Generosity is the virtue that produces peace.
By this generosity one has power over the bhūtas.
By this generosity one is free from enemies.
Generosity is the transcendent friend.
Therefore, generosity is said to be essential.
Generosity is the ornament of the world.
Through generosity, one turns back from the lower realms.
Generosity is the stairway to the higher realms.
Generosity is the virtue that produces peace.
The prosperity of the bodhisatvas Is inexhaustible, filling the whole of space.
In order to obtain such prosperity,
Completely propagate that generosity.
Tibetan meal chant, also used in Oriyoki meals within Shambhala community
I’ve been thinking a lot about generosity lately – watching the news, cheering the medical personnel, the meal delivery folks, the grocery store clerks –who are generously giving their time – and sometimes risking their health – to serve us.
What has been resounding is the verse from our oriyoki (Buddhist meal) chants “generosity is the virtue that produces peace”. Perhaps familiar to you if you’ve ever done an intensive meditation retreat at a Buddhist center.
But what might this mean in our current context? How might peace come about from generosity? Turning to texts on the paramitas, generosity is the first one that is listed among the 6. It is the door that opens one to the other 5.
Paramita literally means “the vessel that takes one to the other shore” – and also translated as “transcendent action.” Thinking about this in a more ordinary way, i see these as actions we can take as Shambhalians in our everyday lives to “walk the talk” of acknowledging and expressing our basic goodness – for ourselves as well as for others.
So, generosity – Gampopa tells us that there are three types of generosity – of material things / of fearlessness / of the dharma.
I think we’re pretty used to think of the generosity of material things – giving money and / or food to those who are underserved – or to our children. And it’s ok to include ourselves as well – for me it’s buying ice cream sandwiches in the midst of our lock-down.
The gift of fearlessness is also something very apparent at this time – to contemplate the fearlessness of the doctors and nurses in the ER, or the mail delivery people handling our packages. There’s something fearless – in a unself-conscious way – about these actions. And we’re asked to be fearless as well – to dwell in a space and time of not exactly knowing what will be happening next – in our country – in Colorado – to our society.
The Shambhala core teachings refer to the fearlessness of not being afraid to be who you are – to show our soft beating heart – not only to others, but to ourselves. To recognize the need for self-compassion – to slow down, To simply be in the present moment, completely, demands a bravery and fearlessness beyond the expectation of hope – of knowing what the next moment might bring – and the barrier of fear that shields us from the world and creates our cocoon.
This brings us to the last type of generosity – that of the dharma – or as I like to refer as “what has been taught and what has been experienced.” So we are open to the words of the dharma – the books we read, words we hear – but we also are open to our lived experience of these teachings – how we practice and digest them in our day to day lives. how for example the experience of fearlessness is riding on a roller coaster of emotions and uncertainty.
That brings me to our current context – how might generosity produce peace?
I believe when we are generous to ourselves and others – in all of these ways – not just the material way – but also in an uncompromising open fearlessness that is contextualized by our study and practice – that brings a tremendous connection with our larger world – the everyday phenomena of reading the news, cooking, being with family and friends. this connection, in the most absolute sense IS peace. Not peace in the sense of a pacific sense, but that we are not conflicted – at war – with our relationships. We are content.
There might be tremendous negative emotions, but to be completely generous with ourselves – and our relationship(s) with the world – there is an authenticity that is laid bare through an understanding of how we’re connected materially, emotionally, and dharmically. We understand that connection to our community – but also to our government, other governments, people across the globe.
The peace is that we are in authentic and genuine relationship having been open on the different levels of material being, fear and fearlessness, and the teachings – and becomes “the ornament of the world.”
May 1, 2020