Generosity – Guided Meditation
Dana has literally kept the Dharma alive. Without the tradition of generosity to monks, the Buddha would not have had the opportunity to explore and find a path to liberation. The monastic sangha would not have had the time or opportunity to practice his teachings.
The essence of generosity is a pure motivation of genuine concern for others. When it is highly developed, generosity comes from the depths of the heart, allowing us to offer love, compassion, and resources to serve the highest welfare of other beings. Giving is one of the preliminary steps of the practice of generosity, with the aim of being free of selfish desires for recognition, advantage, reputation, or any worldly reward.
The Buddha began teaching about the basic principles of karma with the statement, “There is what is given.” Giving leads to results both now and in the future, and it is the result of the donor’s free choice. When asked where a gift should be given, the Buddha replied simply, “Wherever the mind feels inspired.” This means that the choice to give is an act of true freedom, and thus the perfect place to start on the path of liberation.
The principles of freedom and fruitfulness govern the Buddha’s instructions for protecting the gift of dharma. Both donors and recipients have responsibilities. Ideally, a teacher is glad before teaching, inspired while teaching, and gratified after teaching the dharma. Recipients of the gift of dharma are responsible for receiving it gratefully and for using it well. Listeners are advised to listen with respect, to try to understand the teaching, and — once they’re convinced that it’s genuinely wise — to put it into practice.
We can contemplate the enormous benefits of practicing generosity as well as the fact that the body and any wealth we have accumulated are impermanent. These reflections motivate us to use our body and our abundance while we still have them to practice generosity. Generosity is a cure for greed, miserliness, and possessiveness. We can sense a physical contraction that comes from hoarding what might be shared, and our bodies feel more relaxed and open when we give spontaneously.
Walt Whitman said, “When I give, I give myself.”
Of course, to sustain giving to others, we must give generously to ourselves. Imagine giving yourself time and space for rest, reflection, and play.
Let’s reflect on how we can develop a spirit of generosity that allows us to expand beyond giving material things. Imagine giving time and energy, attention, thanks, and encouragement.
Recently I read an inspirational story about the spirit of generosity.
A Tibetan lama named Dhardo Rinpoche founded a school in India for children of Tibetan refugees. One day, he was leading some monks in an elaborate devotional ceremony, which involved deep concentration on a complex sequence of chanting, playing musical instruments, and performing hand gestures. In the midst of these rituals, a child wandered into the room and asked for help with his homework.
Instead of showing annoyance at the interruption, Dhardo Rinpoche stopped the ceremony, asking the monks to wait while he gave his full attention to the child, offering him the help he needed in a graceful spirit of generosity. For Dhardo Rinpoche, attending to the little boy was simply another form of devotional practice.
With this story fresh in our minds, I’ll guide you through a brief generosity meditation, adapted from Coral Short, who teaches the dharma in Montreal:
Settle into sitting, supported by our generous earth.
Reflect upon the gift of feeling valued and affirmed when someone listens to you with full attention.
Remember a time when someone was generous to you in this way.
Breathe into the sensations of this memory.
Let those sensations spread throughout the whole body.
Now extend this feeling of generosity outward to others.
Visualize people in your neighborhood and beyond. Sense your interconnection.
Imagine listening with full attention to each individual you meet, remembering to not to take them for granted and to notice their praiseworthy qualities
Think of all those who need resources.
Feel your interdependence and an active wish to be generous in sharing resources with them—perhaps giving food, shelter, clothing, medicine, money, kind words, or smiles.
. Notice how your heart feels now. Breathe into the heart and relax any contraction.
Now imagine those people having everything they need—love, dignity, wellbeing and support.
Breathe into this wish for everyone—that all beings have nourishment, safety, protection, and the refuge of a home.
We practice generosity in an especially powerful way when we include all living beings in our hearts.
May we create communities that are safe and harmonious for every one of us.
May I generously share the resources I have.
May I generously give loving attention.
May I generously offer care and comfort.
May I generously share affection, tenderness and respect.
With a deep exhalation, return to the sensations around the heart. At your own rhythm, gradually open your eyes and sense your connection with our sangha.
In the spirit of cultivating generosity, we have an opportunity to make a donation to the Houston Food Bank through giving dana to Insight Meditation Houston. All donations until May 31 will be matched by IMH (up to $1000) and delivered to the Houston Food Bank. Let yourself feel the benefits of being part of a sangha that is practicng generosity in this way. Take a moment to visualize the people and families who are relieved to receive the gift of food. Sense our interconnection with each recipient and our good fortune to be able to give generously.