The Paramita of Generosity

Generosity is the first on the list and seems to garner the lion’s share of most of the explanations I have encountered and for good reason. If the student cannot master generosity the rest of them likely will be more difficult to practice. At its essence Generosity is sharing, a mind that can share is open and can understand the needs of others. It is also important to understand that here we transform our attachment and desire. We give without any expectation of receiving something in return, giving freely.

Let me give you an example. For the last while I have found myself in a time of need. To be specific my budget is very tight, I know many people have or have had times like this in their lives. So a very good friend actually a brother from another mother, suggested that our families should spend a weekend together. He understood that I could not pay for anything on this weekend but since he was in a position of surplus he would gladly pay all the expenses. Since we live 600km this involved train tickets for my daughter and I as well as food and other smaller expenses. So I packed our bags and we left for the weekend. Our two families had a wonderful time. We went tobogganing in the fresh snow with the kids, ate wonderful meals, shared beers and stories, and we really listened to one another to really feel into how things were going in each others lives. As the weekend drew to a close I thanked him with all my heart. His response was not to say you are welcome but to thank me for the precious time that we could share. He did not count the money and say I hope it was worth it or anything like that he gave freely of his heart and wallet. In our shared time of gratitude we agreed to accept each others thankfulness and generosity. My friend is German and in the German language there are actually two words for generosity, Großzügigkeit and Freigebigkeit, the latter is to give generously but to do it freely with no strings attached, no expectations whatsoever. He does not identify himself as a follower of the Buddha dharma but he is really an exceptional example of a Buddha. Thank you my friend, you know who you are.

Generally, generosity can be divided into four areas of giving:

1. Giving of material things, this one is easy for example invite friends over for dinner sponsor a project in your dharma Centre or give to a charity.

2. Giving of protection, offering refuge or help to anyone in need. Giving medical attention to the sick and injured is also very protective.

3. Giving of love and comfort to those in need, giving a hug, smiling, or giving a helping hand when needed. Giving love and comfort takes a little time, but there is nothing better that one can do to nurture a relationship.

4. Giving of the dharma. That’s what we are doing here right now, not just by writing a blog on the internet, but by being a good example and trying to live the Buddhadharma. One may also whisper peaceful mantras to animals or any other beings who want to listen.

It is important to remember that generosity is a two-way street, one cannot practice it alone, and without a receiver, there is no possibility of generosity at all. Pride resulting in one saying “no I don’t want that” ends the possibility of generosity. One never knows how the connection created by the act of generosity will develop over time. The receiver allows the giver to give, this give/give situation is contagious.

We can also remember the four conditions that strengthen the karmic impact of any action transcendent or not. 1. That we know and understand the situation 2. that we plan to do something 3. that we do it or have it done, and 4. that we are happy and pleased with the results. So we see and understand a need, we make a plan to give, we give or ask others to give as well, and we are overjoyed with the results. In this manner, generosity has the greatest possible impact. Here one is also wise then to practice giving and receiving with grace and humility.

So when my friend understood the situation, planned to give to me, his consequent follow through of the plan, and the joy that resulted gives both him and I the most positive karma possible from this situation. It has inspired me to plan that when my time of need ends and surplus returns that I can be of the same or similar help to others in the future.

Generosity and the 6 Paramitas, are primarily Mahayana teachings but is there a Vajrayana twist to these teachings? Here we can see that we can take generosity further and always remember the inseparability of subject, object, and action or the giver, receiver, and the act of giving. We are giving to ourselves every time we give. When we give, we give ourselves the merit along with the deep understanding and wisdom that we are all interconnected since beginningless time. And to top it all off it’s totally joyful. So let’s all give something to someone today.



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