Gifts to a Buddha at critical moments of his life
access the most puñña of all, even though the donor may not know that it is a critical
moment, or even that the recipient is a Buddha. In the Mahāparinibbāna-sutta
(DN II 135–6), the Buddha enumerates two gifts of ‘very great fruit’: the gift of a
Buddha’s final meal before Parinibbāna, and the gift of the last meal to a Bodhisatta
before he achieves supreme enlightenment. Cunda, whose gift of the Buddha’s
final meal (DN II 126–7), thereby of very great fruit, could not have known that
it was the final meal.
(MN II 253–7) enumerates the multiplier effect that higher stages of virtue of the
recipient have on the potency of the gift. It is not to be expected that the giver would
know, for example, what stage of enlightenment, if any, a particular recipient had
achieved. Moreover, the virtue of the recipient can purify, or make karmically
effective, gifts given by unvirtuous persons without trust or even faith in the effectiveness
of gifts. The intention of the donor plays a role as well, of course, and the
virtue of the donor can purify the gift even where the recipient lacks virtue (MN
retrofuturist wrote:The suttas explain that dana offered to a perfectly enlightened Buddha brings greater fruit than a gift to an Arahant, which brings greater fruit than a gift to a Non-Returner and so on down the chain of enlightenment through to the unenlightened wanderers of other sects.