Posted by: Michael Rickicki | 02/16/2015

Giving without Hope of Reward

Last Thursday night I was blessed to be able to attend the regularly scheduled class and Dhamma talk by one of my main teachers who had just returned from retreat at Wat Metta. The theme of the class and the talk was about developing our generosity and the three factors which determine how beneficial a gift will be. In short, if I am remembering correctly, they are the purity of the donor, the purity of the recipient and the gift itself. Despite my resistance this makes sense because we only have a finite number of things to give and, even in the car of our time, it is certainly limited as well.

So in the Teachings of the Buddha or would seem that a true act of generosity is one given with a mind of love that seeks the benefit of the receiver, is either food, medicament, shelter or another material necessity and if given to someone dedicated to the pursuit of purity. What then of our homeless friends? What then of victims of abuse, war and natural disasters? Should we refrain from giving them gifts in order to maximize our own benefit?

When it’s started explicitly like this it seems utterly ridiculous so, having some familiarity with the Teachings and the Lord Buddha, I assume the error is one of understanding and the fault is my own. Surely we should help in these cases and whether we see these acts as expressions of compassionate action or dana parami is, to me at least, immaterial. So, maybe the homeless man to whom I gave a dollar this morning wasn’t the ideal recipient and maybe my gift of money was not a truly worthy gift but hit much better it is to view this as an act of karuna parami than to have never given at all.

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