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The Essential Scriptures of the Buddha and Patriarchs

Sūtra on the Differences in the Karmic Recompenses of Action

Section 27

“Furthermore, there are those actions in which one may be poor but enjoys giving. Suppose there is a sentient being who, when he was previously practicing giving, did not come across a field of merit (puṇyakṣetra). As he continued along through the cycle of birth and death and ended up in a human bourne, his karmic recompense was negligible because he had not come across such a field of merit, and it vanished as soon as it was received. But because he had previously made a habit of giving, although he lives in poverty, he still enjoys the practice of giving.
“Furthermore, there are those actions in which one may be rich but is stingy and parsimonious. Suppose there is a sentient being who has never engaged in giving. He comes across a spiritual mentor and briefly engages in a single act of giving, thereby planting a fertile field of merit. Due to the fecundity of this field, he has a well-to-do livelihood; but because he did not make a habit of [giving] initially, he is stingy even though he is rich.
“Furthermore, there are those actions in which one may be rich but also has the aptitude to give. Suppose there is a sentient being who encounters a spiritual mentor and frequently engages in the act of giving, thereby encountering a fertile field of merit. Due to this cause and condition, he becomes extraordinarily rich and abundantly wealthy, but still is able to practice giving.
“Furthermore, there are those actions in which one may be poor but is stingy and parsimonious. Suppose there is a sentient being who stays far removed from spiritual mentors and has no one to encourage or guide him, so that he is unable to practice giving. Due to this cause and condition, he is reborn into poverty and moreover is stingy and parsimonious.