In the Buddhist tradition, which I trained in for ten years, generosity is one of the six major practices for a meditator on the path to enlightenment. I never really understood the connection between generosity and meditation but over time it has become clear to me that there is more to the practice of generosity than meets the eye.
When I sit down to meditate I like to bring in the intention that I’m not just doing it for my self, but instead I offer my meditation practice to my family, friends and all sentient beings. Meditation helps me to be less reactive, calmer and wiser and this doesn’t just help me – it helps everyone I come into contact with.
“By disarming my own anger within meditation I offer peace to the world.”
Generosity is not just giving of material possessions or offering your meditation, but can be the giving generously of your time, giving your attention to your children or offering a friend the space to listen when they are going through difficult issues. In fact a Zen Masters says that giving your presence to another being is the greatest gift you can give. Certainly children appreciate and flourish when they are given time and energy from their parents which no toy could ever replace. This type of generosity benefits everyone.
Another type of giving is ‘non-dual’ giving where there is no-self giving to no-one. There is no thought of the duality of two people; it’s just you giving to you. The One universe helping itself out. There is no thought of reward or recognition from giving.
You can practice self inquiry meditation when you are in the act of giving to see exactly ‘who’ is the giver and ‘who’ is the receiver. This is difficult to understand without the experience of no-self or no-mind found with meditation but one can come to realise that there is no separate ‘ego-self’ at the core of your being and reflecting this way when you give something is a powerful reminder of this meditative insight.
Then there is the Zen idea that meditation is an expression of enlightenment. You could say that being openly generous with your possessions and attention is simply the natural expression of an enlightened essence. Without any effort or contrivance you act spontaneously in providing yourself selflessly in every present moment.
Even deeper than that Buddha implied that when you cling to things you are the loser and the things posses you and cause you pain and becoming stingy and selfish is the worst suffering of all. Attachment to things is indeed a root cause of suffering as taught in the Buddhist tradition this is why monks would take vows to live a simple and humble life. When you give things away you gain a virtuous mind and generate love and kindness which actually benefits you immeasurably.
“What you cling to you lose, what you give away is yours forever.”
Meditation can be described as an opening from contraction into an expansive way of being. Being generous is not being afraid of coming from this spacious and transparent place. Not being afraid to give away your presence because you understand presence is abundant. At this point your openness is an act of giving people your non-judgement.
Allowing others to be as they are without trying to change them is an act of kindness, which some say is the highest act of all. To allow others to simply be in your space is generous and kind. It helps others to relax and be themselves. Abiding in an open non-judgemental presence is giving space, generously accepting people as you find them.