Giving and receiving

Dāna pāramī: generosity, giving of oneself

And how is a donation endowed with six factors? There is the case where there are the three factors of the donor, the three factors of the recipients.

And which are the three factors of the donor? There is the case where the donor, before giving, is glad; while giving, his/her mind is bright & clear; and after giving is gratified. These are the three factors of the donor.

And which are the three factors of the recipients? There is the case where the recipients are free of passion [grasping] or are practicing for the subduing of passion; free of aversion or practicing for the subduing of aversion; and free of delusion or practicing for the subduing of delusion. These are the three factors of the recipients…

Just as it is not easy to take the measure of the great ocean as ‘just this many buckets of water, just this many hundreds of buckets of water, just this many thousands of buckets of water, or just this many hundreds of thousands of buckets of water.’ It is simply reckoned as a great mass of water, incalculable, immeasurable. In the same way, it is not easy to take the measure of the merit of a donation thus endowed with six factors as ‘just this much a bonanza of merit, a bonanza of what is skillful — a nutriment of bliss, heavenly, resulting in bliss, leading to heaven — that leads to what is desirable, pleasing, charming, beneficial, pleasant.’ It is simply reckoned as a great mass of merit, incalculable, immeasurable.
–from AN 6.37 translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

This verse brings up the quality of exchange involved in giving; it takes two parties, a giver and a receiver. For both the giver and receiver, there can be more or less wholesome intention – it’s something we can cultivate from both positions. If we give without expectation, with a real feeling of letting go, and receive with gratitude and no grasping, we are far along the right track. It may be useful for us to observe generosity closely, not just in ourselves, but all around us.

Sometimes we may find it awkward to receive a gift. Why? Do we feel unworthy? Do we think there are “strings attached”? What is it that prevents us from feeling the natural flow of good intentions involved in the giving and receiving of gifts? Even when the giving or receiving is not perfect, there is something good there to be recognized and appreciated.

Also embedded in the sutta (discourse) is the idea that generosity can expand infinitely, and in this way become immeasurable. It has no natural boundaries. If generosity (or any of the other paramis/perfections) is practiced with full commitment and no reservations, it automatically stregthens the other nine paramis. Wisdom, patience, energy — all of these are nourished by our regular, generous intentions and actions.

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