I'd like to understand the Buddhist view of Dāna better. I've read the Vaccha Sutta and it seems to say that gifts are best given to the most worthy. By comparison, in Christianity, the idea seems to be that one should do "for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine" source

Am I understanding correctly that the Buddhist view and Christian view of giving are very different? Is there a general concern for the (unworthy) poor in Buddhism? Thank you for helping me to understand this.

4 Answers 4


First, it's important to understand, that it is not logically follows that if something is more worthwhile than lesser goal is discouraged. Acquiring lesser merits is not discouraged. Only bad deeds are discouraged.

Second, motivation is also play very important role, see AN 7.49.

And yes, merit (positive karmic fruits) of the action is also dependent on its nature, and merit of giving depend on the object of that giving, see AN 9.20.

Giving is meritorious deed, so helping poors is still meritorious deed.

  • In the same way bad Kamma is different, it is much worse to harm an enlighted being than an ordinary person for example!
    – konrad01
    Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 1:13
  • Thank you for the sutta references catpnosis. They were helpful also in further understanding a question I had asked a while ago, buddhism.stackexchange.com/questions/253/….
    – Robin111
    Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 11:31
  • @catpnosis looking forward to more participation on the site. Your answers and questions were wonderful. Looking to see more of them. Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 4:41

In Buddhism the merit created is greater if you give food to a monk when compared with giving to a prisoner for example, it doesn't mean you should not help the prisoner, it means that you create more merits by helping pure and enlighted beings to survive, there are many stories on the dhammapada about it.

Think as if you are helping the Sangha to survive, so they can benefit inumerous beings, the impact in the world is bigger and so the merit earned.


Karma in giving is the product of the state of the mind of the giver and the recipients. If we give something in earnest and the recipient is not then the merit is diminished similarly when we do not have a strong volition but the recipient is overjoyed. The most merit results when the giver has strong volition and the recipient also has great appreciation.

Also pure and focused the mind greater the volition and appreciation.

So people in need getting something they need is means the recipient will appreciate it more and would result in better results. Rich or poor you should help at the hour of need.

Also helping people with pure mind like meditators will give better results.

The Buddha spent was amount of time to set establish the Sasana so anything inline with the Buddhas efforts and will brings great merit hence that is why donation to the Sangha is more meritorious than the personal donation to a Buddha.


Householder Robin, interested,

aside of the already given answers, in relation to "Is there a general concern for the (unworthy) poor in Buddhism?"

Giving as part of training upwardly and beyond has release and freedom as it's purpose and only dependency and indebting toward liberation. Where ever one gives into, nourishes it, by deeds, word and thoughts, grows for one, inwardly and outwardly. Where ever one does not give into, dies for one, inwardly and outwardly. Now would a wise person like Sublime or lower growing for him?

There are five proper occasions for placing ones generosity, outside of giving that is a duty in ones relationship one nourishes on (which falls under Sila, virtue, and its violation, actually):

"There are these five seasonable gifts. Which five? One gives to a newcomer. One gives to one going away. One gives to one who is ill. One gives in time of famine. One sets the first fruits of field & orchard in front of those who are virtuous. These are the five seasonable gifts." Kaladana Sutta: Seasonable Gifts

What ever gifts are given outside this proper seasons, and not really related to duty, naturally increase attachments, bounds and problems.

The Buddha and wise generally encourage to give into better, higher and more Sublime at first place for fast growing. Maintain ones duties within equal one dwells and to place out of compassion and in proper situations, if possible also toward those behind.

Giving downward is very popular and modern (actually mostly business and trade for livelihoods, what is sold as de-velopment, for the most is actually en-velopment, making dependend, mostly even with strategies to win over), since one easier gains a state of feeling good and superior and such giving also makes receiver easy bond to one. So for the most such giving seeks interest and amassing in the world, makes others depended on one and in debts. As for those in lower positions it's better if guiding and giving toward doing merits and conduct causes for own future well-being as to serve possible useless desires aside of needed. That is also why the gift of Dhamma excels all other gifts. Maybe good to note here that every being, even the most bad, is worthy of being supplied to live on, with food, medicine and space for such.

See also Vaccha Sutta: To Vaccha and Dana, Caga - Generosity

Possible also important to note is, that it's usual and good, if one likes to help others bond in relations, to always give first the leaders, parents, preceptors of those "poor" are bond to, since if the relations are broken and disturbed by improper giving (causing unwise to think that they now can do as they wish), such destroys not only families but even nations, which is also often very systematical used for the sake of causing degeneration and by all unwise actions on wrong view, causes may troubles in this world and imbalance in relations, wars and detaching from any way upwardly for many.

(Note that this Dhamma gift is not given for trade, exchange, stacks, entertainments to bind or conduct demerits with it, but for release from this wheel)

  • 1
    Thank you for the answer. I didn't understand the second half of this sentence --"Giving as part of training upwardly and beyond has release and freedom as it's purpose and only dependency and indebting toward liberation" -- i.e. "and only dependency and indebting toward liberation".
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jun 20, 2019 at 9:26
  • It's not so that giving does not increase relations, Nyom Chris. If giving into what is headed toward release, for release or even tp released, maintains such relations, nourishes such, such binds toward release. That is why a stream enter is bound to release and no more "free" downwardly and gifts of pure headed toward Nibbana. By giving (into) one nourishes releations, upanissaya.
    – user11235
    Commented Jun 20, 2019 at 9:36
  • Dana Sutta: Giving might be of use here.
    – user11235
    Commented Jun 20, 2019 at 9:40
  • Modern "hierarchy" and devotion - obstacles: āgati & agati might also give some ideas, related to the topic.
    – user11235
    Commented Jun 20, 2019 at 9:57
  • 1
    Thank you. I understand that now, better than I would have, because (before you deleted them) I saw the comments including the link which you later deleted. Sometimes I understand better if I see a good example.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jun 20, 2019 at 11:01

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