Browsing Category "Generosity"
17 Jul
2019
Posted in: Books, Generosity
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The Economy of Generosity

At the Study & Practice class last night, I explained that I set a registration fee for the class ($20), which is a fee-for-service arrangement that participates in our “normal” market economy (in which I collect a fee to cover the costs that I have to pay).

But I teach the class under an entirely different arrangement. It’s what Buddhist call the Practice of Dana, which I think of as an Economy of Generosity: I offer the teachings freely — as an expression of my love and appreciation for these teachings and for those who have taught me — and in doing so, I provide an opportunity for the people who are taking my class to participate in this same Economy of Generosity. By which I mean the opportunity for them to give freely (to me financially, yes, but in other ways too, such as to the class by participating whole-heartedly).

Or not.

Either way is OK with me. (That’s what makes it an Economy of Generosity.)

After the class, I got to talking with a friend about this idea of giving and receiving, and I recalled a book I read when I was in college that had a tremendous impact on me. The book is The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property, by Lewis Hyde. (I had mis-remembered the title as: The Erotic Life of Generosity, which maybe says something about why it had such an impact on my understanding of generosity!)

My friend also mentioned a book about Art and Generosity, which had a big impact on him, and after looking around on Google, I think maybe this is the same book! It’s now called The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World, and apparently it’s recently been re-published in a special twenty-fifth anniversary edition.

Here’s a sample from the Introduction (original 1983 edition), which now that I’m reading it with “Buddhist eyes,” has a whole other level of meaning:

“There are several distinct senses of ‘gift’ that lie behind these ideas, but common to each of them is the notion that a gift is a thing we do not get by our own efforts. We cannot buy it; we cannot acquire it through an act of will. It is bestowed upon us. Thus we rightly speak of ‘talent’ as a ‘gift,’ for although a talent can be perfected through an effort of will, no effort in the world can cause its initial appearance. Mozart, composing on the harpsichord at the age of four, had a gift.

“We also rightly speak of intuition or inspiration [and I would add: insight] as a gift. As the artist works [as the meditator practices], some portion of his creation [her insight] is bestowed upon him [her]. An idea pops into his head, a tune begins to play, a phrase comes to mind, a color falls in place on the canvas. Usually, in fact, the artist does not find himself engaged or exhilarated by the work, nor does it seem authentic, until this gratuitous element has appeared, so that along with any true creation comes the uncanny sense that ‘I,’ the artist, did not make the work. ‘Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me,’ says D. H. Lawrence.” [The Buddhist teaching of Not-self!]

The first chapter of The Gift continues exploring the nature of gifts and giving:

“…a cardinal property of the gift: whatever we have been given is supposed to be given away again, not kept. Or, if it is kept, something of similar value should move on in its stead, the way a billiard ball may stop when it sends another scurrying across the felt, its momentum transferred. You may keep your Christmas present, but it ceases to be a gift in the true sense unless you have given something else away. As it is passed along, the gift may be given back to the original donor, but this is not essential. In fact, it is better if the gift is not returned but is given instead to some new, third party. The essential is this: the gift must always move. There are other forms of property that stand still, that mark boundary or resist momentum, but the gift keeps going.”  

22 May
2018
Posted in: Generosity, Practice
By    Comments Off on Here’s a Tip

Here’s a Tip

I was having lunch the other day at a neighborhood place I like to go to and just as I was getting ready to leave, a friend of mine came in, who I don’t see all that often, so of course I invited her to sit at my table — she was just stopping in to get something to take home and hadn’t planned to sit down, but there I was and so she did. I had already paid my bill and I guess having someone new sit down at my table without me leaving confused the waitress, because it was a long time before we could get her attention. And then once we did, it was another long time before we got the drink my friend ordered, even though while we waited the bus boy brought a drink to me that I hadn’t even ordered. Then it was another really long time before our waitress returned and asked my friend to repeat her order because apparently somehow she had lost it.

I noticed that I was getting annoyed during all of this and so was my friend, but at least we were able to take advantage of the time to have a nice long visit. One of the things my friend said while we waited, which I’m sure only came up because of the situation, was that she has been making a practice of always leaving big tips — really big tips (like 50% of the bill) — even when the service is not all that great, because she recognized what a hard job it is to wait tables, and since she can afford to give money to charities, why not give money to people who wait tables.

I love that!

27 Feb
2018
Posted in: Generosity
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How Beautiful

Thank you, dear friends.

I am deeply touched by your kindness and generosity. On Friday I posted a request for help in paying the cost of upgrading this Dharma Town site ($658.73) and already I have received $530 in donations and pledges.

Thank you so much. Not only for the financial support, but also for the encouragement and appreciation for the work I have been doing that so many of you have also expressed. And more than that. Several of you expressed gratitude to me for having asked!

This is such a lesson for me. That it can be a gift to ask for help. That asking for what you need can actually give something to the person you are asking — an opportunity to be generous, to express gratitude, and to feel how good it feels to do something helpful for someone else!

What a lovely thing this giving-and-recieving turns out to be.

We are all in this world together. We forget it sometimes, or even try to ignore it, but we are dependent on each other. We “inter-are,” as Thich Nhat Hanh says.

How beautiful.

23 Feb
2018
Posted in: Generosity
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Asking is Also Practice

Dear Friends,

I have just had to spend $658.73 to upgrade and secure my Dharma Town site, which includes content migration to a new server, hosting, domain renewal, backup, and cyber security (so as not to repeat the unpleasant surprise I got a few years ago when Dharma Town was hacked by a porn site!). This amount will cover hosting and domain renewal for the next 5 years, plus backup and security for 1 year, but in order to get the lowest possible annual cost, I’ve had to pay it all now.

I created this site 6 years ago (time flies!) and have been writing blog posts almost every weekday since then (except when I’ve been away on retreat). I’ve covered all the costs of the site out of my own pocket so far, but now I need to ask for your help.

There is now a Donate button on the sidebar to the right of each webpage. If Dharma Town has been useful or inspiring or supportive of your practice in any way, or if you have benefited from any of the other dharma programs I’ve offered to the St. Louis community — including Cafe Sangha and Retreat-in-a-Box –please consider making a donation.

Thank you.

May all beings receive the blessings of my life.

***

If you have any problems using the Donate button, or would like to talk with me about this, or offer support in some other way, please email me here.