Today, I will talk about Kaladana Sutta (AN 5:36). Kala means ‘time’ and Dana means ‘giving’ i.e. Timely Giving. The Buddha said that there are five types of giving which are timely.
• Dana to a newcomer
This applies to giving not only to monks but also to anyone who has just arrived at a place. Such a person usually needs some help. Giving here need not mean only physical things but also one’s assistance.
For example, if we have a newcomer to our dana session today, it would be appropriate to lend some assistance to the person so that he/she feels comfortable in a new surrounding and also feels welcomed. I have noticed that in certain Buddhist activities the devotees do not reach out to make newcomers feel welcomed. We have to develop the necessary PR skills to reach out to newcomers like how many Christians do. The newcomer will certainly feel much happier if he feels that he is welcomed and accepted. We Buddhists have to develop this skill and make an effort to improve ourselves in this aspect.
• Dana to a person who is leaving
This is necessary because the departing person might not be able to receive the help that he requires in the new place. Or perhaps he needs provisions for the journey. As he has a rela-tively greater need for the generosity of others, dana to such a person is considered timely. Some examples would be a monk leaving on a long journey or a student who is departing for further studies abroad.
• Dana to a sick person
A sick person is certainly in need of giving. Much needs to be considered to bring about relief to him and not worsen the condition.
Here the devotees are very kind to me. They are especially careful to offer food that is suitable for me because they know that I have a weak gastrointestinal system and there are many kinds of foods that I cannot take. Furthermore, Aunty Lim periodically offers me ginseng infusions and Ah Seng a concoction of natural medicine that seems to work well for me. I am very grateful to all of you for this care and concern. This is an example of dana to a sick person.
• Dana in a situation of famine
In Malaysia, we are lucky we have never had to face any situation where there is simply no food to eat. In some countries, often due to abnormal changes in atmospheric conditions, vast quantities of agricultural produce are destroyed and so there is insufficient food for consump-tion. If you are rich, you may be able to get food from elsewhere at exorbitant prices. In such situations of famine, food is in great need and if you give food then, you perform a very strong good kamma.
This reminds of an occasion when I was at the receiving end of a very timely giving. Once, when I was in transit in Bangkok on the way back to Penang, I didn’t know that I needed to pay an airport tax of 500 baht in order to board the plane. I told the staff that, as a monk, I didn’t carry any money. However, rules are rules and I was duly directed to the MAS counter. I remembered then that there was a devotee in Bangkok who asked me to call her if ever I needed help but I didn’t even have the money to pay for a single phone call. As I was trying to work out a solution with the MAS staff, a Malay man came up to me and asked, “What’s the problem?” I explained the situation to him and in the course of our conversation he discovered that, like him, I too was from Subang Jaya. He then offered me 500 baht to pay for the airport tax. As I couldn’t accept the cash, he even went and bought the required coupon for me. That was the first time that I had been offered dana by a Malay. This kind of help in such a situation of great need is certainly a timely dana and should reap excellent results.
• Offering the first produce of a field or orchard to the virtuous
I wonder if the devotees offered the first produce at SBS to the Sangha? Or do they eat it themselves first?
In the verse at the end of this sutta, it says that those with discernment, responsive and free from stinginess give at the proper time. Here’s one thing that many Buddhist devotees need to learn. Too often monks are given a whole lot of things that they don’t need at that time or even any time in the future. If they don’t accept, the devotee is not so happy. If they accept, they are not so happy, because they have to figure out what to do with the offering. So in any case, it puts the monk in a difficult situation. So, if you wish to give, please do give with dis-cernment and at the proper time.
The verse continues to say that having given at the proper time, with hearts inspired by the Noble Ones, their offering bears abundant fruition. So timing is an important factor in the effectiveness of the giving. However, it is possible to give without an inspired heart. I shall give you an example.
You may know that we have been going for alms on Sundays in markets. In the past, one of our devotees would inform some stallholders there in advance that the monks were coming. They would then usually prepare food and sometimes other items to be given. When Ven Ag-gacitta knew about this, he asked that they stop announcing our going as it did not seem proper. Besides, we have never been short of dana whenever we go. So, once without any prior announcement, we went to Aulong market. One lady devotee was unhappy that she had not been told earlier. So when she came to us, she put her food in Ven Balacitta’s bowl, then mine and as she reached Ven Aggacitta’s bowl, she stared at an attendant of ours, whom she had expected to keep her informed, and grumbled, “Didn’t inform me!” Then she “plonked” the food into Bhante’s bowl. Such is an example of giving without an inspired heart.
The verse also says that those who rejoice in that giving or give assistance also have a share of the merit, and the offering isn’t depleted by that. It’s something like using a candle to light another. Doing so does not make the first candle any less bright.
It then says that with an unhesitant mind, one should give where the gift bears great fruit. In another sutta, it is mentioned that giving to animals is also meritorious. However, dana to a human being will reap higher fruition even if he is a crook. If the human being is of high morals, then even better. If he’s one of meditative attainments, the merits are even higher. It implies that the extent of results increases according to the virtue of the recipient.
The verse ends in saying that merit is what establishes living beings in the next life. If we have a good storehouse of merits, we are of course better assured of a good rebirth and a good life ahead.
So, I hope the devotees would take the advice of this sutta and give at the right time.