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... 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.
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].
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.