[i]‘Thus have I heard. At one time the Buddha was staying in Śrāvastī, at Jetṛ’s Grove, in Anthāpiṇḍada’s Park. Then the Exalted One said to the bhikṣus:
There are three [kinds of] meritorious actions (puṇyakriyā). Which are the three? a) The meritorious action consisting in generosity (dāna), b) equilibrium (samatā) and in c) [wise] reflection (manasikāra).[ii]
What does meritorious action consisting in generosity mean? When there is someone, happily making donations to ascetics and brahmins, to the poorest of the poor, to the bereaved and uprooted; who, when food is needed, provides food, and when encouragement is needed, gives encouragement; who [offers] robes[iii] alms-food, lodging, medicine for treating the sick,[iv] fragrant substances, flowers (gandhapuṣpa)[v] and temporary accommodation unstintingly, contenting himself with what he has on the body - this is what is called the meritorious action of generosity.
What does meritorious action consisting in equilibrium mean? When there is someone who does not deprive of life, does not steal and is always possessed of modesty and conscientiousness (hrīvyapatrāpya); who does not take delight in evil thoughts, is not a thief, much given to generosity towards people[vi] and who is no miser;[vii] whose speech is conciliatory, refined and not offending anybody; who, living the holy life (brahmacarya), does not practise sexual intercourse; who is content with [just keeping] his own[viii] frame [going]; who does not tell lies, always paying attention to being absolutely honest, without cheating and lying; who is neither elated nor dejected [becouse of] that which the worldling esteems; who, not taking intoxicants, never fails to avoid stupefaction; who, futhermore,[ix] suffuses one quarter [of the cardinal points] with friendliness (maitrī), two quarters, three, four quarters, and also the quarters of the intermediate points of the compass,[x] the zenith and nadir, who suffuses the whole [world], boundlessly, without limits and absolutely beyond measure; who causes with a heart [full] of friendliness everything to be enveloped and [thus] realises peace of mind (kṣema); who, moreover, suffuses one quarter [of the cardinal points] with a heart [full] of compassion (karuṇā), sympathetic joy (muditā), and equanimity,[xi] two quarters...; who suffuses the whole [world] with a heart [full] of compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity - this is what is called the meritorious action of equilibrium.[xii]
What does the existential constituent ‘meritorious action consisting in [wise] reflection’ mean? When there is a bhikṣu who, given to practice, is intent on recollection (smṛti) and perfect awakening (sambodhi); who does not succumb to attachment and with whom deliberation has ceased; who relies on giving up (prahāṇa) and on what necessarily leads to [ultimate] release (nairyāṇika); who, practising the dharma ‘being intent on perfect awakening’, is intent on recollection and perfect awakening, on perfect awakening [by means of] an exclamation,[xiii] on perfect awakening [by means of] the absorptions (dhyāna) and [by means of] restraint (saṁvara); who does not succumb to attachment... relies on... what necessarily leads to [ultimate] release - this is what is called the meritorious action of [wise] reflection. These are, bhikṣus, the three [kinds of] meritorious action.
Then the Exalted One uttered the following verses:
Generosity and equilibrium - friendliness... - and
Nurturing [wise] reflection - these are the three basics;
The wise set great store by them; here and now they
Reap the rewards which, of course, [ensure] heavenly
Exixtence. By means of these three basics one will,
Beyond any doubt, be born among the gods.
Therefore, bhikṣus, one should be intent on skill in means as a [guide-] rope to these three basics. Thus, bhikṣus, you should train.
After listening to the Buddha’s words, the bhikṣus were pleased and respectfully applied themselves to practice.’[xiv]
[i] CBETA, T02, no. 125, p. 602, b12-c15; Hayashi, p. 190 ff. This translation originally published as Ekottarāgama XXX, Buddhist Studies Review 19.2, 2002, p 185-188. Translated from the Chinese version by Thích Huyên-Vi and Bhikkhu Pāsādika in collaboration with Sara Boin-Webb.
[ii] [This discourse concerns the three ‘bases for meritorious deeds’ (puññakiriyavatthu), which normally are dāna, sīla, bhāvanā. The Chinese character that stands where we would expect sīla, however, means ‘evenness’ rather than ‘ethics’, and it is not clear whether the Indic text actually read sīla or not. The character思惟, which the translators render according it’s normal meaning of ‘wise reflection’ (=manasikāra), can also render the Indic bhāvanā, ‘(meditative) development’. By comparison with the Pali, and also from the contents of the present text, it seems certain that this was what the Indic text read. - Sujato]
[iii] Cf. BSR 18, 2 (2001), p. 219, n.5.
[iv] Cf. ibid., n.6.
[v] Cf. Karashima, p. 493, s.v. ### [CBETA reads 香花]
[vi] Particularly this tautology and this discourse as a whole are striking examples of unsystematic text and of free paraphrasing in marked contrast to the editions of the parallel Pali Nikāya.
[vii] I.e. ### after CBETA (But the 2004 CBETA reads 悋, which is, however, not found in the Dr Eye/Fu Yuan vocabulary.
[viii] Read, after CBETA, 己 for ### (T, Hayashi).
[ix] As for the following, cf. A II, p. 128 (125): …Idha bhikkhave ekacco puggalo mettāsahagatena cetasā ekaṁ disaṁ pharitvā viharati, tathā dutiyaṁ…; Woodward, op. cit., p. 132 f.: ‘… Herein, monks, a certain person lives irradiating one quarter (of the world) with a heart possesed of amity; so also as to the second…’
[x] Lit.: ‘eight quarters’.
[xi]護 (lit. ‘protecting’ – sc. Equilibrium) rendering upekṣā, seems peculiar to EᾹ. [The same character is rendered as ‘restraint (saṁvara)’ in the next paragraph, where, however, it also stands for upekṣā, as the seventh of the bodhyaṅgas.]
[xii] Cf. A III, p. 415, where action is defined as intention (cetanā); cf. also Mahāvyut. 148-50: kāyakarman, vāk-karman, manaḥ-karman (body, verbal, and mental actions).
[xiii] [I take the license of deleting this footnote, which is quite complex and clearly follows a false lead. The translators render the character 猗覺 as ‘perfect awakening [by means of] an exclamation’, and then suggest that this might be connected with the mysterious ‘awakening by exclamation’ that is attributed to the Mahāsaṅghikas. This would, if true, provide much-needed evidence linking EA with the Mahāsaṅghikas. But alas, the character 猗 can mean, as well as ‘exclamation’, also ‘gentle, soft’, and here clearly renders the awakening-factor of tranquillity (passaddhi). This is not an unusual rendering, being also found in DA, SA, etc.- Sujato]
[xiv] According to T2, 602, n. 13, Hayashi, Akanuma, and Lancaster, the verses of this discourse are related to A II, p. 32: Cattar’imāni… saṅgahavatthūni…; Woodward, op. cit., p. 36: ‘…there are these four bases of sympathy…’ In spite of some thematic similarities (in Woodward’s words: ‘charity, kind speech, doing a good turn, and treating all alike’), it is difficult to see any real parallelism between the A and EĀ verses; the simile of the ‘linchpin of a moving car’, for instance, is not found in the EĀ verses, ending with the ‘rewards ensuring heavenly existence’ which, it seems, is not at all congruent with the preceding description of ‘wise reflection’, viz. the intention to realize ‘perfect awakening’ and ‘ultimate release’.