Posted by: Upāsaka Subhavi | 02/20/2010

Recollection of Generosity – Caganussati

I am departing somewhat from my practice of relating each post to the day in question (today, for example, is upekkha day) but I feel that it is important to do so.  It has become apparent to me through my own practice and by discussing various themes with others that many of us treat ourselves with a cruelty that we would never dare contemplate perpetrating upon another and we do so without giving it a second thought. Not only is such behavior based in complete ignorance of the Dhamma but it conduces to our own long-term harm and suffering. There is no merit in flogging oneself for one’s real or imagined transgressions. In fact, it has been said that repeated unskillful reflection (recollection) of one’s misdeeds is a sure way to prepare a place for one’s rebirth in hell or amongst the petas. This should be reason enough to convince one to put an end to obsessing over the past but rather to simply resolve not to repeat such actions in the future (whether one is remorseful or not,  one will have to face the results of past kamma) but saying that we ought to put a stop to something is seldom sufficient in itself.

Fortunately the Lord Buddha offered us a variety of ways to help us to turn our minds toward more wholesome themes for reflection that are beneficial both now and in the future. One way of doing so is through the reflection on our generosity. Everyone has been told that  it is better to give than to receive but with repeated recollection of own’s own deeds of generosity the old adage becomes a living reality.  In the context of a sustained brahma vihara practice, caganussati is especially beneficial because it acquaints us with the appreciative joy that we can experience by contemplating virtue and generosity regardless whether the agent of the actions is ourself or another.

Sadly, I’ve been unable to find any good resources online for the practice of this subject so I have decided to reproduce what is written about caganussati in what follows. I have taken the text from my personal copy of the Visuddhimagga (BPE Edition) and beg forgiveness of the publishers if they object to its posting here.

“107.    One who wants to develop the recollection of generosity should be naturally devoted to generosity and the constant practice of giving and sharing. Or alternatively, if he is one who is starting the development of it he should make the resolution: ‘From now on, when there is anyone present to receive , I shall not eat even a single mouthful without having given a gift’. And that very day he should give a gift by sharing according to his means and ability with those who have distinguished qualities. when he has apprehended the sign in that, he should go into solitary retreat and recollect his own generosity in its special qualities of being free from the stain of avarice, etc., as follows:

‘It is gain for me, it is great gain for me, that in a generation obsessed by the stain of avarice I abide with my heart free from stain by avarice, and am freely generous and open-handed, that I delight in relinquishing, expect to be asked, and rejoice in giving and sharing’ (A.iii,42)

113.    As long as he recollects his own generosity in its special qualities of freedom from stain by avarice, etc., in this way then: ‘On that occasion his mind is not obsessed by greed, or obsessed by hate, or obsessed by delusion; his mind has rectitude on that occasion, being inspired by generosity’ (A.iii,287)

114.   And when a bhikkhu is devoted to this recollection of generosity, he becomes ever more intent on generosity, his preference is for non-greed, he acts in conformity with loving-kindness, he is fearless. He has much happiness and gladness. And if he penetrates no higher, he is at least headed for a happy destiny.

Now when a man is truly wise,

His constant task will surely be

This recollection of his giving

Blessed with such mighty potency.

This is the section dealing with the recollection of generosity in the detailed explanation.”

Dhamma Talks on Generosity:

Thanissaro Bhikkhu

“Gratitude, Goodwill & Generosity”

“Generosity First”

Ajahn Viradhammo:

“Service and Generosity”

Ajahn Nyanadhammo:

“Generosity and Emotional Intelligence”

May you all be well, happy and peaceful!


  1. Thank you for these thoughts. I meditated for five minutes last night focusing on generosity, and will continue doing it today. namaste.

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