The Theme for February here at YWM is Love, and the foundational attitude supporting that is Generosity.
I read a quote from the Buddha -
“If you knew as I know the benefit of generosity, you would not let an opportunity go by without sharing.“
Can you tell me some of the benefits that you have found from generosity?
There is this odd tension in a human being; the separate sense of ‘me’ or ‘I’ and the sense of unity and connection with all of life. In philosophy it is called the problem of the one and the many. From my understanding, both the separate one and the unity are true.
With that being said, my theory is that generosity is a harmonization of the individual and the oneness. When I am generous (teaching, giving, helping, ect….) my experience is an awareness of the qualities or aspects of ultimate reality, of All. When this occurs the bloated ego, which causes suffering, calms down and the oneness of everything is experienced.
Thank you for diving in deep right off the bat. So you are saying that when you give generously, this giving reminds you of your connection and unity with the rest of creation, and therefore lessens the suffering that you experience from forgetting that truth. A “bloated ego” results from forgetting that connection. This concept of generosity fits so well with what you were saying recently about compassion. When we realize deeply, our inherent connection with all others, we cannot help but hurt for their hurts, and seek to share what we have to alleviate that pain, and to build the other up. When we give to others, we are giving to a part of our own self.
Jesus put it this way: “Give , and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you."
When we are generous, we discover that we continue to have enough to continue to be generous, because we are all connected.
It does take some trust and some reminding of this truth. What have you found that helps dispel that forgetting, what helps to remind oneself of that truth of interconnectivity?
The quote from Jesus is wonderful and poetic. It also defines aspects of karma (another topic for another day).
The bloated ego is not just from forgetfulness of interconnectivity, but also the grasping of a solid and substantial idea of self. (Again, another topic for another day) Even to answer one question automatically involves other important concepts--the interconnectivity of all things!
To answer your question on what I, personally, find helpful to remember and trust in this connection and ultimate non-separation is not always fresh and alive in me. The forgetting is so tied to the weight of attachment to a separate self that only consistent study and meditation can dispel the experience of separation. And I at times lapse in my study and practice, sometimes for short spells and others for embarrassingly long spells.
Being generous is a teaching in Vajrayana Buddhism that softens attachment, so that points to putting knowledge into action. Meditation rooted in compassion for all is another action to unveil the truth of reality of the one and the many. And, I must say, being extremely fortunate to have a Tibetan teacher who exemplifies the teachings of the Buddha so profoundly is a blessing that never fails to assist my growth as a human being, including elevating my level of generosity.
I work every day to better fortify my ‘soul’ in the truth, and in compassion to the best of my ability, which includes the practice of generosity.
The act of giving generously supports the mindset that frees me from the burden of a desperate feeling of need and fear of not having enough. At the same time, having access to great examples of generosity, and the study, and meditation that supports the understanding of the connection between myself and all others, frees me up to give generously. Maybe generosity is about FLOW.
When we dam up the flow by grabbing hold, jealously, of a possession or a small identity of self or a small identification of another, then we bring forth stagnation from what once was life giving flowing water. Maybe growing generosity is about pulling apart the dams. Receiving generously and giving generously allows the flow.
I really love your idea of generosity being a reflection of flow! How beautiful.
When the topic of generosity usually is discussed the ideas of gifts and charities rise to the top of the conversation. If we think about generosity as an iceberg, we have focused in our discussion here on the giant unseen underbelly of the iceberg. I am compelled to make clear that this does not undermine the importance of the tip of the iceberg: Generosity of gifts and time, of paying attention to another, of paying for someone’s meal, important charities ect ect…
The iceberg’s tip is important as our actions as human beings, and the iceberg’s underbelly of generosity’s philosophy is equally important. To understand the deeper meaning of generosity only inspires and fortifies the ACTS of generosity.
As the theme for YWM is 'new beginnings', I began contemplating the essence of what that means. There is a teaching in Vajrayana (Tibetan) Buddhism I've heard from my teachers that shines light on the idea that we should never lose the connection to being as a child who has entered the temple for the first time. I understand this to mean it is healthy to maintain an awareness of the present moment; for our perceptions not to be profaned by the past or future, and to be free from concepts. I recall the bible speaking of a similar idea but do not recall the passage. Would you share that with us?
Your words bring to my mind a few different passages.
There was a time when Jesus' followers were arguing among themselves and came to Jesus to ask him which of them was going to be the greatest in the Kingdom. Dramatically he called a little child to him to get the attention of these men vying for power and he said:
“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”
On another occasion Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.”
On another he said “anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
On another he said to a national leader and teacher of the law, “Truly, truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
One thing Jesus seems to be doing is lifting up the children as an example of humility, untainted by the pride of assuming you have figured it all out, and the presumption of being better than others.
He is also telling us to be open to learn, able to receive things with new eyes, a fresh view, and able to stand in awe. Awe is the sense of being in the presence of something much larger than one's self and one's ability to understand it fully. Some other characteristics of children that have been seen in these verses are innocence, vulnerability, dependence, and willingness to trust.
There are many other passages that point to the importance of awareness of the NOW. I had never before connected this idea of being fully aware of the present moment with these passages about children, but I think that there is something valuable to that connection. When we retain, or reclaim, a childlike curiosity, and an ability to be fascinated by what is right in front of us, right here and right now, our eyes are opened to see things that are hidden from dull and tired eyes, and hidden from eyes that are grasping for position of honor.
I think the phrase you used, ‘dull and tired eyes’, connects to what I am pointing to and to what you are pointing to. A dull mind is lethargic and becomes lazy to be awake. And being awake, or aware, is the only way to be in the present moment. The idea of grasping and vying for power, or attention, I would interpret as the ego-clinging of a person. In Buddhism all suffering comes from grasping, or holding on. It is understood that grasping is the energy of the ego’s desire to maintain a permanent state of the ‘I’. Because everything is impermanent, grasping onto anything will inevitably cause us to suffer.
Where we may differ are the characteristics of a child in relation to being in a state of the present moment. In Buddhist teachings, from my understanding, being as a child entering the temple is not suggesting one be vulnerable, dependent, or innocent. I digest the teaching as a lesson to be free from conceptual thought so as to allow the inherent light and wisdom from inside to be unblocked and thus, to be aware of reality just as it is without this concept or that concept to muddy the waters.
When I read the biblical passages I can easily see that Jesus is saying what the Buddhists are saying. However, I realize I am interpreting the passages from my view and could be layering meaning where none was meant to be.
I am enjoying these exchanges more each time we have them. They help me to open my “dull and tired eyes” and look at stories that have been so familiar to me, with new eyes of a child, and hearing the words with new ears. Your talk of “grasping” and “impermanence” reminds me of Solomon’s words about how everything in this world is like “vapor”. You can see it, but when you try to grab it, this is as futile as “chasing after the wind”. We must pursue that idea in a future edition of the blog.
I had known that the lotus flower was an important symbol in Buddhism. A short time ago you guided a meditation during which you explained at least one reason why it was significant, and offered a great insight into an important life concept. Can you share a little about that for us here?
The lotus flower is a symbol across Asia signifying the concept of the gift of struggle. The blooming lotus shifts our minds away from resisting challenges to using challenges for the benefit of oneself and all others. In this shift we can view the purity and beauty of the blossom is only possible because of the gunk at the bottom of the pond.
So many times we focus only on the murk and mire. In this state, we determinedly focus on what we are walking through and forget to look upward, to set our gaze to the growth reaching for the light. Sometimes we deny the fact that struggles and challenges are important and necessary for enlightenment. It is understandable to become lost while we are trudging through painful times. That is why meditation practice, community, and study are absolutely vital to cultivate and maintain peace in the heart.
Thank you for that lesson. It reminds me of the story of Joseph in the Bible about blessings for him and his family coming from his trials, playing out of a long period of time. It also calls to my mind a particular verse: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
It is so difficult sometimes to be patient and allow the “gunk” to do it’s work of feeding the blessings. That is true, not only for ourselves, but it is tempting to jump in and pull someone else out of their own mud puddle prematurely. It can also be difficult to remember that meditation will not automatically and quickly make all the “gunk” disappear. Often, meditation is the environment in which we can begin to soak up the nutrients that are feeding that lotus blossom. And that is not always a pleasant feeling.
I think it’s important to add that being aware of the murk and mire does not necessarily mean taking no action to attend to situations that may be harmful to oneself or others. The lotus blossoms because it takes the yucky stuff and redirects the energy for good, which if we are to get philosophical, points to the fact that the yucky is good also. Without the murk there is no beauty and vice versa. As humans, because we are self-reflective animals, it is extremely difficult to keep our perspective on the idea of the lotus flower. However, if we stabilize our minds through meditation and continue to study the human condition, a sort of effortless effort of the lotus of our minds opens.
Thank you so much for sharing this perspective. Especially the wisdom about the need to discern which dark situations may be endured and which cry out to be addressed for safety and health. I agree that meditation is a valuable method of growing that discernment. And, as you said, community, which is our connection with others, is vital to support that discernment and enable us to grow from the trials. I can see future discussions about other aspects of the lotus flower that teach us about life and spirit.
Your Wondrous Mind
Conversations between two mindfulness teachers, one Christian the other a practitioner of Vajrayana Buddhism.