How Giving Gives Rise to All of the Six Perfections

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

Then again, if the bodhisattva practices dana paramita, he is able thereby to give rise to [all of] the six paramitas. It is at this time that it is referred to as complete fulfillment of dana paramita.

How can giving bring forth dana paramita? Dana may be of lesser, middling or superior quality. From the lesser is born the middling. From the middling is born the superior. If one employs drink, food or coarse things and employs therein a lax mind in giving, this is what is known as lesser giving. If one practices giving and it transforms and increases such that one is able to take clothing or precious goods and use them in one's giving, this constitutes bringing forth the middling from the lesser. When the mind of giving transforms and increases such that there is nothing whatsoever which one cherishes as too dear, so that one is then able to employ one's head, eyes, blood, flesh, country , wealth, wives and sons, exhaustively using them in one's giving, this constitutes bringing forth the superior from the middling.

Take for example when Shakyamuni Buddha first brought forth the aspiration [to achieve buddhahood]. He was the king of a great country who was named "Brilliance." In seeking after the buddha way, he performed a lesser or greater amount of giving. When he transformed and took on his next body he became a potter who was able to make gifts of bathing implements and rock honey condiments to a different Shakyamuni Buddha and his bhikshu sangha. Subsequently, he changed bodies and next became the daughter of a great elder who made offerings of lamps to Kaundinya Buddha. All sorts of instances such as these constitute what is meant by the bodhisattva's practice of lesser giving.

[Next], take for instance when Shakyamuni Buddha in a former life as the son of an elder made offerings of robes to Great Voice Buddha. After that buddha crossed into extinction, he erected ninety stupas. Afterwards he changed bodies again and became the king of a great country who made an offering to Lion Buddha of a canopy composed of the seven precious things. Afterwards, he then took on a body wherein he became a greater elder who made an offering to Marvelous Eyes Buddha of supremely fine buildings and marvelous flowers created from the seven precious things. All sorts of instances such as these constitute what is known as the bodhisattva's practice of middling giving.

Take for example when Shakyamuni Buddha in a former life was a rishi. On seeing Kaundinya Buddha who was handsome, upright, and exceptionally marvelous, he threw himself down off of a mountain in front of that buddha. His body remained unharmed and he then stood off to one side. Again, take for example He Who Beings Delight in Seeing Bodhisattva who used his own body as a lamp in making offerings to Sun and Moonlight Virtue Buddha. All sorts of examples such as these of not cherishing one's own body and life in making offerings to the buddhas constitute the bodhisattva's practice of superior giving.

This is what is meant by the bodhisattva's three kinds of giving. If there is a being who has just brought forth the aspiration to achieve buddhahood who takes up the practice of giving, he too may be just like this. First he may use drink and food in his giving. When the mind of giving transforms so that it increases, he will be able to take even the flesh of his own body and give it. First he may use all manner of fine condiments in his giving. Later, when the mind transforms and increases in its strength, he may be able to give even the blood from his own body. At first he may employ paper, ink and scriptures in his giving while also making offerings to the masters of Dharma of robes, drink, food and the four kinds of offerings. And then finally, when he has gained the Dharma body, for the sake of an incalculable number of beings, he may speak many varieties of Dharma and so carry forth the giving of Dharma. All sorts of cases such as these illustrate the development of dana paramita from within [the practice of] dana paramita.

How is it that the bodhisattva's practice of giving can generate sila paramita? The bodhisattva reflects, "Beings become poor and destitute in later lives on account of not practicing giving. On account of becoming poor and destitute, the thought of stealing arises in them. On account of engaging in stealing, the harm of killing then arises. On account of being poor and destitute, one may be sexually unsatisfied. On account of being sexually unsatisfied, one may engage in sexual misconduct. Additionally, on account of being poor and destitute one may be treated as of low social station by others. On account of the fearfulness associated with being of low social station one may engage in false speech. On account of causes and conditions such as these which are associated with being poor and destitute one courses along the path of the ten unwholesome deeds. If one practices giving, then when one is born one possesses valuable goods. Because one has valuable goods one does not engage in that which is not Dharma. Why is this the case? It is because the five objects of the senses are abundant and there is nothing which one lacks."

[This principal] is illustrated by the case of Devadatta in a previous life when he was a snake who dwelt together with a frog and a turtle in a pond. They had all become close friends. Later, the water of the pond dried up. They were hungry, poor, in desperate straits and lacking in any other resources. At that time the snake dispatched the turtle to call forth the frog. The frog then sent back the turtle by uttering a verse:

If one encounters poverty and destitution one loses one's original mind.
One doesn't consider one's original principals for eating has become foremost.
You take what I tell you and so inform the snake
That this frog will never come and arrive at your side.
If, however, one cultivates giving, in later lives one will possess merit and have nothing which one lacks. If this is the case then one will be able to uphold the precepts and will be free of these manifold ills. This is how giving is able to bring forth sila paramita. Additionally, when one gives one is able to bring about a scarcity of all of the fetters associated with the breaking of precepts while also being able to inhance the mind devoted to upholding the precepts, thereby causing it to become solid. This constitutes the causal bases associated with giving bringing about an increase in the cultivation of the precepts.

Moreover, when the bodhisattva practices giving he constantly brings forth thoughts of loving-kindness and compassion for the recipient. He is not attached to valuables and does not cherish his own goods. How much the less would he engage in stealing. When one feels loving-kindness and compassion for the recipient, how could one maintain ideas intent on killing? In ways such as these he is able to block off the breaking of precepts. This constitutes giving bringing forth precepts. If one is able to carry out giving employing a mind which destroys miserliness, then afterwards he will easily succeed in practicing the upholdance of precepts, patience, and so forth.

This [principal] is illustrated by the case of Manjushri when, long ago in the past in a far distant kalpa he was a bhikshu who went into the city to seek alms. He received a bowl full of "hundred-flavored delightful dumplings." In the city there was a small child who followed along after him, begging. He did not immediately give anything to him. When they reached a mural depicting the Buddha he picked up two of the dumplings with his hand and required [of the child], "If you are able to eat only one of the dumplings yourself while taking one of the dumplings and giving it to the Sangha, I will give them to you." [The child] immediately responded with assent and then took one of the delightful dumplings and presented it to the assembled Sangha [in the mural]. Afterwards he obtained Manjushri's consent to receive the precepts and brought forth the aspiration to become a buddha. In this fashion the practice of giving is able to cause one to take on the precepts and bring forth the aspiration to become a buddha. This constitutes the practice of giving bringing forth sila paramita.

Furthermore, it is as a reward for giving that one receives offerings of the four things, lives in a fine country, finds a good [spiritual] master and nothing in which he is lacking. One is therefore able to uphold the precepts. Additionally, it is as a reward for giving that one's mind is regulated and supple. Because one's mind is regulated and supple one is able from birth to uphold the precepts. Because one is able to uphold the precepts from birth one is able to control one's own mind even from within the midst of unwholesome dharmas. All sorts of causes and conditions such as these constitute the bringing forth of the sila paramita on the basis of the practice of giving.

How is it that giving is able to bring forth ksanti paramita? When the bodhisattva performs an act of giving and the recipient subjects him to verbal abuse or has much which he seeks to obtain or seeks to get it at an inopportune time, or perhaps seeks to obtain what he should not seek, the bodhisattva thinks to himself at this time, "Now, as I am giving, I am desirous of seeking the buddha way. It is not the case that anyone ordered me to do this giving. As I am doing it at my own behest, why should I become angry?" After he has thought to himself in this manner he cultivates patience. This is a case of giving producing ksanti paramita.

Then again, when the bodhisattva gives, if the recipient is hateful and abusive, he then thinks to himself, "As I now cultivate giving both subject-related and object-related things, I am able to relinquish even that which is difficult to relinquish, how much the less should I be unable to have patience with what is merely an empty sound? If I am not patient with it, then that which I am able to give will be impure. It would be just as when a white elephant enters into a pool, bathes, and then having gotten out, returns again and covers himself with dust. To give and yet be impatient would be just like this." Having thought like this he carries on with the practice of patience. All sorts of such causes and conditions associated with giving bring forth ksanti paramita.

How is it that giving brings forth virya paramita? When the bodhisattva engages in the practice of giving he constantly cultivates vigor. Why is this? When the bodhisattva first brings forth the thought [directed towards buddhahood], his merit is not yet vast. At that time he is desirous of cultivating the two kinds of giving in order to fulfill the aspirations of all beings. Because of a shortage of things [to give] he earnestly seeks for valuables and Dharma in order to be able to adequately supply them.

This is illustrated by the case of Shakyamuni Buddha in a previous lifetime when he was a great physician king who worked to cure every manner of disease without any concern for fame or profit. It was done out of pity for all beings. The sick were extremely many. His powers were inadequate to rescue everyone. He was concerned about and mindful of everyone and yet matters did not correspond [in their outcome] to his mind's aspirations. He became so distressed and agitated that he died.

He was then reborn in the Traayastri.m'sa Heaven. He thought to himself, "Now I've been reborn in the heavens. All I'm doing is consuming my reward of blessings without any sort of long term benefit arising thereby. " He then used a skillful means to put an end to that personal existence. Having relinquished this long life in the heavens he was reborn as a dragon prince in the palace of Saagara, the dragon king. His body grew to full maturity. His parents were extremely attached in their love for him. He desired to die and so went to the king of the golden-winged [garu.da] birds. The bird then immediately seized this young dragon and devoured him in the top of a 'saalmalii tree. The father and mother wailed and cried in grief-stricken distress.

Having died, the young dragon was then reborn in Jambudvipa as a prince in the house of the king of a great country. He was named "Able to Give." From the moment he was born he was able to speak. He asked all of the retainers, "Now, what all does this country contain. Bring it all forth so that it can be used to make gifts. Everyone became amazed and fearful. They all withdrew from him and ran off. His mother felt kindness and love for him and so looked after him by herself. He said to his mother, "I am not a raa.k.sasa [ghost]. Why has everyone run off? In my prevous lives I have always taken pleasure in giving. I have been a donor to everyone."

When his mother heard his words she reported them to everyone else. The other people all returned. The mother took pleasure in raising him. By the time he had grown older he had given away everything he owned. He then went to his father, the king, and requested things to give. His father gave him his share. Again, he gave it all away. He observed that the people of Jambudvipa were all poverty-stricken and ever subject to bitter suffering. He thought to supply them with gifts but the valuables were inadequate. He then began to weep and inquired of everyone, "By what means may I cause everyone to become entirely replete with valuables?"

The wise elders said, "We have heard of the existence of a precious wish-fulfilling pearl. If you were able to obtain this pearl then no matter what your heart desired there would be noting which would not be obtained with certainty."

When the Bodhisattva had heard this words he spoke to his mother and father, saying, "I desire to go out upon the great sea and seek for the precious wish-fulfilling pearl worn on the head of the dragon king."

His father and mother replied, "We have only you, our one son. If you go out upon the great sea the many difficulties will be difficult to overcome. If there should come a morning when we have lost you, what use would we have for living? It's not necessary for you to go. We still have things in our treasury which we can supply you with."

The son said, "There is a limit to the contents of the treasury. My intentions are measureless. I wish to bestow enough wealth to satisfy everyone so that they will never be found wanting. I pray that you will give your permission so that I may succeed in according with my original aspiration to cause everyone in Jambudvipa to be completely provided for."

His parents knew that his determination was immense. They did not dare to restrain him and so subsequently relented and allowed him to go. At that time there were five hundred merchants who, because his meritorious qualities were vast, took pleasure in following him wherever he went. They knew the day when he was due to depart and so gathered at the port. The Bodhisattva had previously heard that Saagara, the dragon king, had a precious wish-fulfilling pearl. He inquired of everyone, "Who knows the route across the sea to his dragon palace?" There was a blind man named Daasa who had been to sea seven times and who knew all of the sea routes. The Bodhisattva ordered him to travel with him.

He replied, "As I have grown old both of my eyes have lost their acuity. Although I have been to sea many times, I cannot go this time."

The Bodhisattva said, "In going forth this time I do not do it for my own sake. I seek the precious wish-fulfilling pearl for the universal benefit of everyone. I desire to completely supply all beings so that they are caused to never again be found wanting. Then I wish to instruct them in the causes and conditions of the dharma of the Way. You are a wise man. How can you withdraw? How, in the absence of your powers, could my vow possibly succeed?"

When Daasa had heard his entreaty he happily and with identical aspiration said to the Bodhisattva, "I'll now go out with you onto the great sea. I most certainly will not survive. You should lay my body to rest on the island of gold sands in the midst of the ocean."

When the provisions for the journey had all been loaded they loosened the last of the seven lines. The ship took off like a camel and arrived at the island of numerous gems. The host of merchants all tried to outdo each other in gathering up the seven precious jewels. When they had all satisfied themselves they asked the Bodhisattva, "Why do you not gather them?"

The Bodhisattva replied, "It is the precious wish-fulfilling pearl which I seek. I have no use for these things of finite value. You all should know when enough is enough and should know too what is an appropriate amount so that the ship will not become overloaded and so that you won't fail to avoid disaster."

At this time the group of merchants said to the Bodhisattva, "Venerable, invoke a spell for us to insure our safety." They then withdrew.

At this point Daasa instructed the Bodhisattva, "Hold aside the dinghy. We will want to go off on this other route. When we have been driven by the wind for seven days we will arrive at a treacherous place on the southern shore of the vast sea. There should be a steep cliff with branches from a date tree forest overhanging the water. If a strong wind blows the ship will be overturned and capsized. By reaching up and grabbing hold of the date branches you may be able to save yourself. As I have no sight I will likely die at that point. Beyond this precipitous shoreline there will be the isle of gold sand. You can take my body and lay it to rest in the midst of those sands. Those gold sands are pure. This is my desire.

And so it was just as he had foretold. The wind came and they set off. Having come to the steep cliffs, it was just as Daasa had described. The bodhisattva reached up, grabbed onto the date branches and so avoided disaster. He interred Daasa's body in the ground of gold. From this point he went on alone according to his earlier instructions. He floated in deep water for seven days. He then walked for seven days in water the depth of his throat. Then he moved for seven days through water up to his waist. After that he walked for seven days through water up to his knees. Then he walked through mud for seven days. Then he came upon marvelous lotus flowers which were fresh and pure and soft. He thought to himself, "These blossoms are soft and fragile. I should enter into the empty space samadhi." And so he made his body light and walked upon the lotus blossoms for another seven days. Then he came upon poisonous snakes and thought to himself, "These poisonous serpents are extremely fearsome." He then entered the samadhi of loving kindness. He then walked upon the heads of the poisonous snakes for seven days. The snakes all extended their heads up to receive the bodhisattva and so allowed him to tread upon them as he passed. After he had passed through this difficulty he saw that there was a jeweled city with seven barriers. There were seven successive moats. Each of the moats was filled with poisonous snakes and had three huge dragons guarding the gate.