Generosity Makes Connections

From Gil Fronsdal:
Dana [pronounced dahnah] refers to the act of giving and to the donation itself. The Buddha used the word cage [pronounced chagah] to refer to the inner virtue of generosity…. This use of cage is particularly significant because it also means “relinquishment” or “renunciation.” An act of generosity entails giving more than is required, customary, or expected relative to one’s resources and circumstances. Certainly it involves relinquishment of stinginess, clinging and greed. In addition, generosity entails relinquishing some aspects of one’s self-interest, and thus is a giving of one’s self. The Buddha stressed that the spiritual efficacy of a gift is dependent not on the amount given but rather on the attitude with which it is given. A small donation that stretches a person of little means is considered of greater spiritual consequence than a large but personally insignificant donation from a wealthy person.

Gil Fronsdal correctly points out that as we are giving up stinginess, we are giving up some degree of self-interest, and the stubborn idea of “mine!” can start to soften.

As a practice, generosity is not done simply because we think it is a virtuous thing to do. The practice has two important functions. First, it helps connect us with others and with ourselves. Giving creates a relationship between the giver and receiver, so acts of generosity help us to learn more about the nature of our relationships. It also develops those relationships. …

Second, through the practice of generosity we begin to understand where we are closed, where we are holding back, where we feel our fear. We learn what keeps us from being generous. We take on the practice to see where we resist it.

And then we can start to see what separates us from others; why do we fear opening our hearts? Why is our sense of needing to protect ourselves so strong? The practice of generosity is not dangerous because we are not relying on any particular response from the donee. Whether our gifts are recognized or explicitly welcomed becomes irrelevant because it’s the purity of our intention that bestows meaning on the act of giving.

Some of us have more than enough money to live on and might be inclined to give carelessly rather than from a spirit of chage. Those of us who have fewer financial resources might look for non-monetary ways to be generous. It doesn’t have to be formal or challenging. We could just decide to give a smile to everyone who is open to it today. We could be on the lookout for anyone who appears to need help and gently offer it. We could call or visit someone we know to be isolated or lonely. Both giving money and giving time or attention can be done with the intention to open our hearts. Real connections are only formed through openness and exchange.

About lynnjkelly

Australian/American. Practicing Buddhist.
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1 Response to Generosity Makes Connections

  1. Patrick Cole says:

    Thank you, Lynn. The term cage is new to me, and I greatly appreciate your teaching today. _/\_

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