When you make an offering of generosity to others, you are also making an offering of merits to yourself.
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“Reverend sir (the Buddha), how did it happen that such a monk (Tissa), having the supporting tendencies to attain arahantship, came to have a diseased body? Why did his bones disintegrate? Through what deed in a former birth did he obtain the dispositions requisite for the attainment of arahantship?” — “Monks, all these things happened solely because of deeds he committed in a previous existence.” — “But, reverend sir, what did he do?” — “Well then, monks, listen.
In the dispensation of the Buddha Kassapa, Tissa was a fowler. He used to catch birds in large number, and most of these he served to royalty. Most of those he did not give to royalty he used to sell. Fearing that if he killed and kept the birds he did not sell, they would rot, and desiring to prevent his captive birds from taking flight, he used to break their leg-bones and wing-bones and lay them aside, piling them in a heap. On the following day he would sell them…
One day, when well-flavoured food had been cooked for him, a monk who was an arahant stopped at the door of his house on his round for alms. When Tissa saw the elder, he made his mind serene and thought, “I have killed and eaten many living creatures. A noble elder stands at my door, and an abundance of well-flavoured food is in my house. I will therefore give him alms.” So he took the monk’s bowl and filled it, and having given him well-flavoured food, saluted the monk respectfully and said: “Reverend sir, may I obtain the highest fruit of the Dhamma you have seen.” Said the elder in his words of rejoicing, “So be it.” (End of Story of the Past.) “Monks, it was through the meritorious deed Tissa then did that this fruit accrued to him. It was because he broke the bones of birds that his body became diseased and his bones disintegrated. It was because he gave well-flavoured food to the arahant that he attained arahantship.”
A Treasury Of Buddhist Stories From The Dhammapada Commentary
Translated By E.W. Burlingame