CHÖGYAL NAMKHAI NORBU
THE VIRTUES OF GENEROSITY AND DONORS
There are many stories that tell how in ancient times, when Buddha Shakyamuni was alive, socalled
khyimdag (wealthy householders) or jindag (donors) invited the Buddha and his retinue to
their countries, and the Buddha transmitted the sacred Dharma to those fortunate beings. These
wealthy individuals were putting into practice generosity, which is the first of the six paramitas, and
gathered a vast accumulation of merits. This should be recognized as the unsurpassable behavior of
a Bodhisattva. We can understand this by the following examples.
A very famous story in the Bodhisattva Vehicle tells that once, at the time of Buddha Shakyamuni,
in China there was an important and wealthy householder called Hashang. He had very strong
devotion and desire to invite the Buddha from India to China, but since the distance between the
two countries was so great, and travelling so difficult, he understood that his desire was very hard to
realize. Thus he remained with the thought, "What can I do about it?" Then a wise follower of the
Buddha advised him, "Even though it is very difficult for you to invite Buddha Shakyamuni in
person from India to China, since the Buddha is omniscient, invoke him one-pointedly and invite
him one day for lunch. The Buddha and the Arhats of his retinue who are endowed with miraculous
powers will arrive for the midday meal!"
The great householder Hashang arranged everything as advised, and when the time for the midday
meal came, the Buddha together with the Arhats endowed with miraculous powers, known as the
"sixteen elders", arrived at the house of Hashang and partook of the food, thus completely fulfilling
the wish of the great householder. Today, in most of the Buddhist sacred places in China and Tibet
there are representations of the sixteen elders, and they all originate from the story of when the
Buddha with his retinue travelled to China miraculously. The opportunity which the householder
Hashang had to invite the Buddha and his retinue was due to an enormous accumulation of merits.
Therefore from that time, the custom arose to place a big or small statue of Hashang in all
households in China, Tibet, and Mongolia, with the belief that, thanks to the power of the vast
merits produced by Hashang, in every house where his statue was displayed all good things such as
prosperity and wealth would naturally increase. For this reason the representation of Hashang is
very widespread in all regions. However, most people do not know Hashang's story, and in the
Western world it has also happened that those who possessed such a statue believed it to be a
representation of the Buddha.
In the histories of the teaching of the Secret Mantra it is told that once, when Buddha Shakyamuni
was alive, in the kingdom of Uddiyana there was a very powerful king called Indrabhuti. He had
very sincere faith and devotion to the Buddha and therefore he invited some pandits who were
disciples of the Buddha and honored them as royal priests. One day the king said to the royal
priests, "I have the greatest desire to invite Buddha Shakyamuni to the country of Uddiyana, but as
the distance between India and Uddiyana is very great, travelling is not safe, and so forth, it seems
that I will not have the fortune to meet the Buddha, and that we do not have the merits to make the
Buddha come to the land of Uddiyana. Alas! What can we do?"
Thus he lamented, but the pandits who were present advised him unanimously, "Since Buddha
Shakyamuni is omniscient, he must surely know about your wish. He is endowed with miraculous
powers, therefore if you invoke him with fervent devotion and invite him for the midday meal, the
Buddha will arrive here for lunch miraculously. Thus you will be able to meet the Buddha!"
The king of Uddiyana arranged the midday meal perfectly as advised by the royal pandits, and
prayed one-pointedly to the Buddha. When the time for the midday meal came, the Buddha arrived
at the royal palace of Uddiyana together with his retinue endowed with miraculous powers. When
the Buddha and his retinue had finished their meal, they recited:
Through the power of this vast offering
May all beings attain spontaneous enlightenment,
And may all those who have not been liberated by previous Buddhas
Be liberated by this act of generosity.
After this dedication and invocation, the king of Uddiyana addressed the Buddha, "Bhagavan
Buddha! I have an immense desire to follow your teaching and reach the state of supreme
liberation. However, since I have the responsibility to look after both the kingdom and my family,
there is no way for me to renounce this and be ordained as a monk, and thus to practice your
Bhagavan Buddha replied, "Great king! Following and practicing the sacred teaching must be in
accordance with the capacities of individuals. Since there are various capacities, it does not mean
that all those who enter the sacred Dharma must necessarily abandon their families, become monks
and practice solely according to the path of renunciation. There are also profound upadeshas for
individuals of high capacity who can attain enlightenment through the path of transformation,
without renouncing emotions and enjoyments."
Then the king of Uddiyana asked, "Supreme teacher, please teach me this extraordinary teaching!"
Accordingly, the Buddha saw that he was a special disciple and in an instant manifested as the
mandala of Shri Guhyasamaja, both as the dimension and its deities inside, and transmitted the
complete upadesha of the profound path of Vajrayana transformation. This is narrated in the history
of the Guhyasamaja. Thus, also from the origins of the diffusion of the Secret Mantra teaching we
can clearly understand the importance of being a donor.
When Bodhisattvas, the offspring of the Buddhas, enter the Mahayana path and apply sublime
Bodhisattva behavior, they engage in the famous "six paramitas": generosity, morality, patience,
diligence, meditation, and discriminative wisdom. The first of the six is the paramita of generosity,
which is subdivided into three aspects, the gift of the teaching, the gift of material things, and the
gift of protection from fear.
The gift of the teaching
The supreme generosity is the gift of the sacred teaching for saving sentient beings from the great
ocean of suffering. Of course the highest generosity is the "gift of the teaching", when teachers who
are able to directly teach the path of liberation perfectly transmit the sacred Dharma to other beings
voluntarily taking care to benefit them. Nevertheless, if one does not have this capacity, even
bringing about with pure intention the favorable conditions for teachers to transmit the Dharma, or
helping in various ways, directly or indirectly, so that unfortunate beings who lack the favorable
conditions for receiving the Dharma may obtain the possibility of receiving it, are extraordinary
"gifts of the teaching".
The gift of material things
The gift of material things means to make material offerings, large or small, with generosity,
without hoping for an immediate or karmic reward, and without the concept of the giver, the
receiver and the giving, to any beings afflicted by poverty. As far as making the "water offering" to
the beings who dwell in the ocean, or the "burnt offering" to those beings who feed on smell, all are
included in the "gift of material things". In reality, wealthy householders who have the courage to
make the supreme offering, by giving to destitute students the favorable conditions to listen, study,
and practice the sacred Dharma, certainly show unsurpassable excellent behavior in which the gift
of the teaching and the gift of material things are inseparable.
The gift of protection from fear
All beings are afflicted by the famous "eight and sixteen fears" until they die. Giving assistance and
protection from these fears as much as one can, directly or indirectly, is known as the gift of
protection from fear. Nevertheless, in the excellent behavior explained above in which the gift of
the teaching and the gift of material things are inseparable, also the gift of protection from fear is
naturally included. In fact, all of us are miserable beings subject to karma and emotions, imprisoned
in the net of infinite suffering of the ocean of samsara, always afflicted by continuous fears,
absolutely similar to animals in the hands of a butcher. The only method to release us from all this
is the sacred Dharma, and the Dharma has to be received from a supreme teacher, and listened to,
studied, and practiced in order to integrate it into ourselves and achieve the state of liberation.
Therefore, to offer destitute beings the necessary conditions to follow the sacred Dharma and
liberate themselves from the fears of samsara is certainly an extraordinary "gift of protection from
fear". Being such the nature of the three kinds of gifts, and especially of the gift of the teaching, it is
very important that we, while living in the dualistic vision, precisely put into practice this excellent
behavior, and follow the principle by which "behavior must be according to the place and time".
The way to put into practice this excellent behavior
Whenever, in any country of this world, we want to invite a Master who teaches the pure sacred
Dharma and organize a teaching retreat, whether big or small, the indispensable preliminary step is
that the Gakhyil, who has the responsibility for the Dzogchen Community, be it large or small,
jointly (decides to) completely fulfill the wishes of the Community. From ancient times until now,
in the eyes of all human beings, it has always been clear that trying to achieve worldly riches,
power, position, and so forth, by means of the Dharma is a type of behavior contrary to the Dharma,
while undertaking hardships and applying perseverance as much as possible for the sake of the
Dharma is a type of behavior corresponding to the Dharma. However, it is very easy to understand
that if someone, for the sake of the Dharma, imposes an enrolment fee on those who wish to receive
the Dharma, this is contrary to correct behavior. Nevertheless, in our present condition, if we have
to invite a Master to a country in order to fulfill the wishes of the students, there are many
expenditures, such as those for the Master’s travel and the stay, for the place where the retreat is to
be held, and so forth. If we lack these factors, it is clearly evident that there is no way to establish a
teaching retreat in that place. Although making all participants of a teaching retreat pay for all the
expenses of that retreat is not in complete accordance with the principle of the sacred Dharma,
because of the conditions of the place and time, it has been considered indispensable to adopt this
system, and therefore the necessity has arisen for all students to pay a sort of enrolment fee in order
to attend a teaching retreat.
In the future, in order to be in total accordance with the principle of the sacred Dharma and to be
able to put into practice in an authentic way the "behavior according to place and time" without
leaving it as a mere talk, any Gakhyil of the Dzogchen Community that, on the basis of the wishes
of Community members and of the various necessities of the place and time, has to plan the
organization of a teaching retreat, whether big or small, must first of all follow this fundamental
1) First of all the particular reason or importance of that teaching retreat has to be widely
communicated to all Community members so that a clear understanding of it may arise in all
those who are interested.
2) Those who wish to sponsor the specific teaching retreat, either an individual donor or a
group, must inform the Gakhyil in due time, and then the Gakhyil together with the sponsor
should decide the place and time of the retreat, and all its necessary factors.
3) The Gakhyil and the sponsor must jointly take full charge of the teaching retreat, and ensure
that all the activities of the retreat will be perfectly accomplished.
4) All Community members, both as a group or individuals, will only make donations and
presents to the Master and to the Community according to their wishes, and no specific
enrolment fee will be requested.
5) It is important that the sponsors, without wishing for an immediate or karmic reward, train in
the excellent behavior of the Bodhisattvas, scions of the Buddhas, and that they do not even
show an air of self-importance in front of the Community for the fact that they are sponsors.
6) The Master, the Gakhyil and all the members of the Community will rejoice in the merits of
such sponsors, and properly express the wish that they may attain inexhaustible happiness.
These six points which are related to the principle of the six spaces of Samantabhadra, I, the
Dzogchenpa Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, offer to all the members of the Dzogchen Community as a
means to keep presence and awareness alive. May good things increase!