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Lions Roar : September 2017
GENEROSITY SHARON SALZBERG The cultivation of generosity is the beginning of spiritual awakening. Generosity has tremendous force because it arises from an inner quality of letting go. Being able to let go, to give up, to renounce, and to give generously all spring from the same source, and when we practice generosity, we open up these qualities within ourselves. Letting go gives us profound freedom and many loving ways to express that freedom. Generosity is the beginning of the path. When the Buddha taught, he always began with generosity. There’s value in a single act of giving that goes beyond what we would normally conceive. The Buddha said that when we offer someone food, we’re not just giving that person some- thing to eat; we’re giving far more. We’re giving them strength, health, beauty and clarity of mind, even life itself, because none of those things is possible without food. We’re offering the stuff of life itself. That single moment of offering someone food represents a tremendous proportion of the entire spiritual path. All four of the qualities that we talk about as the brahmaviharas, or “divine abodes,” are found in that single moment. Love, or metta, is there because we feel goodwill in that moment toward the person who is receiving. We feel a sense of oneness with them, rather than alienation. We feel friendship, which is the meaning of metta. We want them to be happy. We feel compassion in that moment because we wish that being to be free from pain or suffering, to be happy. There’s tenderness—that trembling of the heart that responds to a being and wants them to be happy. We also experience the third brahmavihara, sympathetic joy. In an act of giving, we want another being’s happiness to increase, and so we feel sympathetic joy for them. The last of the brahmaviharas is equanimity. It’s also found in the act of giving because we have an object of craving that we’re willing to let go of—to be without it ourselves and let it belong to others, to everybody. If we give a gift without attachment to a certain result, with- out expectation of what will come back to us, it’s like a celebra- tion. It’s celebrating freedom within ourselves as a giver and also freedom within the receiver. In that moment, we’re not relating to each other in terms of roles or differences. There’s no hierarchy. In a moment of pure giving, we become one. We can give in so many ways. We can give materially in terms of goods and money. We can give time and service. We can give care. No one of us can do these things perfectly; it is a practice. We practice generosity with others and with ourselves, over and over again, and the power of it begins to grow until it becomes almost like a waterfall, a flow. This is who we become, this is what is natural, and this is how we continually are able to touch on and deepen a true and genuine happiness. SHARON SALZBERG is one of the founders of the Insight Meditation Society. Her new book is Real Love: The Art of Mindful Connection. TONGLEN PEMA CHÖDRÖN Tonglen (taking and sending) reverses our usual logic of avoid- ing suffering and seeking pleasure, and in the process we become liberated from a very ancient prison of selfishness. We begin to feel love both for ourselves and for others, and we begin to take care of ourselves and others. We begin the practice by taking on the suffering of a person we know to be hurting and whom we wish to help. For instance, if you know of a child who is being hurt, you breathe in the LION’S ROAR | SEPTEMBER 2017 51