(3) Every pious Buddhist more or less carries out the meritorious deeds of dispensing charity, observing morality and practising meditation. Out of these three, the Buddhists ususily perform the charitable deeds daily. At every house of Buddhists, they offer food, water and flowers dedicated to the Triple Gems every morning. Moreover, with generous mindedness, they offer alms-food to the Sanghas who go round from house to house for collecting alms-food, in procession or individually. In some towns, there are many hundreds of Sanghas going in procession for alms-food. The Buddhists heartily believe that the daily act of offering alms-food to the Sangha is the main cause for the perpetuation of the Buddha's Teaching. According to their wealth, they occasionally make other donations such as inviting the monks to their home and offering food, novitiating their sons, donating the four material requisites to the sangha. etc. In fulfilling the ten perfections, the Bodhisattha performed the perfection of charity prior to the other perfections. Therefore, Dana is the first of the Ten Perfections. The charity is the first item of ten meritorious deeds stated in the previous charpter. Therefore in this chapter. the notable facts concerning charity shall be exergerated.
The Sense of Charity
Charity means donation or giving away one's own properties to others. There are three kinds of charity: giving material offerings (Amisa dana), giving santuary and protection to animals (Abhaya dana) and giving doctrinal lectures (Dhamma dana). In dispensing the charity, volition (cetana)and the belief in kamma and its results (Saddha) play important roles. In growing paddy, the good rains in the beginning, in the middle and in the later part of the rainy season can produce a good yield of rice. So also in performing the charity, the accomplishment of three steps of volition can produce great benefits to the donors. These three steps of volition are:
- Volition that arises before giving (Pubbacetana);
- Volition that arises while giving (Muncacetana); and
- Volition that arises after giving (Aparacetana).
It is very important to make the three-fold volition keen and pure. whenever we perform any act of charity.
The Advantages of Charity
Charity is praised by Buddha in many ways. It is:—
- - the stairway to celestial realms;
- - the packet of provisions in the long cycle of rebirths
- - the direct way to good destination;
- - the support to attain Magga, Phala and Nibbana;
- - the cause of becoming a ruler;
- - capable of producing luxuries and wealth;
- - capable of enjoying happiness;
- - capable of self-protection;
- - capable of civilising the uncivilized;
- - capable of bringing success in everything; and
- - the noblest auspiciousness.
I offer alms-food and other eatable to the compassionate Buddha who is endowed with the infinite accumulation of glory, merit (through the ten perfections) and wisdom. Owing to my deed of this merit, may I attain the Nibbana as soon as possible.
The Benefits of offering Alms-food
If one does not eat cooked rice, he cannot live longer. He will become ugly, sad, weak and stupid for lack of nutrition.
Taking alms-food (cooked rice) can make one live long. Moreover, he will be endowed with beauty, happiness, strength and wisdom.
I offer this pure and cool water to the compassionate Buddha who is endowed with the infinite accumulation of glory, merit (through the ten perfections) and wisdom. Owing to my deed of this merit, may I attain the Nibbana as soon as possible.
The Benefits of Offering Water
If one does not drink water, he cannot he cannot live longer.He will become ugly, sad, weak and stupid. If one does not bathe, he will not be clean and fresh. Therefore, the donors of water can be endowed with longevity, beauty, wealty, strength, wisdom, cleanness, fame and great retinue. They will be free from thirst.
Offering Flowers and Fragrance
I offer these beautiful flowers and fragrance to the compassionate Buddha who is endowed with the infinite accumulation of glory, merit (through the ten perfections)and wisdom. Owing to my deed of this merit, may I attain the Nibbana as soon as Possible.
Benefits of Offering Flowers and Fragrance
Owing to this donation, one can be reborn in the celestial realm or in the human existence for one lakh world cycles. And in his final existence he will attain Magga, Phala and Nibbana. There are many jataka stories describing the benefits of offering flowers and fragrance.
I offer lights (electric lights) which can eliminate the darkness, to the compassionate Buddha who is endowed with the infinite accumulation of glory, merit (through the ten perfections) and wisdom. Owing to my deed of this merit may I attain the Nibbana as soon as possible.
The Benefits of offering Lights
- One who offers lights to the Buddha can be repeatedly reborn in the celestial realms or in human existences. He will have bright and fair complexion. He will possess penetrative wisdom which can see through any wall or mountain or rock. He will attain Magga, Phala and Nibbana in his final existence.
Note : It is important that you must donate, contemplating on the virtues of the Buddha.
Stories showing the Benefits of Charity
A Story Showing the Benefits of Offering Alms-food
Ninety-four world cycles ago. there ap peared Siddhattha Buddha. One day a man saw the Buddha in his alms round and noticed the fair complexion of the Buddha eminating yellow hues. On seeing thus the man admired the Buddha and paid homage to him. He also invited the Buddha to his house and offered alms-food.
Because of his donation, that man was repeatedly reborn in celestial realms and human existences. He could incessantly enjoy both clestial and worldly pleasure. He was never reborn in the four miserable realms. In Gotama Buddha's time, he became a man of great wealth. When he came of age, he was ordained us a bhikkhu. Then he became an arahat.
A Story Showing the Benefits of offering Water
After the Padumuttara Buddha had attained Parinibbana the pious Buddhists offered pure water by pouring at the Bodhi Tree.
At that time one man also carried perfumed water in a beautifully decorated pot and offered it to the Bodhi Tree.
In his next existence, that man became a deva at the Tusita celestial realm. He enjoyed celestial pleasure as well as royal pleasure in his many existences. In the Gotama Buddha's time, he became an Arahat named Gandhodakiya Thera.
A Story Showing the Benefits of Offering Flowers
Once the Venerable Maha Moggallana went to the celestial realm. When he reached there, he saw a great splendid mansion among the colourful flowers blooming not only in water but also on land.
One goddess resided there together with her attendants. When the Maha Thera saw her, he asked her about the meritorious deeds of her past existence.
The goddess replied thus. "Once I was called Pesavati and I lived in Nalaka village: which is in the eastern side of Rajagaha City. One day I met the Venerable Sariputta and with much reverence. I donated him many a flower. Thereby I can live peacefully in this grand mansion"
A Story Showing the Benefits of Offering Lights
One man paid homage to the Padumuttara Buddha lighting five lamps around the foot of a Bodhi tree. Due to this good deed, when'he died he was reborn either in celestial realms or in human existences incessantly. He also obtained the power of being able to see things from one hundred yojanas away through all obstacles.
That man became an Arahat named Pancadipaka Thera in Gotama Buddha's time.
So also, Sumangala Buddha donated lights in his fulfilment of dana parami. Owing to this merit, bright hues were emitted from his body day in and day out. Those hues were brighter than those of the sun, the moon, stars and planets.
Offering alms-food is one of the cherished practices followed by pious Buddhists. The purpose of daily offering of alms-food is to uphold the bhikkhus residing in the community, to learn and practise meditation without any anxiety and tiredness about their subsistence. Understanding this fact, the lay people organize themselves into groups to keep up the practice of offering alms-food to bhikkhus. Some groups, or teams offer alms-food every day, some on a day which they can afford, some on every Sabbath day during the Buddhist Lent and some throughout the whole Buddhist Lent.
The donors offer alms-food without discrimination as to person or sect or monastery. If they can afford, they also donate curry besides alms-food. Due to this meritorious deed the bhikkhus can devote themselves to learning and meditation free from anxiety about their subsistence. In this way, the bhikkhus such towns as Pakokku and Mandalay can study the Buddhist scriptures incessantly. For the lay people they can do the meritorious deed daily and so they can gain many benefits. Even the eve of their donation they are so busy with collecting necessities in advance, cooking and performing religious activities that their inclining towards meritorious deeds get more and more developed.
At dawn, they feel delighted to offer alms-food to the bhikkhus. Therefore, the act of alms-giving shows the high spirit of Myamar Buddhists on religion. So also this act reveals the cooperation and attentiveness in meritorious deeds. When the ceremony which marks end of weekly offerings during the Buddhist Lent is held, various offerings are hung On tree-shaped stands and they are then donated to the Bhikkhus.
Based on this alms-giving practice, activities are carried out for the welfare of people of Myanmar and for the propagation of Buddha's Teachings. There arise friendship and unity among nationals. It is of vital importance to keep up the practice of offering alms-food because this practice brings long-term benefits not only to the donee bhikhus but also to the lay donors.