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Giving is everything

adamcrossleyadamcrossley Veteran Veteran
edited September 26 in Philosophy

... and everything is giving.

If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving and sharing, they would not eat without having given. [...] Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared.

Iti 1.26

I was reading the Abhisanda Sutta last night and was very interested to discover that what we commonly know as the Five Precepts are more accurately translated as the Five Great Gifts. I think it's very helpful for our practice to know that the Buddha described them this way.

There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones, abandoning the taking of life, abstains from taking life. In doing so, she gives freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings. In giving freedom from [these things], she gains a share in limitless freedom from [them].

AN 8.39

Abstaining (or giving up) is not a negative action. When we abstain from harmful behaviour, that is something positive that we offer to those around us, namely security, a sense of safety, feeling welcome. So as well as the best antidote to greed and my-making, giving is at the very heart of morality.

In Bodaisatta-Shishobo, 'The Boddhisattva's Four Embracing Actions', Zen Master Dogen shows us that the act of giving is a profound surrender to the way things are.

When you leave the way to the way, you attain the way. At the time of attaining the way, the way is always left to the way. When treasure is left as treasure, treasure becomes giving. You give yourself to yourself and others to others.

This is very cryptic, but here is my interpretation. To let things be as they are without becoming attached to them, without affixing labels to them like "mine", "yours", or "not enough"; this is already the spirit of giving. Nothing actually has to change hands. Just drop the notions of self and others, and giving is there. You can read a full translation of the essay here.

In one way or another, perhaps, giving is the whole of the Dharma.

lobsterpersonDavidBunksShoshinLee82pegembaraseeker242

Comments

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited September 26

    Very well said, I like it very much, especially ‘the spirit of giving’. But I’m left with the question whether you just see things differently, such as when you see the Five Precepts as giving, or whether it is something you literally give to another person?

    This kind of touches on my question about how much the dharma has to do with surrender. It’s a beautiful concept, and it can lead you mentally to impressively lovely spaces, but I wonder if it is not so practical, and so often it is important to keep one’s thoughts in tune with the practical. Chopping wood and carrying water...

    I’ve wondered in the past whether these things, extreme giving, not-self, surrender, are like dreams with which we surround ourselves. Is it permanent?

    adamcrossley
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    It's a bit like weighing up Wise and Idiot Compassion.

  • adamcrossleyadamcrossley Veteran Veteran
    edited September 26

    That sounds interesting. Could you elaborate, @federica?

    @Kerome, I think I do see the Precepts differently now, and presumably that will lead to fulfilling them differently too. For example, I haven’t consumed alcohol since May this year, based on a slim understanding of number five. Now I see that by not drinking, I become someone who is safe to be around. And that is a kind of giving. I think this will strengthen my resolve going forward, and I’ll persevere with the abstinence.

    Right View > Right Action

    I hope that this keeps things practical. I know what you mean by surrounding ourselves with dreams. Perhaps it is like that until one has realization. But even before then we can put them into practice, and they gain some more solidity. Don’t you think?

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited September 26

    @Kerome said:... This kind of touches on my question about how much the dharma has to do with surrender. It’s a beautiful concept, and it can lead you mentally to impressively lovely spaces, but I wonder if it is not so practical, and so often it is important to keep one’s thoughts in tune with the practical. Chopping wood and carrying water...

    @federica said:
    It's a bit like weighing up Wise and Idiot Compassion.

    I think where surrender is concerned, it's important for it to not become apathy... just giving up but with no Right Effort to counter balance the surrender...

    There aasin, surrendering but with attachment; that is, releasing the personal desire but still harbouring a wish for matters to go our way...

    That's like Idiot Compassion.

    One can compare Wise Compassion to surrender that does not compromise our Principle, or Precept...

    I’ve wondered in the past whether these things, extreme giving, not-self, surrender, are like dreams with which we surround ourselves. Is it permanent?

    Only insofar as Kamma is permanent...

  • lobsterlobster Veteran Veteran

    Very well said, I like it very much, especially ‘the spirit of giving’.

    Me too.
    I feel it is worthwhile to misinterpret for the better ... or better still interpret for the better. In this we give to the dharma, the sangha and the inner and outer Buddha every awakening ...

    These words are nuances of the same gift. Receiving what we are giving ...

    I like the idea of giving up, for example booze as mentioned.

  • Lee82Lee82 Veteran Veteran

    Thanks for the post @adamcrossley, very thought provoking.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the void Veteran

    It's a good example of how practicing the Dharma doesn't have to be considered selfish navel gazing. By removing ourselves from the mud we are in a better position to help others remove themselves.

    In Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism part of a prayer that is said before pretty much any gathering is "May I attain enlightenment for the benefit of all beings". We can practice for our own peace and happiness and we can extend that so we are doing it for others too. Sort of like studying to become a doctor, sure we benefit, but it puts us in a better position to help as well.

    lobster
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Giving is everything

    The Buddha gave his all....

  • lobsterlobster Veteran Veteran

    @federica said:
    It's a bit like weighing up Wise and Idiot Compassion.

    :)
    Who can take not giving?

    If we are the ultimate kind, we may do nothing and change occurs. That can be very hard to allow. After all we are mostly the active kind ...
    https://buddhist-zen.tumblr.com/

  • adamcrossleyadamcrossley Veteran Veteran

    The Buddha said, "When asked, give even if you only have a little." (Dhp 224) But is it always so simple? If you give money to the homeless, you could be funding their drug habit. Support a shelter and your money might go a lot further. Or do you think the act of giving is good in and of itself, and how the recipient spends it is up to them?

    Throughout the trip children often came to join us. In the Bamboo Grove, near Rajagriha, some children had breakfast with us. It was a delight to watch how peaceful a child, who knew nothing about the practice, could become by sitting or walking next to Thay. We never gave money to the children who were begging or to adults either, but made a collection that went to a charity that cared for poor children.

    —Sister Annabel Laity, in India with Thich Nhat Hanh in 1988, from her recent autobiography, True Virtue.

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited October 3

    @adamcrossley said:
    The Buddha said, "When asked, give even if you only have a little." (Dhp 224) But is it always so simple? If you give money to the homeless, you could be funding their drug habit. Support a shelter and your money might go a lot further. Or do you think the act of giving is good in and of itself, and how the recipient spends it is up to them?

    Throughout the trip children often came to join us. In the Bamboo Grove, near Rajagriha, some children had breakfast with us. It was a delight to watch how peaceful a child, who knew nothing about the practice, could become by sitting or walking next to Thay. We never gave money to the children who were begging or to adults either, but made a collection that went to a charity that cared for poor children.

    —Sister Annabel Laity, in India with Thich Nhat Hanh in 1988, from her recent autobiography, True Virtue.

    While it's good to have discernment in one's giving, as certain gifts will bear greater fruit if given skillfully, ultimately I think giving is good in and of itself. The Buddha takes this position, advising to give wherever you feel inclined to give (SN 3.24). While some gifts bear greater fruit, every act of generosity is meritorious, even those with a selfish motivation (AN 3.57, AN 7.49). Other spiritual traditions tend to agree with this, too. Pope Francis advises something similar, focusing more on giving as an act of generosity and compassion rather focusing on the judgement of another person's situation and actions. To give is a kindness. It's also a practice of letting go. How others receive that gift and what they do with it is up to them.

    adamcrossleyVastmindlobster
  • adamcrossleyadamcrossley Veteran Veteran
    edited October 3

    Thanks for your reply, @Jason. I think I share your point of view. Discernment in giving can be skilful, but giving itself is inherently good.

    By the way, I was reading your blog recently and it’s very good. I like your writing a lot. Have you ever been published?

  • LionduckLionduck Veteran Veteran

    Quite: Every action in Buddhism is voluntary. Compassion is freely given; mercy is not coerced. The Buddhist path is not a duty, not an obligation. It is walked by choice. Each step is with intent. the precepts are not rules, but paths toward emancipation, toward awakening. As such they are gifts freely take, freely given, freely shared.
    all the precepts come down to Have Faith (in the Law, in yourself, in others), Be Free (do not be swayed or ensnared by vicissitudes and baubles we encounter), Live with compassion and courage.

    Do not let the process interfere with the progress. Remember, there are no have-tos, there are only opportunities and suggested pathways. you/we always have the choice.

    Peace to all

    adamcrossleypersonlobster
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    @adamcrossley said:
    Thanks for your reply, @Jason. I think I share your point of view. Discernment in giving can be skilful, but giving itself is inherently good.

    By the way, I was reading your blog recently and it’s very good. I like your writing a lot. Have you ever been published?

    Thanks. Glad someone reads it occasionally. Haven't really been published, no. I mostly write for myself. Haven't written much in a while, though.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran Veteran

    @federica said:
    It's a bit like weighing up Wise and Idiot Compassion.

    <3

    Things I try not to give:

    • What people want, when their real needs are obvious
    • What I want, when it serves no one, not even me
    • Misery, unkindness, a kick up the ass
    • Absolutism in the wrong way, time and place

    Is my discernment wisdom perfect? No. Is my compassion epic? No.

    I tries ...

    Vastmind
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @adamcrossley said:
    @Kerome, I think I do see the Precepts differently now, and presumably that will lead to fulfilling them differently too. For example, I haven’t consumed alcohol since May this year, based on a slim understanding of number five. Now I see that by not drinking, I become someone who is safe to be around. And that is a kind of giving. I think this will strengthen my resolve going forward, and I’ll persevere with the abstinence.

    Right View > Right Action

    I hope that this keeps things practical. I know what you mean by surrounding ourselves with dreams. Perhaps it is like that until one has realization. But even before then we can put them into practice, and they gain some more solidity. Don’t you think?

    That’s very good, when an increased understanding of giving comes back to reinforce one’s commitment to the precepts. When I first came across this concept it did the same for me, but since I already adhere to the precepts pretty comprehensively (fish and eggs in my diet, occasionally a glass of wine) it didn’t result in much behavioural change.

    adamcrossley
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