The Perfection of Generosity - Giving with right understanding



We read in the “Basket of Conduct”, Division II, the Perfection of Renunciation, no.1, “Conduct of Yudhanjaya”, about the Bodhisatta Yudhanjaya, a King’s son. He saw a dewdrop that vanished by the heat of the sun and this reminded him of impermanence and caused him to wish to renounce worldly life. The Commentary to this section states:

“Panna of the beginning stage that considers the impermanence of realities,

knows which dhammas are beneficial concerning generosity etc.

and which are not.

This is the perfection of panna.”

  Dana, generosity, is the giving away of objects for the benefit and happiness of others. When we give things away we are not selfish. Panna of the beginning stage considers the impermanence of realities. Did we ever consider at the moment of giving that there is nothing lasting? Even possessions that we still have today and that we have not yet given away may vanish before we can give them away, because they are impermanent. Even we ourselves who have not yet given away things are impermanent, we may die even before we have the opportunity to be generous. When we reflect on the impermanence of those who give and those who receive, kusala citta may motivate us to give assistance to others. When we give away things that are beneficial to others with the understanding of the impermanence of everything, the perfection of wisdom can develop. We can only know for ourselves whether we consider impermanence at such moments. When we meet people who are poor, we can reflect on the unsatisfactoriness of life and on impermanence before giving, at the moment of giving and after having given, thus at the three moments of wholesome intention, kusala cetana, with regard to giving.

Some people feel joy with regard to some kinds of dana, not to all kinds, and when they recollect their generosity afterwards they are delighted and have attachment to their generosity. This shows that there may be wholesome intention, kusala cetana, before giving, and at the moment of giving, but that afterwards there may not be kusala citta.

We should investigate, when we recollect our generosity after we have given, whether the citta is kusala citta or akusala citta. We may be happy when we consider that we have done something beneficial, that we have given assistance to people so that they are free from suffering. Others may not give assistance to them because they may not know of their needs. When we have given assistance to people and we recollect the kusala we have performed, we may feel delighted, but this is nonself, anatta; it is beyond control whether happiness arises or not. Happy feeling may arise because we had an opportunity to help someone who was in need and whom we should give assistance. However, if we desire to recollect our kusala in order to have benefit for ourselves, it is not the perfection of generosity. The difference between generosity that is a perfection and that which is not, is very subtle.


Topic 277



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