2022-02-13-Giving, Gift, and Generosity
7:18PM Feb 13, 2022
So today I'd like to talk about one of the core virtues or core practices and attitudes and kind of realizations of Buddhism. And that is generosity. And in talking about generosity, I would like to talk about in three areas, that of giving, that of gift, and that of generosity. And if we begin by giving, there's many ways of giving, we can give freely, and we could give expectedly or domestically or obligatorily, there's a whole range of giving. But giving it at its all its forms, is really integral to what human beings, how they are and how we live. And our societies, our communities, our families, often are, are held together in a network of giving, that without people giving of themselves giving, supporting there probably very little, real community and connection, anywhere we go. I was really struck as I was raising children here in Redwood City, that my kids participated in all kinds of sports, soccer, and baseball, mostly basketball. And there was a whole bunch of parents who volunteered their times to be coaches, to be managers to the teams and set things up and all kinds of things. And I was struck that this was a really important part and valuable part of my children's upbringing, by children's upbringing, to be able to be part of the community in this way. Both both be able to play and have fun and be with other kids. But also they felt connected to the Redwood City community of parents, and they no wider community, like they're a part of something bigger than just our family. And it wouldn't have happened, I think it was it must was all these adults who volunteered their time, they gave over themselves, and they needed the community in certain ways together. Sometimes, occasionally, it happens that it did happen to me, when I started being a new parent, I had the thought, what my parents did this for me. My parents, you know, you know, sacrificed this much or gave so much of themselves units for me that I had no idea that that child worked. I never thought about it, I just kind of took my parents for granted, I don't have memories of when I was a baby. So just you know, I didn't think about it. But as a new parent, you know, certainly was a lot of work a lot of demands. And, you know, up up all night, sometimes with the kids waking up in the night and feeding and this and that. And when they were going to do when they were babies, it could do almost nothing for themselves. It just felt for the most part, just very natural to give time and effort and all this. And and I didn't think of myself as being generous. But I did feel you know what, I wasn't too tired. It just felt that the light, a part of the delight was the way in which I became an ascertain, I would say I hope to hopefully help the way I've my deeds became unimportant. And so it didn't matter if you know I was sleepy or the next day or tired. It didn't matter if I wasn't thinking about you know that. You know, the fact that I hadn't showered in three days that anybody would care. The fact that you know that I was still in my pajamas at 1pm because there hadn't been any time to do anything else and someone came to the door or something, you know, all these things that maybe ordinarily I would have been self conscious about or had ideas about or something, they fell away. And in the early period of parenthood or babyhood it felt really freeing to have this sense of self concern drop away so fully and completely, that as the children could do more for themselves that it felt natural enough and to become more important again, by my situation became something to care for and take care of and and that grew over time, and now they're not even home anymore. So you know, it's just that it's, you know, a whole different story of how to be
and, but without that to kind of take someone giving of themselves to babies, or babies don't grow up very well. But the feeling that there's people there caring attending to them is formative, even if they don't remember that their baby hood. There's all kinds of ways in which if it goes, well, they feel safe in this world they feel belonging in this world, that they're not going to feel if they feel the need, repeatedly abandoned, and no one was there to care for them. And so this healthy growth of people depends a lot on it, you know, it's something you could almost not pay somebody enough to do. Because it's maybe because it's there has to be this more than just a job, I think it has to be a love, a care that's infused in the giving. So that society is kind of kind of, to the greatest extent, depend on it. Here in the United States. There's a culture of nonprofit giving, maybe arises out of the church, religious see in here in this country, that we're there's a kind of understood way that giving to nonprofits, to churches to causes all kinds of things that is kind of absent in Europe, and you people in Europe are certainly generous. But they don't have the same relationship to organizations like this, partly because maybe the government feels in there, the government's there take care of people in a much different way more extensive way than here in this country. So here's often we have to do it than that, because the government is not filling in or not expected to do certain things. So the Society of giving many years ago, I that early 70s, I read a study at their biological study of some people's community, tribe or something in the Philippines, that lived somewhat removed from modern society. And they were a dream a culture, apparently, they were on the central features of their community was focusing on dreams. So they would wake up in the morning and tell their family about their dreams they had. And so dreams were kind of central. But one of the customs they had was that if someone had a bet had a dream, about a bad dream, or dream like that, where someone in a village in the town was somehow the relationship was strained or difficult, or there was some kind of challenge there. In the dream, when they woke up in the morning, they would go give that person in the village a gift. What a phenomenal thing to do, you know, to I don't know what the unconscious is doing, you know, when it shows a difficult relationship in a dream. But, but that that, that they would respond to that with a gift? You know, what does that do to the community? Or what does that do about the relationships and how people relate to each other. I recently talked to someone who had a very difficult landlord, seem to the landlord was kind of unreasonable and demands and expectations and all kinds of things. So what should I do when I go back to speed I've been away for a while. And I didn't know what to say, exactly. except the one thing that is kind of a de Buddhist thing to say, I said, when you go back, bring a gift for your landlord. And the person was a little bit shocked. Like what this person so difficult, they are bring a gift and maybe bake some cookies or buy something or do you know, before you go and just bring it bring it and say, you know, I was thinking about you and my retreat, and I just wanted to bring you a gift or something. And, and I've no one offered this advice to other people who had like difficult in laws. And it turns out that it's a kind of a leavening a kind of a tenderizing. Something changes when we bring gifts that sometimes can't happen if we don't fix people's got they lower their guard somehow or they soften. There's no guarantee, of course. But the emphasis I want to make here is that giving is a huge part of our lives. And for me, at least I think I underappreciated growing up, I didn't understand the extent of it. So that if GiveBig is kind of the network of our human connections. One of the features of that is the gift, the gift that's given. And there's many gifts that can be given that there is a giving of our time and giving of our services, giving of material goods,
give giving of money, there's all these things that are given. Give enough smiles, just to giving Smiles is a wonderful thing to do. And that's so hard with these masks. Time. And sometimes I want people to see me smile, because I just want them to feel my appreciation, delight and seeing them being with them. And, and I realized so you know what a wonderful thing it is to communicate the light that appreciation that's harder with these masks on. And I don't think they're too I thought about it too much I just kind of was smiling. And just because I was happy and and now I've wanted to be able to express most likely communication that's being gifted or something. What's interesting about the gift in Buddhism in Indian Buddhism is that it's one of the word for gift it add forgiving, is dada, da na. And, and some of the ways that Buddha used the word Dada, were somewhat equivalent, but different from the early Indian idea of sacrifice, which is a different word. It's a Yeah, yeah. And, but he could have used it in a similar ways. And so I'll give you one example. One of the things that in some of the religions of his time, they would make sacrifices to the gods as a big part of the sacrifice was for the gods. And so some of the gods was Brahma, one of the Greek gods. And, and the Buddha said, that your parents and your family, your, especially your parents, are Brahma. So here, he's redefining what you know what a god is, from some invisible God up in the heavens, to people who are tangible in this world, people, you know, your parents, they're your Brahma, they're your God. And that he said, give gifts to them. So rather than giving a gift, they're offering a sacrifice to Brahma heaven, the Buddha's redefining the notion of giving to what's happening in our immediate experienced world, our social world here. Now, we might not think very much of this. But I think in the ancient world, it was a big change. From where the central focus of some people's religious life was all these elaborate rituals of sacrifice for the gods. And the Buddha was changing it where the religious giving was not the sacrifice to invisible gods, but a giving of generously to people who were known and here and are in their society. And so the word Donna has this religious quality. In Buddhism, it's a gift, which is somehow carry spirituality in it, it exactly how it carries spirituality, each of us could find out for ourselves. But it's a it has a heightened value, the gift of Donald's or other words for giving and Polly in the early Buddhist language, that that data, but data is often like, like the sacrifice were religious in nature, that also has a religious nature to it. And we see that in some of the lists of things that you could give, you could give ethics, your virtue, you can you can like living by the precepts as the gift of of ethics of virtue, gift of safety, you could give your kindness, you can give material goods, possessions, you could give the gift of fearlessness that people don't fear, have any reason to fear you. And so these different kinds of digs that you can give, are pointing back to some quality that we have inside. And so to give, and then there's then so there's the giving and there's a gift. And then the different gifts have different values. And this is where it gets a little bit complicated and often challenging for people in the modern West. To appreciate some of the logic that used it Buddha's for for valuing, having value what gifts, add part of the idea, the value of gift giving, the gifts where you give a gift, what you give, is because gifts have an impact or the giver.
We like to think I think often we're kind of tired of being altruistic and we just give without any concern for ourselves to have any concern for ourselves like can we benefit from the giving, maybe a selfish it can be selfish, that we have to be on the guard for that, I hope, but self regard and self care doesn't have to be selfish. And so one of the things that buddho talked about That was give a gifts that bring you joy, bring gifts that are uplifting, that inspire you. And because of that you benefit as well. So the gift is goes in both directions, you're both gifting someone else, but you're benefiting from your own gift. So it's kind of a gift to yourself as well. So for one of the things he said was, for example, he encouraged people to embrace the ancient world, 2500 years and the bronze era age. He said, Give with your hands, give directly. And, you know, we should stop, you know, please don't stop donating to organizations, you know, online or whatever way you do for sure. But, but something different happens when we give in person. The I know someone who liked to do you started off still to hear, but there's six things that somebody called a free cycle. And you would post your things you have available, somebody come to your home, and you give it to them personally. And the person said, I could go and give it to the goodwill. But then it's impersonal. And when I give it to someone directly, who could use it, it just feels so much more inspiring and nicer. And afterwards, I feel and remember this they go this is a good thing, that's very different than just giving to the goodwill. If, if you give for example, $10 to someone who clearly seems destitute and challenged in all kinds of ways. And then you find out that the person uses that to buy alcohol, while maybe it was still useful, because the person felt someone cared for them. And that's it a little memory that someone cared and was attentive to them. And they weren't too bad debt completely. So maybe had some benefit. But, but then you give $10 to someone else, some teenager, for example, who's quite poor, but with that $10 they could buy, you know, maybe they were able to buy. Maybe this is the old world now, but paper and pen, so they could write their college essay to get it apply for college. And with that essay, they got into college, and they came to you and said, you know, it later said, you know, by the way, you you gave me the $10 what I did with theirs bought this paper, but these pens, I was able to go and just kind of in my free time, keep writing and writing that essay with that block of paper, I didn't have any paper at all, this was phenomenal. And you helped me get into college without it, I don't think I would have gotten to college. So there's different value and where we give it a certain in terms of our happiness and our inspiration, our delight. I think some people really dislike this idea of putting value like that, because then sometimes there's a feeling well, some poor people don't deserve our gifts. It was just give the places where it's really wonderful to give. And you see this in some Buddhist cultures and Asia, I saw it maybe here too, in this country, where some Buddhist centers, temples, were clearly over the top wealthy people would come with gifts to the temple, and on the street or the sidewalk outside, or just you know, the living nearby or people who are really destitute, really impoverished. And people will just walk right by them and, and give to the temple. There is a value in giving to people who are poor and have the great need. So how do we how do we see? Do we just how do we decide where to give? How do we decide what gifts to give? is part of the, I think part of a considered life reflective life. I don't think there's any clear and obvious answers to the question. But the Buddha's idea that you give somebody personally so you're getting part of yourself in the process. It also that you're giving it away that inspires you, that brings you delight and joy. He also said the Buddha said don't give harming others or harming yourself. That's also a very interesting guideline for this don't give any way that harms yourself. Or sometimes you can harm other people through giving.
And so this is not the call for you know, some kind of harmful self sacrifice is give at all costs. But to do it in a way that you get it you get the you benefit from it. And if you give it a miserly way, you will maybe not so much benefit, but if you give it a generously way, then there's a lot of benefit. And then there's for yourself. And then if you get then we go to the third thing today generosity, giving gift and generosity, that generosity you could give without it really being generous. But it's also possible to give with generosity, and generosity is this beautiful quality, where things are given that are not obligated to give. You can give and when it's obligated to give, and it's just an obligation. But generosity can never be the obligatory. It's always giving more than is expected and more than is called for add. And so it's a kind of opening up to something that's given from us freely. Kind of an inspiration, a delight, a opening up, letting go. To give it a nice way from a good heart, from a good mind, healthy mind a good mind, I want to do this, this is great, this doesn't harm me. This maybe benefits the person or brings joy or delight. And it just feels so warm hearted and delightful to do this thing. Oh, yeah. Give. There was a time and when I was young were younger, when I started practice, the practice of generosity and giving that I kind of would give that miserly Exactly. But I would give, but I was a little bit tight and close, because I didn't feel like I should enjoy it. I didn't feel like I should kind of like, like that I should be somehow if like, if I felt kind of all good for doing it that somehow that diminished the giving. But I've learned since then that this is actually the opposite. That the board the light I haven't giving the board seems like other people can feel it's really given freely and generously. And I've certainly felt it that way I've, I've, I've received things from people where I felt that, you know, they were kind of they wanted to do it. But there also was a challenge for them and struggle for them. And then it was a struggle for me to really appreciate it. But then I forget people just kind of Wow, just like wow, that it's so easy for that person, it's like so fully just clearly offered. And then I have a whole different feeling for it, though, that's as good that I can enjoy it more and take it in and and so one of the features of this word Dada and Buddha's have that in the Buddhist sense of the word that's kind of a religious gift, a spiritual giving. As I said, there's other words in Pali for just other kinds of giving. But the tendency is for Dada to have a spiritual or religious quality to it. And one of the qualities of it is that it's freely given. And maybe that's what generosity means. But it's freely offered, with the kind of kind of with no expectations of an exchange. But perhaps with an expectation that this is healthy and good for everyone involved, including oneself, that something we benefit from it, ourselves. And that somehow it feeds the good qualities that nurtures the best qualities of our heart. You know, to to be generous, supports generosity and ourselves. And if generosity feels like a warm hearted kind of offering it opening and letting go that you know, we benefit. We see this little bit with the the Pali word for generosity. It's polywood is chogha ca GA. And the first meaning of the dictionary is not generosity, but it's letting go. Or then the second definition has to do with generosity. But it makes some sense when you give something you're also letting it go. And so rather than calling it letting go,
we could use the language is like giving up giving over because then it has the word giving it at which sits there chogha has both that meaning renounce to announce something and just be generous. And how this becomes beautiful is that is that when the letting go when the giving up? Is so freely AD AD unrestrictedly given that it just feeds a light this openness say, a softness a warm with a weapon to avert to ourselves like our heart begins to sing. Because in the letting go and the freedom letting go is not supposed to diminish us. But to enhance the beautiful qualities within. There's a story from the two stories from the ancient Indian tradition of, you know, there's a Buddha's of traditional, there's all these ideas that you make a lot of merit, make good karma for yourself, if you give, and there were these two people who were friends, and they wanted to acquire lots of good merit for themselves build up their store of merit. So they decided, why don't we just give back and forth I'll give you something, and you give it to me, and I'll give it to you. And, and so, when they died, they got reborn as poisoned wells. They were just kind of poisoning each other who were doing that rather than doing something really good. It's and then there's a story of, of a monk who had been given a golden begging bowl. And, and he was going to go to sleep one time at a grove of trees. And you notice a thief was lurking behind the trees, seemingly to wait for him to fall asleep. So you can come and pick up the ball and steal it. So the mug sat up and said, Hey, come over here. And he handed him the bowl. Here, this is for you, you can have it. And the guy was so happy, he got the golden ball he ran off and, you know, didn't have to steal that he was given that he came back the next morning, he came back into the mug and said, I have never known anyone to give so freely and not be attached to what they have. And you were so open handed in how you gave it to me and without attachment to this wealth, this thing? How did you manage to do that, and then the thief became the monk student. And then they ever lived, they lived happily ever after, I guess. And so these are fables, but they point to something. So this monk being able to give so generously was inspiring for the thief. But the way that the Buddha's of understands the ecology of the heart of the mind, that buck was also benefiting from that something was opening and freeing and being supported in the person was benefit who was giving as well. And one of the ways that this is discussed in ancient tradition, or that you know, in Buddhism, is that one of the purposes of giving, when it's done well, generously, maybe in a certain kind of selfless way, is that it beautifies the mind. isn't so giving that beautifies your mind. So isn't that great? If you're, it's kind of great if you're kind of selfish, but you realize you can't be selfish. So you give up your selfishness. So you can so that you can give freely. So you could get this benefit of getting a beautiful mind. Exchange logic, right, but sorry. But this idea that, you know, that's if you give cleanly and openly and freely, it does something for us. And the reason to emphasize that is that it's good to be available for the nerve nurture nourishment, to support the benefit that comes internally. When we do good things. We count we're important as well.
And allowing yourself to benefit to grow and the dharma to grow and good qualities and skillful qualities grow in wholesomeness is one of the great things to do human life. It's how it can mature as a as an adult as a practitioner. And you mature more, if you allow yourself to feel to be present for the, the benefits present for how things shift internally, in a good direction. So if your generosity is such that you you know, if you do it miserly, then maybe there's not that warmth that nourishment and wholesomeness inside, but if he gave freely and openly you learn that way, then something outside benefits. And that's kind. So what makes it spiritual in Buddhism, I propose is that its generosity is offered freely and openly. It's offered wisely, with some some attention to the consequence of giving and who you're giving to and why and where it's inspiring. And it's giving that also supports the growth of wholesome beneficial, beautiful qualities of mind of heart, for yourself, and for others. And protection that provides from selfishness, when you're concerned with beautifying your mind, is it selfishness is, if I'm allowed to use this, maybe you'll forgive me or you reword it. uglify as the mind, you know, it, it's Soliz the mind to be selfish. So as we kind of get a sense of this beautiful, open clarity, luminosity of the heart, the mind the warmth, the glow, you'll feel that the selfishness contracts it to clouds it over. And so there's this wonderful way that attending to the beauty of your own inner life supports greater and greater freedom. And so when you're going to sleep in a grove of trees with your golden bowl next to you, it's someone who clearly wants it. Maybe it's easy for you, to let them have it, to give it to them. And one of the gifts of that is that they the person doesn't get the bad karma of stealing. You save them from that karma by giving it first. So giving gift of generosity, the word for generosity also means to let go to renounce. And it's a very special meeting and Buddha's a very special kind of part of the let it deep, letting go of, of liberation. So finally, I like to say that this idea of giving is also a practice in Buddhism. And what that means is that sometimes it is useful to give even when you don't feel like it. Because it begins to be it can be a mirror, to understand ourselves better, to understand where we're holding on where we're afraid, where, where, where we're calculating, and all kinds of ways about why we should give and how we should give. You know, all these you know, and to give where it feels difficult to to stretch in order to learn more about ourselves, and to learn what it's like to let go. And to trust what what we're doing. So I, for example, have all kinds of ways we could practice, jet practice generosity. You could practice generosity, driving a car, where you always give someone your practice is no matter what you always give the other person the right of way. It's kind of generosity, you'd never push yourself. Even if it seems like you know, it's your right or something, but you kind of practice. It could be that you
you know, you see that the you're at the store and there's the question is in the supermarket, which line checkout line do you stand in? And normally, you might calculate, you know, where's the one that's gonna go fastest, the shortest for me, and you see one up ahead, you see someone else's heading there too. You're slightly ahead so you clearly you could get there first and you get it? What's the generous thing to do? Most people are eager to get through those lines. You have it used to hold back and let the person have it and find otherwise. These are simple things to do maybe but you do it as a practice means you do it so you can study yourself and learn what's going on and stretch something and discover how you're challenged by it and then see is it really necessary what you're holding on to and you're holding on to more than just you know who knows what you're holding on to discover in other nice practices to take. I don't know if it wasn't again, these things all work so well anymore. Society is changing so much maybe, but work better before when to carry with you some significant amount of cash when people weren't so was much more of a cash economy I guess. And, and I don't know what's a lot money, but $20 or $50 cash or something, and then had the practice of looking at studying as you go through your days of, of someone you can give it to, that you don't know. Somebody you can give it to that just seems like okay, this person I think I'll give it to, and then see what comes up. And maybe you never give it but the lot came up and you learned a lot about yourself in the process. Or maybe you do and, and then you learn something. Maybe you learn that that well that was a mistake. But there is a practice to do as well. And it's a practice that supports the exploration of the beautiful possibilities of giving a gift of purifying the mind. And the most profound reason to Buddhism to give is to discover how to be free not to be clinging to anything. So giving gift and generosity are three topics that are well worth reflecting on living with focusing on as part of the wider world of practicing mindfulness. So thank you and and then coincidentally that he came up to me before this talk and it was just mentioned there's an opportunity for some people to do something generous here at IMC and she was gonna ask for some volunteers and you want to ask you did to use the mic or maybe maybe let's get them let's get the mic and that way at least the people online can also hear otherwise they're going to be curious
Thank you. If I could get five or six people to help
I think the battery's low is a green light on
to help outside to pick up trash and sweep and do a little weeding for like 15 minutes. I think you get a lot done.
So they can meet you just out in the hallway there and then bigger hole
if you can meet me out in the parking lot. Just out the back door would be great when you get your shoes on. I also have gloves for picking up trash.
Great, thank you all. I wish you all well in the world where we give her a gift and receiver baby are all interpenetrating each other all mutual and all kind of disappearing each other. Can we really can we really tell what is the gift what is the gift and what is the receiver