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Traditionally, the practice of the perfection of generosity (dana paramita in Sanskrit) is the gateway to the bodhisattva path. Why? Bodhisattva practice is radical. It involves a fundamental shift in our approach to life. It begins with a serious examination of our attitudes, where they come from, and how they condition the way we see, think, feel, and act.
Someone once asked Tang dynasty Zen Master Baijang why giving is the gateway to the bodhisattva path. Baijang answered that it is because to practice giving is to practice letting go. The monk then asked, “What do you let go of?” Baijang said, “You let go of narrow views. You let go of the idea that things are small and tight, graspable and possessable.
Baijang is emphasizing the open and wide spirit of generosity. He is showing us that it is the crabbiness of our thinking, the stinginess of our minds, our desire to judge, evaluate, separate, define—holding on to scraps—that stop us from opening to the abundance that must be within us, living beings that we are. Why can’t we be as generous as trees?
This article gives a nice little exercise/practice on how to open up our stingy attitudes about reality.