Points of Controversy

7.4. Of Giving and the Gift

Controverted Point: That dāna is not the gift but the mental state.

Theravādin: If dāna be a mental state, is it possible to give a mental state away to others? If you deny, your proposition falls through. If you assent, you then imply that it is possible to give any mental property to others: contact, feeling, perception, volition, faith, energy, mindfulness, samādhi, understanding.

Rājagirikas and Siddhattikas: If we are wrong, we ask you, is giving attended by undesirable, disagreeable, unpleasant, barren consequences? Does it induce, and result in, sorrow? Is not rather the opposite true? Surely then dāna is a mental state.

Theravādin: Granting that giving was pronounced by the Exalted One to produce desirable results, is giving a robe, or alms-food, or lodging, or materia medica and requisites for illness dāna? You admit they are, but you cannot assert that these directly bring about desirable, agreeable, pleasant, felicific mental results.

Rājagirikas and Siddhattikas: If we are wrong, let us quote the words of the Exalted One:

“Faith, modesty, and meritorious giving:
These are the things that men of worth pursue;
This, say they, is the path celestial,
Hereby we pass into the deva-world.’


Bhikkhus, these five givings, the Great Dana’s, are supreme, secular, hereditary; ancient customs, unmixed now or in the past; they are not mixed one with the other, nor shall be, and they am not despised by recluses or brahmins, or by the wise. What are the five? First, there is the Ariyan disciple who, having put away taking life, is opposed to it Such an one gives to all beings without limit security, amity, benevolence. And having thus given without limit, he himself becomes partaker in that security, amity, benevolence. Secondly, the Ariyan disciple, having put away taking what is not given, wrong conduct in sense-desires, lying, and occasions for indulging in strong drinks, is opposed to these. Thus renouncing, bhikkhus, he gives to all beings without limit security, amity, goodwill. And so giving, he himself becomes partaker in that unlimited security, amity, goodwill. These, bhikkhus, are the five Great Dana’s. “

If the Suttanta says thus, then giving is a mental state.

Theravādin: According to you, then, dāna is not something to be given. But was it not said by the Exalted One:

“Take the case of one who gives food, drink, raiment, a carriage, a wreath, a perfume, ointment, a couch, a dwelling, means of lighting.”

Surely then dāna is a thing to be given.

Rājagirikas and Siddhattikas: You say then that giving is a thing to be given. Now you do not admit that the thing to be given has as its direct result something desirable, agreeable, pleasant, felicifie, a happy capacity and consequence. On the other hand, the Exalted One said that dāna had such a result. Now you say that a robe, alms-food, and the other requisites are dāna. Hence it follows that a robe and so on has such a result, which cannot be. Therefore it is wrong to say that dāna is a thing to be given.