“Generosity brings happiness at every stage of its expression. We experience joy in forming the intention to be generous. We experience joy in the actual act of giving something. And we experience joy in remembering the fact that we have given.”
“Generosity is the most natural outward expression of an inner attitude of compassion and loving-kindness.”
~Dalai Lama XIV
“Generosity is an activity that loosens us up. By offering whatever we can – a dollar, a flower, a word of encouragement – we are training in letting go.”
I hope you are all safe and comfortable after the week of hurricanes and devastation. This past week highlighted our second Mindfulness Training, True happiness. The complete list of The Five Mindfulness Trainings can be Found at https://plumvillage.org/mindfulness-practice/the-5-mindfulness-trainings/
The Second Mindfulness Training: True Happiness
Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I am committed to practicing generosity in my thinking, speaking, and acting. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others; and I will share my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need. I will practice looking deeply to see that the happiness and suffering of others are not separate from my own happiness and suffering; that true happiness is not possible without understanding and compassion; and that running after wealth, fame, power and sensual pleasures can bring much suffering and despair. I am aware that happiness depends on my mental attitude and not on external conditions, and that I can live happily in the present moment simply by remembering that I already have more than enough conditions to be happy. I am committed to practicing Right Livelihood so that I can help reduce the suffering of living beings on Earth and reverse the process of global warming.
This month saw communities and individuals practicing generosity, rescuing people from flooding, and danger, sharing food, resources, and housing. We also heard of acts that let us know the fires of greed, anger, and delusion are still burning in some. For me, the acts of kindness and generosity, greatly outweigh the negatives.
Witness people in distress stimulates an innate desire to free others from suffering, for their own happiness and our happiness as well. The act of true generosity the Buddha describes above has its roots in the intention of giving resulting from compassion, the desire—and action, that helps another get free from suffering.
As we read in the Second Mindfulness Training, the impulse to share our time, energy, and material resources, springs from joy, not from obligation or duty. When we look at a situation and think, “How can I help? What can I do to make our lives better?” We acknowledge that we are part of the situation and that the experience of suffering and happiness is collective. Then we can offer our services and resources without fear.
We know that happiness and unhappiness do not stay in individual boxes. Happiness and suffering spill beyond our human boundaries. Happiness and suffering spread through families, neighborhoods, and around the globe. We can’t build a wall around our happiness to keep it separate. That just isn’t how life works. If we look at a situation and think, “I don’t want this problem to ruin my good time,” or, “How long will this take me away from my projects, my life?” We have a very different attitude, one of scarcity and separation. Then the gift of giving is not happy in the intention, in the act, and we feel resentful at the remembrance of giving. Giving with joy doesn’t see the act of giving as a transfer of energy, property or time, giving with joy believes that our actions benefit us as well. When we act from compassion we have faith that the happiness we help create is our rightful inheritance as citizens of this planet. Our happiness is a shared concern.
Thich Nhat Hanh speaks about offering our time as a precious gift of generosity. Through deep listening and our whole-hearted attention, we have the ability to lift the despair and isolation of another.
“The Second Precept is a deep practice. We speak of time, energy, and material resources, but time is not only for energy and material resources. Time is for being with others — being with a dying person or with someone who is suffering. Being really present for even five minutes can be a very important gift. Time is not just to make money. It is to produce the gift of Dharma and the gift of non-fear” (Nhat Hanh, 1993).
Living is a full-time job and our lives can feel too crammed full of obligations to have the freedom to give this precious and rare gift. This week as we look further into the Second Training, please consider your time as a gift of great value. Who and what do you give this valuable gift to? Do you try to fill up moments with business so there is no opportunity to listen to your body and mind? Can you give the gift of your time this week, to listen to someone in need—your own self, or another? Making a list of all our conditions of happiness can help us recognize that we do possess abundance often overlooked. Seeing our own goodness and our gifts can bring ease, knowing we have enough peace and stability to offer it to others.
May we all trust our light,
Nhat Hanh, T., 1993, For a future to be possible: Commentaries on the five wonderful precepts. Berkeley, CA: Parallax.