AN10.177, about the death partaking of offerings

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    • #18465

      In this sutta there is, i find, an interesting topic. Do death relatives partake of our gifts offered to them?

      The Buddha states there are impossible places, i.e. places of rebirth in which the death apparantly cannot partake of our gifts offered. It seems only rebirth as a hungry ghost (peta) is a possible place. They can partake of offerings but other rebirths seem to be impossible places.

      I remember, when reading petavathu, this is also often described there.

      I do not understand why only peta-rebirth is the kind of rebirth in which death relatives partake of offerings. Does anyone know?

      kind regards,

    • #18466

      Siebe said: “The Buddha states there are impossible places, i.e. places of rebirth in which the death apparantly cannot partake of our gifts offered. It seems only rebirth as a hungry ghost (peta) is a possible place. They can partake of offerings but other rebirths seem to be impossible places.”

      This translation does not adequately express the true idea of that sutta. Janussoni brahmana asked the Buddha: “ Bhante, you know that we brahmans make offerings, saying, ‘May this food be enjoyed by our dead relatives; may our dead relatives accept this food.’ Now, Bhante, can our dead relatives actually accept this food?”

      So, what the Buddha explained was that only those relatives who are born in certain peta realms (hungry ghosts) can actually accept and consume that food. In fact, the Buddha said that those particular petas get their food only that way. If they do not get such offerings, they just go hungry.

      On the other hand, beings in other realms cannot get their food that way. For example, one born as a hell-being, an animal, a human, or a deva cannot get their food from such offerings, because that is not how they get their food.

      However, this has nothing to do with giving merits (pattidana/punna anumodana). All beings can benefit from that; see, “Transfer of Merits (Pattidāna) – How Does it Happen?“.

    • #18467

      Thanks Lal,

      Hmmm…maybe there is something going on with the translation but both Thanissaro and Bodhi translate ‘gifts’ in stead of food.

      Without any knowledge of Pali ‘gifts’seems to me appropriate. Why? because i remember from reading petavatthu that peta’s can receive all kinds of gifts, for example cloths, not only food but much more stuff.

      Is it only about food?

      Apart from this, i do not understand why this only works for peope who died and were reborn as peta’s?


    • #18469

      What Janussoni asked: “..Dānāni dema, saddhāni karoma: ‘idaṃ dānaṃ petānaṃ ñāti¬sālo¬hi¬tā¬naṃ upakappatu, idaṃ dānaṃ petā ñātisālohitā paribhuñjantū’ti. Kacci taṃ, bho gotama, dānaṃ petānaṃ ñāti¬sālo¬hi¬tā¬naṃ upakappati; kacci te petā ñātisālohitā taṃ dānaṃ paribhuñjantī”ti?

      Dāna is giving. Actually, in the context of the sutta what was done in those days was to give foods to yogis and then give merits of that to petas. It does not make sense to translate dāna in this context as “gifts”.

      Paribhuñjati or bhunjati means eating, especially in this context.

      The sutta makes that very clear in the paragraph on the petas: “So kāyassa bhedā paraṃ maraṇā pettivisayaṃ upapajjati. Yo petti¬vesa¬yi¬kānaṃ sattānaṃ āhāro, tena so tattha yāpeti, tena so tattha tiṭṭhati, yaṃ vā panassa ito anup¬pavec¬chanti mittāmaccā vā ñātisālohitā vā, tena so tattha yāpeti, tena so tattha tiṭṭhati. Idaṃ kho, brāhmaṇa, ṭhānaṃ yattha ṭhitassa taṃ dānaṃ upakappatī”ti.”

      It specifically says food or ahara for the petas.

      This is the problem of mindlessly translating suttas, without paying attention to the message conveyed.

      There are many things about this complex world, that we will not be able to fully comprehend. How can food offered to yogis can materialize as food for petas? It is not that different from how pattidana/punna anumodana works. Most of those yogis were highly moral and had cultivated abhinna powers too; so, there is definitely merits gained by such offerings of food.

      • #19397
        Dr. J Chakma

        I agree. Petas can benefit from dana of not only food, but things such as cloths.
        In one story (or sutta, I do not remebre clearly), king Bimbisara gave food (dana) to bhikkhus and his former relative (relatives from several mahakappas back) got that food and appeared in front of the king. But they were naked. When king narrated to story next day to Buddha, He said that they were naked because he did not donate cloths. So, king Bimbisara donated cloths the next day all his former relatives were clothed when they appeared in front of him again.
        From this story it can be said that petas can accept/get things of dana, other than food.

    • #18471

      Thanks Lal,

      This petavatthu story shows some gifts peta can receive:

      Especially when gifts are presented to the Sangha (high kammic consequence) and the merits are transmitted to deceised relatives which have become peta, they are of great fruit for the peta’s.

      Some gifts they can receive are (these are mentioned in the above sutta);


    • #18473

      Siebe: When you post things like this, please make sure to include at least a reference to the Pali version.

      P.S. Thanks for sending the Pali link: Sāṇavāsī­the­ra Peta­vatthu

      Yes. That translation is good enough to give the basic idea.

      The idea is the same as I explained above. When food is offered those types of petas can get food. When clothes are donated and merits are transferred, they can get clothes, etc.

      As I explained above, there are many things that are not discernible to us, i.e., such phenomena do not happen in the human realm.

      You may know about the sutta where a silver mansion appeared in a deva realm for Anathapindika, when he built and dedicated the Jetavanaramaya for the Buddha and Sangha. That was even before he died. So, the merits of that giving gave results immediately.

      I would not get into these things too much. There is “no end”, and it can throw people off the main goal. This is what happens to some people who get interested in jhana. They get trapped. But of course, jhanas are not bad, if they come naturally.

      It is better to spend the time in contemplating Tilakkhana and asubha nature of this world.

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