Contemplations to Inspire the Practice of Giving

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

Then again, if one is a person of great wisdom or a gentleman of fine mind, one will be able to awaken and realize that the body is like an illusion, that wealth can never be secure, that the myriad things are all impermanent, and that one can rely only upon one's merit. It has the capacity to pull a person forth from the river of suffering and open up the great Way.

Additionally, the great man of great mind is able to give greatly. He is able thereby to benefit himself. The petty man of petty mind is not only unable to benefit others but is also unable even to bestow liberal generosity upon himself.

Then again, just as when a brave soldier spies an enemy he boldly and immediately vanquishes him utterly, so too, when an intelligent man of wise mind gains a deep realization of this principle, even though the thieves of miserliness may be powerful, he is nonetheless able to fell them and resolutely fulfill his determination. When he meets up with a good field of blessings, encounters the right time ("Time" here refers to the time when one ought to give. If one encounters it and yet does not give, this is referred to as "missing the time."), and realizes that the situation corresponds to his intentions, he is able to give greatly.

Again, a person who takes pleasure in giving is respected by others. This is just as when the moon first emerges. There are none who do not cherish it. His fine name and good reputation are heard throughout the world. He is one who is relied upon and looked up to by others. Everyone trusts him. A person who delights in giving is borne in mind by those who are noble and respected by those of humble station. As his life draws to an end his mind is without any fearfulness.

Such fruits gained in reward are obtained in this very life. An analogy can be made with fruit trees where, when the production of blossoms is great, countless fruits are produced. This describes the blessings received in future lives.

As one turns about in the wheel of birth and death, going and coming in the five destinies, there are no relatives upon whom one can rely. There is only giving. Whether one is born in the heavens or among men, whenever one gains a pure result, it comes forth as a result of giving. Even among elephants, horses and other animals, their being given fine shelter and nourishment is also something they gain as a result of giving.

The qualities gained on account of giving are wealth, nobility and bliss. Those who uphold the moral precepts succeed in being reborn in the heavens. Through dhyana and wisdom one's mind becomes pure and devoid of defiled attachment. Thus one gains the way of nirvana. The blessings gained as a result of giving constitute the provisions on that road to nirvana.

When one brings giving to mind he experiences delight. On account of delight one develops unity of mind. With unity of mind one contemplates birth and death and impermanence. Because one contemplates birth, death and impermanence one is able to realize the Way.

This is comparable to when a person plants trees because he seeks to have shade or perhaps plants trees because he seeks blossoms or seeks fruit. The aspiration for a reward in the practice of giving is just like this. The bliss acquired in this and future lives is comparable to the shade which is sought. The way of the hearers and pratyekabuddhas is analogous to the blossoms. The realization of buddhahood is analogous to the fruit. These are the various sorts of meritorious qualities associated with dana.