The Paramita of Generosity

Paramita is a Sanskrit word for transcendent or beyond personal. So we could call them the six transcending or beyond personal actions. However, in more modern language we can call them the six liberating actions. There are six or ten of them depending on how the last one, wisdom, is being explained. The paramitas form the very basis of the Bhodisattva practice as the student develops Bhodichita or the enlightened mind. They form the foundation of how the Mahayana or Vajrayana student interacts with the world in general much like the eightfold path works in Theravada Buddhism. They represent the two accumulations of merit and wisdom. The two accumulations are generated by a bodhisattva practising the six perfections and result in the realisation of the three bodies of a Buddha, the Dharmakaya, Nirmanakaya and Shambhogakaya.

They are as follows:

  1. Generosity
  2. Discipline
  3. Patience
  4. Diligence
  5. Meditation
  6. Wisdom

Generosity is the first on the list and seems to garner the lions 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. Generally, generosity can be divided into four areas of giving:

1. Giving of material things, this ones easy 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 comforting to those in need, give a hug, smile, or give a helping hand when needed. Giving love and comforting 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, without a receiver there is no possibility for 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.

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.

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 actually 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.

The next five will follow shortly

QP

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