I’ve been mulling over the following suttas, short enough to quote in full:
“Bhikkhus, there are these eight gifts. What eight? (1) Having insulted the recipient, one gives a gift. (2) One gives a gift from fear. (3) One gives a gift, thinking: ‘He gave to me.’ (4) One gives a gift, thinking: ‘He will give to me.’ (5) One gives a gift, thinking: ‘Giving is good.’ (6) One gives a gift, thinking: ‘I cook; these people do not cook. It isn’t right that I who cook should not give to those who do not cook.’ (7) One gives a gift, thinking: ‘Because I have given this gift, I will gain a good reputation.’ (8) One gives a gift for the purpose of ornamenting the mind, equipping the mind.” (AN8.31)
“Bhikkhus, there are these eight grounds for giving. What eight? (1) One gives a gift from desire. (2) One gives a gift from hatred. (3) One gives a gift from delusion. (4) One gives a gift from fear. (5) One gives a gift, thinking: ‘Giving was practiced before by my father and forefathers; I should not abandon this ancient family custom.’ (6) One gives a gift, thinking: ‘Having given this gift, with the breakup of the body, after death, I will be reborn in a good destination, in a heavenly world.’ (7) One gives a gift, thinking: ‘When I am giving this gift my mind becomes placid, and elation and joy arise.’ (8) One gives a gift for the purpose of ornamenting the mind, equipping the mind. These are the eight grounds for giving.” (AN8.33)
I’ve realised I have no precise understanding of the meaning of these suttas, and (still; I’ve raised at least one of these texts before) do not quite know what mind equipment is, nor the mechanism by which the mind becomes equipped.
Just from memory I believe someone gave the wonderful description of mind ornamentation as “bling for the mind” (and a hilarious picture to go with it), but lovely as this is, it doesn’t quite clarify what an equipped-mind-through-giving might look like.
There is a particular point from each sutta that adds to the confusion for me:
One gives a gift, thinking: ‘Giving is good.’ (AN8.31, pt.5)
Ordinarily, I’d have thought that, giving is, indeed, good and the doing of good deeds is a basis of happiness which might be thought of as a well equipped mined (conducive to its further development leading to vision of the Dhamma). However, in this case, by order of appearance in the list and the types of thoughts it precedes, the implication certainly seems to be that “giving is good” is a pesky, lowly thought.
One gives a gift, thinking: ‘When I am giving this gift my mind becomes placid, and elation and joy arise.’ (AN8.33, pt.7)
Given as point 7 of 8, this joyful mind state seems to be presented as good, but not the best purpose, and at the very least is highlighted as distinct from a ornamented, equipped mind.
Pulling it all together, (1) if mind ornamentation and equipment are apart from the gladness generated by one’s good deeds, and is apart from a mind of joy, what exactly are they? (2) if it is not through being gladdened by one’s good deeds, nor through allowing the joy of giving to arise in the mind, how exactly might giving ornament and equip the mind?
Alternatively put, if one were to use these suttas for practical instruction, how would they do so?