ISSN 1076-9005
Journal of Buddhist Ethics 7 (2000)

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Do Bodhisattvas Relieve Poverty?: The Distinction Between Economic and Spiritual Development and Their Interrelation in Indian Buddhist Texts

By Stephen Jenkins
Department of Religious Studies
Humboldt State University



Occasionally, Buddhists themselves considered the question of how poverty could continue in a world that is cultivated by celestial bodhisattvas. This paper considers the question of whether, as implied by the call for papers, Indian Buddhist texts fail to “identify and address sources of human suffering outside of the cravings and ignorance of the sufferer—such as social, political, and economic injustice.” Focusing on poverty, it concludes that these sources distinguish between compassionate intentions and action and between material and moral benefit. Furthermore, relief of poverty is seen as a prerequisite for moral development, and its neglect is seen as a cause for social degeneration. Therefore, in order to prepare the conditions necessary for teaching the Dharma, the bodhisattva is called is to relieve these material wants, not only through moral leadership, but through direct action. The strongest conclusions here are made in reference to the Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom, with cross-referencing and support from a broad range of other Indian sources.

The call for papers for this conference states that “Engaged Buddhism” is

[c]haracterized by a reorientation of Buddhist soteriology and ethics to identify and address sources of human suffering outside of the cravings and ignorance of the sufferer—such as social, political, and economic injustice, warfare, and violence, and environmental degradation.

This paper addresses the question of whether this thesis—that concern to identify and address modes of suffering “outside of the cravings and ignorance of the sufferer” amounts to a reorientation—can be challenged on the basis of Indian Buddhist literature.

Because of the paucity of resources for study, particularly in comparison to East Asia, it is very difficult to say in regard to India how, or to what degree, Buddhism in practice was “socially engaged.” However, we do know that in the more historically clear environments of China and Japan, Buddhist activities included road and bridge-building and public works projects; social revolution; military defense; orphanages; travel hostels; medical education; hospital building; free medical care; the stockpiling of medicines; conflict intervention; moderation of penal codes; programs to assist the elderly and poor including “inexhaustible treasuries” to stockpile resources for periods of hunger and hardship; famine and epidemic relief; and bathing houses.(1) Perhaps this was purely the unique response of East Asian culture to Indian Buddhism, but we can at least make the weak initial observation that it is reasonable to speculate that East Asians were following Indian models of Buddhist activity.

This paper seeks to show the types of buddhalogical resources that were available in Indian Buddhist texts to support such activity. Were these conceptual resources strictly metaphorical, as when the Buddha is described as the physician of the world? Are they merely intentional, that is, is their main purpose to generate character qualities that are conducive to the spiritual liberation of those who have them? If there is concrete action intended, then what kind of action? Are the texts merely concerned with activities of conveying the Dharma or do they enjoin the reader to activities that we would recognize as social action? If there is a distinction between spiritual and material benefit, then what is their relationship? Finally, do the textual resources support the idea that, even in India, social activities similar to those in East Asia occurred?

These questions open up a variety of issues that merit independent study. It would be possible to focus the topic here on a variety of types of action. The variety of justifications in Buddhist literature for compassionate violence, from political revolution to capital punishment, are fascinating, and the materials regarding the practice, teaching, manufacture, and science of medicine would also make an excellent example. Here I will focus on the provision of concrete material life support including food, shelter, and clothing.(2)

Sources are cited broadly here for their general support and interest for the subject. However, strong and specific conclusions are made in regard to the Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom, where there is a clear identification and concern for material modes of suffering, a definite distinction between material and spiritual benefit, an understanding that material support is a prerequisite for moral and spiritual development, and that bodhisattvas are enjoined to actively create the material conditions necessary for the spiritual development of sentient beings.

Śāntideva’s Sandals

It is significant to ask whether the questions raised here about the relationship between compassionate intentions and the concrete relief of suffering were asked by the ancient Buddhists themselves. In at least two disparate but important sources, the Saṃdhinirmocana Sūtra and Bodhicaryāvatāra, there are passages that show that they did. In the Saṃdhinirmocana Sūtra, we find the following fascinating question that shows a concrete distinction between spiritual and material assistance and that relief of poverty was expected from the activity of bodhisattvas.

Bhagavan, if the resources of bodhisattvas are inexhaustible and if they have compassion, why are there poor people in the world? Avalokiteśvara, that is solely the result of the karma of those sentient beings themselves … The fact that hungry ghosts, whose bodies are pained by thirst, perceive the watery ocean as dry is not the ocean’s failing … Similarly, the absence of good results is not a failing of the ocean-like generosity of bodhisattvas.(3)

If there were no expectation of the actual relief of material suffering, this objection could not arise. But the fact that the outcome does not match the intention shows that the content of intentions may be quite different from their practical outcomes.

Śāntideva, responding to the question of why, if there have been countless bodhisattvas who have vowed to save the endless numbers of sentient beings, does the world continue to be filled with suffering, answers that it is, in fact, impossible to change the world and that generosity is merely a state of mind.

 (9)  If the perfection of generosity
        Were the alleviation of the world’s poverty,
        Then since beings are still starving now,
        In what manner did the previous Buddhas perfect it?

(10)  The perfection of generosity is said to be
         The thought to give all beings everything,
         Together with the fruit of such a thought,
         Hence it is simply a state of mind …

(12)  Unruly beings are as (unlimited) as space:
         They cannot possibly all be overcome,
         But if I overcome thoughts of anger alone,
         This will be equivalent to vanquishing all foes.

(13)  Where would I possibly find enough leather
         With which to cover the surface of the Earth?
         But (wearing) leather just on the soles of my shoes
         Is equivalent to covering the earth with it.

(14)  Likewise it is not possible for me
         To restrain the external course of things;
         But should I restrain this mind of mine,
         What would be the need to restrain all else?(4)

The continuation of the suffering in the world despite the past vows of countless buddhas is explained as only natural, since the vow of bodhisattvas to relieve all suffering is pragmatically impossible because sentient beings are limitless. Just as one can cover one’s own feet with leather, but not the whole world, the vow of the bodhisattva perfectly purifies their mind, but not the minds of all sentient beings. In Buddhist practice, molding compassionate intentions in itself is beneficial for the practitioner. Generating compassion is good for everything from snake-bite protection to attaining heaven realms.(5) Here there is a disjunction between the aspiration and its end, which is considered impossible.

So are the intentions to feed the hungry or heal the sick only sublime inspirations? It seems quite reasonable to ask, as Buddhists have above, what relationship compassion really has to the relief of material suffering. Is compassion in Buddhist practice active, or is it merely a matter of shaping a character that is most conducive toward spiritual goals? In what sense does it actually get down to relieving the suffering of others?

Buddhist Definitions of Karuṇā

Buddhaghosa, whose commentaries are the central authority for the interpretation of the Pāli scriptures for Theravāda Buddhism, gives an analysis of the word “karuṇā” that shows that in mainstream Buddhism, the concept of compassion calls for aggressive action for the relief of the suffering of others.(6)

When others suffer it makes the heart of good people tremble (kampa), thus it is karuṇā; it demolishes others’ suffering, attacks and banishes it, thus it is karuṇā; or it is dispersed over the suffering, is spread out through pervasion, thus it is karuṇā.(7)

Buddhaghosa is implicitly giving a philological analysis (nirutti) here. What is important here is not the actual etymology, but the meanings presented through this traditional analysis. The fact that the actual etymology of the word karuṇā is obscure allows a variety of creative suggestions. Here he suggests three verb roots that may be the basis of the noun karuṇā: kr, meaning to make, cause, or act; kṛt, meaning to cut or break; and kṛr, which can mean to disperse or spread. It is notable that the second of Buddhaghosa’s roots, kṛt, gives an even more explicitly active meaning to compassion that is not merely affective, but actually removes the suffering of others.

The first of these verbal roots, kṛ, whose basic meaning is action, is also identified as a base of the word karuṇā in Mahāyāna sources. Another philological analysis from the Akṣayamatinirdeśa Sūtra, one of the earliest and most broadly cited Mahāyāna Sūtras, also gives a definition of karuṇā as action, translated here as “work.” As did Buddhaghosa, it plays on the similarity in Sanskrit and Pāli of the words for action (karaṇa), and compassion (karuṇā).(8)

As for this great compassion, reverend Śāradvatīputra, [the meaning of the word compassion is “work” šnd all the roots of the good are] work performed by oneselfŠ[Even if it is for the sake of both others and oneself,] it is one’s own work, thus it is called great compassion.(9)

These definitions give an active and materially effective meaning to compassion.

Material and Spiritual Benefit and Their Interrelation

Mainstream sources

Regarding the question of whether compassion is meant to be active or merely meditative, the Abhidharmakośa, a touchstone for mainstream Abhidharma Buddhism and the primary text for Abhidharma studies in Mahāyāna Buddhism, says that the meditation on compassion gains merit from the compassion itself, even though there is no other beneficiary of the compassion.

Objection: If indeed there is only merit from benefiting others, [then] there is no [merit] in mentally cultivating maitrī and the other immeasureables and in cultivating the right viewpoint … Answer: As in regard to maitrī, et cetera, even without a recipient or benefit to another, merit is produced, arising from one’s own thoughts.(10)

However, the text goes on to ask, “Are material offerings then superfluous?” The answer is, “No, material offerings gain more merit than mere intentions, just as acting on a bad intention produces more demerit.”(11) Clearly, if material gifts were not more efficacious in producing merit than good intentions alone, the result would be potentially disastrous for the monastic community, which depends on the material support of the laity. By the definitions that we have examined, compassion is active, and, even from a self-interested merit making perspective, it should be concretely effective.

The relationship between government welfare programs and moral development can be seen in the advice to kings. Here there is a distinction between material and moral benefit, and the former is a prerequisite for the latter. The government of a model king should establish charitable posts and give food, money, drink, clothes, and shelter.(12) The downfall of a great king is based on his failure to provide for the poor, which leads to violent social degeneration.

Thus from the not giving of property to the needy, poverty became rife, from the growth of poverty, the taking of what was not given increased, from the increase of theft, the use of weapons increased, from the increased use of weapons, the taking of life increased.(13)

This shows early recognition of the relationship between material and moral well-being. Material well-being is a prerequisite for moral development, and its absence leads to social disaster. There is the basis for a critique of government here that will be shown below in the Mahāyāna sources.

In early sources there is a natural logic and motivation for compassionate service on the part of the laity. Material giving is an important form of merit making. However, this does not hold for renunciants. According to Aronson,

In the discourses loving activities as a group are discussed only in terms of being extended to the religious practitioners … The primary recipients of the loving activities discussed in the discourses are the monks. It must also be understood that the populace at large would benefit from the monk’s correct conduct and their teaching.(14)

Although service is part of both the monk’s and lay person’s practice, it is more passive on the part of the monk and less in the modes of material service that are associated with the modern concept of social action. Receiving alms itself is a compassionate act for monks because they themselves act as a merit field for the lay donor. In some understandings, the purer the monks, the more fruitful that they are as a merit field; so the very extremity of their seclusion in socially disengaged meditation makes them all the more beneficial to others. In this view effective compassionate action for others, including their social well-being, need not include anything that in present times would be regarded as social activism. However, the monks’ role in moral leadership and the moral impact of renunciation on lay communities should not be discounted.

Mahāyāna sources

In the course of my dissertation research on karuṇā in Indian Buddhist texts, I found myself unexpectedly, but consistently, revising preconceptions about differences between the Mahāyāna and mainstream Buddhism. The vast majority of these preconceptions are merely the effect of Mahāyāna hermeneutics on the hermeneutics of Buddhist Studies. However, on this topic more than any other, there are striking differences between the two families of textual materials. The first is the enormous relative preponderance of passages in Mahāyāna texts that express concern for the broader physical and material benefit of sentient beings. In the limited literature we have access to in the vast scope of Mahāyāna scriptures, the presence of this concern is so strong that it is very unlikely that this pattern will change as more textual research develops.

The following passage from the Suvarṇaprabhāsa Sūtra is typical.

May those who are in danger of being threatened or killed by kings, thieves, or scoundrels, who are troubled by hundreds of different fears, may all those beings who are oppressed by the advent of troubles be delivered from those hundreds of extreme[,] very dreadful fears. May those who are beaten, bound, and tortured by bonds … distracted by numerous thousands of labors, who have become afflicted by various fears and cruel anxiety … may they all be delivered; may the beaten be delivered from the beaters, may the condemned be united with life … May those beings oppressed by hunger and thirst obtain a variety of food and drink.(15)

The possibilities for further citation from the sūtras are abundant and pervasive.(16) The assertion that these texts are not concerned with identifying material sources of suffering simply will not hold. The issue of whether these sources of suffering are actually addressed is discussed further below.

In the course of further research, I expect to show that this first major difference is based on a second, which is a Copernican flip of the mainstream perspective that focuses on merit-making material service as something done for ideal practitioners by the laity. In Mahāyāna sources there is an inverse emphasis on bodhisattvas’ merit-making actions for the sake of all sentient beings. The ideal practitioner should materially support others. The bodhisattva views the laity as a merit field. This change in perspective seems to be the result of the difference in attitude toward the bodhisattva path. In mainstream sources the bodhisattva path, in which the bodhisattva accumulates massive amounts of positive merit through eons of service to sentient beings, is as an object of awe and reverence. For Mahāyāna practitioners that view themselves as bodhisattvas, the bodhisattva path is an object of imitation. The actions of buddhas in past lives really are models for the bodhisattva whose whole practice is an imitation of the buddhas.

In Mahāyāna sources as well, the moral leadership alone of bodhisattvas is credited with producing general social welfare.

Wherever there appear in the world the worldly means of life—food, drink, clothes, dwelling places, medicinal appliances for sickness, … etc. to: all that bestows ease in the realms of gods and men, and the ease of Nirvāṇa—that everywhere is due to the Bodhisattvas. And why? Because the Bodhisattva coursing on his course, enjoins the six perfections on beings—causes gifts to be given and morality to be undertaken, establishes them in patience and enjoins vigor, establishes them in trance and enjoins wisdom.(17)

Even in the modes of teaching and leadership, there is a concern not just for transmitting the Dharma, but for improving material conditions.

The same positive evaluation of government concern for the welfare of the people, including relief of hunger, found in the Pāli sources is also found in Mahāyāna Sūtras. According the Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom,

There are Bodhisattvas who … have become Universal Monarchs. Having taken the perfection of giving for their guide[,] they will provide all beings with everything that brings ease—food for the hungry, drink to the thirsty … until, having established beings in the ten ways of wholesome action, they … know full enlightenment.(18)

Here again, material support precedes successful moral leadership because it eradicates the immoral environments and poverty that are obstructions.(19) The same argument seen in the Nikāyas, that immorality is produced by poverty, is found here as well.

The bodhisattva, who courses in the perfection of giving, and who has seen beings who are helpless, suffering[,] and without food or shelter, matures them in this way: ‘Come here, you sons of good family, take from me food[,] etc. to: the seven treasures, and let me thus help beings. And all that will contribute to your welfare, weal[,] and happiness for a long time … Moreover the bodhisattvas should mature beings as follows: ‘It is through the lack of necessary conditions that you are immoral, but I will bestow those necessary conditions on you, i.e.[,] food[,] etc. to: anything that may be useful to you’ … He helps beings in this manner with the result that they conform to the ten wholesome ways of action.(20)

This clear distinction between material and spiritual benefit with attention to their interrelationship clearly shows that this discourse is not merely eulogizing positive sentiments.

The Saṃdhinirmocana Sūtra, while warning that ultimately suffering cannot be relieved by material benefits alone, calls for bodhisattvas to provide the poor with material goods. Again there is a clear distinction between material and spiritual benefit and attention to providing concrete relief in the form of material goods.(21) The same correlation between improving physical well-being and subsequently attending to spiritual teaching is found in the vows of Bhaiṣajyaguru to provide all beings with the necessities of life and relieve the hunger of the desperately famished that they might later hear the teachings.(22) There is a correlation here between material support and proselytization, but the reasoning is always that in order to create the conditions necessary for benefiting people spiritually, one must first attend to their material needs. The Vimalakīrtinirdeśa Sūtra lauds the giver who gives to the lowliest poor of the city, considering them as worthy as the Tathāgata himself, and depicts the poor of the city subsequently conceiving bodhicitta.(23)


Occasionally Buddhists themselves considered the question of how poverty could continue in a world that is cultivated by celestial bodhisattvas. The benefits of compassion in itself for the compassionate are so strong that it is worth considering whether actual material support for others is necessary. However, this is clearly the case. Several central Mahāyāna and mainstream sources define compassion as a kind of action, and in merit making, action is far superior to mere good intentions. In mainstream sources, giving material support is clearly recognized as an important activity for the laity. However, the monks tend to be recipients of this support and do not play a role in materially relieving the poverty of the poor. The role of the ideal government is to prevent social degeneration by attending to the needs of the poor. This shows a distinction and relation between material and moral goods, where material goods have priority as a prerequisite for moral well-being.

In Mahāyāna sources, there is a great relative preponderance of passages that identify and show concern for poverty and see relieving it as the role of the ideal practitioner, the bodhisattva. As in Pāli sources, the satisfaction of material needs is seen as a prerequisite for moral development, and its absence is seen as the cause of moral decay. The role of the bodhisattva is to relieve these material needs not only through moral leadership, but also through direct action, in order to prepare the conditions necessary for teaching the Dharma. These points are made most strongly in regard to The Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom, with secondary reference to several other major sūtras. If the general preponderance of sūtra passages showing concern for poverty can be read in light of those sūtras that speak directly on the relationship between material and moral well-being, then it is a reasonable generalization that in Mahāyāna scriptures, there is broadly attested concern for poverty as an obstruction to spiritual progress and a clear mandate for its direct relief as a prerequisite for addressing the more subtle roots of saṃsāra.




  1. Luis O. Gomez, “From the Extraordinary to the Ordinary: Images of the Bodhisattva in East Asia,” in The Christ and the Bodhisattva, (Albany: SUNY, 1992). Arthur F. Wright, Buddhism in Chinese History, (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1959), pp. 58, 75, and 93–94. Return to text
  2. This paper draws from the author’s recent doctoral dissertation and is a preliminary study in support of a chapter to be part of a book developed from the dissertation. Return to text
  3. Wisdom of Buddha: the Saṃdhinirmocana Sūtra, tr. John Powers, (Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1995), p. 261. Return to text
  4. Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, tr. Stephen Batchelor, (Dharamsala: Library Tibetan Works Archives, 1987), V.9–14, pp. 45–46. Return to text
  5. Stephen Jenkins, The Circle of Compassion: An Interpretive Study of Karuṇā in Indian Buddhist Literature (Ph.D. diss., Harvard University, 1999), pp. 47–54. Return to text
  6. In this paper, the expression “mainstream Buddhism” will be used to designate the schools generally referred to as the “hīnayāna.” These schools remained in the majority throughout Buddhism’s history in India, and use of the pejorative term “hīnayāna” merely reflects the assimilation of Mahāyāna hermeneutics into Buddhist Studies. Return to text
  7. Paradukkhe sati sādhūnan hadayakampanan karoti iti karuṇā; kiṇāti vā paradukkhan, hiṃsati vināseti iti karuṇā; kiriyati vā dukkhiteṣu, pharaṇavasena pasāriyati iti karuṇā. Visuddhimagga of Buddhaghosācariya, Harvard Oriental Series, vol. 41, ed. Henry Clarke Warren, revised Dharmananda Kosambi, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1950), chapter IX, verse 92, p. 263. Return to text
  8. Karuṇam occurs in the Vedas as action; karuṇā may have actually derived from this root. Sanskrit English Dictionary, Monier-Williams, s.v. “karuṇā.” Return to text
  9. Akṣayamatinirdeśasūtra: The Tradition of Imperishability in Buddhist Thought, tr. Jens Braarvig, (Oslo: Solum Forlag, 1993), p. 354; The commentary notes that the meaning of compassion, karuṇā, is action, karaṇa. See also p. 411: “Conduct with purpose is effort by one who has generated an intention purified by great compassion in whatever needs to be done for all sentient beings”; See also p. 356: “Great compassion is regard [āpekṣā] for the poor, suffering, and the unprotected, because it has its origin in removing the suffering of all sentient beings.” Return to text
  10. Abhidharmakośa & Bhāṣ:ya of Ācārya Vasubandhu with Sphutārthā Commentary of Ācārya Yaśomitra, 4 vols., Bauddha Bharati Series 9, ed. Swami Dwarikadas Shastri, (Varanasi: Bauddha Bharati, 1973), vol. 2, p. 548. Return to text
  11. Ibid. Return to text
  12. Thus Have I Heard: The Long Discources of the Buddha, tr. Maurice Walsh, (London: Wisdom, 1987), p. 284. Return to text
  13. Thus Have I Heard, p. 398. Return to text
  14. Harvey Aronson, Love and Sympathy in Theravāda Buddhism, (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1980), p. 37. Return to text
  15. The Sūtra of Golden Light, tr. R. E. Emmerick, (London: Luzac and Co. Ltd., 1970), p. 15. See also pp. 2, 4, 9, 14, 19, 24. Return to text
  16. For passages related to poverty see the Akṣayamatinirdeśa Sūtra, p. 358, on “giving to beggars,” p. 459 on “providing food for the poor,” and p. 410 on “pleasing, not deriding, fulfilling beggars”; “Tathāgata Akṣobhya’s Merits,” A Treasury of Mahāyāna Sūtras, ed. C.C. Chang, (London: Penn State, 1983), p. 318, on giving material things; “The Ten Stages,” in The Flower Ornament Scripture, tr. Thomas Cleary, (Boston: Shambhala, 1993), p. 805, on protecting beings by providing what they require; Entry Into the Realm of Reality, tr. Thomas Cleary, (Boston: Shambhala, 1989), pp. 290–291, “put an end to poverty for all sentient beings, satisfy all sentient beings with gifts of food and drink, satisfy all beggars by giving away all goods”; Kāruṇāpuṇḍarīka-sūtra, tr. Isshi Yamada, (London: School of Oriental and African Studies, 1968), vol. I, p. 110, “praṇidhāna to become a merchant and shower jewels on many poverty stricken worlds”; The Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines, tr. E. Conze, (Bolinas, California: Four Seasons, 1973), p. 218, “that all beings, … should not go short of the requirements of life”; Saṃdhinirmocana Sūtra, p. 239, “Bodhisattvas benefit sentient beings by giving them material goods,” p. 245, “giving material things”; “Tathāgataguhya Sūtra,” in Śikṣāsamuccaya, trans. Cecil Bendall & W. H. D. Rouse, (Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass, 1971), pp. 251–252, “When any are hungry he gives them the best food … The poor he rejoices with plenty … He goes share for share with those afflicted with poverty”; The Lions Roar Of Queen Śrīmālā, tr. Alex and Hideko Wayman, (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1990), pp. 64–65, “I shall not accumulate wealth for my own use, but shall deal with it to assist the poor and friendless[,] … liberate them from each of those sufferings; having conferred goods upon them”; “On the Pāramitā of Ingenuity” Treasury, p. 429, “be generous to beggars,” p. 430, “give food, drink[,] and medicine”; The Question of Rāṣṭrapāla, tr. Jacob Ensink, (Zwolle: J.J. Tijl, 1952), p. 26, shelter from the snow, “Samādhirāja Sūtra,” in Studies in the Literature of the Great Vehicle: Three Mahāyāna Buddhist Texts, ed. Luis O. Gomez and Jonathon A. Silk, (Ann Arbor: Center for South and South East Asian Studies, University of Michigan, 1989), p. 58, “[This samādhi] is not humiliating those who suffer, but offering material assistance. It is not disappointing the poor.” For further citations from the Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom, Vimalakīrtinirdeśa, and Bhaiṣajyaguru Sūtras, see the main text. Return to text
  17. The Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom, tr. Edward Conze, (Berkeley: University of California, 1975), p. 86. Return to text
  18. The Large Sutra, p. 138. Return to text
  19. The Sūrataparipṛcchā Sūtra shows the possibilities for a social critique: “You levy taxes and punish the innocent for no reason, infatuated with your sovereignty, you do not protect your subjects[,] and have no pity for the poor and suffering.” Treasury, p. 249. Return to text
  20. The Large Sutra, p. 614. Return to text
  21. Saṃdhinirmocana Sūtra, See p. 249 for the warning that merely providing material goods is not skillful and that sentient beings cannot be made happy by any means that benefits them through material goods alone. Return to text
  22. Raoul Birnbaum, The Healing Buddha, (Boston: Shambhala, 1989). See p. 62 about the 12 vows of Bhaiṣajyaguru: vow number eleven, “May the desperately famished be given food and may they ultimately taste the teachings”; vow number three, “may I enable all to obtain necessities of life”; and vow number twelve, “May the destitute of clothes obtain attractive garments.” Return to text
  23. The Holy Teaching of Vimalakīrti, tr. R. Thurman, (London: Penn State, 1976), p. 41. See also p. 70 on treasure and food for the poor, p. 20 on wealth for the poor, and p. 55 on the idea that beggars are usually bodhisattvas testing us. Return to text

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