Sharing is caring
Generosity is the most natural outward expression of an inner attitude of compassion and loving-kindness. When one desires to alleviate the suffering of others and to promote their well-being, then generosity —in action, word, and thought— is this desire put into practice. It is important to recognise the “generosity” here refers not just to giving in a material sense, but to generosity of the heart.—HHDL Tenzin Gyatso
When I started writing, sharing and teaching in November 2011, I did so with a clear intention to share the Dharma with anyone who was interested, irrespective of religion, economic means, etc., i.e. without precondition. The focus has consistently been on others' needs.
Teaching, for me, requires staying approachable and giving support —answering questions, providing references, actively engaging in conversations— both publicly (on my social media stream, and in communities such as “Buddhism and Meditation” or “Buddhism Q&A”) and privately (via personal communications for people wishing to avoid the public scrutiny of their difficulties). This takes time.
This has been my practice of generosity (dāna): to write, share and teach, and hopefully transforming my knowledge, my experience and my time (most hours of the day, most days) into value for others.
Sharing alone, sharing together
For generosity, nothing to do; other than stop fixating on one self.—Milarepa, “song on the Six Perfections”
Hopefully, you might feel inspired to contribute, to support such work. Maybe you came to value some of my 900+ public posts, or some of my answers to the hundreds of questions addressed. Or maybe you appreciate what it might contribute to others, beyond yourself.
A virtuous circle of mutual support is necessary for teachings to be kept accessible. Buddhism is a living tradition. Early Buddhist wanderers kept walking until they met someone who cared enough to feed them. They shared the table of the poorest, so there's no set minimum, but participation could not be null if someone was serious about inviting wisdom into their life. There is no point in asking wisemen to spend their time meditating, studying and answering queries so they can share wisdom with others, while also asking them to spend their days working on other tasks to earn a living: time is not magically stretchable.
Many people understand inter-dependence and the benefits of mutual assistance, but they're somehow happy to forget about these, happy to stay non-Enlightened, if it allows them to cling to their possessions a bit longer, or to get a bit more for free (more wisdom, more content, more support)!
Generosity, however, is the first perfected quality (pārami) to be cultivated. When giving, Buddhism suggests impartiality or equanimity (upekkhā), a view that all beings are worthy of our care and concern (mettā): while “all beings” does include ourselves and our relatives, the practice is to cultivate a generosity without biased ‘ordering’, fully appreciative of inter-dependence and of the whole web of existence. It is a first step into relinguishing the crispation on “mine, me, myself”.
In fact, the true act of dāna pāramitā involves giving up what we cherish the most —ultimately our ego self. I know a Dharma-school teacher who encourages the practice of dāna in children by setting an example. Once he took the students to give fruits to the homeless. In doing so, he purchased the most expensive fruits at the grocery store. When one mother complained that the homeless did not deserve such extravagance, he explained two important things about true giving. First, it requires some sacrifice on the part of the giver. To give away something that one doesn't need is not dāna. Second, the act must not be condescending but must show respect to the one who receives the gift. In fact, one is grateful to the recipient who makes the act of giving possible.—Taitetsu Unno, “Shin Buddhism: Bits of Rubble Turn into Gold”
Without generosity, Buddhism is just empty words… and no amount of meditation or righteous morality would change that. The best practice is to provide regular support to others, commensurate with what you can afford (no more… but no less either, or there's the risk of falling prey to a narrative justifying clinging).
Please give responsibly
The worst is to count on hypothetical ‘others’, to justify that there's no need for you personally to participate. When everyone thinks this way, the tradition just dies, simply because no one actually makes their ‘appreciation’ real. It's like letting the planet die, while repeating that it is lovely and that ‘others’ should do something about its imminent destruction: you have a share of responsability vis-à-vis what exists in the world, and you cannot just push your share onto ‘others’ (e.g. by conveniently assuming that it's easier for ‘others’ than it is for you).
Mormons give 10% of their income to the community. Sikhs give the Dasvandh, also 10%. Muslims who have income “above necessity” give the Zakat (the hadith collections suggest 2.5%) as well as the Sadaqaat, an additional discretionary contribution to charities and causes. Buddhism has no guideline, it simply asks for you to consider causality: if you want this living tradition to survive, how are you participating, in practical terms, to make this happen? Nice words, exposure or social media ‘likes’ might feel good, but they do not actually help with the basic necessities.
The best practice is to provide regular support. Please select a suitable amount (based on what you can afford, no more but no less):
Just as a filled pot, which is overturned, pours out all of its water, leaving nothing back, exactly so should one give to those worthy & to the needy whether low, middle or high: like the overturned pot, holding nothing back.(Jātaka Nidāna 128–129)
For those who cannot afford recurring donations (maybe due to extremely low income, or simply very irregular income), any one-off donation would still be wholesome and much appreciated: