Generosity (Mangala Sutta 15)

The support of mother and father,
The welfare of spouse and children,
Engaging in unconflicting livelihood;
This is the greatest blessing.

Selfless giving, and living by the Dhamma,
Looking after relatives and friends,
And blameless actions;
This is the greatest blessing.

Bhikkhu Bodhi calls this next verse: “becoming a pillar of society”, and it starts with the attitude and active practice of generosity.

Sometimes I think that practicing generosity in increasing degrees is all we need do to awaken completely, to shed everything that holds us down. My imperfect memory of my early years includes sporadic generosity, but sometime in the past twenty or thirty years I started taking it seriously as a daily practice. I saw the connection between stinginess (not just with money) and feeling rigid and stuck.

Generosity is not an imperative to give away everything we have. It’s more an attitude of being a conservator or steward of what comes into our possession. Rather than hoarding, we think of best uses for resources. In loosening up the “me and mine” connection to money and possessions, we feel our connection to the rest of life. Generosity is the opposite of hoarding.

Since I travel a lot, I’m particularly appreciative of people who share their homes. Many friends (and others) really practice this form of generosity and seldom pass a month without having guests in their houses. It is an intimate form of generosity, and I feel deep gratitude when invited into others’ homes.

In the Buddha’s words:
O monks, if people knew, as I know, the results of giving and sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would they allow the stain of stinginess to obsess them and take root in their minds. Even if it were their last morsel, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared it, if there were someone to share it with. But, monks, as people do not know, as I know, the result of giving and sharing, they eat without having given, and the stain of stinginess obsesses them and takes root in their minds.
– Itivuttaka 26: 18-19 (tr. Ven. Bodhi)

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Filed under General, Generosity, Mangala Sutta

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