Teaching Spotlight: The Perfection of Giving

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

One of the main teachings given at this year’s Enlightened Rest Retreat in LA focused on the Six Perfections.  During a two hour teaching, Lama Mira Kingsley focused on the perfection dearest to her heart, the Perfection of Giving.  Before delving into the ways one can work with generosity for the sake of all living beings, Lama Mira reminded us of the meaning of the term Paramita: going to the farthest end.  What does this mean?  It means we have infinite potential; there is nothing about us that is fixed.  It means we, like the saints and Buddhas before us, can attain the ultimate goal.  Perfections are the actions of an awakened mind.  They are dynamic.  They are perfections because there are beings that have taken these activities to their ultimate end.  We call them Buddhas!  They are also “perfectionizers”.  If you take these as a path, they will perfect you.  Just look at what Gandhi did through the perfection of ethics.

The first of these perfections discussed by Master Shantideva in the Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life is dona, or generosity.  The type of giving practiced by the great masters can be divided into three categories:

1.  Giving of material goods.  The mind that produces this perfection is calm and open in its wealth.  Items, money, even time is given away freely, and with joy.  Of course we may not always feel that we can give freely or give as much as we want do.  When that mindset occurs, when we ourselves feel poor and begin to grasp, do not let these mental afflictions take hold.  Say to yourself, “I want happiness more than this”. It is also helpful to remember the “poor person” is actually given you the opportunity to practice generosity, making you rich!  Only by giving away can you give yourself wealth.  “It is giving in that we receive.”  The giving of material goods combats the mental afflictions of greed and ignorant desire.

2.   Protection from fear.  The mind that produces this attribute is humble. The Buddha and Jesus were the most humble beings.  As we have often heard, the last will be first and the first will be last.  We pray to these beings and lift them up, even though they are working for everyone else!  They have made themselves by being the lowest.  When you are working to protect all beings, you have generated a sense of equality with them.  Also, if no one has to fear you than no one will hurt you.  This combats our attachment to ourselves.

3.  Giving of the Dharma.  The mind that produces this aspect of giving rests in its highest potential.  Give the best advice you can, and always speak from your heart.  This combats our ignorance and our attachment to knowing the Dharma.

4.  Giving of Love.  This one is implicit in the other three, so it isn’t always listed.  You will be in love with the whole world once you are good at giving material goods, giving freedom from fear, and giving the Dharma.

Lama Mira then shared several tips on giving.  She reminded everyone to give something every day.  It doesn’t have to be something large or expensive; a smile or a compliment can truly bring joy to someone.  Also, be excited and playful about giving.  Remember, when someone asks you to give, give what you can.  You have to own it…so you can’t give away a million dollars if you don’t have it.  Always give happily, and never have regret.

In practicing all of the perfections, there are goals you can summon up in your heart on a regular basis that will allow you to act, to give, spontaneously.   Lama Mira asked us to rest in our abundance.  When you have a sense of abundance, you are able to give freely.  If you don’t currently feel abundance in your life, begin by imagining what it would be like.  Let go of your sense of poverty…give up your attachment to this negative mindset and move forward with your practice.  Let go of the attachment of the things that bring you pain.  Give in body, speech, and mind.

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