It’ll soon be the season of giving. At least that’s how it’s referred to. But no matter how we try, we can’t help but notice the commercialism that explodes this time of year. Believe it or not, this buying frenzy emerged from the spirit of giving to others; not just the giving of things, but also the giving of time and energy. So we can see that deep down, our intention of giving comes from caring for others.
Giving is a core Buddhist practice. Cultivating generosity is called dana in the Pali language and it is encouraged along with a perspective of giving without attachment or conditions. The practice helps us let go in a variety of ways, such as letting go of wanting and letting go of the expectation of receiving anything in return. And it encourages us to really experience the felt sense of what giving to others feels like.
This way of giving came from the monastic life. Many Buddhist monks are dependent on the generosity of the community in which they reside because they do not grow food and are not allowed to handle money. They also can not take what is not freely offered. This is especially true in the Theravadin tradition. If they are not provided with food, shelter, clothing, etc they go without. Essentially this means that their survival depends on the generosity of the community and in return the community receives the teachings the monks provide. This is a reminder of our inter-relationship with each other. If you go to some of the countries where this tradition is practiced, you will be amazed at the generosity that is so much a part of the culture. Even those with little, give what they can!
“And what is the accomplishment of generosity? Here, a noble disciple dwells at home with a mind free from stinginess, freely generous, open-handed, delighting in relinquishment, one devoted to charity, delighting in giving and sharing.”
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