Did the Buddha say anything of the value of mundane acts of generosity which may temporarily alleviate the suffering of others in a temporary, worldly way, but do not free others from from suffering?
For example, helping someone get what they desperately "need" will not free them from craving, nor will curing a disease free someone from old age, sickness, and death. The following quotes support this point, i.e. how mundane work or acts of generosity - which give material comfort but are not the gift of the dhamma - do not free anyone from the causes of suffering.
Science and technology have contributed immensely to the overall development of humankind, to our material comfort and well- being as well as to our understanding of the world we live in. But if we put too much emphasis on these endeavors, we are in danger of losing those aspects of human knowledge that contribute to the development of an honest and altruistic personality.
No one can deny the material benefits of modern life, but we are still faced with suffering, fear, and tension— perhaps more now than ever before.
The pāramitās begin with dāna-pāramitā, the perfection of giving. Social engagement can certainly be included under this category, as it involves giving others material gifts and the gift of security. But these gifts, as worthy as they are, do not equal in value the gift of the Dharma, for the gift of the Dharma leads to the permanent extinction of suffering.
How many scientists do you know who have become enlightened? Have you heard of any? Well, if a scientist trains in this, he becomes enlightened. That’s pretty neat, isn’t it? These days scientists are praised as being the most eminent people in this world, because they make devices through which you can instantly talk to someone on the other end of the world, or you can fly through the skies. Well, with this practice you can go beyond being a scientist. Actually, what science can create is pretty amazing, but still, all science is on this side of the shore of knowledge. The profound samadhi means the other shore of knowledge, having transcended dualistic mind. Right now, if we compare ourselves with a scientist, a scientist seems to be better, right? But once the scientist arrives on the other shore, any mental doings is of no use at all! At that point, as far as we are concerned, it is much better to arrive on the other side at transcendent knowledge. Here’s a question for all of you: exactly how much benefit is there from scientific knowledge the moment you are in the bardo? Think about it well. When a scientist is in the bardo he no longer has any gadgets to help him, no spy satellites or jet planes to move around in. In the bardo isn’t whatever one created of absolutely no use? Scientific knowledge is not transcendent. The knowledge that we are supposed to train in is transcendent knowledge, prajnaparamita.
Honestly, whatever mundane, unspiritual actions we do show themselves to be a total waste at the end of this life. They are good for absolutely nothing. Any work that one bothers to complete is pointless unless it is connected with a virtuous outcome.
Don’t think that you were born to gain this or that level of comfort. You were born to study pain and the causes of pain, and to follow the practice that frees you from pain. This is the most important thing there is. Everything else is trivial and unimportant.
What acts of compassion and generosity were considered worthwhile to the Buddha?