Translating Classical Buddhism to Modern English

The Numerical Discourses

Chapter 10: The Guarded Mind

5. Generosity (2)

1. Thus I have heard: One time, the Buddha was staying at Anāthapiṇḍada’s Park in Jeta’s Grove of Śrāvastī.

2. It was then that the wealthy man Anāthapiṇḍada went to visit the Bhagavān. He bowed his head at the Bhagavān’s feet and then sat to one side.

3. The Bhagavān asked him, “How are you, wealthy man? Has your rich family continued to give to the needy?”

4. That wealthy man replied, “Yes, Bhagavān. We continue to give to the needy. We distribute gifts at the city’s four gates, and I also provide what they need from my home.

5. “Bhagavān, sometimes I think, ‘I’d like to be generous to the likes of wild birds, pigs, and dogs.’ But I don’t have this thought, ‘I should give to them,’ or ‘I shouldn’t give to them.’ Nor do I have the thought, ‘I should give more to them,’ or ‘I should give less to them.’ I always think, ‘All sentient beings depend on food to continue to live.[1] With food, they survive. Without food, they die.’”

6. The Bhagavān told him, “Good, wealthy man! Good! You focus on this one thought of giving widely with a bodhisattva’s heart. Indeed, these sentient beings depend on food for their survival. Without food, they die.

7. “Wealthy man, you’ll win a great reward and get a great reputation for that great reward. Your name will travel in all directions, and you’ll gain the Dharma flavor of the sweet dew. Why is that? The bodhisattva’s abode is to give with an equitable heart. He focuses on this one thought, being mindful of the varieties of sentient beings that depend on food to live. With food, they survive. Without food, they die. This, wealthy man, is called a bodhisattva whose heart abides securely and gives broadly.”

8. The Bhagavān then spoke in verse:

9. “Therefore, wealthy man, you should think equitably and focus on broad generosity. Thus, wealthy man, you should train yourself.”

10. When that wealthy man heard what the Buddha taught, he rejoiced and approved.


  1. All sentient beings depend on food to continue to live. This famous saying was enshrined in the early Saṅgiti Sūtra, as it’s found in all extant versions as the core item of the Ones section, but direct commentaries on its meaning are difficult to find. Here, it serves as the reason for developing a broader sense of generosity for all living things, not just monks and nuns. It also appears to draw inspiration from the bodhisattva’s perfection of giving, as we’ll see below. [back]

Translator: Charles Patton

Last Revised: 2 April 2023