6 Paramitas : Generosity


The first Paramita is the practice of Generosity, to share what is helpful and good and to do it without selfishness. The practice of generosity, dana, can be traced to the early teachings of the nikayas, the agamas, and to the later teachings in the Prajnaparamita Sutras, as well as the Mahaprajnaparamita Shastra, which elaborates on this practice. Among the paramitas, generosity can be the easiest to fulfill; one can reap immediate benefits from it.

There are three ways to be altruistic and generous:

  1. To give material things
  2. To give loving protection
  3. To give understanding and knowledge.

It is important to do charity with a right understanding and motivation and to eliminate improper giving. It is improper to give something to someone with the intention to harm, or with the intention to become famous, or out of fear of impending poverty. It is also necessary to consider what one gives. A bodhisattva should never give anything that can hurt others and should never give anything that is helpful with wicked thoughts in mind. It is also important to reflect the recipient of one’s generosity. It wouldn’t be beneficial to aid those who are full of desire and greed. Proper generosity is giving whatever one possibly can and doing so with a pure motivation and enthusiasm.

The wealth that one may share freely, without selfishness, includes material wealth, time, knowledge (including speech), and one’s own energy and physical strength.

It is especially important to practice generosity towards representations of Three Jewels, towards one’s parents, towards those who are sick and in need of protection, and particularly towards those one thinks are rivals or foes. One gives them whatever one can with joy, respect, compassion, and openly.

The second form of generosity, mi-'jigs-pa’i-sbyin-pa, is giving loving protection to all those who are fearful of others, who fear getting sick and dying, and who are afraid of natural catastrophes. As practitioners of the paramita of generosity, we can alleviate people of their fears, whatever their origins.

The third form of generosity, chos-kyi-sbyin-pa’i-sbyin-pa, is giving the priceless gift of Dharma to others, which does not mean speaking about it with just anyone. It means helping those who have respect for the precious Buddha dharma, understand and appreciate its invaluable meaning. With a pure motivation, one should pass on the authentic teachings that one has received from an authentic scholar and master and that one has understood oneself. So that no distortions occur, it is important neither to mix the classical teachings with one’s personal opinion nor to share them out of self-centred aims. The truth of the Buddha’s dharma is precious and rare and should always be discussed in a pleasant environment and way.

The way to complete the perfection of generosity is to complete the training in the thought of giving, to dedicate even the merits of virtuous actions, not only to abolish miserliness. Completing the practice of the perfection of generosity means neither completely eradicating starvation and thirst, nor satisfying the last beggar. If it did, then all the past Buddhas such as Guru Shakyamuni would have yet to complete the practice of generosity, having reached enlightenment by mistake.

6 Paramitas : Discipline