Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas... it is time for unconditional giving

Christmas is finally here. This is the time for giving. Two days ago we participated in a soup kitchen organised by Ven. Saranapala, from the Buddhist Monastery at the Mississauga, Canada. This was held at Good Shepperd Centre,Toronto. It was so wonderful to see young people with so much kindness and compassion in hearts serving food to the homeless people in Toronto. There was so much positive energy in that place and it is so hard to put all that in to words. While this was happening one of parents in the room asked me "Do you think all these people here deserve this?" I said to myself that this would be a very good question to be explored later.

What is the Buddhist view on giving and who deserves to receive?

Buddhists believe in unconditional giving. This means giving without any judgement on the person who is receiving it. It does not matter what the person's race, religion or social background is and you should give without expecting anything in return. Some people may not agree with this kind of giving. They will only want to give to some one who they think truly deserves receiving. It may not be always easy to find this ideal person. For example what about a young homeless kid that stands everyday at a local traffic light, with a sign board saying "good kamma for a dime." What about the kid that walks into the coffee shop with a story staying that he lives in Nova Scotia and that his mother just died and he has no money to take the bus home.

Some people may say, "why cant he find a job like anybody else ?" Others may say "by giving to these people you are encouraging them to beg and not get a real job. What would you do in this situation? What is the Buddhist approach to this?

Before we explore this we must understand the definition of kamma. Buddha said "Intention(cetana), I tell you, is kamma. Intending, one does kamma by way of body, speech, & intellect," Nibbedhika Sutta. Therefore, if your intention is pure It does not matter about the receiver, you will reap the fruit of your good kamma. According to the Buddha, giving can become wholesome deed (purification of giving) under three conditions (Dakkhinavibhanga Sutta ). This is if the giver, the receiver or both the giver and the receiver have good moral intentions (purified). If neither the giver or the receiver has good moral intentions this will not result in a wholesome giving.

This makes it very clear that even the receiver is not a moral person and if the giver has good moral intentions you will be making a wholesome kamma. Therefore it does not matter of the morality or intentions of the receiver if you give without any judgement it will result in good kamma. So, I think Christmas is the perfect time for giving and it is a great time to practice unconditional giving.

Dakkhinavibhanga Sutta - The Exposition of Offerings-Majjhima Nikaya 142 explained by Ajahn Brahm (MP3)

The Path to Happiness - "Letting Go or Getting More!


Kurban said...

Yes,......I am going to remember that when I meet a homeless person next time! I meet several homeless person everytime I go out (I use public transit and walk everywhere I have to go).....I am unable to give everytime I am asked to give...it's a difficult situation!! What are your thoughts on this?

Take care,


Dr. Piyal Walpola said...

It's ok...Yo don't have to do this every time.

Thinking about it even great start.

You already have lot of compassion and kindness..

Be content.. do your best.

Practice loving kindness meditation... more often.

Just be in the present...moment.