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Lions Roar : January 2014
“Between the giver, the recipient, and the gift there is no separation.” This Zen teaching tells us that generosity goes beyond appearances. There is really noth- ing that divides us—nothing that defines the substance of a gift. All is empty and perfect as it is. We practice this truth by giving what we can whenever it is called for and by taking what is given whenever it is offered. When we give and take whole- heartedly, without judgment, separation is transcended. Stinginess is overcome and greed vanishes. We come to see that every- thing is already a gift that we have already been given. All that remains is to share it. “I love it,” my mother said. And it was true. In May, New World Library will release KAREN MAEZEN MILLER’s new book, Paradise in Plain Sight: Lessons from a Zen Garden. Big Hug By Judy Lief The practice of generosity may seem sim- ple—it is learning how to give—but it is the ground that allows discipline, patience, exertion, meditation, and wisdom to flour- ish. It establishes the basic attitude of mag- nanimity that is the defining characteristic of the path of the bodhisattva. The word magnanimous, like the San- skrit term mahatma, means “greatness of soul.” With magnanimity you are not pinched in your outlook or heart, but rather you have a quality of richness and spaciousness. There is room for everyone. I once visited a temple that claimed to have one thousand Buddha statues. Among all of those buddhas, the one that most invoked the feeling of generosity for me was a statue of a very chubby Buddha embrac- ing piles of children who were tumbling all over him. Laughing with delight, he main- tained a sense of peace in the midst of their chaos. Instead of shooing the children away because he had more important things to do, he gathered them in with a big hug. He radiated love and happiness and acceptance. That kind of effortless bounty is what generosity is all about, but to get there a little effort and reflection may be in order. To cultivate generosity it is necessary to understand the mental obstacles that cause us to hold back. One obstacle is self-doubt. We may have an impoverished sense of our own capaci- ties and doubt that we have all that much to offer. Another obstacle is stinginess. We may have a lot of resources, but no mat- ter how wealthy we are, deep down we are afraid of letting go of even a small portion. Generosity is based on interconnec- tion, on looking outside oneself, noticing where there is a need and responding to it. So a third obstacle is self-absorption, being oblivious to what is going on around you. Generosity has the power to cut through such obstacles and it is available to us all. The sense of richness that allows gener- osity to flourish isn’t dependent on exter- nal factors like wealth or social status. (In fact, studies have shown that the wealthi- est Americans’ level of philanthropy is less than half that of the poorest Americans.) No matter how poor or rich we may be, we all have something to offer. And when we let go of our clinging and extend our hand to others, we find that we ourselves are blessed. Our pinched state of mind, which was so alienating and unpleasant, suddenly relaxes and we are brought into a larger and more inspired sense of the world and our own capacities. Instead of feeling that something is being taken away from us, we find that the more we give, the wealthier we feel. JUDY LIEF is the editor of The Profound Treasury of the Ocean of Dharma, a three-vol- ume series of teachings by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. We Naturally Know What to Give By Jan Chozen Bays The Buddha said, “If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving and sharing... even if it were their last bite...they would not eat without having shared, if there were someone to receive their gift.” But we cannot force ourselves to be generous. True generosity comes from a deeper place than acquiescence to the Buddha’s admonition. Generosity, like all aspects of our enlightened nature, lies partially dormant within us. It has been obscured by the inevitable wounds, duties, and worries of our busy human lives. As people sit a silent retreat, their minds quiet, their hearts relax, and their faces regain the innocent glow of child- hood. Often, when this happens, they come to me in tears, saying, “I feel such overwhelming gratitude just for being 46 SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2014