What inhibits giving? When I reflect on this question, I want to believe that there is nothing that would inhibit me from giving. But that is not the case and I find that there are numerous situations where I would not give or have not given. Reflecting on these, when I sense into the body, I notice constrictions in various locations depending on the situation associated with the giving. I also notice a deeper paraphysical constriction that has sadness, fear of loss, and a sense of holding on tightly. There are also memories of giving that led to difficulties, critical analyses about a particular giving that lead to assumptions about the result of giving, and judgments of self and the beneficiary of the giving. These three different experiences might be understood to be in line with the three sufferings that are pointed to in buddhist teachings. 1
- The suffering of suffering; having to do with the physical body, including sickness, aging and death.
- The suffering of change; having to do with the inherent impermanence of all things.
- The suffering of conditioning; having to do with what has been imprinted in our habit body/mind and what has been learned and accepted as truth.
At the heart of these sufferings is a belief that the self and all things are substantially permanent. In suffering of suffering, I tend to believe, that the physical constriction or pain, will be permanent unless I stop it or avoid the giving that causes my constriction. In the suffering of change, I believe that if I can hang on to what I have instead of giving, then I will remain fixedly whole, or stable, or secure. In the suffering of conditioning, I believe the stories that parents, peers and teachers have taught me about what happens when I give myself or my things away. Or I have had an experience where I did not get what I thought I should have because of giving and the resultant suffering still echoes in my being. These stories and memories lead me to believe that there is a permanent and consistent “negative” result from giving in certain situations.
When I am able to attend to my experience while practicing dana or contemplating dana, I am sometimes able to discern these obstacles and obscurations, often referred to as stinginess, miserliness or greed in buddhist teachings. When discerning them, I am able to investigate their causes and conditions. When investigating the causes and conditions, I sometimes come to the realization that the obstacles and obscurations are insubstantial, conditional, and impermanent and that they cause suffering. Initially, suffering in my own being and ultimately for anyone from whom I am withholding giving. There are two experiences that show up then. From realizing the lack of their inherent permanence of the obstacles and obscurations, I experience a lightness of being. From understanding that my withholding may cause suffering a natural compassion arises and I see an open, unobstructed path to giving.
The path to relinquishing stinginess, miserliness and greed is to practice conscientious giving; dana. The path of conscientious giving is through the thresholds of seeing, investigating and realizing the nature of the obstacles and obscurations. The realization of the nature of these is the threshold to danaparamita.
Giving, that is absent of self.
With these words I pay homage to all buddhas, bodhisattvas, sentient beings, and the totality. May these words not confuse, bring doubt, or harm, but bring ease and warmth and an end to suffering for all beings.
1 Middle Beyond Extremes. Maitreya’s Madhyantavibhaga with commentaries by Khenpo Shenga and Ju MIpham. Translated by The Dharmachakra Tranlation Committee. p 35.
Photo courtesy of One Mind Dharma. https://oneminddharma.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/perfection-of-giving.jpeg
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