Generosity is a beautiful virtue as well as a practice for liberation.
Giving, a Dharma life, caring for relatives, and blameless
deeds: this is the greatest fortune.
The practice of giving, or dana in Pali, has a pre-eminent place in
the teachings of the Buddha. When he taught a graduated series of practices
for people to engage in as they progress along the path, he always
started by talking about the importance and benefits of the practice
of generosity. Based on that foundation, he talked about the importance
and benefits of the practice of ethics. Then he discussed the practices
of calming the mind, and after that he described the insight practices,
which, supported by a calm and stable mind, lead to enlightenment.
Once a person had awakened, the Buddha often instructed him or her
to go out to benefit others, to be of service. Service can be seen
as an act of generosity, so the Buddhist path begins and ends with
In the West we often begin our practice with meditation
and only later learn of morality and the teachings of
generosity. How might cultivating generosity first affect
your path of meditation and insight?
The main question for a lot of people is how to practice meditation
in daily life. How to practice the Dhamma in daily life. The practice
of formal meditation in a retreat is primarily intensive training
in a very structured environment. This is helpful and important,
but the real practice of meditation, if meditation is to be of any
real value, is in our daily lives.
In daily life, the full path and
the other aspects of cultivating the mind have to be undertaken and
practiced as well. It's really in our daily lives, in our day-to-day
situations that we need skill and understanding to meet all the challenges
that come up: all the conflicting situations, the chaos, the daily
ups and downs.
We have to have a game plan for meeting and facing the defilements
that come up within our own minds as well as the negativities and
defilements that come at us from others. We have to develop qualities
of the mind in addition to meditation.
There are practices, in addition
to meditation, that we can cultivate to help us bring the Dhamma
into our habit patterns, our life styles, and our viewpoints.
Generosity is one such aspect of the Dhamma practice that we can
put into effect in our daily lives.
Cultures of generosity
Do you think of your culture as being one of generosity?
Is generosity taught? Valued? Is giving a commonplace?
Do you expect generosity from those around you?