THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS

Chapter X

The Conditions and Comparative Merit and Virtue of Giving

Commentary:

Comparative is derived from comparisons and measurements. There are three forms of giving: giving of wealth, giving of Dharma, giving of fearlessness.

What is giving of wealth? The gift of wealth is divided into two types, inner and outer wealth. Inner wealth is your body, mind, and life. Your outer wealth is all the gold, silver, treasures, jewels, and everything external to the body. On a larger scale, giving of the outer wealth can be giving all the wealth of your country to another person, or the king gives the power and authority to another person to let him be the king. Just like Shakyamuni Buddha, he yielded the position of a king to others, giving all the wealth of his kingdom to others. This kind of giving even includes giving away one’s wife. The first thing that humans can’t let go of is wealth, if one can give away wealth, than this is the breaking through of stinginess and greediness. The second hardest is beauty, giving away beauty is difficult also. But if you can do what is difficult, that is because you are sincere. So, all the real cultivators who are seeking Dharma surrender even their spouses for the sake of Dharma. Any reason other than seeking Dharma, of course, is not justified; undoubtedly one cannot give up his wife and find a prettier one. This is the same as giving away nothing. It is not giving when you are tired of the old one and want to exchange him or her for a new one. The only words to describe this behavior are “insatiably greed”. It is desire and discontentment. One time during a lecture, we were on the subject of giving away one’s wife, there was a wife who wanted to give away her husband. But she couldn’t find anyone willing to accept him. So she could not give her husband away. Besides giving away external items, one can also give away one’s internal things. The gift of inner wealth consists of the giving of head, eyes, brain, and marrow. It also includes the giving away of skin, blood, muscles, and bones.

The giving of Dharma is learning the Buddhadharma. But it is not like “clutching your treasures while the country lies in waste.” An example of what that quote means is when you are holding a treasure that can save people, say, that treasure is the wish-fulfilling pearl . Having the wish-fulfilling pearl , one can have all kinds of gold, silver, treasure, and jewelry, all kinds of food, anything. Once you have this wish-fulfilling pearl , all the problems like poverty, and disasters can be resolved. But you don’t use this wish-fulfilling pearl to help your country and watch all the people of the country starving, suffering, and dying. Watching all of these suffering in front of your own eyes and not caring or even saving this matter is “clutching your treasures while the country lies in waste”. Another example is when you know how to speak Dharma, but refuse to because once other people understand the Dharma, they will reach your level of understanding. By refusing to speak Dharma, you remain at a higher level than others. These kinds of thoughts are about “clutching your treasures while the country lies in waste.” So, one should always speak Dharma to other people, telling everybody who hear the Dharma to cultivate, and become awakened.

The gift of fearlessness is when a person has a kind of disaster and feels fearful; you comfort the person with soothing words making them not afraid.

Chapter ten of this sutra is talking about the cause and effect of the merit and virtue of giving.

Sutra:

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.”

Commentary:

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 … The passage before “World Honored One” is a preface added while the sutras were compiled. This is like a descriptive article on how this text came to be. The parts after the “World Honored One” to follow are Earth Store Bodhisattva’s words.

“World Honored One, I have observed beings within the paths of karma …the six paths are: heavenly beings, human beings, asuras, hell beings, hungry ghosts, and animals. How do they create karma? At first there is ignorance, confusion that creates karma and retribution to undergo. The beings in the six paths are all muddled and cannot find their way out…and compared their acts of giving. Some do a little and some do a lot. According to my comparisons, the merit from living beings’ giving range from slight to tremendous. 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, be compassionate and explain that for us.”

Sutra:

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 disabled 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.

Commentary:

At that time the Buddha Shakyamuni told Earth Store Bodhisattva, “Here in this assembly …all the Bodhisattvas, Hearers, Arhats, and all the heavenly beings, dragons, ghosts, and spirits… 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.” …We have to understand that it’s not that Earth Store Bodhisattva questions this subject. He understands the range of merit from giving very clearly, but he is requesting Dharma for living beings so all will understand the merit of giving. These are the causes and conditions for him saying that he has wondered about this matter. Don’t read the sutra and say Earth Store Bodhisattva does not know about this matter or questions it. No, Earth Store Bodhisattva understands the matter, but he said that he wondered about the subject…isn’t that lying? But this kind of lying does not benefit him, nor does it harm anybody else. In fact, it actually benefits other people. Because he knew that living beings don’t know this principle, so he set up this hypothetical question for the Buddha. So he acts as the dharma requestor. For instance, sometimes a person asks some question not because they themselves don’t understand, but rather, to help more people understand this matter.

 

The Buddha told Earth Store Bodhisattva, “In Jambudvipa, leaders of nations, prime ministers, high officials, great elders ... the ones who are most affluent and virtuous. A great elder has ten kinds of moral conduct: 1.) nobility 2.) high positions 3.) very wealthy 4.) almighty 5.) very wise 6.) older in age 7.) unadulterated conduct 8.) courteous 9.) praised by superiors 10.) supported by subordinates... great Kshatriyas are India’s royalty, nobility… great Brahmans, …descendants of those who practice purity; also nobility. There are four types of social classes in India: Kshatriyas, Brahmans, Vaishyas, and Chandalas. Vedas are businessmen, and Chandalas are butchers… and others may encounter those who are poor. The richest elders, great kshatriyas and great Brahmans encounter those of the lowest class, such as beggars, employees of ignoble occupations, the poorest people and the poor and sick. . . hunchbacked, crippled, dumb, mute or speech impaired, deaf, retarded, blind, or disabled in other ways , such as missing arms, legs, eyes or any other body part. 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? What is the reason? How come a leader who smiles as he gives to the poor will accrue as much merit as giving to Buddhas the number of grains of sand in a hundred Ganges rivers? What is the principle behind this? Though the party who receives the charity is not a Buddha, a leader who can humble himself and smile and give joyously and reverently, as if he were making offerings to all Buddhas, then such merit is equivalent to the merit of making offerings to Buddhas the number of grains of sand in a hundred Ganges rivers. 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.

Sutra:

“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 t en 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.

Commentary:

“Moreover, let me tell you some causes and conditions of giving. Earth Store, you ought to know that in the future, the leaders of nations, Brahmans, and others may encounter Buddhist stupas, monasteries, or images of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Hearers, or Pratyeka-buddhas , Sanskrit for Those Enlightened by Conditions when there are Buddhas in the world and Solitarily Enlightened Ones when there are no Buddhas in the world. And they 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 t en eons, enjoying supremely wonderful bliss. If they are able to transfer the blessings and benefits of that giving, rejecting these for themselves and 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, let me make it a bit more clear, Earth Store Bodhisattva, 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, volunteer to repair or reconstruct Buddha images and temples. Those leaders and good people may then do so themselves or encourage others. When he cannot make it happen himself, he will gather the strength of as many as hundreds of thousands of people so that everyone repairs the temple together. . . To help and thereby establish affinities … You donate a little and he donates a little. Everyone develops affinities with the Dharma.

Those leaders and good people will become Wheel-Turning Kings …if the Wheel-Turning Kings took a step further to cultivate, he will achieve Buddhahood…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 toward others, the Dharma Realm and living beings before the stupas or monasteries, then, based on that limitless and unbounded future reward, those leaders, good people, and their helpers will all eventually complete the path to Buddhahood.

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