Giving is Like Rescuing Valuables from a Fire

From Nagarjuna's Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom
(Dharmamitra Translation)

Then again, it (dana) can be compared to [appropriate actions] when a house has caught fire. An intelligent person would clearly recognize the gravity of the situation and would hastily extricate his valuables before the fire reached them. Then, although the house might be burned to the ground, still, his valuables would be preserved so that he might rebuild his residence. A person who enjoys giving is just like this. Because he is aware of the fragility of the body and of the impermanence of material wealth he takes advantage of the opportunity to cultivate blessings. This is like removing one's possessions from the path of a fire. In a later life one is still able to experience bliss. This is like that person's work of rebuilding his house. One experiences comfort as a result of those blessings.

The stupid and deluded person is concerned only with cherishing his house and so rushes about trying to save it. He proceeds madly and foolishly and, losing touch with common sense, fails to recognize the intensity of the blaze. In the fierce wind and towering flames even the earth and rocks are scorched. In a brief interval everything is utterly destroyed. Not only is the house not saved, but the wealth and valuables are all lost as well. To the end of his life he is tormented by hunger, cold, anguish and suffering.

Miserly people are just like this. They do not realize that one's physical existence is impermanent, that one cannot guarantee even another moment of life. Nonetheless they dedicate themselves to amassing an accumulation [of possessions] which they protect and treasure. Death arrives unexpectedly and they suddenly pass away. One's physical form is of the same class with earth and wood. One's wealth, the same as withered goods, is entirely cast aside. They are also like a foolish man who experiences anguish and suffering as a result of errors in judgment.

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