generosity is letting go


Pindabat 5POSTCARD #31: In Buddhist countries, babies are taught when they are about six months old to put food into the monk’s alms-bowl. The whole family applauds as the sticky rice drops from that little hand into the monk’s bowl. The kid gets the idea early on: when stuff leaves your hand, you get this happy feeling. It feels good to give.

Everything the Buddhist monk receives is a gift, an offering; the monk is a mendicant, and lives entirely on the generosity of others: ‘Our bodies are fueled by the food that is offered to us. In fact, scientists say that all the cells of the body are replaced every seven years, so any (monk) who has been ordained for that long has a body that is completely donated. If it were not for the accumulated kindnesses, efforts, and good will of countless hundreds and thousands of people, this body would not be able to sustain itself. Kindness is the actual physical fabric of what we think of as ‘me.” [Ajahn Amaro, ‘Generosity in the Land of the Individualist’]

Generosity is cultivating an inward disposition to give, a glad willingness to share what we have with others. Give it away, we have more than enough. Ease the discomfort of being driven to fulfill that urge to ‘have’, to ‘possess’, a hunger created by always wanting more. All of it is gone when you’re generous. Brainstorm the word ‘generosity’ and you come up with loving-kindness, compassion, empathy, well-being, freedom. You find gratitude, grace, honour, motivation, encouragement. Generosity is everything. It’s nature is to share, recycle, circulate; it can only be given, never taken.

Generosity, is a mental, emotional letting go; releasing the tenacity of holding on to things; all that baggage we burden ourselves with is removed in one single act of generosity. Generosity means not holding to the self-concept, the separateness applied to things that are really ‘in context’. Seeing it all as process, ever-changing; a connectedness with the outer world. Generosity leads to wisdom – the truth is without bias. The cultivation of generosity directly debilitates greed and hate, and facilitates the kind of mind that allows for the eradication of delusion.

‘There was a seeker and a wise man. The wise man had a most incredible jewel and the seeker was absolutely amazed by the jewel. He asks the wise man if he would give him the jewel. And the wise man gives it to him. The seeker is very excited and afraid that the old wise man is going to change his mind, so he hastily says goodbye and goes off. A short while after that he comes back, approaches the wise man with great humility and respect, lays the jewel down in front of him on the ground and says he’d like to make a trade. He’d like to exchange this jewel. And the wise man asks him what he wants to exchange it for. The seeker says he would like to exchange the jewel for knowledge of how to gain the sort of mind that could give up a jewel like that without a second thought.’ [This story appears in Khanti – Patient Endurance]

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Sources include: Dana: The Practice of Giving
Excerpts from an earlier post: More Than Enough
Upper image is from the Wat Pahnanachat collection

27 thoughts on “generosity is letting go

  1. I really liked your thoughts here: “Generosity, is a mental, emotional letting go; releasing the tenacity of holding on to things; all that baggage we burden ourselves with is removed in one single act of generosity.”

    I wouldn’t often think of generosity as a letting go of baggage or a burden, but thinking about that is a really interesting meditation of its own. To whom or to what do I give these worries? When they enter the river and float away, where do they go?

    It reminds me, Jesus in A Course in Miracles talks about giving our worries and concerns to him as gifts. I often wondered: that doesn’t seem like much of a gift, yet he receives them as such. Your words rendered that passage suddenly more meaningful. The gift is in giving up the things we cling to, the separateness, and what is found in that giving up.

    Michael

    • I do like your words: ‘The gift is in giving up the things we cling to, the separateness, and what is found in that giving up.’ It’s something like this I was thinking of. The only difference is that in Buddhism there is anatta and this doesn’t involve the sense of a personification of anything, as in the concept of Jesus, to whom we ‘give our worries and concerns as gifts.’ So that when the worries and concerns enter the river and float away, they disappear completely… maybe it’s language and its characteristic function of identifying things that suggests there’s an attachment in personification, somehow. Having said that, it’s refreshing to see it in this way. Thank you for these observations.

      • I understand and appreciate your distinction. I think sometimes words do make this tricky business, but I thought I would try and stumble over a few concepts from A Course of Love to show we may not be leagues apart. I’ll begin by interrupting myself to say that sometimes, also, actually quite often, I find distinctions don’t matter- like when we sit in spaciousness and share a sunset. There is no way to analyze or define that wholeness in which we participate. And it doesn’t matter how we might try… We’re just in it, together. That… that shared beingness… without definition, yet somehow known… is what I most wish to share and join in.

        In ACOL Jesus speaks of Love as being not a feeling, but a reality that is without quality or condition. It is not a person, not something we could associate with any form or deity whatsoever. It “is”. Jesus was a man, but also a man who fully accepted or stepped into Christ-consciousness. In fully accepting the Truth that is the heart of all beings, he was both/and, both a local expression and the whole enchilada in a sense. He became in a sense the embodiment of Love. It would not be possible at that point to say Jesus the man, the expression or outpouring of Love, was something “other than” Love, nor to say that Love was or is reducible to the man “Jesus”. Both would be, in a sense, incomplete or inapplicable. Jesus became, I think for many, a point of access, a pathway, a connection, or a bridge from perception rooted in forms and selves and personalities, to pure being, pure Love.

        Michael

      • Thank you for the sunset! You can convey this kind of thing so well, I feel I’m there, ‘a reality without quality or condition.’ Thanks too for the closer look into what we understand from the discussion on personification – ‘not a person, not something we could associate with any form or deity…’ it simply “is”. Beyond that, language doesn’t reach. Jesus as the embodiment of Love; that kind of contemplation just blows me away completely… thank you for this generosity.

  2. Excellent article for the most part! Generosity — truly — is a precious jewel!

    The best type of generosity, though, is not the kind that is intentionally cultivated. It’s the kind that comes from understanding relationship — and from insight — not from man-made structures or habitual traditions. 😉

  3. a gift you give of yourself with no strings attached…
    Your thoughts always make me think….and smile…
    I love the last paragraph, one of my favorite tales…
    Thank you for sharing….
    Take Care…You Matter…
    )0(
    maryrose

  4. An excellent post. It does feel good to give, yes. Though how the kids are trained in that feeling, that’s just lovely. Loved you describing the sticky rice leaving their fingers.

    Really appreciated the quotes, too. That bit about 7 years later their body is a donated body – wow, very very thought provoking. Just a magnificent post, this one.

    • I’m amazed by the generosity of this too, it’s the opposite of holding on to all kinds of emotional stuff that’s not getting anywhere. Just knowing it’s possible is enough. Some of it came from Ajahn Amaro’s book: “Generosity in the Land of the Individualist”. Read more about the monks’ way of life there. Thanks for these comments.

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