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Anguttara Nikaya

Aṅguttara Nikāya
9.20 Velāma Sutta
About Velāma the Brāhmin

What is the most powerful merit?

Those days, the Blessed One was living in the province of Sāvatthī, in Jeta’s Park, at Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery. Then Anāthapiṇḍika the householder went to the Blessed One and, bowed down to him and sat to one side. As he was sitting there, the Blessed One asked him, “Dear Anāthapiṇḍika, is food still given in your family?”

“Bhante, food is still given in my family, but the food is coarse, only broken rice, along with pickle brine.”

“Dear Anāthapiṇḍika, regardless of whether the food is coarse or refined, if it is given thoughtlessly, disrespectfully, not with one’s own hand, as if throwing it away, without the belief in kamma: 1 When the result of that giving comes to him, his mind will not incline to the enjoyment of splendid food, clothing, vehicles or the enjoyment of sense pleasures. His sons and daughters, servants and workers will not listen to him, will not lend an ear or try to understand him. Why is that? Because that is the result of thoughtless actions.

“Dear Anāthapiṇḍika, regardless of whether food is coarse or refined, if it is given thoughtfully, respectfully, with one’s own hand, not as if throwing it away, with the belief in kamma: 2 When the result of that giving comes to him, his mind will incline to the enjoyment of splendid food, clothing, vehicles or the enjoyment of sense pleasures. His sons and daughters, servants and workers will listen, will lend an ear and try to understand him. Why is that? Because that is the result of thoughtful actions.

“Once, Anāthapiṇḍika, there was a brāhmin 3 named Velāma. This was the type of gift he gave, the great gift he gave. He gave 84,000 gold bowls filled with silver, 84,000 silver bowls filled with gold, 84,000 copper bowls filled with gold. He gave 84,000 elephants with gold ornaments, gold banners, covered with nets of gold thread. He gave 84,000 chariots spread with lion skins, tiger skins, leopard skins, saffron-colored blankets, with gold ornaments, gold banners, covered with nets of gold thread. He gave 84,000 milk cows with silken reins and copper milk pails. He gave 84,000 maidens adorned with jeweled earrings. He gave 84,000 couches spread with long-fleeced covers, white wool covers, embroidered covers, rugs of kadali-deer hide, each with a canopy above and red cushions on either side. He gave 8,400,000,000 clothes, of the finest linen, of the finest cotton and of the finest silk. Not to say how much food, drink, meals, refreshments and beverages. The way he gave gifts, flowed like rivers.

“Dear Anāthapiṇḍika, you might think, ‘Perhaps it was someone else who at that time was Velāma the brāhmin, who gave that gift, that great gift,’ that’s not how it should be seen. I was Velāma the brāhmin at that time. I gave that gift, that great gift. But during the giving of that gift there was no one worthy of offerings to accept my gifts 4, no one purified that gift.

“It would be more fruitful 5 to feed one stream-enterer than that great offering of Velāma the brāhmin.

“It would be more fruitful to feed one once-returner than a hundred stream-enterers, and that great offering of Velāma the brāhmin.

“It would be more fruitful to feed one non-returner than a hundred once-returners, and that great offering of Velāma the brāhmin.

“It would be more fruitful to feed one enlightened monk than a hundred non-returners, and that great offering of Velāma the brāhmin.

“It would be more fruitful to feed one Private Buddha than a hundred enlightened monks, and that great offering of Velāma the brāhmin.

“It would be more fruitful to feed one Supreme Buddha, than a hundred Private Buddhas, and that great offering of Velāma the brāhmin.

“It would be more fruitful to feed the community of monks 6 headed by the Buddha than to feed one Supreme Buddha, and that great offering of Velāma the brāhmin.

“It would be more fruitful to build a residence for the community of monks, the Saṅgha, 7 than to feed the community of monks headed by the Buddha, and that great offering of Velāma the brāhmin.

“It would be more fruitful to go for refuge to the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Saṅgha with a confident heart than to build a residence for the Saṅgha, and that great offering of Velāma the brāhmin.

“It would be more fruitful to keep precepts with a confident heart, that is, not to kill, steal, commit sexual misconduct, lie, or take intoxicating drinks and drugs, than to go for refuge to the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Saṅgha with a confident heart, and that great offering of Velāma the brāhmin.

“It would be more fruitful to develop loving kindness meditation even for just as long as it takes to smell the fragrance of a flower, than to keep the five precepts with a confident heart, and that great offering of Velāma the brāhmin.

“Dear Anāthapiṇḍika, whatever good kamma is created by Velāma the brāhmin, by giving that great offering, by feeding one stream-enterer, by feeding a hundred stream-enterers, by feeding one once-returner, by feeding a hundred once-returners, by feeding one non-returner, by feeding a hundred non-returners, by feeding one enlightened monk, by feeding a hundred enlightened monks, by feeding one Private Buddha, by feeding a hundred Private Buddhas, by feeding one Supreme Buddha, by feeding the community of monks headed by the Buddha, by building a residence for the community of monks,  by going for refuge to the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Saṅgha, with a confident heart, by keeping the five precepts with a confident heart and by developing loving kindness meditation for the time it takes to smell the fragrance of a flower—it is more fruitful to develop the meditation on the perception of impermanence for the time it takes to snap a finger.”

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Aṅguttara Nikāya 9.20 Velāma Sutta: About Velāma the Brāhmin

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