-In a way this talk is a gift of generosity to this group. May it be of use.
-When people discuss Generosity, it often relates to material things but there are many forms of Generosity: giving one’s time, attention, concern, care, and sharing of one’s skills and abilities.
-Generosity necessarily attacks the ego and sense of self because to give out of compassion you necessarily must stop thinking about yourself and start thinking about others.
-Generosity is in a sense a form of renunciation. You must renounce your own apprehension towards connection, your greed, your sense of self, and the personality view of action.
-It is a difficult thing in our society I feel to be genuinely ok with giving and thinking about giving. Giving is a great thing to reflect upon. The Buddha considered Generosity a beneficial element to reflect upon: a noble disciple recollects his own generosity thus: it is a gain for me, it is well gained by me, that in a population obsessed by the stain of stinginess, freely generous, open-handed, delighting in relinquishment, one devoted to charity, delighting in giving and sharing. When a noble disciple recollects his own generosity thus, on that occasion his mind is not obsessed by lust, hatred, and delusion. They are one who dwells evenly amongst an uneven population, who dwells without affliction among an afflicted population. AN 6:10
-People do not need to be worthy of generosity. The Buddha even promotes giving to those ordinary individuals and immoral ordinary individuals as well as those of great merit. This seems to be the greatest trap. Because often we hold back our gifts from a lack of worthiness while never actually giving that gift to those who we approve of. MN 142:5
Rick and Ed were born in the late-60s here in Texas. They grew up in my family’s mobile home park with a highly abusive father. Their father died when they were quite young and from what I have heard it is quite likely they witnessed their mother kill their father in self-defense during one of his violent abusive attacks. I am not sure if Rick finished high school but Ed dropped out in 9th grade when he realized he couldn’t read. Neither could really read or write. For a while they held auto repair jobs, had families, and decent lives. Then alcohol took over their lives and by their 40s they had lost their driver’s licenses, had spent time in jail, lost their families, jobs, and moved back in with their mom in mobile home park. Around 2007, their mom had to move into a nursing home leaving the two of them in the mobile home with no way to pay for food, much less rent and utilities. Their brothers and sisters refused to do anything for them, seeing them as a liability and financial drain.
This is point where in most rental situations an eviction order would be handed out after a month or two. However my father decided to handle this differently. They wanted to work but were unable to acquire a job anywhere because of their alcohol addiction and its consequences. My father took this on and had them help around the park as best he could paying them money to buy food which often when to alcohol and forgiving their rent and utility payments. My father helped them enroll for food stamps, attempted to get them IDs because they threw all of theirs away, took them to the hospital when they were sick, took them to the store. He did this for a decade. Everyday working with them as they fought through their addiction, occasional attempts to get sober, failure of their physical forms, and eventual death, Rick in 2014 and Ed in 2016.
This is a challenging story of generosity for me because I lived through it. I counseled my father emotionally through it. It is both small in scale and enormous. Keeping two people from being homeless when there are thousands and yet the benefit for them was unknowable. They are the people you would avoid on the street.
Guided Meditation on the Recollection of Giving
Breathe into the heart and take a few deep breaths to calm the body. Bring to mind a moment where someone else was generous to you in a meaningful way no matter the scale. Reflect on a moment where you were generous to another regardless of the scale, regardless of their reaction.
Turn to another and discuss these reflections on generosity.