In Buddhist teachings, the act of giving and generosity (dana), is essential in our development. And the Buddha taught us that when we give to others, we should do this without expectation of reward or gratitude. Giving without attaching to either the gift or the recipient. We practice giving to eliminate our own greed and self-clinging.
Yet how many of us are truly able to give in a way that has no strings attached, no expectation at all?
And while I would be very happy to tell you that this is the way that I show generosity, I would only be lying to you.
I have recently become mindful enough to see that I always have some type of attachment to everything I give to anyone. Even if it only to receive a verbal “thank you”, I have the attachment and expectation associated with my dana. At a minimum, I would hope I receive a warm smile of appreciation to know that I did something good for you. Some form of acknowledment.
And this, my dear friends, is not what the Buddha taught us about generosity.
So why is this so important, that we give without expectation or attachment? Because so long as we do, we have greed and put value on selfishness rather than selflessness. Learning to give with purity of intention is the way for any of us to gain freedom from attachment, let go of the self concept, and be of Noble benefit to all other beings. But this, I see, takes practice.
Having young grandchildren, I have an opportunity to witness the transition from this purity of giving, to a learned behavior of selfishness. Many of you may have seen this for yourself in very young toddlers. Whatever they have, they gladly extend their tiny hand and offer it to you. No greed or possessiveness, just an open loving and tender heart. Joyful to offer you whatever they have.
But as the child grows, they learn to posses and cling to objects. They learn to value the self over all others. This is a normal occurrence in this World, and one that we probably don’t give much thought to. But I see clearly, that at our core, this nature of giving freely and without attachment, is one that merely has been lying dormant for so many years.
And through our practice of wisdom, virtue and meditation, we can once again reveal our inherent nature as bodhisattva’s (enlightened beings).
May I remain determined in my practice, may I become increasingly mindful, and may each word, thought and action be of benefit to all beings.
And you may each of you be well, happy and peaceful.