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Majjhima Nikaya

Majjhima Nikāya
142 Dakkhiṇāvibhaṅga Sutta
The Analysis of Giving

What are the benefits of giving and how should we give?

This sutta is part 5 of 6 in the series Merit

Mahāpajāpati Gotamī tries to give a gift to the Blessed One

This is as I heard. At one time the Blessed One was living in the province of the Sakyans, in the city of Kapilavatthu at Nigrodha Monastery.

Then Mahāpajāpati Gotamī approached the Blessed One bringing a new pair of robes. She bowed, sat down to one side, and said to the Blessed One, “Bhante, I have spun and woven this new pair of robes especially for the Blessed One. May the Blessed One please accept this from me out of compassion.”

When she said this, the Blessed One said to her, “Give it to the Saṅgha, Gotamī. When you give to the Saṅgha, both the Saṅgha and I will be included.”

For a second time …

For a third time, Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī said to the Blessed One, “Bhante, I have spun and woven this new pair of robes especially for the Blessed One. May the Blessed One please accept this from me out of compassion.”

And for a third time, the Blessed One said to her, “Give it to the Saṅgha, Gotamī. When you give to the Saṅgha, both the Saṅgha and I will be included.”

When the Buddha said this, Venerable Ānanda said to the Blessed One, “Bhante, please accept the new pair of robes from Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī. Bhante, Mahāpajāpatī was very helpful to the Blessed One. As the Buddha’s aunt, she raised, nurtured, and gave the Buddha her milk. When the Blessed One’s birth mother passed away, she nurtured him at her own breast.

“And the Blessed One has been very helpful to Mahāpajāpatī. It is because of the Blessed One that Mahāpajāpatī has gone for refuge to the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Saṅgha. It’s because of the Blessed One that she refrains from killing living creatures, stealing, committing sexual misconduct, lying, and taking intoxicating drinks and drugs. It’s because of the Blessed One that she has unshakeable confidence in the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Saṅgha, and has virtue loved by the noble ones. It’s because of the Blessed One that she is free of doubt regarding the Noble Truth of suffering, the Noble Truth of the cause of suffering, the Noble Truth of the end of suffering, and the Noble Truth of the practice that leads to its end. The Blessed One has been very helpful to Mahāpajāpatī.”

“That’s so true, Ānanda. When someone has helped you to go for refuge, it’s not easy to repay him by bowing down to him, rising up for him, greeting him with joined palms, and observing proper etiquette for him; or by providing him with robes, alms-food, lodgings, and medicines. When someone has helped you to refrain from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and intoxicating drinks and drugs, it’s not easy to repay him by bowing down to him, rising up for him, greeting him with joined palms, and observing proper etiquette for him; or by providing him with robes, alms-food, lodgings, and medicines. 

“When someone has helped you to have unshakeable confidence in the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Saṅgha, and virtue loved by the noble ones, it’s not easy to repay him by bowing down to him, rising up for him, greeting him with joined palms, and observing proper etiquette for him; or by providing him with robes, alms-food, lodgings, and medicines. 

“When someone has helped you to be free of doubt regarding the Noble Truth of suffering, the Noble Truth of the cause of suffering, the Noble Truth of the end of suffering, and the Noble Truth of the practice that leads to its end, it’s not easy to repay him by bowing down to him, rising up for him, greeting him with joined palms, and observing proper etiquette for him; or by providing him with robes, alms-food, lodgings, and medicines. 

Fourteen individual gifts

“Ānanda, there are these fourteen gifts1 to individuals. What fourteen? 

“One gives a gift to the Supreme Buddha. This is the first gift to an individual.
One gives a gift to a Private Buddha. This is the second gift to an individual.
One gives a gift to an Arahant. This is the third gift to an individual.
One gives a gift to someone practicing the way to the realization of the fruit of arahantship. This is the fourth gift to an individual.
One gives a gift to a non-returner. This is the fifth gift to an individual.
One gives a gift to someone practicing to realize the fruit of non-return. This is the sixth gift to an individual.
One gives a gift to a once-returner. This is the seventh gift to an individual.
One gives a gift to someone practicing to realize the fruit of once-return. This is the eighth gift to an individual.
One gives a gift to a stream-enterer. This is the ninth gift to an individual.
One gives a gift to someone practicing to realize the fruit of stream-entry. This is the tenth gift to an individual.
One gives a gift to one outside the Buddha’s path who is free of desire for sense pleasures. This is the eleventh gift to an individual.
One gives a gift to a virtuous ordinary person. This is the twelfth gift to an individual.
One gives a gift to an immoral ordinary person. This is the thirteenth gift to an individual.
One gives a gift to an animal. This is the fourteenth gift to an individual.

“Now, Ānanda, gifts to the following individuals may be expected to yield the following returns. 

“Giving a gift to an animal, yields a return a hundred times over. 

Giving a gift to an unvirtuous ordinary person, yields a return a thousand times over. 

Giving a gift to a virtuous ordinary person, yields a return a hundred thousand times over (100,000). 

Giving a gift to an outsider free of desire for sense pleasures, yields a return a trillion times over (1,000,000,000,000). 

But giving a gift to someone practicing to realize the fruit of stream-entry yields incalculable, immeasurable returns. How much more so giving a gift to a stream-enterer? How much more so giving a gift to someone practicing to realize the fruit of once-return? How much more so giving a gift to a once-returner? How much more so giving a gift to someone practicing to realize the fruit of non-return? How much more so giving a gift to a non-returner? How much more so giving a gift to someone practicing to realize the fruit of arahantship? How much more so giving a gift to an arahant? How much more so giving a gift to a Private Buddha? 

“How much more so giving a gift to the Supreme Buddha?

Seven gifts to the Saṅgha

“But there are, Ānanda, seven gifts given to the Saṅgha.2 What seven? 

“One gives a gift to the communities of both monks and nuns headed by the Buddha. This is the first gift given to the Saṅgha.
One gives a gift to the communities of both monks and nuns after the Supreme Buddha has attained final Nibbāna. This is the second gift given to the Saṅgha.
“One gives a gift to a community of monks. This is the third gift given to the Saṅgha.
“One gives a gift to a community of nuns. This is the fourth gift given to the Saṅgha.
“One gives a gift, requesting: ‘Appoint this many monks and nuns for me from the community.’ This is the fifth gift given to the Saṅgha.
“One gives a gift, requesting: ‘Appoint this many monks for me from the community.’ This is the sixth gift given to the Saṅgha.
“One gives a gift, requesting: ‘Appoint this many nuns for me from the community.’ This is the seventh gift given to the Saṅgha.

“Ānanda, in times to come there will be immoral people wearing robes in the guise of good monks. But they are unvirtuous and of bad character. People will give gifts to those unvirtuous people in the name of the Saṅgha. Even then, Ānanda, I say, a gift given in the name of the Saṅgha is incalculable and immeasurable. Therefore, Ānanda, I say that there is no way a gift given to an individual can be more fruitful than giving a gift to the Saṅgha.

Four ways of purifying a gift

“Ānanda, there are these four ways of purifying a gift. What four? There’s a gift that’s purified by the giver, not the receiver. There’s a gift that’s purified by the receiver, not the giver. There’s a gift that’s not purified by neither the giver nor the receiver. There’s a gift that’s purified by both the giver and the receiver.

  1. And how is a gift purified by the giver, not the receiver? It’s when the giver is virtuous, of good character, but the receiver is unvirtuous, of bad character.
  2. And how is a gift purified by the receiver, not the giver? It’s when the giver is unvirtuous, of bad character, but the receiver is virtuous, of good character.
  3. And how is a gift not purified by neither the giver nor the receiver? It’s when both the giver and the receiver are unvirtuous, of bad character.
  4. And how is a gift purified by both the giver and the receiver? It’s when both the giver and the receiver are virtuous, of good character. These are the four ways of purifying a gift.”

That is what the Blessed One said. Then the most Compassionate One further said:

“When a virtuous person with pleasant mind,
gives a gift earned rightfully to unvirtuous persons,
believing the result of good kamma,
that offering is purified by the giver.

When an unvirtuous person with an unpleasant mind,
gives a gift earned wrongfully to virtuous persons,
not believing the result of good kamma,
that offering is purified by the receivers.

When an unvirtuous person with an unpleasant mind,
gives a gift earned wrongfully to unvirtuous persons,
not believing the result of good kamma,
I say that gift is not very fruitful.

When a virtuous person with a pleasant mind,
gives a gift earned rightfully to virtuous persons,
believing the result of good kamma,
I say that gift is very fruitful.But when a desireless person gives to the desireless,
a gift earned rightfully with a pleasant mind,
believing the result of good kamma,
that’s truly the best of material gifts.”

Merit Series Navigation
Learn the Buddha’s teachings on merit.
The Supreme Buddha encouraged us to do a variety of wholesome actions known as merit. In this series you will learn about the power of this good karma and how it will bring happiness in this life and our future lives, and ultimately lead all the way to Nibbāna.
Itv 27 Mettācetovimutti Sutta: The Development of Loving-kindness →← SN 55.31 Abhisanda Sutta: Streams of Merit 1
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Majjhima Nikāya 142 Dakkhiṇāvibhaṅga Sutta: The Analysis of Giving

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