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Outer and inner benefits of giving gifts

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  • Antony Woods
    Once when the Blessed One and his monks were guests of Visakha she requested him to grant her eight boons (Vin 1:290-94). He replied that the Perfect One had
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 18, 2005
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      "Once when the Blessed One and his monks were guests of Visakha she
      requested him to grant her eight boons (Vin 1:290-94). He replied
      that the Perfect One had gone beyond the fulfilling of boons. She
      said that she did not wish for something blameworthy but for
      allowable things. The Blessed One let her mention her wishes. She
      requested to give gifts to the Order in eight ways:
      (1) robes for the rains,
      (2) food for arriving monks,
      (3) food for monks setting out on a journey,
      (4) medicine for sick monks,
      (5) food for sick monks,
      (6) food for monks tending the sick,
      (7) regular distribution of rice gruel
      (8) bathing robes for nuns to bathe in the river.

      The Blessed One then asked her for which special reasons she made
      these requests. She explained in detail:

      (1) some monks had been forced to walk half-naked in the streaming
      rain to preserve their robes and thus were mistaken for naked
      ascetics; therefore she wanted to give rains' robes;

      (2) newly arrived monks in Savatthi, who did not know the town yet,
      had difficulty obtaining food, and had to walk for alms despite their
      weariness from their journey; therefore all arriving monks should be
      sent to her to receive food;

      (3) in the same way she would like to give a good meal to monks
      setting out on a journey;

      (4) and (5) sick monks have to suffer much, and may even die, if they
      lack suitable food and medicine; therefore she would like to cook
      food for the sick;

      (6) a monk tending the sick had to go on alms round for himself as
      well as for the sick monk; he could easily be late, and both would
      not be able to eat after noon because the meal time had already
      passed; therefore she wanted to provide food for monks tending the
      sick;

      (7) she had also heard how many benefits were connected with rice
      gruel in the early morning, so she would like to provide gruel to the
      Order; and

      (8) it was unsuitable for nuns to bathe without clothes, as had
      happened recently; therefore she would like to provide them with a
      suitable covering.

      After Visakha had thus explained in detail the external benefits of
      her wishes, the Blessed One asked her what inner benefits she
      expected. Her answer shows how subtly and profoundly she had grasped
      the distinction between outward acts of virtue and inner mental
      training. She replied:

      "As to that, Lord, bhikkhus who have spent the rains in different
      regions will come to Savatthi to see the Blessed One. They will
      approach the Blessed One and question him thus: "Lord, the bhikkhu
      named so-and-so has died. What is his destination? What is his
      rebirth?" The Blessed One will tell how such a one had reached the
      fruit of stream-entry, or of once-returning, or of nonreturning, or
      of arahantship. I shall approach the bhikkhus and ask: "Lords, did
      that bhikkhu ever come to Savatthi?" If they answer that he did, I
      shall conclude that surely a rains cloth will have been used by that
      bhikkhu or visitors' food or food for one going on a journey or food
      for the sick or food for a sick-nurse or medicine for the sick or the
      morning rice-gruel. When I remember it, I shall be glad. When I am
      glad, I shall be happy. When my mind is happy, my body will be
      tranquil. When my body is tranquil, I shall feel pleasure. When I
      feel pleasure, my mind will become concentrated. That will bring the
      development of the spiritual powers(5) and the enlightenment factors.
      This, Lord, is the benefit I foresee for myself in asking the eight
      boons of the Perfect One."

      "Good, good, Visakha!" the Enlightened One replied. "It is good that
      you have asked the Perfect One for the eight boons foreseeing these
      benefits. I grant you the eight boons."

      Notes:
      (5) The five spiritual faculties (pancindriya) and the five powers
      (pancabala) are faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration and wisdom.
      The seven enlightenment factors (satta bojjhanga) are mindfulness,
      investigation of phenomena, energy, rapture, tranquillity,
      concentration, and equanimity.

      (pp254-255 "Great Disciples of the Buddha: Their Lives, Their Works,
      Their Legacy" By Nyanaponika Thera and Hellmuth Hecker, Wisdom
      Publications, http://www.wisdompubs.org (Theravada Buddhism section))

      Posted with the kind permission of Wisdom Publications.
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