Generosity is the wish to benefit others, sharing whatever time, energy, talents, and possessions we have. It is the first among the Six Transcendent Excellences.
The Buddha’s Teachings on Generosity
Even if a person throws the rinsing of a bowl or a cup into a village pool or pond, thinking: ‘May whatever animals live here feed on this,’ that is a source of merit.
When the world is on fire with aging and death, one should salvage one’s wealth by giving. What’s given is well salvaged, what’s given bears fruit as pleasure. What isn’t given does not. Thieves take it away, or kings; it gets burnt by fire, or lost.
If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving and sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared, if there were someone to receive their gift. But because beings do not know, as I know, the results of giving and sharing, they eat without having given. The stain of miserliness overcomes their minds.
These are the five rewards of generosity: one is dear and appealing to all people, one is admired by good people, one’s good name is spread about, one does not stray from the rightful duties of the householder, and after death, one reappears in a good destination, in the heavenly realms. That’s the way it is. The donor does not go without reward.
What the miser fears, what keeps him from giving, is the very danger that comes when he doesn’t give.
Those who don’t praise giving are fools. The enlightened express their approval for giving and so find ease in the world beyond.
A person of integrity gives a gift with a sense of conviction, attentively, in season, with an empathetic heart. A person of integrity gives a gift without adversely affecting self or others.
Four Ordinary Forms of Giving
- Giving material aid: indiscriminate charity
- Giving protection: freeing from harm, oppression, or fear
- Giving love: wishing happiness for all, without expectation of reward
- Giving Dharma: sharing the teachings on spiritual truths
Two Extraordinary Forms of Giving (These require explicit authorization from the Lama or Yidam.)
- Redistributing wealth: taking from those who have too much to give to those who have too little
- Incurring karmic debts for others’ sake: distributing spiritual treasures to those who are unqualified
Two Fundamental Practices of Giving
Internal: Exchange Meditation
- directly perceive in your mind’s eye a person or persons in need
- take into your heart their consciousness of lack
- give them your consciousness of abundance
External: First Portion Vow (adi-bhaga vrata)
- decide to give a fixed percentage of income (earned and gifted)
- set aside that portion first (before any other expenses)
- give to the source or support of your highest aspiration
The gift of Dharma conquers all gifts.