Dana, pavarana and kamma in AN4.79

I just read this rather disturbing sutta about dana today.

If you ask a monastic what they need and don’t deliver per their expectation your business/career in your next life will suffer


Yeesh, what if you can’t afford what they need?

What if you try to get them what they need and fail?

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I’m not sure that you have actually understood what is meant by “pavarana” in the sutta. It’s not just asking what a monastic needs, it is an undertaking to provide a particular requisite if asked. This type of undertaking should be made on the basis of a strong expectation of being able to provide that requisite.

This way of doing things entails a higher level of commitment for the donor than just asking “do you need anything” and is its own specific vinaya based category. Pavarana can be really helpful if done correctly, as it means that a monastic can stop looking for other donors and just focus on doing monastic things. But for the same reason, pavarana can be tricky because the monastic is relying on your word (sometimes to the exclusion of all other donors).

If something goes wrong with a pavarana or there is a misunderstanding about expense, the responsible thing for the lay donor to do would be to communicate as early as possible with the monastic involved and to try to find a mutually agreeable solution. The monastic should also be sensitive. The cases referenced are exceptions or clarifications: the general principle is still that people should keep their word. We had a lot of cancellations of all kinds during Covid, it wasn’t a big deal- things can be worked out if people are reasonable.

It’s also possible to set a dollar limit on the pavarana from the beginning, i.e., I have $100 set aside for the sangha, please ask for what you need (which I have a strong expectation of being able to provide).

Donating a fixed value to the monastery account is also sometimes possible for those who aren’t confident about making pavarana.

It makes sense to me that people who are flakey about their word with the sangha, who naturally won’t do well in business in this life, let alone the next.

I don’t know if this is something that makes more sense in a monastic context…if you are working closely with the sangha in a vinaya-based monastery, it is good to learn about different types of offering.


Correct, I do not. I don’t read Pali, so I read the translation only. Thank you for clearing that up.

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Perhaps the @moderators could split off here since it is kind of the opposite of the OP’s topic.

I know @Jhana4 you were just giving a hypothetical, but it’s kind of outrageous to think that if someone asked a monastic if they needed anything they would be told that the monastery needed a new heating system.

I’ll also admit that I have always “filled in the blanks” when I read that sutta assuming that if the donor either mentioned immediately that they could not provide what the monastic asked for, or if they followed up in a timely manner informing that they could no longer fulfill the offer, then the karmic consequences would either not exist or they would be reduced. I realize that others may not agree with that kind of “sense making” reading.

But the opposite does happen that people make a good faith request and then don’t come through. Or that it takes them a long time to fulfill without any followup. Not often, but it can happen. Then, as Ven. Suvira mentions, the monastic is kind of stuck because they don’t want to mention the need to anyone else for fear of getting it twice or the original donor somehow finding out. And it’s super akward to go back to the original person and say, “hey, how 'bout that offer you made.”

I think the other teaching we get from suttas like this is on the side of people wondering directly why they aren’t able to succeed in their plans, not just as a caution to potential donors. When people can know that the results they are experiencing, both good or bad, are because of previous actions, then it can increase faith.

Likewise, when someone has done a good job at giving, their joy increases knowing that they have done the action to the best level possible. This increases joy in the practice.

The sutta also has to be seen along side the other suttas that condemn monks who don’t know any limits when invited. E.g. MN33

And how does a mendicant milk dry? It’s when a mendicant is invited by a householder to accept robes, almsfood, lodgings, and medicines and supplies for the sick, and that mendicant doesn’t know moderation in accepting. That’s how a mendicant milks dry.


Ohhh…i question myself what suttapitika i have read…
Becouse the one I have read always tells about stories of 1 time of alms and confirmed heavenly rebirth…
Even pa auk told that just one time food to bhikkus is enough to acquire much punyas

Not only Pa Auk Sayadaw, but the Buddha said this too. Do you feel that the sutta in the OP contradicts this?

Venerable. If you can offer an opinion, why must " vaṇijjā" here refer to a “business deal” rather than to the exchange between a monk/nun and a layperson?

I ask this because it seems quite bizarre the Arahant Sariputta would ask the Buddha such a trivial worldly question (i.e. per the various translations).

Thank you :slightly_smiling_face:

I am confused. But one thing is good that Buddhist bhikkus are so down to earth they don’t demand much …do not blackmail…

As to why he would ask, I think it only seems odd if you believe that the Buddha and his arahant disciples talked exclusively about the end goal. They talked about and taught things for people’s welfare all across the spectrum of life experience.

Also, I don’t believe that Ven. Sāriputta ever developed the kinds of psychic powers that would allow him to directly see results of actions, so it makes perfect sense that he would need to ask the Buddha about them.

Sorry, what about?

Well, one hopes they wouldn’t. But of course there are bad characters out there. Always have been.

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I sense Thanissaro’s translation is more literal.

There is the case, Sariputta, where a certain person, having gone to a brahman or contemplative, makes him an offer: ‘Tell me, sir, what you need in terms of the [four] requisites.’ But he doesn’t give what he offered. If he passes away from there (tato cuto itthattaṁ) and comes here (āgacchati), then whatever trade he engages in, it turns out a failure.

If we examine AN 7.64, it says:

An irritable person, overcome and overwhelmed by anger, is ugly, even though they’re nicely bathed and anointed, with hair and beard dressed, and wearing white clothes.

Kodhanoyaṁ, bhikkhave, purisapuggalo kodhābhibhūto kodhapareto, kiñcāpi so hoti sunhāto suvilitto kappitakesamassu odātavatthavasano; atha kho so dubbaṇṇova hoti kodhābhibhūto.

This is the first thing that pleases and assists an enemy which happens to an irritable woman or man.

Ayaṁ, bhikkhave, paṭhamo dhammo sapattakanto sapattakaraṇo kodhanaṁ āgacchati itthiṁ vā purisaṁ vā.

Now, when a person is angry—overcome with anger, oppressed with anger—then regardless of the fact that he may be well-bathed, well-anointed, dressed in white clothes, his hair & beard neatly trimmed, he is ugly nevertheless, all because he is overcome with anger. This is the first thing pleasing to an enemy, bringing about an enemy’s aim, that comes to (āgacchati) a man or woman who is angry.

So the terms “āgacchati itthiṁ” found in both suttas seem to not explicitly refer to “rebirth”.

It seems “āgacchati” can simply mean “returns” or “comes to/comes back to”. Therefore, AN 4.79 may simply be saying something like:

There is the case, Sariputta, where a certain person, having gone to a brahman or contemplative, makes him an offer: ‘Tell me, sir, what you need in terms of the [four] requisites.’ But he doesn’t give what he offered. If he leaves from there (tato cuto itthattaṁ) and then returns/comes back again (āgacchati), then whatever trade he engages in, it turns out a failure.

This is why I questioned the translation of “vaṇijja”. Possibly “vaṇijja” has a meaning here related to the “livelihood” of a monk and the “exchange” that occurs between monks/nuns and laypeople. I was just brainstorming. :face_with_spiral_eyes:

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