Five Ways Of Performing Dāna By Venerable Shwe Oo Min Sayardaw
In our Buddhists’ way of life, we are familiar with Kusala. We all know that Kusala brings forth harmlessness and blamelessness. We achieve mental and physical happiness through Kusala. We know that Kusala brings forth the happiness of wealth and prosperity, the fulfillment of one’s wants and needs. The noble ones, the virtuous ones praised those who had not forgotten Kusala Dhamma. The noble ones explained that Kusala Dhamma would bring forth all those benefits not only in this present life, but also in many future lives, these benefits enabling them to the practice of Dāna, Sīla, Bhāvanā, leading them further towards Magga Bliss, Phala Bliss and finally the Nibbāna Bliss. The noble ones earnestly admired the owner of these Kusalas, declaring that only these worthy people would know and only these worthy people could manage to accumulate these profitable Kusalas which would give forth all the advantages.
Today, that kind of worthy people are gathered here. The reason for this gathering is to offer Dāna, which can be done only at certain time of the year. The fruition coming out of Dāna Kusala is wealth. The offering is to be done with Sakkacca Gārava (respectfully, with due honor, reverence towards). Because you hold the great respect and courtesy towards Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha, because your act of donation is done with respect and courtesy, the results generated from those Kusalas are much more advantageous than that of some people. Some people even when in the process of donation, do so with careless flippancy, do not wish to do things themselves. Because they were not so courteous, the results achieved are not as advantageous; the others did in turn not treat them with courtesy. Sometimes, even though you are the master of the house, you have not much authority, not much influence in your household. Those who had offered Dāna with courtesy are able to exert authority and their words are obeyed respectfully in their households. Any Dāna brings forth wealth. In spite of that, sometimes the rich man may not have much influence over his family, but his wife; having donated with much courtesy holds authority in the family. Therefore we can see that due to our courteousness in our Dāna, we have one advantage of being well respected by lay people and monks alike. This is Sakkacca Dāna.
The second type of Dāna is called Saddhā Dāna. One believes that, due to his meritorious actions (Kusala), he will have (1) harmlessness, (2) bodily as well as mental well-being, (3) fulfillment of wealth and Sukha in his future lives, (4) in turn leading towards the accomplishment of Magga, Phala and Nibbāna. Because he believes, his mind is very clear and joyous. He believes in the Buddha, he believes in the Dhamma, he believes in the Sangha. Sometimes, some people believe much more than the triple gems, don’t they? They believe in all sorts of deities, psychics, and seers, thinking of accumulating more merit. Do you think they will have much more advantages because they believe and worship in so much more? Communists also asked that why their belief in their leader Stalin could not be considered in the category of Saddhā. It seems like their belief in Kuan-Yin has to be included in the types of Dāna, is it? Anyway, the true Saddhā as defined by our Buddha is to have belief in the triple gems, the existence of Kamma, and the effects of Kamma. When a person donates with true Saddhā, as he was donating with right belief and with a clear and joyous mind, in addition to his reaping the result called wealth, he will have one more advantage than the others will. When it is time for his Kusala to come into fruition, he will not only be rich; he will have very fine appearance (beauty). Because he has donated with clear belief and joyousness.
Thirdly, donating according to the timely need, such as offering robes at the beginning of Vassa, offering Kaţhina robes at the end of Vassa, offering meals at the daily suitable time, offering drinks in the afternoon, those who understand this, those who are skillful at offering whatever is required at the necessary time; their Kusala will come to fruition at their early ages. They will have plentiful of money at their early youthful age; they can enjoy their wealth early too. The good fortune comes at the age where they can do things with the full faculty of youth. They have plenty of time to expand their wealth, and so, they can donate, they can support the Sāsana well to their heart’s content. They can be successful at their Dhamma missions. This is called Kāla Dāna, doing suitable Dāna at the right time. Audience here, you all have done that too, right? At mid day in hot summer time, you all might have offered candle lights to Buddha. In wintertime, you might have offered water bath to the Buddha, too. Doing remedial Dāna, Tuesday born offering water bath early in the morning at the Tuesday corner of the Cetiya. Lucky you do that to the Buddha; if it were to human, I think the person would be trembling with cold! Do you think it will be considered as Kāla Dāna? I do not think so. When the weather is hot, offering cool air by waving a fan will be more appropriate, don’t you think? When Shwe Ceti Sayadaw went to India, when he reached the place where Buddha passed away entering Parinibbāna, he had tears in his eyes. He missed Buddha much. As though Buddha were alive and there in his presence, as he would attend to the Buddha, respectfully he offered kneading as massage therapy. He respectfully bent down and paid homage to the Buddha. So, attending to the needs at the required time is Kāla Dāna. This type of donor will reap benefits at the early age.
Some people got mansions, cars, three sets of television only when they were old and senile, only when they were near their deathbed. One television is enough, isn’t it? Even if someone came and gave ten televisions, it is of no use. Hearing is not so good, eyesight is not so clear, but you still want some fun despite of your aging, isn’t it? May be, fun wanting has still not aged yet, has it? They were told “Buddha doesn’t like it, the wasting of time with television”. They replied that the television was for the children. But, old grand fathers and old grand mothers were never far from the television. PhoneGyi (an appropriate form of self-expression used in the place of “I” or “me” in Myanmar for monks) cannot understand that. Television must have so much attraction power. If they sit in front of Buddha instead, imagine the amount of benefit they may have accumulated. It is pitiful. What those foreigners said could be true. When Taung Pulu Sayadaw went to America on overseas mission about 30 years ago, he left behind one of his disciples, a competent foreigner monk to teach Dhamma there for over a year. His American students inquired the monk whether television had reached Burma. He told them that there began some trial introductions in the capital, it had not spread to all parts of the country yet. They exclaimed that “Oh, you all will be corrupted soon!” Can we say that having television leads us to moral decline? It seems there is progress, so much cars now, they are very hard to avoid. One devotee told me, there are so much cars that they have to wait two traffic light changes to get pass a junction. That much development. But the foreigners said their country has already gone, our country has started down the path of moral corruption. Things start from there. What gets corrupted? Moral characters get corrupted. Children love that kind of education from television. Fighting, killing, they are very good with detailed simulations, detailed descriptions of fights. I heard that if one gave lift to a stranger on the road, one would get robbed and be killed, his car would be stolen. One devotee told me that people got killed for a necklace. Why not just take the necklace, leave the man alive? OK, that subject is enough for now.
Let us get back to Kāla Dāna, such benefits. Even then, the fact that I want to remind you all, is – “It is not as suitable, it is not as sufficient to do all these Dāna all day, wasting time this way”. The best way would be to go to bed at night, building Buddha in your heart. You all know how to build Buddha in your heart, right? How tall should the Cetiya be? 15 feet tall? The Cetiya taller than 15 feet is also possible. When the time for Buddha to enter Parinibbāna was drawing nearer, Ashin Ānanda was much despondent. Buddha knew (realized) that, and so he told Ashin Ānanda “Ānanda, why are you so distressed? You have been looking after me for over 20 years. It is not a small amount of Kusala. I have exhorted 84,000 numbers of Dhamma Khandha; I have established 84,000 Buddhas, the 84,000 Dhamma Vinayas (teachings of Buddha in its completeness). These 84,000 buddhas in the form of Dhamma Vinaya , will be your counsel, will be your admonisher. Do not feel sad. Do not feel despondent. Be calm and composed. Cultivate your meditation calmly and peacefully. You will come to comprehend the Dhamma that you have been longing for”. Buddha made preordainment of that event. Soon Buddha entered Parinibbāna, and later the funeral pyre of the Buddha spontaneously burst into flames. Whenever people saw Ashin Ānanda, as they were disappointed and unhappy, they surrounded Ashin Ānanda and asked, “Ashin Ānanda, where have you left the Buddha? How come we did not get to pay our respects to the Buddha? What have you done? What has happened?” People were engulfed with anguish. Ashin Ānanda had to pacify them. There was a forest Devā, who guarded the forest that he went to meditate. The Devā scold him “Your Venerable, do not be unmindful like this, you will never understand Dhamma this way.” But our Buddha had explained to Ashin Ānanda that he must not despair. All these 84,000 Dhamma Vinayas, these 84,000 Dhamma Khandhas, all these 84,000 Buddhas were there to counsel him, there to teach him. Therefore, we all must understand that Dhammas are Buddhas. Buddha, having understood Dhamma, that he had become Buddha. Since Buddha had passed away, his teachings, the Dhammas stand in his stead as Buddha. Having comprehended whatever is needed to be comprehended, he had become Buddha. So, our way of building Buddha in our heart indeed means – “to learn to understand whatever is there to understand”. Whenever Rūpa arises, we must know that Rūpa arises. By knowing whenever Citta arises, knowing every time Nāma arises, knowing every time feeling arises, we are building Buddha in our hearts – a Dhamma Cetiya.
Webhū Sayadaw always instructed us to maintain awareness at the nostril. If we can do that, the 84,000 Dhamma Khandhas, 84,000 Buddhas dwell at your nostril. All my devotees, you all are doing just that, aren’t you? Some may not be able to do that much, as they spend more time watching television. I would like to give you a record book. You must keep a record book to compare between the time spent in watching television and the time meditating, the time maintaining the application of ñāņa to your Khandha. We must keep account of that. Some keep account of purchase and sell, some do it daily, and some do it monthly. One must be good with your account records. The other day, some accountants came to pay me a visit. Have to tell them to keep account of their mindfulness too. If you drop some money in the market, you will trace back your route and search for that money. Very sad face, and return only after a long search. How valuable can it be? Couldn’t be more than 9000, or 10,000 kyats the most. If you lose a million kyats that you have won from lottery, you would have combed the whole of Yangon to search for that money. If 100 millions, of course you would search just about everywhere. But you all are not searching the tens of trillions of Dhammas that you have been losing every day! A lot more than that. You all have been losing out tens of trillions of Dhammas at each step that you walk everyday. A lot more than that, don’t you think? You have been losing thousands of trillions everyday. What will you do for these losses? There are a lot of unmindful people, looking left, looking right, walking east and walking west, north and south. Think which is more, the number of people walking unmindfully or the number of people walking mindfully with Sati? Let’s not talk of others; let’s check on ourselves. See which is more, the hours you have walked mindfully and the hours you have walked unmindfully. Unmindful hours were more. How much more? Not so much yet, unmindful hours were only since we were born! If we keep an account book of that, we will find our great losses. So, what those Americans said was just an understatement. Let’s start the habit of keeping account starting by tonight, OK? Check how much tens of trillions we accumulated each day. People from Accountant General’s Office had done that. Sayagyi U Ba Khin and his staffs started the habit of meditation during lunch break. Have to put in effort that way. His staffs became exemplary people, U Ba Khin himself became well-known and well-respected meditation teacher in Burma, as well as to the world. We must work hard to accumulate those Kusala Dhammas that will raise the quality of our human life. Not only today, we must do it everyday.
The fourth type of Dāna is called Anuggahīta Dāna. Some offer Dāna with attachment, with stinginess, with covetousness. He will have wealth and prosperity here and hereafter. But he would not use much of his wealth to enjoy, to spend. Because he donated with a Lobha (stinginess, covetousness). He has not digested (assimilated ?) his three A’s (Alobha, Adosa, Amoha) yet. When one dies with Lobha, one can become a Lobha Peta (wandering ghost) who is starving, as one cannot find food. It is easier to understand that people are starving due to unavailability of food. How can we understand a person’s starvation when that person has ample supply of food? A man with money in his pocket, standing near a restaurant, he was feeling quite hungry; then why didn’t he go in and eat? Why? Because he was stingy. He still has not understood the 3 A’s.
An individual with Alobha (ungreediness), he not only can eat well, he can feed others too. Not only can he maintain himself, but also he can maintain the others. That is a kind of individual who has done Dana freely, liberally. Tripitaka SayadawGyi (U Vicittasarabhivamsa ) explained about that in one of his dhamma talks. One hot summertime, about 30 plus Shan Palaung monks and their male devotees came on pilgrimage trip to the SayadawGyi’s MinGun forest monastery. They came from cooler climate, and so they were quite tired from the hot weather. They had not brought with them their umbrellas. SayadawGyi pitied them and managed to collect 25 umbrellas. So, he collected umbrellas from senior teaching monks from each building in his monastery. He managed to offer each and every one of the visitors an umbrella. After this dana, he felt so pleased and joyous. This kind of detachment was not with him before. If he gave away all the umbrellas and slippers, what would happen when the resident monks and samaneras were in need of it and asked for it? There seemed to be that concern which created hesitancy in his generous volition. He never gave all away, he had never forsaken all, and he always left a few behind for the residents. That day, he did not remember to reserve some, he just gave all away, and he felt so delighted to see the visitors all cool and happy under the umbrellas. That is the Dāna being given liberally.
Those who had donated with a bit of attachment, the result was that – although they have money, they like to use second hand things, a little inferior quality products, a little rougher materials, they ended up with used things. They themselves like those kinds. They do not long for the best things. Of course, intentional frugality as in practising Dhamma is different. Ashin Maha Kassapa made his double-fold over garment robe (Dukutta) from the rough patches of cloths laden with maggots, which he peeled from the discarded corpse of a servant girl in the graveyard. The estimable robe looked soft and delicate on him. When he came to see Buddha, Buddha praised that he had such soft robe of patched cloth. So, he asked Buddha to accept the offering of his robe. Buddha replied that, “ If you’d accept the offering of my robe, then I would accept yours.” Buddha took off his Dukutta robe and gave to Ashin Maha Kassapa. Of course there was a reason for that. Ashin Maha Kassapa led the First Great Sangha Council, which was held shortly after the Buddha’s Parinibbāna. That is Theravāda Buddha Sāsana (Elders). Successions of Elder monks, old and young alike had handed down the Buddha’s teachings so that it would be in continuation, and still is prosperous to this present day. That’s why today we all can listen to, revere to, and practise this Sāsana. That’s why we all still can offer Dāna, the words of Sāsana can still be heard, all these are the gains derived from the Sāsana. Theravāda means – the tradition of following the Elders’ doctrine, which gives us the opportunity to practise the Buddha’s exact exhortations, without derivation. That’s why we still can give all these Dānas. Because we all donate without stinginess, without grudge, without attachment; – when Kusalas take effect, we are able to spend, enjoy, share and donate liberally, freely. This is the fourth way for a virtuous man to give charity, isn’t it?
The fifth type is to offer Dāna without making defamatory remarks on others. Some people will say, “Oh, that family next door, they go out so much. But never saw them doing Dāna. We, not because we have plenty of money, but we always donate. We cannot exist without Dāna.” Saying things malicious about others. If you can do it, if you can afford to donate, by all means donate. When you cannot afford to donate, of course do not donate. But you should not say slanderous comments on other’s lack of Dāna (charitable) act. By saying slanderous words about others, one will live without being free from the five perils. Because one has done Dāna, one will be wealthy. But, like that saying, “Every time a deer was born, time after time, a tiger came and ate it!” one’s properties are destroyed by fire, water, king or ruler, a thief, or by one’s bad heirs. Those are the incessant troubles that one cannot recover from. By donating without malicious speeches about others, you can be sure that your wealth will be protected from the five perils. We all need that kind of protection at this day and age. One will not get killed for a necklace. If you do not willingly give it away, not even half a chunk of charcoal from your property can be taken away from you. Not even a single rose; not even a branch of banana leaves. You will have such security. Nowadays, not very secure. Money out of your pocket can be stolen. Therefore, do not donate with derogatory remarks about others who are not doing Dāna. So,
” With no slander,
If we practice generosity,
The five perils will be expelled.”
These are the five ways of performing Dāna by the noble ones (Sappurisa-Dāna). Due to the presence of Sakkacca Gārava in your act of Dāna, you will not only be prosperous, but also be influential. Having donated with the true Saddhā, you will not only be wealthy, you will also be endowed with beauty. Timely Dāna will bring about the early enjoyment of the benefits. He will have ample time to support the Sāsana. Fourthly, having donated without stinginess, one can spend freely for one self, as well as can give away to others freely too. Perform Dāna without making disparaging remarks of others. You should perform acts of charity – any small amount that you can afford, with eagerness and enthusiasm. And it will bring forth the benefits of your lives free from five kinds of perils.
We can find these benefits in the story of the rich man Jotika and the King Ājatasattu. Ājatasattu had that streak since born. When his father took the young prince Ājatasattu to visit the house of Jotika, Ājatasattu was not pleased, as he found the wealth of Jotika much more so than theirs, the sovereigns. Jotika had all Kusalas that were mentioned above. Thinking his father was weak, Ājatasattu decided that when his father passed away, when he became the king, he would take over all these wealth from Jotika. When he became the king, and when his plan to take away Jotika’s properties failed; in humiliation he took a detour towards Jetavana monastery where Buddha resided. He was surprised to find Jotika there. He asked Jotika how he escaped. Jotika replied that he did not understand what he was talking about. Ājatasattu told him that he had marched his army by underground tunnels to seize Jotika’s compound. Jotika’s defending army was very powerful and strategically positioned. Therefore his army could not succeed and had to go into hasty retreat. His soldiers went disarrayed, and he was the only one left. Jotika said he had no army. Ājatasattu said there were so many soldiers. In reality, Ājatasattu and his soldiers saw their own reflections in multiple numbers from the walls of the mansion that Jotika lived. Jotika said if he did not willingly give away, not even a piece of pottery nor a string of his cotton yarn could be taken away from him. He then challenged Ājatasattu; he dared the king to take off the ruby ring that he was wearing on his finger. Frightening, isn’t it? For a king still having Lobha for a single ring. He pulled and pulled to relieve the ring from Jotika’s finger – to no avail. Jotika had such security from the five perils. Audience here should have the same kind of Kusalas, the same kind of security, shouldn’t you?
We are lucky to be in this day and age, where we can accumulate all these Kusalas. Today, you have all Kusalas in conjunction with the Vassa robes donation to the Sangha. (1) You have Kusala for having offered Dāna. (2) You have Kusala for having paid homage to the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha. (3) You have Kusala having taken refuge in the triple gems. (4) You have Kusala for having managed to take and then maintain the five precepts (Sīla Kusala). (5) You have obtained Kusala for having done the food donation at the frequency of every fortnight. These are Thāvara Kusalas (firm, strong, immovable). You have acquired this noble habit. (6) You have offered Vassa robes to the Sangha at Vassa period every year. These are the timely Dānas.
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