to change a foundational posture. A part of Buddhism's reconfiguration of "relationships" is its focus on the idea of "being in relation" itself. Donors appear in Pali narratives not as isolated figures with histories separable from their Buddhist actions but as people who are defined precisely because they are "in relation to." But rather than being in relation to their gifts or in relation to the persons they are giving to, they are portrayed as being in relation to the act of giving itself. Likewise, the prescriptions for receiving place Buddhist renunciants in relation not to the donors themselves, or to the gifts they are given, but, instead in relation to the act of receiving itself. Buddhist dana, then, is not about the separable parts of the giving relationship but about the fluid dynamic of individuals within the increasingly complex network of conditioned interdependencies of the time, with the interdependency of the donative process being mediated in particular by wealth. The mediational value of wealth In that the dana contract places a premium on the interpersonal nature of conventional identity in Buddhism, this means that, in renunciant practice, there can be a shift away from the normative "be a refuge unto yourself" view, a tendency in early Buddhism with affinity to the kaivalya, or isolationist, theme of classical Hinduism, and an acknowledgement that, at least on the ordinary level of experience, relations with others have some degree of salvific value. Moreover, for lay prac92

tice, most discussions of ethics touch at some point on the teachings of the Digha Nikaya's Singalovada Sutta, a discourse the Buddha gives to a young householder on friendship, and on the proper understanding of six specific relationships that are thought to be central to the householder's life. The general tenor of the sutta 's teaching is the personal posture of being anukampaka or compassionate, literally, being 'one who vibrates because of.' The Buddha's teaching here describes the mental posture and behavior of the lay follower and charts two fields of discourse: a foundational field based on friendship and empathic association, and six specific types of relationships that draw on friendship as their paradigm. Friendship here is "the model for social harmony in the mundane sphere and the model for spiritual encouragement of the laity by the monks in the transmundane sphere," and the Buddha, in placing friendship so centrally, emphasizes loyalty, acceptance, protection, empathy, and good counsel as the hallmarks of every sound householder relationship. The six specific relationships, as associated with the six directions of Singala's ritual morning ministrations, are as follows: 1. parents—east; 2. teachers—south; 3. wife and children—west; 4. friends and companions—north; 5. servants and workmen—nadir and 6. recluses and brahmins—zenith. For each of these, the Buddha makes clear that responsibility for the soundness of the relationship rests upon the shoulders of both parties equally, not any more on one than on


another, and that infusing both parties' commitments to the relationship should be anukampa, compassion or empathy for the other. This teaching, then, reflects the canonical thrust of householder ethics as being thoroughly relational or otheroriented. Contrary to what is perceived as the separatist emphasis of the renunciant posture, the non-renunciant posture involves the householder fully in a personal network of human interdependencies. While the Singalovada Sutta, for example, presents these relationships as an idealized vision, it is clear that, contrary to the prescriptive quality of these materials, other materials are in fact quite descriptive of what relationships in early Buddhist times are actually like. In actual practice, relationships reflected in Pali texts are often tensionfilled, and a number of stories are overtly illustrative of the disquiet and even anxiety that color the ties between people belonging to the very groups under discussion in this sutta. The tension in these relationships are charged with a kind of "liminality," for the newness of the social and economic contexts, and of the resulting religious possibilities, cast the players into arenas where traditional expectations are undermined, old rules of decorum are questioned, and customary commitments are no longer so customary. The new tension in relationships that thrusts ordinary linkages into betwixt and betweennessâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;and the reason why such a sutta is necessaryâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;is accommodated by experimentation. Narratives of the Vinaya and four Nikayas reflect a tendency to test out, to inquire by trial and error, and to make tentative forays in the hopes that such experimentation will help establish parameters for the new institution. A central feature of this way of defusing tension is negotiation, a process of 94

informal, creative, and yet very serious-minded arbitration between concerned parties that plunges them into the tricky web of affiliation and produces a variety of agreements that govern the relationships with seemingly binding authority. Thus, the early Buddhist landscape can be seen as a milieu conducive to the jostling and jockeying of the market-place, where the Buddha and influential members of his Sangha succeed in mediating transactions between people and groups of people such as to ensure the survival and growth of the young institution.

Not only is lay poverty not encouraged but great wealth is celebrated; what is taught is proper accumula&on and proper use, rather than hoarding, of wealth as well as the instrumental value of wealth for social and soteriological good.

Central to the negotiation of these contracts is wealth, whose successful management mediates the liminal areas between parties. Not only is lay poverty not encouraged but great wealth is celebrated; what is taught is proper accumulation and proper use, rather than hoarding, of wealth as well as the instrumental value of wealth for social and soteriological good. Most significant is the way in which wealth plays a role in the tensions between parties to a relationship, and the way in which wealth becomes an element in the resolution of these tensions. In the Singalovada Sutta, there is the householder who is once supported by his parents and must now support


them; the pupil who is enjoined to wait upon and serve his teacher, and the teacher who is enjoined to provide for the pupil's safety and welfare; the husband who is to provide for his wife and the wife who is to guard and protect the household goods; the friends and associates who are to guard each other's property and offer constant material refuge for the other; the employer who is to ensure food, wages, and medicine to employees and the employees who are to be content with what is given; and the donor who is to keep an open door for recluses and brahmins, always serving their temporal needs. In these ways the canon recognizes that wealth and material goods underlie many ethical contracts and that not only do the possessions of this world exacerbate the choices one has to make, but that they also, if understood and handled properly, can provide a working solution to each dilemma as well. Four areas stand out as particularly pivotal places of relational irresolution, places of contractual discussion and maneuvering, places where persuasion has to take place, often hinging on the uses and abuses of wealth: 1. between a child and his family as he or she decides to renounce. 2. between a renunciant and the Sangha as he or she gives up the household life and decides, finally, to commit to the Sangha, 3. between a donor and the Sangha as he or she negotiates what to give, how to give, and to whom to give, and 4. between a donor and society as his or her acts of donation and support for the Sangha "buy" places of religious reputation and status.


1. A Child and the Family The relationship between a child and his family, and especially between a child and his parents, is in the most normal circumscances fraught with tensions of growth, independence, and divided loyalties and responsibilities. If a society is to add to this the possibility of renunciation, the possibility of wholesale, lifelong abandonment of the family for a quest that may or may not ever again touch the family, normal parental frustrations may be multiplied. It is no wonder, then, that the reluctant parents of the Pali texts try to use whatever leverage they have to prevent a child's going forth or when, at whatever stage they see the wisdom (or inevitability) of the decision, they try to demonstrate their wholehearted support for their child in his or her new life. The leverage most often used in these discussions, not surprisingly, is wealth: the pleasures and good deeds of wealth glorified to entice the candidate to stay at (or return) home, or the benefits of donated wealth held up as a way to continue to reach a child now gone forth. Wealth, then, as either an inhibitor or a facilitator of the non-renunciant/ renunciant decision, becomes an important negotiating tool as this contract comes, often with difficulty, to closure. The fear of a parent that a child might renounce is brought to the forefront in the story of the sage Asita's prophecy to Siddhattha's father, Suddhodana, that the young boy will either be a great king or an enlightened being. Suddhodana's response, of course, is to safeguard the child and to supply him all bodily gratifications in order to prevent the most horrific possibility, at least to Suddhodana, that the son will forsake the family by leaving home. The contrast between the life of the home and the homeless life is discussed in many passages. In the Digha Nikaya, for example, the benefits of both are made 97

clear but it is also made clear that the householder life ultimately precedes and is inferior to the homeless life, and that the greatest achievement is the religious life after full renunciation. The ocher-robes and shaved head are thus an external sign that some momentous, and ordinarily irreversible, transformation has taken place. A number of passages also illustrate not only the parental fear of losing a child to the Sangha, but the possibility that the Sangha might lose a renunciant back to the householder life. This eventuality is known as hinaya avattati 'he returns to the low life' and it involves renouncing one's training up to that time. Several reasons are given for this when it happens: the renunciant has failed to guard his senses, has overeaten, and has not been watchful over the righteous life;" he or she is without confidence, conscientiousness, fear of blame, energy, and insight into the wholesome teaching; he or she delights in business, gossip, sleeping, and keeping company; and he or she does not reflect on the mind as freed. Another list gives the following reasons for the decline of the in-training monk or nun: 1. 2. 3. 4.

he takes on too much and tries to be clever at it; he fritters away the day doing trifling things; he associates with unrighteous company; he goes into the village too early, and leaves too late; and 5. he does not engage in spiritually conducive talk. Finally, a set of water images describes the four great perils that plague a renunciant and to which a renunciant might succumb, sending him back to the 'low life': the peril of 'waves' or being filled with anger, the peril of 'crocodiles' or 98

overfilling the stomach, the peril of 'whirlpools' or the five strands of sense pleasures, and the peril of 'fierce fish' or women. How fluid non-renunciant/renunciant ties really are is illustrated in stories of two different monks, Sudinna and Ratthapala. While the stories begin in the same way with the same dilemma, they have different conclusions: the "bad" Sudinna is expelled from the Sangha while the "good" Ratthapala, knowing the proper place of wealth acts wisely. Sudinna is the son of a great merchant who, hearing the Dhamma one day, decides to go forth. When he asks his parents, however, they refuse on the grounds, first, that he's their only child and, second, that he can't possibly want to leave behind all the comforts they've provided him. Sudinna persists and, in the face of continued opposition, lies down on the ground to fast unto death. When neither his parents nor his friends can dissuade him from the fast, his parents give in and agree to his ordination. As an almsman, Sudinna eventually encounters a shortage of alms food and decides to go back to his relatives. A woman slave of the family recognizes him as he petitions for scraps and tells his parents. Hoping to entice him back into the householder's life, his parents invite him to a meal in their home now heaped with gold coins (including his mother's treasure) and housing Sudinna's former wife dressed in all her ornaments. When presented with the family's wealth and with his father's argument that as a layman he can still enjoy riches and perform good actions, Suddina consistently declines. His mother then asks the former wife to go to the monk and, successfully seducing Sudinna, she in due time bears a son, Bijaka. The remorseful Sudinna, rebuked by his fellow renunciants and by the Buddha, is charged with a parajika offense (sexual misconduct) and is expelled from the Sangha. 99

Ratthapala's story proceeds in much the same way: the hearing of the Dhamma, the decision to go forth, the need for parental consent, the refusal of consent by the parents three times on the grounds that Ratthapala is the only child, Ratthapala's fast unto death, the parents' and friends' inability to dissuade him, the parents' eventual consent to ordination, and Ratthapala's going forth. The story at this point, however, diverges from Sudinna's: now a monk, Ratthapala returns home, Whether a householder comes from the most impoverished of circumstances or from those of great wealth, it is the strength of his or her mental bonds to that material life that helps or hinders the break from the householder's life and allows a vow of homelessness. not because there is a shortage of food, but because he wants to see his parents. The Buddha gives him permission because he knows that it's impossible for Ratthapala to abandon his training and to return to the 'low life' because, unlike Sudinna, he has become an arahant. Ratthapala returns but, when his father sees him, he is heaped with abuse. Eventually, Ratthapala is invited to eat a meal and, as for Sudinna, the family house is prepared, heaps of coins are amassed, and the daughters-in-law are finely adorned. Before eating, the family asks him to return home, to abandon his training and take up the secular life, and to enjoy riches and do meritorious things. Ratthapala not only refuses, however, but tells his family to throw all the piles of wealth into the river Ganga because it causes nothing but grief and distress. Then, fending off his former wives, Ratthapala eats his meal, gives a Dhamma talk on the foolishness of bodily adornment, and leaves. 100

A comparison of these two stories suggests the following: 1) that one still in training is more likely to succumb to worldly pleasures than one already an arahant, 2) that, of the two enticements to stay in or return to the householder life (wealth and sex), the greater one is sex; but 3) that, of the two enticements, the one that is most successful in negotiating the disjunction between a child and his family is wealth. While women and sex can be a part of the problem, wealth can be not only a part of the problem but also a part of the solution. The candor of the stories thus helps to illustrate the frustrations of families of renunciants as they attempt desperately to recover their filial losses. 2. A Renunciant and the Sangha Discussions about wealth and property also play a pivotal role in the negotiations between the renunciant and the Sangha. While parents of prospective renunciants may glorify the social and religious uses of wealth in performing meritorious deeds as a way to persuade a child that he or she can live a good Buddhist life and yet remain a householder, the opposite of this argument is rarely used. For example, there are few, if any, wholesale malignments of wealth designed to wrest a would-be-renunciant from his family; rather, the normal focus is on his progress on the spiritual path. Whether a householder comes from the most impoverished of circumstances or from those of great wealth, it is the strength of his or her mental bonds to that material life that helps or hinders the break from the householder's life and allows a vow of homelessness. Although it's one's wealth and property that are central at the moment of decision, wealth in and of itself isn't the issue; it's the clinging to or casting off of it that makes the difference. 101

Three examples show this negotiation. Each assesses the problem of the renunciant-to-be's ties to the pleasures of wealth and the material world, and each demonstrates the kind of mental posture necessary to bring about the life-style transformation. The first case involves a brahmin who, seeing the good meals and sheltered bedding the Buddhist renunciants are afforded, decides to renounce. At some point, the luxurious invitational meals dry up and his fellow renunciants ask him to accompany them on an alms tour. The former brahmin is stunned and says: 'Your reverences, I didn't go forth in order to do this, that I should walk around for alms food. If you'll give to me, I'll eat; but if you'll not give to me, I'll leave the Sangha.' The other monks then ask him if he's gone forth solely for his 'belly's sake,' to which he replies 'yes, indeed.' In their shame of him, the group of monks look away and tell the Buddha, who rebukes the former brahmin for receiving alms from donors under false pretenses. The Buddha reminds his audience of the four resources (nissaya), but doesn't suggest a clear conclusion to the case of the offending brahminâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;though the story does illustrate how ties to pleasurable items can interfere with the successful relations between a renunciant and the institution. The second case describes the eventual going forth of Anuruddha and other Sakyans after disposing of their property. Mahanama the Sakyan decides one day that since no one from his immediate Sakyan family has gone forth yet, he or his brother Anuruddha should be the first. Anuruddha declines because 'I am too delicate.' Mahanama responds by describing at length the endlessness of householder life and the endurance needed to do the great work of sowing and harvesting the fields year after year: 'The workings do not stop,' you'll always


be bound, he argues. Eventually, Anuruddha is convinced and asks his mother for her consent, but three times she refuses. To put an end to Anuruddha's monastic aspirations, she decides to involve the Sakyan chieftain, Bhaddiya, and says to Anuruddha that she'll let him renounce if Bhaddiya doesâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;thinking, of course, that Bhaddiya can't possibly renounce with all of his responsibilities. Overjoyed, Anuruddha goes to Bhaddiya who agrees but asks him to wait for seven years while he puts his affairs in order. Anuruddha, convinced by now that going forth is possible for him, negotiates with Bhaddiya to lessen the waiting time from seven years to seven days. After the seven-day wait, Bhaddiya and Anuruddha as well as Ananda, Bhagu, Kimbila, Devadatta, and Upali the barber all go forth into the homeless life. This story shows not only the parental reluctance to let a child go forth as illustrated in the previous section, but also the role of peers both in making the decision (Mahanama) and in carrying it out (Bhaddiya). Finally, it shows that entering the Sangha involves attention to the disposition of properties and responsibilities, a considerable source of attachment for any renunciant-to-be. The third case involves a response to a query from King Ajatasattu of Magadha. Once, Ajatasattu enumerates a long list of occupations that are followed by people in his realm and notes that the fruits of these crafts and services are visible when they're enjoyed by the people who live off them. Could you tell me, then, he asks the Buddha, whether there are similar visible fruits for the life of a recluse? After hearing what Ajatasattu has learned from the teachers of other sects when asked this very same question, the Buddha then answers affirmatively as follows. A man, once an anxious slave, is treated with great reverence and respect upon going forth. A free man, once a taxpayer beholden to the king, gives up those worldly concerns and be103

comes visibly unburdened by them upon his going forth. A householder, in renouncing, gives up all the hindrances, the dusty path, and all the difficulties of his domestic life in exchange for the freedom of the renunciant life on the road. Thus, the renunciant life is visibly full of moral habit and guarding of the sense doors, and its follower is mindful, self-possessed, and content. Woven through this description of the visible fruits of the life of the recluse is a consistent theme about wealth and material property: the recluse is no longer bound by his worldly treasures. His freedom and "at ease-ness" are evident in his selfpossession and in his lack of enslavement to the opulence of the lay life. Although the sutta’s description of the results of the life of the Buddhist renunciant is concise, it serves as a marketing tool —an advertisement to those not yet gone forth—about what the experience after ordination can be. In this way, the sutta is an important vehicle in the negotiation process of bringing renunciants into the Sangha, demonstrating that beyond the rich foil of the material world are the even richer fruits of a new life. 3. A Donor and the Sangha Negotiations between donors and the Sangha touch on many elements of their lives—social, economic, and soteriological— and, in this complexity, are indeed precarious. This uncertainty finds resolution in a reciprocity of behaviors and attitudes that stem from the vulnerability of each side and that accommodate their shifting parameters of activities. And, once again, the equilibrium for both donor self-consciousness in the face of the new renunciant movement, and for monastic susceptibility in the face of ongoing survival needs, is provided by material property and its disposition. Wealth grounds the discussion between 104

the two parties and provides a talking point around which new constructs can be built. From the donor's vantage point the vulnerability is that there are, from the start, no rules. Aside from suttas like the Singalovada, there is no real Vinaya for the lay, much less for the general householder who can be called upon at a moment's notice to give to renunciants at her or his door, and who are thus "never absent, never far distant" from the renunciant lives depicted in the Vinaya. It is clear, however, that aside from all the canonical teachings on dana, there are some kinds of established codes that govern donor-renunciant relations, for the Cullavagga refers specifically to renunciant rules of training (sikkhapada)that have an effect on householders (gihigata) and that 'householders know concerning us' (gihi pi no jananti). When, after the Buddha's death, Sangha members entertain Ananda's remark that the Buddha encouraged the abolition of the lesser and minor rules of training (khuddanukhuddakani sikkhapadani), it is determined that Ananda has forgotten to ask what those lesser and minor rules of training might be. In the absence of such knowledge, the senior monk Kassapa makes the motion to leave things as they are: not to lay down rules not already laid down and not to abolish what has already been laid down before. While the householder rules are amongst those determined to be kept "on the books," the content of those rules is never explicitly made clear. Another text, however, gives a hint. Although the Anguttara Nikaya gives no details when it speaks of gihidhamma or 'a householder's duties,' the term occurs in a section on donation. Here, not straying from the gihidhamma is considered to be one of the five advantages or benefits of dana, suggesting that gihidhamma has some close association with dana teachings.


In terms of the negotiation between donor and Sangha, then, a householder is identified in one of two ways: either he or she is a hearer of the Dhamma who mightsomeday be an upasaka-upasika layperson and thereby a fellow journeyer on the same spiritual quest, or he or she is a potential donor, someone to give one or more of the four requisites to members of the community. These two options meet when there is an exchange of gift and Dhamma at the time of dana. The preeminence of wealth here needs no restating. Making what is already understood into the cornerstone of the new relationship, then, brings householders as donors into the precarious liminal space inventively and resourcefully; what keeps them there is ongoing and careful cultivation of householder sensibility. From the Sangha's vantage point, the vulnerability of the relationship is multiplied manifoldly by the fact of upanissaya or 'being dependent upon.' 'The bhikkhu lives depending upon the village or the market-town;' 'my life,' says the bhikkhu 'is dependent on others;' and donors to the Sangha, luckily, are many for, say the monks, 'if you do not give to us, then who is there who will give to us?' The renunciant is certainly in a bind, for he or she is one of many of a considerable number of people across northern India who are no longer in the work force but for whom material provisions have to be made. Thus, as Gombrich notes, total dependency on lay support is ensured: "...a monk may not live as a solitary hermit in the forest;... [and] he may not grow his own food... [so he must follow] the general precept not to take what is not given." The bhikkhuâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;literally, 'he who seeks to share'â&#x20AC;&#x201D;then, has to live out a paradox. He has renounced the world to pursue more otherworldly ends, yet he still needs to live in the world to do so; and to live in the world he has to live off the world, thus 106

taking the provisions of donors. The catch is that if donors perceive the intensity of the need, or especially of the desire for provisions, they will be affronted and turn away. The canon has several examples of dishonest renunciants who are more interested in their hungers than they are in their spiritual states. There is a mendicant brahmin who He has renounced the world to thinks himself to be mendi- pursue more otherworldly ends, cant just because he seeks yet he s&ll needs to live in the alms; there is a teacher who world to do so; and to live in the claims moral goodness only world he has to live oďŹ&#x20AC; the in order to continue receiv- world, thus taking the provisions ing gifts from householders; of donors. The catch is that if and there is, of course, the donors perceive the intensity of brahmin turned bhikkhu the need, or especially of the who decides to go forth only desire for provisions, they will be for his 'belly's sake.' SignifiaďŹ&#x20AC;ronted and turn away. cant in these examples is that the concern in the narratives is less with the renunciant himself, that he has proved to be illsuited to the renunciant posture, and more with the donors, that they will be displeased to discover that there are counterfeits among the recipients of their gifts and will, in consequence, stop giving. The burden then falls on the bhikkhu to be honest for, as Gombrich notes, among renunciants only real indifference "to comforts thus cause[s]...them to be provided." The bhikkhu has really not to need the world in order for the world really to be there for him. As Horner states: "Those who had gone forth into home-lessness are to withstand all temptation and ambition offered by life 'in the world, ' they are to be beyond the reach of its quarrels, loves and hatreds. For, if they continued to be107

have as those who had not gone forth, their supporters would fall away, the non-believers would think but little of them, and the believers would not increase in number." Much, then, hangs in the balance as donors and Sangha members work to effect a serviceable agreement. While both come to the relationship initially through uncharted territories, and despite the great responsibility that the donor has in acquiring and using his wealth appropriate to Buddhist dana, the greater responsibility falls on each member of the Sangha who, by vow, 'wanders forth out of the home into the homeless state' and is not to touch on worldly matters at all, but whose paradoxical position on these matters makes being 'in' but not 'of' the world a difficult task. 4. A Donor and Society Gombrich calls early Buddhist lay ethics "an ethic for the socially mobile." The new social and economic circumstances that are present at the time of early Buddhism, and that are reflected in the expanding role of the householder, necessitate a new ethic that will appeal to the increasing numbers of small businessmen and traveling merchants who are available in towns and the countryside as well as to wealthy urban groups. The old Brahmanical system has serviced only the conservative elite, and in the process has left many others to fend for themselves, being largely unaccounted for in the early textual traditions. There is no clear place within the established range of religious possibilities for those in the middle and lower levels of society who are outside the range of Vedic rites and who are thus in need of more substantial religious affiliation. Thus, it will be for religions like Buddhism and Jainism to provide opportunities that are not only easily accessible to extra-Vedic 108

practitioners but that, through their patronage of these new religions, allow recognized and respected placement in the religious spectrum. Concerning this, Thapar has identified some of the reasons for the appeal of these religions to nonelite groups: their anti-caste implications, their urban settings, their lack of expenses in worship, and their use of local languages over Sanskrit. While Buddhism may not rise because these groups need clear religious placement, the conjunction of Buddhism and the newly emergent and more broadly designated householder category is certainly fortuitous. This conjunction, for example, allows the patrons of the religion to prosper socially in terms of their status and reputation, for dana teachings tell potential donors that the more one gives the greater will be the report that will go abroad about them and the greater their reputations. Moreover, jockeying among donors over the issue of giving meals often occurs, as competition develops in providing for the Buddha's followers. Broad religious appeal, then, means not only that the good man (sappurisa) to whom the Dhamma is addressed can now come from any social rankingâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;his worth being based on merit not on birthâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;but also that renunciants of any background will now be the objects of attention by donors of any background. In understanding the 'report and reputation' advantage of dana to be the central element in the contract between donor and society, the full force of the cultural changes of this period becomes clear: donors of all social origins can enhance their reputation among all sectors of society by giving donations to renunciants who are themselves of all social origins. The match between Buddhist donor and a society that allows the negotiation over status and reputation to take place 109

is not coincidental. Rather, it is carefully crafted to best facilitate the interests, abilities, and habits of the donor. It is not just happenstance that the elements of the contract with the Sangha that appeal to donors—e.g., the focus on individual effort, on earned rather than assigned value, on initial investments and postponed rewards, and on the acceptability of any size "store" upon which to draw—are exactly those same elements that in this period appear to have characterized the success of householder efforts in society. What donors admire in the renunciants they support —prudence, diligence, and thrift, for example—are those very same things that they are encouraged to express in their own accumulation and use of wealth and are the very same things that are probably operative in the continued expansion and development of the middle class at large. Just as in the case of the renunciant, where the less he desires the more he gets, so it is also in the case of the donor: the more he gives up of one sign of social status (e.g., material possessions), the more he gets of another (e.g., report and reputation as a great benefactor). So, although the grantor, by granting, reflects his status within a hierarchy and, by increasing the grant, increases his status as well, there is also a clear quid pro quo: giving in exchange for reputation. And just as the merit system operates in a manner parallel to the cash economy that is so well-known now to donors—earn cash/merit through hard work and then use it to purchase an appropriate and desirable reward—so the social contract follows suit: you invest in the Sangha, and society will invest in you. Through material support of the Sangha, then, the householder earns a clear place in the new religious landscape. While the great merchant of Rajagaha can hear the Buddha spell out the traditional agreement of giving donations and


getting Dhamma in return, he also knows that, additionally, with his gifts to the Sangha, he will be buying religious respectability and social status. Although there is no way to tell why each individual is motivated to giveâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;reputation and status, a good rebirth, or personal spiritual developmentâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;the Buddhist teaching on dana pays tribute to all of these as worthy reasons. The Buddhist tradition is successful because, above all others, it is open to broad human eccentricity in the deciding what gets done with material property. Source: Dana - Giving and Getting in Pali Buddhism Publisher: Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi 2003.



Generosity in Buddhism  

Articles, essays, book excerpts, and quotations about the Buddhist idea of generosity (dana)

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