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I would really like to ask here: how accurate is AN 9.20 – Velāma Sutta?

  • Is stuff exaggerated in places ?

  • If you give all the stuff Velama gave, wouldn't you get at least a little more than a "whiff of a heart of good will" while doing so - more moments of good will than just one ?

I'm not sure I remember all I want to ask about this sutta so if you have anything to add that is welcomed.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – user2424 Oct 2 '17 at 16:21
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  1. If you give blood to 10 thousand poor people, he maybe give you back an appreciation (if he even practiced to appreciate). They maybe vote you to be a councilman in a small town, just maybe.
  2. If you give blood to a king, he maybe give you back an appreciation (if he even practiced to appreciate), money, reputation, and power. He can appoint you any position that you require (and proper for you).
  3. If you give blood to a practiced king, he certainly give you back an appreciation, money, reputation, and power. He can appoint you any position that you require (and proper for you). Especially he can give you good teaching that he learned from awesome teachers such as buddha. You can use that teaching to develop yourself. The development can make you to be a good king, too, if you develop enough.

If you in 1st case is supported by your people to be a king, you tend to be a bad king more than the 3rd case.

So, no stuff in velāmasutta is exaggerated in places. It is the truth. We can found several cases nowadays like the case that appear in velāmasutta.

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"heart of good will" here means practicing Metta meditation. As the Sutta clearly states, Velama Brahmin was not impressed by the recipients. He didn't think they were worthy. So he would have given those gifts inattentively, disrespectfully, not with one's own hand, as if throwing it away, with the view that nothing will come of it. He would've just done it to show off his wealth. Even today we have people spending large amounts of money just to make a statement.

Also, I would imagine that the recipients were making a big commotion, pushing each other to the side with greedy hands to grab as much as they can. No thoughts of Metta comes to the mind when you see that, unless you have trained your mind with Metta meditation.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – user2424 Oct 2 '17 at 16:24
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Breath, and those interested, those possible worthy of special gifts, capable to take,

assuming that accurate is meant in regard of the followed question that might be rephrased "Does the Buddha say here: Giving does not lead to merits, when saying: 'If one were to develop even for just a finger-snap the perception of inconstancy, that would be more fruitful than the gift, the great gift, that Velāma the brahman gave, and [in addition to that] if one were to feed one person...'.

Actually this Sutta (or better wrong understandig of it) is in fact for most wester and modern people the reason why they deny that making merits, developing goodness, is needed and so deny the developing of generosity, sila, if even, without goodness cause of letting go for the sake of beyond.

Most western, moder "Buddhist" are actually training in line of th Jains who seek refuge in what is called householder-equanimity by the Buddha, meaning that they develope ignorance in the cloth of equanimity the construct around the actual path of letting go and factually do not give anything but merely amass in this way. Make simply sacrifies to keep the flame of death alive, loka-dana. See: [Q&A] What happens when your tank is empty, and you’ve got nothing left to give

It's message is also (and with the same cause) that giving without virtue "regardless of whether a gift is coarse or refined, if it is given inattentively, disrespectfully, not with one's own hand, as if throwing it away, with the view that nothing will come of it", or an object of virtue (without reflecting and keeping "buddha, Dhamma, Sangha", un-deluded in mind, has not much value for the path.

Giving so, no good perception of something worthy for gifts (because there is no worthy known or traced), the gift, sacrify is for like-alike, sacrify for like-alike or even lower, leads one there, keeps one there, simply for the sake of keeping the flame of death alive.

Like many (Brahmans, some even for what they think that it leads them to become Buddhas, being Velama, yet not even have wealth to share, to possible differents to Vemala) here. They possible think that they make merits why carring about an "unclean" place, are attached to like-alike and not directing their sacrifies to the three juwels, the Sangha as the unexcelt field of merits. So they nurish just whe world, what ever one nurishes will grow (inwardl and outwardly), and that counts for staring as well.

Doing "merits" in such a way, it is clear that people putting effort into perceptions which are not worthy of special sacrifies, actually just sacrify for their own sake, becoming and selfish purpose.

That is why one should keep right joy in giving in mind, using the three juwels as persection, Nibbana and what leads there, as object of ones deeds, one who seeks for gaining merits, goodness, that leads upwards and beyound. It such is done in an enviroment that does not provide for developing such, has not the purpose for such, is not supported by proper joy, people directed to Nibbana, but simply fot the worlds and becoming sake, to keep the flame of becoming, death alive, its of no fruits of no merits at all:

"Householder, regardless of whether a gift is coarse or refined, if it is given inattentively, disrespectfully, not with one's own hand, as if throwing it away, with the view that nothing will come of it: Wherever the result of that gift comes to fruition, one's mind will not incline to the enjoyment of splendid food, will not incline to the enjoyment of splendid clothing, will not incline to the enjoyment of splendid vehicles, will not incline to the enjoyment of the splendid five strings of sensuality. And one's sons & daughters, slaves, servants, & workers will not listen to one, will not lend ear, will not make their minds attend for the sake of knowledge. Why is that? Because that is the result of inattentive actions."

Is like in MN96:

“Brahmin, it is like a poor miserable man against his wish was told, here good man, you should eat meat and you should not spend money on it. In a likewise manner, without the consent of recluses and Brahmins, have appointed these four services. Brahmin, I do not say all services should be done. I do not say, all services should not be done. When doing those services if there is evil, that service is not good. I say it should not be done. When doing those services, if there is no evil, that service is good. (and vici vera).

Like the person who had put Sister Uppalavannas translation with a lot of sacrifies on the web (obove linked), he had possible made it in a manner of no fruits to aspected from it, althought it might come to frutaions. Possible without keeping Silas, respectless, thinking on amasing for ones own sake or what holding as self/real. Doning for reputations, wealth (physical, mental by knowledge), praise, pleasant feeling... invest his sacrifies for unreal and not to real directed sakes. Not to tend up-wards, most not even tend as it currently is, up simply wasts his als goodness, merits away.

Many of modern lay or opposing undertakings and practices, and their ways, unguided, self-over-estmating in wealth and possiblities, simple waste old merits an goodness possible earlier attained. So it is with all that meditation stuff and well-ness-buddhism, all simple certain ego or not-ego trips.

Be attentive, pay proper attention and learn to judge more wisely, step by step, with real benefical sacrifies and their targets!

[Later Addition (on account of an answer here) to understand quality of Dana better:

There are 3 factors:

  • The giver (his mindstate, directed to...? free of moha, lobha, dosa, or not) - since Velama was an "ordinary" being, perfection can not be aspected, he also had neither inwardly nor outwardly an access to the tripple gems or the/a Buddha, could possible not even images such.

  • The recipient (since at this time there where no Buddha no Sangha and the gifts might not have been given to a Pacceccabuddha, they have been directed to "ordinary" people.)

  • The gift (it was clearly outstanding and therefore had it's certain frutation)

The Suttas give direct 6 factors: Dana Sutta: Giving

When one has the wrong perception of a worthy recipient, holding something not really worthy for worthy, thinking this or that wordling is a Noble one, having no perception of those following the Noble One, it is to be assumed that the gifts are given out of right view and so have not much value in direction of Nibbana. People think normal not in spheres of free of fetters but on what ever benefits or wordily aims. Having the tripple Gems possible still present, many are gifted with that unexcelt field of merits and it is merely "sad" if not used.

That is why just a spoon of rice, with the right mindstate to a worthy person excells even the biggest wealth given if this two factors are not perfect. Or just the Veneration torward a Noble is many times higher as doing charity to torward ordinary people day by day, the whole year. See dhp]

More on Dana, note that the princip in it counts also for the merits sila, samadhi, can be found with references and discussion here: Dana (Generosity, Charity) "Abhidhamma in daily life "

May this sacrify made by me, benefit those able to rejoice with it, lead to highest bliss, path and fruit, and may the Devas inform those who do not have seen or heard yet.

Anumodana!

A possible extended answer as well as space for questions and discussiin can be found here.

[Note: This is a gift of Dhamma, and not meant for commercial purpose or other gains in this world.]

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Firstly, when reading this sutta you should understand what the writer of the sutta had in mind while writing it. Read it again and notice the bolded text that I added so you can understand what the writer had in mind (this becomes obvious when you read the first 3 paragraphs and the last paragraph):

"But in that gift there was no one worthy of offerings; no one purified that gift."

"If one were to feed one person consummate in view, that would be more fruitful than the gift, the great gift, that Velāma the brahman gave."

"If one were to feed one once-returner, that would be more fruitful than the gift, the great gift, that Velāma the brahman gave, and if [in addition to that] one were to feed one person consummate in view, and to feed 100 people consummate in view."

"If one were to feed one non-returner, that would be more fruitful than [the gift, the great gift, that Velāma the brahman gave, and] if [in addition to that] one were to feed 100 once-returners.

"If one were to feed one arahant, that would be more fruitful than [the gift, the great gift, that Velāma the brahman gave, and] if [in addition to that] one were to feed 100 non-returners.

"If one were to feed one Private Buddha, that would be more fruitful than [the gift, the great gift, that Velāma the brahman gave, and] if [in addition to that] one were to feed 100 arahants.

"If one were to feed one Tathagata — a worthy one, rightly self-awakened — that would be more fruitful than [the gift, the great gift, that Velāma the brahman gave, and] if [in addition to that] one were to feed 100 Private Buddhas.

"If one were to feed a community of monks headed by the Buddha, that would be more fruitful than [the gift, the great gift, that Velāma the brahman gave, and] if [in addition to that] one were to feed a Tathagata — a worthy one, rightly self-awakened.

"If one were to have a dwelling built and dedicated to the Community of the four directions, that would be more fruitful than [the gift, the great gift, that Velāma the brahman gave, and] if [in addition to that] one were to feed a community of monks headed by the Buddha.

"If one with a confident mind were to go to the Buddha, Dhamma, & Sangha for refuge, that would be more fruitful than [the gift, the great gift, that Velāma the brahman gave, and] if [in addition to that] one were to have a dwelling built and dedicated to the Community of the four directions.

"If one with a confident mind were to undertake the training rules — refraining from taking life, refraining from taking what is not given, refraining from illicit sex, refraining from lying, refraining from distilled & fermented drinks that cause heedlessness — that would be more fruitful than [the gift, the great gift, that Velāma the brahman gave, and] if [in addition to that] one with a confident mind were to go to the Buddha, Dhamma, & Sangha for refuge.

"If one were to develop even just one whiff of a heart of good will, that would be more fruitful than [the gift, the great gift, that Velāma the brahman gave, and] if [in addition to that] one with a confident mind were to undertake the training rules...

"If one were to develop even for just a finger-snap the perception of inconstancy, that would be more fruitful than the gift, the great gift, that Velāma the brahman gave, and [in addition to that] if one were to feed one person... 100 people consummate in view, and were to feed one once-returner... 100 once-returners, and were to feed one non-returner... 100 non-returners, and were to feed one arahant... 100 arahants, and were to feed one Private Buddha... 100 Private Buddhas, and were to feed a Tathagata — a worthy one, rightly self-awakened — and were to feed a community of monks headed by the Buddha, and were to have a dwelling built and dedicated to the Community of the four directions, and with a confident mind were to go to the Buddha, Dhamma, & Sangha for refuge, and with a confident mind were to undertake the training rules — refraining from taking life, refraining from taking what is not given, refraining from illicit sex, refraining from lying, refraining from distilled & fermented drinks that cause heedlessness — and were to develop even just one whiff of a heart of good will."

Velama was giving a lot of gifts, but he was doing it inattentively, disrespectfully, not with one's own hand, as if throwing it away, with the view that nothing will come out of it:

"Householder, regardless of whether a gift is coarse or refined, if it is given inattentively, disrespectfully, not with one's own hand, as if throwing it away, with the view that nothing will come of it: Wherever the result of that gift comes to fruition, one's mind will not incline to the enjoyment of splendid food, will not incline to the enjoyment of splendid clothing, will not incline to the enjoyment of splendid vehicles, will not incline to the enjoyment of the splendid five strings of sensuality. And one's sons & daughters, slaves, servants, & workers will not listen to one, will not lend ear, will not make their minds attend for the sake of knowledge. Why is that? Because that is the result of inattentive actions.

Think about what is in the mind of a person who gives gifts inattentively, disrespectfully, not with one's own hand, as if throwing it away, with the view that nothing will come of it? What is inside the mind of such person?

In that person's mind, there were no positive tendencies as if he is "giving gifts", but there were negative tendencies as if he was "throwing trash". His giving of gifts was no different then just throwing away trash ... unworthy things ... like trash, without expecting that anything good will come out of it. That's why it is said in the sutta:

"But in that gift there was no one worthy of offerings; no one purified that gift.

Thus, while on the outside it seemed like Velama is very generous and selfless, in reality, on the inside he was very selfish. That's why the sutta is saying that there was really no one giving gifts and that there were no gifts given, because of negative tendencies as if "throwing trash" as I explained.

That's why it is said near the end of the sutta:

"If one were to develop even just one whiff of a heart of good will, that would be more fruitful than [the gift, the great gift, that Velāma the brahman gave, and] if [in addition to that] one with a confident mind were to undertake the training rules...

Here it is simply saying that Velama, while giving gifts, had not even a whiff of a heart of good will in him. There was nothing good in him. He was just "throwing trash". That's why just one little whiff of a heart of good will, would be more fruitful than all the gifts Velama gave. The sutta is not exaggerated.

The sutta is teaching us that it is not the action that is important, but the intention behind the action. You can give all the gifts Velama gave: feed one person consummate in view, feed 100 people consummate in view, feed one non-returner, feed 100 once-returners, feed one arahant, feed 100 non-returners, feed one Private Buddha, feed 100 arahants, feed one Tathagata, feed 100 Private Buddhas, feed a community of monks headed by the Buddha, build a dedicated dwelling to the Community of the four directions, go to the Buddha, Dhamma, & Sangha for refuge, undertake the training rules, etc. .... you can do all this and many more, but it will not be worth more than a whiff of a heart of good will if the intention behind all these actions is unwholesome ... it would not be worth not even more than a finger-snap the perception of inconstancy.

The message of this sutta is that it is not the action that determines the outcome, but the intention behind the action. If the intention is pure, wholesome, selfless (steming out of anatta) ... then the outcome will be good. If the intention is unpure, unwholesome, selfish (stemming out of atta) ... then the outcome will be bad.

Even one little action done without "self", is bigger than all the gifts Velama gave with "self" ... is bigger than even all the other actions (feed one person consummate in view, feed 100 people consummate in view, feed one non-returner, feed 100 once-returners, feed one arahant, feed 100 non-returners, feed one Private Buddha, feed 100 arahants, feed one Tathagata, feed 100 Private Buddhas, feed a community of monks headed by the Buddha, build a dedicated dwelling to the Community of the four directions, go to the Buddha, Dhamma, & Sangha for refuge, undertake the training rules) done with "self".

The intention behind the actions is important. Not the action.

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If you give all the stuff velama gave wouldn't you get at least a little more than a "whiff of a heart of good will" while doing so - more moments of good will than just one ?

The point isn't what Velāma gave; the point is whether Anāthapiṇḍika's family's gifts are fruitful.

And, as I read it, "the heart of good will" isn't something that you get as a result of giving. What it says (literally) is ,

If one were to develop even just one whiff of a heart of good will, that would be more fruitful than...


The bit I didn't expect was this at the beginning:

Householder, regardless of whether a gift is coarse or refined, if it is given attentively, respectfully, with one's own hand, not as if throwing it away, with the view that something will come of it: Wherever the result of that gift comes to fruition, one's mind will incline to the enjoyment of splendid food ...

I'm surprised because "enjoyment of splendid food" isn't something I would usually expect to be taught is the fruit of attentiveness; but maybe it was an appropriate doctrine for Anāthapiṇḍika (who was rich).


i understand that the heart of good will isnt a result of giving but something that happens with the giving - a heart of good will is metta ? cause when someone gives stuff to others as a donation usually it comes with some feeling of metta by his part - no ?

You may be right but I don't know what "someone" usually does and feels.

There's a slightly similar Christian story called the widow's mite:

Then he sat down opposite the offering box, and watched the crowd putting coins into it. Many rich people were throwing in large amounts. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, worth less than a penny. He called his disciples and said to them, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the offering box than all the others. For they all gave out of their wealth. But she, out of her poverty, put in what she had to live on, everything she had.”

The overt story there is about the relative quantity.

As for motive I assumed that the motive of the "many rich people" was their social status or something ... maybe pride rather than metta ... conceit. The reason why I assume that is because there's another, similar Christian message, about praying but not to publicize that you're praying:

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. Truly I tell you, they already have their reward. But when you pray, go into your inner room, shut your door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. And your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

So I think that Christianity has the notion of "giving but without metta", maybe that's to beware of.

Note that Anāthapiṇḍika was incredibly wealthy and gave a vast fortune to the Buddhist monks:

He was extremely wealthy and a patron of the Buddha. He gave Jeta Park to the Buddha having purchased it from Prince Jeta. He honored the Buddha with laying out 1.8 million gold pieces in the grove. Anathapindika upon death entered Tusita heaven, or the heaven of the Bodhisattvas. Anathapindika was known as the "foremost disciple in generosity" as well as character.

I'm not here to judge his metta! But when the Buddha asked him, he said ...

Gifts are still given in my family, lord, but they are coarse: broken rice cooked with bran, accompanied by pickle brine.

... it was that which sparked this dhamma talk.

You might be right that "giving" is meant to help cultivate metta (towards others), and equanimity (towards "losing" or spending "your own wealth"). There's quite a striking picture (a modern painting by an Indian/Hindu artist), illustrating the Wikipedia article on Dana. I'll leave it to you to guess her feeling!

Anyway I don't think that the Buddha is denying that Dana and Metta may be connected. Perhaps it isn't right to assume they're automatically connected; I think the lesson is that someone might spend a ton of money without much goodwill (or give it "inattentively, disrespectfully, not with one's own hand"); and that good will and so on are paramount (and more important than how much is given, and how many people of what worthiness are fed with what quality of food).


I'm not sure, I'm not going to look them up now, maybe that emphasis at the end (about refuge, training rules, goodwill, and the perception of inconstancy) makes this unlike other suttas on giving, which maybe put even more emphasis than this one on the importance of giving to worthy, giving to the worthiest, recipients.

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  • i understand that the heart of good will isnt a result of giving but something that happens with the giving - a heart of good will is metta ? cause when someone gives stuff to others as a donation usually it comes with some feeling of metta by his part - no ? – breath Oct 1 '17 at 21:52
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    I added to the answer to try to address your comment. – ChrisW Oct 1 '17 at 22:42
  • yes that is more helpful - this point was the least important to me but yet i did want an answer for it so thanks for the good reply i do think it answers this issue (second point) – breath Oct 1 '17 at 23:57
  • Notice this definition of "conceit" too -- thinking, "I am better". I'd guess, if you had that much to give and more, then one might give that much but end up feeling more conceit than metta. – ChrisW Oct 2 '17 at 13:01
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My view is this sutta was not spoken by the Buddha because any sutta that includes the phrase: "I was [this person] at that time" is contrary to the principles found in SN 22.79.

This type of sutta, of which there are only a few (eg. AN 3.15; MN 81, MN 123, etc), about literal past-lives is in the style of the Jataka Stories, Buddhavamsa & Apadana, which were written hundreds of years after the Buddha.

This being said, the following is true:

If one were to develop even for just a finger-snap the perception of inconstancy, that would be more fruitful than the gift, the great gift, that Velāma the brahman gave...

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – user2424 Oct 2 '17 at 16:23

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