When they speak of the Perfection of Generosity, what do they mean?
To surround men and animals with benevolent care; to have compassion on the multitude of those that are in error; to rejoice that wise men have succeeded in obtaining Salvation; to protect and succor all living beings; overpassing the heavens and over-stepping the earth, to cherish benevolence wide as a river or as the sea, and to exhibit liberality to all living beings; to feed those that are hungry; to relieve those that are thirsty; to clothe those that are cold; to refresh those that suffer with heat; to offer prompt assistance with medicines; when it is a matter of chariots, horses, boats, vehicles, precious substances of all kinds, including famous jewels, husbands and wives, children, or kingdom,--whatever it may be that is asked for,--to make gift thereof immediately,--even as did the crown-prince Sudcina, who exhibited his liberality towards the poor even as a father nourishes his children, and who, when he was banished by the king his father, entertained pity, but not hatred.
Once upon a time the Buddha was keeping residence in the kingdom of Shravasti, at the Jetavana monastery, in Anatha Pindada's Grove. The Buddha said to the monks:
"Once upon a time there was a king named Kindly-and-Silent. This king conducted himself with goodness and fairness. He loved the people as if they had been his children. In governing his kingdom, he applied just laws, and there was no one among his people who entertained hatred for him. His kingdom was a large one, and every one that was therein was occupied with his own business.
"This king always cherished sentiments of benevolence, and looked with compassion on the multitude of living beings. He was afflicted by their stupidity and by their errors, through which, in their folly, they brought only loss upon themselves. He sought after and maintained principles of wisdom, and it was his delight not to be ignorant of anything. He had pity on all living beings, and protected them as does Sakka, king of the deities.
"Murder, theft, lewdness, deceit, slander, falsehood, words of double meaning, jealousy, anger,--none of all these evil things had left any trace in his heart. He exhibited filial piety and obedience to his father and mother; he respected and loved his relatives within nine degrees of kindred. He sought out the wise men and honored the holy men. He believed in the Buddha, he be- lieved in the Law, he believed in the words of the monks. He be- lieved that good deeds are rewarded with happiness, and that evil deeds are punished with misfortune. He kept the plain rules of the Ten Good Courses of Conduct:
"Thou shalt not take the life of any living being.
"Thou shalt not speak falsehood.
"Thou shalt not covet.
"It so happened that in his kingdom there was a poor man in such a state of misery that he could endure it no longer. Being at the end of his resources, he committed a theft. The owner of the stolen goods arrested him and arraigned him before the king.
"The king asked him: 'Did you steal?'
"The thief replied that he had indeed stolen.
"'Why,' returned the king, 'did you steal?'
"The thief replied: 'I was actually in terrible misery, and had no means of living; that is why, breaking your laws, so holy and plain, I walked into the fire and committed a theft.'
"The king, penetrated with compassion, praised him for his frank sincerity, and quite embarrassed, felt ashamed of himself. Heaving a deep sigh, he said: 'If there are among my people those that suffer from hunger, it is I that have made them hungry. If there are among my people those that suffer from cold, it is I that have stripped them of their garments.' Then he added: 'I am so situated that I can bring it about that no one in my kingdom shall be in misery. On me alone depend the sufferings and the enjoyments of the people.'
"Accordingly he granted a general amnesty to his kingdom. He brought forth all the precious objects which he had in his storehouses and dispensed them in largesses. Those who were worn out with hunger and thirst, he made to eat and drink. Those who were cold, he clad. Those who were sick, he provided with medicines. Fields, gardens, dwellings, gold, silver, round pearls and irregular pearls,--of all these, each person obtained as much as he asked for. From the birds that fly and the animals that walk, to the insects, all obtained all that they wanted, in the matter of the five kinds of cereals and products of the soil.
"From the moment when the king dispensed these largesses, the kingdom was prosperous and the people lived in comfort. One person drew another towards wisdom. Among the people, no one killed any more, nor stole the goods of another, nor sinned with the wife of another, nor was a cheat or a slanderer or a liar or insincere in his talk or jealous or angry: all these wicked and mean impulses subsided and disappeared. All men believed in the Buddha, believed in the Law, believed in the monks; they believed that whoever does good deeds obtains happiness, that whoever practices evil incurs misfortune. The whole kingdom was peaceful and happy; the punishments of the lash and the stick were no more administered. The enemy kingdoms made their submission; the arms of war rotted in the magazines; in the prisons no more were prisoners put in chains. The people praised this happy state of things, and said: 'What happiness, that we were permitted to live at such a time!'
"The deities, the dragons, the demons, and the spirits,--all, without exception, contributed to the rejoicing, and accorded their favors and their protection to this kingdom. Baneful influences disappeared; the five cereals ripened in abundance; households possessed them in abundance. But more particularly the king rejoiced; at that time he obtained the Five Blessings. These are the Five Blessings: to live long; to possess comeliness that grows each day; to possess virtue which shakes the eight directions, the zenith and the nadir; to have no sickness, and to have energy which increases each day; to possess a kingdom whose four regions are at peace, and to have a heart that rejoices without ceasing.
"When, finally, the king died, he was at that moment like a man in full vigor, who eats heartily and delights to sleep. Immediately he was reborn in heaven among the gods of the Thirty-three. As for the people of this kingdom, they kept the Ten Commandments which the king had given to them, and there was none of them that went to be reborn in the form of a denizen of hell, a hungry ghost, or an animal: after their death, they were all reborn in heaven among the deities."
The Buddha said to the monks: "At that time, he that was King Kindly-and-Silent was I myself."
Having heard this religious instruction, the monks rejoiced above measure; they bowed to the Buddha and then withdrew.