Pleasure of giving

August 2022 edition

Pleasure of giving

Article summary

Giving is one of the most powerful practice in the path of enlightenment. Samma SamBuddha always appreciate the quality of giving as one of the most necessary practice for the path of nibbana. There is another wonderful quality which is attached to the quality of giving. That is the quality of being happy by seeing others who give. Let me share a wonderful story from Samma Sambuddha’s time period.

There is an alms-giving named unparalleled alms-giving.  This happens only once in a time of a Samma SamBuddha.  When Gauthama Samma SamBuddha alive, this unparalleled alms-giving was given by the King Pasenadi of Kosal and his wife Queen Mallika. 

The king always offered alms to the Samma Sambuddha and other enlightened bhikkhus on a grand scale and always invited the citizens to join the alms-giving to be pleased by seeing it.  Citizens also arranging alms-giving in a same scale and invited the king to be pleased in a same manner.  Then the king wanted to do the alms-giving uniquely.  You know, “king’s style”! So, that no one can match his scale of giving.  And when he shared the idea with Queen Mallika, she said, she can organize such an alms-giving. 

To do this, she asked the king to have a grand pavilion built. Next, she asked for five hundred white umbrellas and five hundred tame elephants; those five hundred elephants were to hold the five hundred white umbrellas over the five hundred bhikkhus. In the middle of the pavilion, they kept ten boats, which were filled with perfumes and incense. There were also two hundred and fifty princesses, who kept fanning the five hundred bhikkhus, and to fill the incense & perfumes to those arranged boats.  Queen said, since princesses or white umbrellas or elephants are not available with the citizen, they won’t be able to give such a grand scale alms-giving ever, so king’s alms-giving will be the unique and the best one ever. 

When all preparations were made, alms-food was offered. After the meal, the king made an offering of all the things in the pavilion, which were worth fourteen crores.  The pavilion made for Samma SamBuddha was unparalleled and worth crores.    King was so happy and offered everything to the Samma SamBuddha & the Sangha.  King said “Oh, Lord, please accept everything including suitable & not suitable for monks” He just wanted to offer everything.   

At the time, two ministers of the king named “Kala & Junha” were present. Of those two, the minister named Junha was very pleased and praised the king for having offered alms so generously to the Buddha and his bhikkhus. He also reflected that such offerings could only be made by a king. He was very glad because the king would share the merit of his good deeds with all beings. In short, the minister Junha rejoiced with the king in his unrivalled charity.   But, the minister Kala, on the other hand, thought that the king was only squandering, by giving away fourteen crores in a single day, and that the bhikkhus would just go back to the monastery and sleep.  He thought, what a waste!

After the meal, the Samma Sambuddha looked over at the audience and knew how Kala the minister was feeling. Then, the blessed one knew if the blessed one deliver a lengthy discourse of appreciation, Kala would get more dissatisfied, and in consequence would have to suffer more in his next existence.  But in the other hand, the minister Junha can become a stream enterer too.  But, out of compassion for Kala, the Buddha delivered only a short discourse and returned to the monastery.

The king had expected a lengthy discourse of appreciation, after such an unparalleled offering, and so he was very sad because the Samma Sambuddha had been so brief. The king wondered if he had failed to do something which should have been done, and so he went to the monastery to inquire the reason.  King asked whether he has done anything wrong or offer something unsuitable to get such a brief appreciation at the end. 

The blessed one said, "Great King! You should rejoice that you have succeeded in making the offering of the unparalleled alms-giving (asadisa / asadrusha dana). Such an opportunity comes very rarely; it comes only once during the appearance of each Samma SamBuddha.  So, you have done a wonderful dana be happy for that". 

Then the King asked the reason for the hesitation.  Samma SamBuddha said your audience was not so pure to have the benefit of such a long appreciation.  Then said about the two ministers, and how the blessed one act compassionately towards the minister Kala who had felt that alms-giving was a waste, and was not at all appreciative. And also said about the minister Junha and how wise his thoughts were.  Then the king inquired the minister Kala and said, “These are the wealth of me & my family.  I decide what to do with them.  What is the problem with you to have such unpleasant thought of seeing someone else’s action on their own wealth? Leave my country right now! You have no right to stay in this kingdom”  Then the king said to minister Junha how he pleased with his thoughts and said “I’m so pleased to hear what you have felt by seeing my unparalleled alms-giving.  I am giving you the full right to use all my wealth and my servants for seven days, so that you can give such an alms-giving again for seven days”  

And King discussed with Samma SamBuddha “Oh lord, look at the nature of the ignorant ones, they even criticize the nature of giving of others by looking at them” Then the blessed one added, "Great King! Fools do not rejoice in the giving nature of others and go to the lower worlds. The wise rejoice in the nature of giving and appreciate the other people's action of giving, they share in the merit gained by others and go to the abode of the devas" .

Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:  “Indeed, misers do not go to the abode of the devas; fools do not praise giving; but the wise rejoice in giving and so gain happiness in the life hereafter” (Dhammapada)

After listening to the discourse of Samma SamBuddha minister Junha became a stream enterer – a Sotapanna disciple.

As you see, giving and appreciating other’s giving is a key point of path of liberation.  To become a stream enterer, one should equally develop the power of faith, vigor, awareness, focus & wisdom. Giving and appreciating the nature of giving is a key to develop those, and Minister Junha in this story is a great example for that.

So, develop the quality of giving.  Giving to Samma SamBuddha & the disciples are very rare and only possible on a time of a SamBuddha Sasana.  So, use the opportunity.  Give as much as possible without any hesitation.  And learn to appreciate when you see someone else is giving in various ways.  Don’t let your opinions or your views to criticize the giving of others like the minister Kala. 

Have a blessed time, my dear friends!

Rajitha Viduransi | Kelaniya, Sri Lanka