Appraisal Of The Meritorious Virtue Gained From Almsgiving
At that time, Bodhisattva-Mahasattva Ksitigarbha, due to the majestic influence of the Buddha, rose from his seat, knelt with palms joined and addressed the Buddha, saying, "l have observed, during an appraisal of the merits gained from almsgiving by sentient beings on the karmic paths, that some are slight while others are substantial; so some sentient beings gain great bliss for one lifetime, others gain great bliss for ten lifetimes, while still others gain great bliss for one hundred or one thousand lifetimes. How do such things happen? I only wish that you, O World Honored One, would tell me."
At that time, the Buddha said to Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, "Now I shall speak here in Trayastrimsas Palace to the entire congregation, appraising the meritorious virtue gained from almsgiving in Jambudvipa. So please listen attentively."
Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha addressed the Buddha, saying, "I have some doubt on this matter and will be delighted to listen to you."
The Buddha told Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, "In South Jambudvipa, there are kings, princes, high courtiers, great elders, great ksatriyas, great brahmans, etc. If, for the benefit of the lowest and the poorest or even for the benefit of such disabled ones as hunchbacks, the maimed, the deaf, the idiotic or the blind, such kings, princes, etc., want to give alms in order to show great mercy and to keep the idea of compassion in mind, then they should do so with humility and with a warm smile; and, with kind words of consolation, they should extend universal charity by doling out alms with their own hands or through some of their agents. The blissful advantage gained by those kings, princes, etc., will be fully as great as all the meritorious virtue gained by donations offered to as many Buddhas as there are grains of sand in one hundred Ganges Rivers. And why so? It is because these kings and others have such great mercy on even the poorest, the meanest and the most disabled that their blissful advantage gains great rewards such that they will always be endowed, during hundreds of thousands of future lives, with a full measure of the seven kinds of precious treasures, not to mention an abundant supply of clothing and food for their consumption.
"Furthermore, O Ksitigarbha, if any kings or brahmans should pass by Buddhas’ stupas or temples or images, or even Bodhisattvas’, Sravakas’ or Pratyekas’ images, and if they themselves should prepare and give offerings and donations, then these same kings and others will b e able to become sovereign sakras for three kalpas, enjoying extraordinary and wonderful happiness. Should they, in addition, be able to dedicate the blissful advantage of this donation for the benefit of the entire Dharmadhatu, these great kings will then become great brahman devarajas for ten kalpas.
"Furthermore, O Ksitigarbha, if, in future times, any kings or even brahmans pass by old, broken-down and damaged stupas or temples of Buddhas or if they see a sutra that is tarn and worn, and if they then, on seeing holy things in such a condition, are able to make up their minds to repair and mend them—whether the kings urdertake and manage the work all by themselves or whether they persuade a few others or even hundreds o f thousands of people to make donations for this good cause—these kings will always be reborn as Cakravartins in hundreds of thousands of future lives. Even such other people who join in this work of restoration by making donations will always become minor kings in their future lives. However, should they be able to decide to dedicate their blissful advantages for the benefit of the entire Dharmadhatu, then such kings and others will all achieve Buddhahood; and their retributory rewards will be countless and boundless.
"Furthermore, O Ksitigarbha, in future times, whenever kings, brahmans or other people may see the aged, the infirm and women about to give birth and should they instantaneously have great mercy on and show great charity to them by donating medicine, food, drink and bedding to make them comfortable, then the blissful advantage they gain will be inconceivable; and they will always become devas of Suddhavasa for one hundred kalpas and lords of the six heavens of desire for two hundred kalpas, and finally they will become Buddhas. They will never fall onto evil paths of existence, nor will they ever hear the sounds of suffering in their ears for hundreds of thousands of future lives.
"Futhermore, O Ksitigarbha, in future times, should any kings and brahmans be able to perform such deeds of charity, they will gain immeasurable bliss. Moreover, should they be able to dedicate the advantage thus gained—no matter how great the measure—for the benefit of the entire Dharmadhatu, then they will finally become Buddhas, not to mention their gaining the other rewards of becoming brahmans, Sakras or Cakravartins. Therefore, O Ksitigarbha, do advise all sentient beings to follow such examples.
"Furthermore, O Ksitigarbha, in future times, should any good men and good women plant even a small good root of Buddhadharma, even if it is as tiny as a grain of sand or a hairtip, or even tinier, then the bliss gained by them will be indescribable and beyond compare.
"Furthermore, O Ksitigarbha, in future times, if any good men and good women, on seeing Buddhas’ images, Bodhisattvas’ images, Pratyekabuddhas’ images or Cakravartins’ images, should make donations and offerings, then they will gain immeasurable bliss and always dwell among human beings and devas, enjoying extraordinarily wonderful happiness. Moreover, if they should be able to dedicate rewards thus gained for the benefit of the entire Dharmadhatu, then their bliss will defy comparison.
"Furthermore, O Ksitigarbha, in future times, if any good men and good women, on encountering Mahayana sutras or on hearing one gatha or even one sentence thereof, should seriously and sincerely generate their deepest minds and, at the same time, give praise, show respect and make donations and offerings, then the tremendous rewards gained by such people will be countless and boundless. Moreover, should they be able to dedicate the reward thus gained for the benefit of the entire Dharmadhatu, then their bliss will defy comparison.
"Furthermore, O Ksitigarbha, in future times, any good men and good women, on seeing any Buddha’s temple or stupa or any Mahayana sutras—even if they are whole and new—should make donations and offerings and make obeisance and give praise to them reverently and with palms joined. However, if such temples, stupas or sutras are old, dilapidated or torn and if even yet they should decide to reconstruct, mend and repair them—either by acting alone or by persuading many to act jointly—then they will always become the kings of minor lands; but the major donor will always be the Cakravartin, who will, in turn, teach and convert minor kings with good Dharma.
"Furthermore, O Ksitigarbha, in future times, if the good roots planted by any good men and good women, either by means of donations or offerings or as a result of the repair of stupas and temples or the mending of sutras or scriptures—even though such deed were as tiny as one droplet of water, one grain of sand, one hairtip or even one mote of dust—such good deed, if dedicated for the benefit of the entire Dharmadhatu, will gain so much meritorious virtue that such people will be able to enjoy superior, wonderful happiness for hundreds of thousands of future lives. However, if the same deed should be directed only to the benefit of the members of their own families or to themselves, their reward will enable them to enjoy happiness for only three future lives. So, the relinquishment of one’s own exclusive interests will be rewarded myriads of times. Thus, you see, O Ksitigarbha, that donations and almsgiving create such causes and conditions."