Ekottarikāgama 21.2

Three Meritorious Actions

Thus have I heard. At one time the Buddha was staying in Śrāvastī, at Jetṛ’s Grove, in Anāthapiṇḍada’s Park. Then the Exalted One said to the monks:

“There are three kinds of meritorious actions. Which are the three? The meritorious action consisting (a) in generosity, (b) in equilibrium and (c) in wise reflection.

“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, alms-food, lodging, medicine for treating the sick, fragrant substances, flowers 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; who does not take delight in evil thoughts, is not a thief, is much given to generosity towards people and who is no miser; whose speech is conciliatory, refined and not offending anybody; who, living the holy life, does not practise sexual intercourse; who is content with just keeping his own body going; who does not tell lies, always paying attention to being absolutely honest, without cheating or lying; who is neither elated nor dejected because of that which the worldling esteems; who, not taking intoxicants, never fails to avoid stupefaction; who, furthermore, suffuses one quarter of the cardinal points with friendliness, two quarters, three, four quarters, and also the quarters of the intermediate points of the compass, 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; who, moreover, suffuses one quarter of the cardinal points with a heart full of compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity, 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.

“What does the existential constituent ‘meritorious action consisting in wise reflection’ mean? When there is a monk who, given to practice, is intent on recollection and perfect awakening; who does to succumb to attachment and in whom deliberation has ceased; who relies on giving up, and on what necessarily leads to ultimate release; who, practising the dharma ‘being intent on perfect awakening’ is intent on recollection and perfect awakening, on perfect awakening by means of an exclamation, on perfect awakening by means of the absorptions and by means of restraint; 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, monks, 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
Existence. By means of these three basics one will,
Beyond any doubt, be born among the gods.

“Therefore, monks, one should be intent on skill in means as a guide-rope to these three basics. Thus monks, you should train.”

After listening to the Buddha’s words, the monks were pleased and respectfully applied themselves to practice.