“Honey, it is better to give than to receive,” my mother said, with a kind smile on her face.
I had just complained to her that my grandmother gave me a sports jacket and slacks for my ninth birthday instead of the Monarck Silver King bicycle that I asked for. I remember standing there after Mom said that, looking at her as if she were speaking in Jabuti. She didn’t seem to be staggering or out of her mind. But how could what she said possibly be true? It made no sense in my world.
As I got older and my world changed, I learned that fulfilling the perfection of generosity happens to be a part of practicing as a Bodhisattva. Other perfections, called paramitas, arose from aligning traditions and ancient texts and were combined for a total of ten. These perfections are our practice, our conduct, our calling. Their sole purpose is to help us help others.
We practice generosity, or giving, first because in line with the other paramitas, it is the easiest to do and we all do it. We give our stuff and of ourselves out of compassion. We consider the benefits of giving, and the dangers of its opposite: stinginess and aversion.
We give what is needed most. We give when we know it is needed, even when we are not asked. We give generously. We give what is wholesome and helpful. We do not expect anything in return.
Giving like this brings out the best in us. We build character through out conduct. We become the mother and father of all beings, wishing for nothing but their welfare.
If my mother had only told me all this–I still would have thought she was crazy. Where’s my new bike?!