A person stashes a fund away,
deep underground, at the water line:
“When a need or duty arises,
this will provide for my needs,
for my release if I’m denounced by the king,
molested by thieves,
in case of debt, famine, or accidents.”
With aims like this
in the world
a reserve fund is stashed away.
But no matter how well it’s stored,
deep underground, at the water line,
it won’t all always serve one’s need.
The fund gets shifted from its place,
or one’s memory gets confused;
or — unseen —
water serpents make off with it,
spirits steal it,
or hateful heirs run off with it.
When one’s merit’s ended,
it’s* totally destroyed.
But when a man or woman
has laid aside a well-stored fund
of generosity, virtue,
restraint, & self-control,
with regard to a shrine,
a fine individual,
or elder sibling:
That’s a well-stored fund.
It can’t be wrested away.
It follows you along.
When, having left this world,
for wherever you must go,
you take it with you.
This fund is not held in common with others,
& cannot be stolen by thieves.
So, enlightened, you should make merit,
the fund that will follow you along.
This is the fund
that gives all they want
to beings human, divine.
from Khuddakapatha 8, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
* That is, when one’s merit is destroyed, the material treasures will also be lost.
Have you ever stored away something you considered precious and then forgotten about it? One day you remember it, but can’t find it. Stuff is like that. The dress or shirt that we thought we looked fabulous in suddenly came to seem threadbare or out of fashion. The big car loan didn’t seem like such a good idea after a breakdown or fender-bender. We try like mad to conserve and protect our stuff, but it is, by its nature, disintegrating all the time. Even money in the bank loses value every year. What to do?
As the Buddha points out in this down-to-earth verse, the meritorious deeds we perform, the generosity we exercise – these are treasures that we don’t have to keep track of. They can actually accumulate, both in this life and in any future (theoretical) lives. Every time we abandon our selfishness and give, in any way, we become more beautiful and in the truest sense, richer.