I too am taking part in Alternate Economy’s ”8 Week Challenge”. Visit this post to find out the particulars, but basically it involves mining your own mind, heart, life for how you respond to & live with each week’s subject. This 1st week: Generosity, broken down into 3 categories. First, let me say: I’m disregarding the 3 categories, altogether, ha! Doing what you can with what you have, when you can, for the benefit of others: that’s the overriding principal, I feel. Plus, I’m working with Generosity from a Buddhist point of view.
In Theravadan Buddhism, there are Teachings known as the Six Paramitas. Paramita is variously translated as “perfection, perfect realization, or reaching beyond limitation”. It is in working with “reaching beyond limitation” that I feel I have been most challenged, & where most of my personal growth in Generosity has happened. These “perfections”, virtuous attainments also translate as ”crossing over to the other shore”, referring to samsara, the world filled with sufferings in which we live. What “going across” means here is moving toward Awakening, the realization of one’s inherent — already present — Buddha Nature, & reaching Bodhisattva-hood. Though these qualities ARE already within each of us, they are obscured by our ignorance of awakening, by our accepting the collective delusion of This World We Live In, “the ocean of samsara.” Akin perhaps to the 7 Virtues of Catholic teachings, which aid you on your journey to eternal Heaven, the paramitas are the sturdy little boats that we can sail in to keep from drowning in this ocean. ‘Generosity’ is one of the Paramitas, & I muse upon this a great deal. Cultivating a generous spirit has taken me far, far from the angry, grasping woman I used to be. I am not nearly so self-absorbed, as I am becoming ever-more aware of other people’s needs. And, I must also admit: Yikes, I have so so far yet to go!!
I try to give of myself, whenever I see someone needing a hand, or a laugh, or an affirmation of hope. I pick up after the dogs, when they ‘do their business’ which is my diligent gift to the community. When I have extra income, I mostly donate to non-profits that deal with planting trees, animal welfare, & service dogs. Yet, one form of Generosity which most definitely goes unseen is in the way I am (working on) training my silly, feeble mind to “not go there”. What I mean is this: When I’m about to put silent words to a judgmental or hateful thought, I sometimes am able to stop myself. Though this is only happening in my mind, it makes for a little less snarkiness in the world, & for fewer acts of division, all those ways in which I/We create & defend a paradigm of US vs THEM. But BECAUSE this is only happening in my mind, it is creating that wee space between the stimulus (whatever it is) & my response (which, if unattended, is largely a knee-jerk reaction based on deeply held, unexamined beliefs). And in that little slice of space-time, that bitty pause, there is more room for Love. Love has time to emerge, which edges out a little bit of Hate, Division, Judgment, & thus one tiny chink is made in the barriers between ME & YOU.
This is not visible to others, & it’s perhaps an act of omission, more than commission. And who gives you points for what you DON’T do, & what ISN’T seen?? haha **Sigh** There’s no reward, & in keeping with my goal of Attaining Bodhisattva-hood sometime in the next several millenia, I am to ask for none. THIS part is hard, as the smallness within my soul wants to be recognized for doing this! My ego wants to be built up, aggrandized, celebrated for Doing Good Works, which is, of course, directly contradicting of efforts at Living in unconditional Love, haha
Just before I learned of the 8 Week Challenge, I was watching ”Tea With Mussolini“, which is a wonderful movie, with powerful themes of conditioned expectations of Generosity, & unconditional gifts of it also. Great kindnesses are both openly given, & kept secret, which strongly exemplify a quote from Shakespeare that moves through the story: “Love thyself last”. This, I believe perfectly illustrates the highest expression of Generosity, which is also one way of understanding this Paramita: Giving of oneself.
So, I have a far distance to travel, yes, before I have crossed samsara & reached the other shore of Enlightened being. But, travel I shall.