Aṅguttara Nikāya

9. Book of the Nines

20. About Velāma

On one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Sāvatthī in Jeta’s Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s monastery. Then Anāthapiṇḍika the householder went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, bowed down to him and sat to one side. As he was sitting there, the Blessed One said to him, “Householder, are gifts still given in your family?”

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

“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.

“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, will incline to the enjoyment of splendid clothing, will incline to the enjoyment of splendid vehicles, will incline to the enjoyment of the splendid five strings of sensuality. And one’s sons & daughters, slaves, servants, & workers will listen to one, will lend ear, will make their minds attend for the sake of knowledge. Why is that? Because that is the result of attentive actions.

“Once, householder, there was a brahman named Velāma. And this was the nature of the gift, the great gift, he gave: He gave 84,000 gold trays filled with silver, 84,000 silver trays filled with gold, 84,000 copper trays filled with gems. He gave 84,000 elephants with gold ornaments, gold banners, covered with nets of gold thread. He gave 84,000 chariots spread with lion skins, tiger skins, leopard skins, saffron-colored blankets, with gold ornaments, gold banners, covered with nets of gold thread. He gave 84,000 milk cows with tethers of fine jute and copper milk pails. He gave 84,000 maidens adorned with jeweled earrings. He gave 84,000 couches spread with long-fleeced coverlets, white wool coverlets, embroidered coverlets, rugs of kadali-deer hide, each with a canopy above & red cushions on either side. He gave 84,000 lengths of cloth—of finest linen, of finest cotton, of finest silk. To say nothing of the food & drink, staple & non-staple food, lotions & beddings: They flowed, as it were, like rivers.

“Now, householder, if the thought should occur to you, ‘Perhaps it was someone else who at that time was Velāma the brahman, who gave that gift, that great gift,’ that’s not how it should be seen. I was Velāma the brahman at that time. I gave that gift, that great gift. 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… if one were to feed 100 once-returners.

“If one were to feed one arahant, that would be more fruitful than… if one were to feed 100 non-returners.

“If one were to feed one Private Buddha, that would be more fruitful than… if 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… if 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… if 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… if 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… if 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… if 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… if 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.”