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The Conditions and Comparative
Merit and Virtue of Giving
At that time, Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva, based on the Buddha’s awesome spiritual strength, rose from his seat, knelt on one knee, placed his palms together and said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, I have observed beings within the paths of karma and compared their acts of giving. Some do a little and some do a lot. Some receive blessings for one life, some for ten lives, and some receive great blessings and benefits for hundreds or thousands of lives. Why is that? Please, World Honored One, explain that for us.”
At that time the Buddha told Earth Store Bodhisattva, “Here in this assembly in the palace of the Trayastrimsha Heaven, I will now discuss the comparative merit and virtue derived from acts of giving done by the beings in Jambudvipa. Listen attentively to what I say.”
Earth Store said to the Buddha, “I have wondered about this matter and will be pleased to listen.”
The Buddha told Earth Store Bodhisattva, “In Jambudvipa, leaders of nations, prime ministers, high officials, great elders, great Kshatriyas, great Brahmans, and others may encounter those who are poor, hunchbacked, crippled, dumb, mute, deaf, retarded, blind, or handicapped in other ways. Those leaders and good people may wish to give to those unfortunate ones and may be able to do so with great compassion, a humble heart, and a smile. They may arrange to give generously, either personally with their own hands, or by arranging for others to do so, using gentle words and sympathetic speech.
"The blessings and benefits that such leaders and good people will accrue will be comparable to the meritorious virtue derived from giving to as many Buddhas as there are grains of sand in a hundred Ganges Rivers. Why is that? Those leaders and good people will receive such rewards of blessings and benefits for having shown a greatly compassionate heart toward the most impoverished and handicapped individuals. Throughout hundreds of thousands of lives to come they will always have an abundance of the seven gems, not to mention clothing, food, and the necessities of life.
“Moreover, Earth Store, in the future, the leaders of nations, Brahmans, and others may encounter Buddhist stupas, monasteries, or images of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Hearers, or Pratyeka-buddhas, and personally make offerings or give gifts to them. If they do that, each of those leaders and good people will serve as Lord Shakra for a duration of three eons, enjoying supremely wonderful bliss. If they are able to transfer the blessings and benefits of that giving, dedicating it to the Dharma Realm, then those leaders of nations and good people will reign as great Brahma Heaven kings for ten eons.
“Moreover, Earth Store, in the future, leaders of nations, Brahmans, and others may, upon encountering ancient Buddhist stupas and monasteries or sutras and images that are damaged, decaying, or broken, resolve to restore them. Those leaders and good people may then do so themselves or encourage others, as many as hundreds of thousands of people, to help and thereby establish affinities. Those leaders and good people will become Wheel-Turning Kings for hundreds of thousands of successive lives and those who made offerings with them will later be leaders of small nations for as many lives. If they resolve to dedicate that merit before the stupas or monasteries, then, based on that limitless and unbounded reward, those leaders, good people, and their helpers will all eventually complete the path to Buddhahood.
“Moreover, Earth Store, in the future, leaders of nations, Brahmans, and others may have compassionate thoughts upon seeing the old, the sick, or women in childbirth, and may provide them with medicinal herbs, food, drink, and bedding so as to make them peaceful and comfortable. The blessings and benefits derived from doing that are quite inconceivable. For one thousand eons they will always be lords of the Pure Dwelling Heavens. For two hundred eons they will be lords in the Six Desire Heavens, and they will ultimately attain Buddhahood. They will never fall into the Evil Paths, and for hundreds of thousands of lives they will hear no sounds of suffering.
“Moreover, Earth Store, if in the future, leaders of nations, Brahmans, and others can give in that way, they will receive limitless blessings. If, in addition, they are able to dedicate that merit, be it great or small, they will ultimately attain Buddhahood. How much more easily will they be able to attain the rewards of becoming Shakra, Brahma, or a Wheel-Turning King. Therefore, Earth Store, you should urge beings everywhere to learn to give in those ways.
“Moreover, Earth Store, in the future, if good men or women manage to plant only a few good roots within the Buddhadharma, equivalent to no more than a strand of hair, a grain of sand, or a mote of dust, they will receive incomparable blessings and benefits.
“Moreover, Earth Store, in the future, good men or women, upon encountering images of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Pratyekabuddhas, or Wheel-Turning Kings, may give gifts or make offerings to them. Such persons will obtain limitless blessings and will always enjoy supremely wonderful bliss among people and gods. If they can dedicate that merit to the Dharma Realm, their blessings and benefits will be beyond compare.
“Moreover, Earth Store, in the future, good men or women, upon encountering Great Vehicle sutras or upon hearing but a single gatha or sentence of them, may be inspired to praise, venerate, give gifts, and make offerings to them. Those people will obtain great limitless and unbounded rewards. If they can dedicate that merit to the Dharma Realm, their blessings will be beyond compare.
“Moreover, Earth Store, in the future, good men or women, upon encountering new Buddhist stupas, monasteries, or sutras of the Great Vehicle, may give gifts and make offerings to them, gaze at them in worship, and respectfully make praises with joined palms. Upon encountering old stupas, monasteries, or sutras, or those that have been destroyed or damaged, they may either do the repairing and rebuilding themselves or encourage others to help them. Those who help will become leaders of small nations for thirty successive lives. The donors themselves will always be Wheel-Turning Kings who will use the good Dharma to teach and transform those leaders of small nations.
“Moreover, earth store, in the future, good men or women may plant good roots in the buddhadharma by giving, making offerings, repairing stupas or monasteries, rebinding sutras, or doing other good deeds amounting to no more than a strand of hair, a mote of dust, a grain of sand, or a drop of water. Merely by transferring the merit from such deeds to the dharma realm, the merit and virtue that those people will create will cause them to enjoy superior and wonderful bliss for hundreds of thousands of lives. But if they dedicate the merit only to their immediate or extended families or to their own personal benefit, then the rewards received will be only three lives of happiness. By giving up one, a ten-thousandfold reward is obtained. So it is, earth store. The circumstances involved in the causes and conditions of giving are thus.”