After they had completed their learning, the Prince of Baranasi and Velama returned to Baranasi. The Prince was crowned as King. And Velama became a court Brahmin. One day Velama opened his warehouses and looked at the great amount of treasures which had been collected for seven generations. He thought of making grand charity which would strike the whole of the Southern Island Continent with awe.
Then he told the King about his idea. He ordered his men to make tripod-stands for cooking in long rows, on the bank of the Ganga River. He asked them to build warehouse and store rice, cooking oil, butter, honey, etc. He let his men go around towns and villages, beating drums and announcing: “From this day onwards anybody may come to Velama’s alms-giving ceremony, enjoy foods and drinks and take any article he needs”. The Brahmin Velama dressed himself fully and holding the golden jar filled with the ceremonial water, he solemnly said thus: “If there are virtuous donees worthy of receiving my donation, may the water from the jar flow out, otherwise may the water from the jar not flow at all and he over-turned the jar but no water flowed out from the jar."
The Bodhisatta understood that the whole world had come to be worthless for there was not a single virtuous donee who was worthy of his donation. Nevertheless, he did not allow himself to be unhappy. He again held the jar and poured out the water, solemnly saying: “If the conviction and the volition of the donor are pure, may the water flow out and remain on the ground”. The water flowed out and remained on the ground. From that time onwards he made his offering everyday offering gruel in the morning, lunch at lunch-time and dinner at dinner-time.
This offering ceremony was so thoroughly arranged that there was no problem as to whether certain things were available and some other things were not available, and whether certain things were available at fixed times. In fact all things were available at all times.
Brahmin Velama donated eighty-four thousand golden bowls full of silver coins, eighty-four thousand silver bowls full of gold coins, eighty-four thousand copper bowls full of silver coins, eighty-four thousand elephants decorated with golden trappings, eighty-four thousand vehicles decorated with the pictures of animals, eighty-four thousand cows, eighty-four thousand women adorned with jewellery, millions of very soft cotton blankets, etc. As for foods and drinks, anyone who needed these could take as much as he liked.
Although he made this very great and grand donation, there was no noble done who was worthy of receiving his noble offering. All the donees were those who did not even observe the five moral precepts. In fact, it was a donation performed outside the Buddha Sasana and consequently it did not bear great benefits.
With respect to the greatly beneficial offerings, the Buddha said as follows:
The offering of only one meal to a Stream-winner (Sotapanna) brings more benefit than the great charity performed by the Brahmin Velama. Again, offering only one meal to a Once-returner (Sakadagami) brings more benefits than giving meals to one hundred Stream-winners (Sotapannas). Similarly, offering to a Non-returner (Anagami) brings greater benefits than offering to one hundred Once-returners (Sakadagamis). Similarly, offering to an Arahat brings more benefits than offering to one hundred Non-returners (Anagamis) , offering to a lesser Buddha brings greater benefits than offering to one hundred Arahats, offering to a Buddha brings more benefits than offering to one hundred lesser Buddhas, offering to the Buddha and His disciples brings more benefits than all previous offerings. The donation of a monastery intended for all bhikkhus coming from all directions, brings still greater benefits.
Thus the people all over the world perform various kinds of alms-giving according to their respective custom and religious beliefs. All of them, except Buddhists, give away their money and property with a worldly outlook of social welfare. They offer with the main intention of becoming rich and prosperous in the present life as the result of their offering. In reality the charity can bring great benefits not only in the present life but also in many future existences. When one performs charity, one can enjoy great benefits only when one’s giving is accompanied with threefold noble volitions, the knowledge of Kamma and Its Results (Kammassakatanana), and the opportunity to donate to the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Samgha. This opportunity that exists only in the Buddha’s Sasana.
Therefore all the wise Buddhists should make their provisions for the journey through samsara by performing their charity in the correct way during the Buddha Sasana.
Source : By Ye' Thu Aung (Buddhism for Beginners)