We cannot help but to be giving in this life. This is how the cosmos operates. All phenomena are dependently co-arising in the midst of this singular Bodhisattva vow from before time, with the sole aim of helping beings to grow, to awaken.
Dana is the Sanskrit word for giving. It is also one of the perfections (also called paramitas in Sanskrit). We don’t just practice giving in the Great Vehicle. We practice the perfection of giving, which is selfless giving, but it’s not just giving without a concern for self. You have to understand that this is not the ultimate giving yet.
The ultimate form of giving is giving that is completely at one with the spirit and means appropriate to Great Vehicle of liberation. Food, shelter, clothing, health–these are all important, but by themselves, they do not account for great giving beyond giving. For great giving beyond giving, we have to not only let go of the giver, the receiver, the gift, and the merit of giving, but we have to do all of this with a mind that is in tune with how such giving can help to bring a seed of enlightenment into the karmic storehouse of the recipient.
Great giving is difficult to do for most of us, but only because we carry so much “I” around with us. To not be able to truly give is great suffering and is normally rooted in emotional and intention-based karmic obstructions. Some, however, suffer instead from a form of mental confusion which may be biological in nature and which prevents the clarity needed to intentionally perform great giving, great generosity. These individuals suffer greatly because they suffer through no fault of their own intentions, at least not in this lifetime.
The Great Benevolent Giving of Buddhas is setting free the imprisoned among us, those who would follow the Pathless Path if not for some petty physical or material obstruction in their path (rather than some karmic emotional stance or set of stubborn views). These helpless beings require our first attention, because such beings are awaiting to be freed from karma they feel no connection with any longer in this life. I would like to propose that you are such a being needing liberation. I would also now like to propose that you may be the best liberator of that imprisoned being.
The liberational power of Great Giving is to give without thought of merit, for the sake of planting the seeds of liberation from karmic obstructions in self, and others around you. The best way to do this? Live each day as a gift to the awakening Buddha within you. Wise, liberating giving will naturally flow out of this way of living, and it will always be the most appropriate giving to the circumstance, carefully cultivated in each moment with the fully wholehearted adamantine vow of the Bodhisattva.
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