Q: In Buddhism, acts of donation?giving money and things to others?are said to have great merit; for those without money and things, is giving impossible?
A: “Better the pauper’s single candle than the rich man’s ten thousand candles.” As this Buddhist saying indicates, the true meaning of the act of giving lies in the mind of the giver.
We are taught that acts of giving can be carried out freely even by people not blessed with wealth and property, as long as they have the intention of giving.
The way to do so is taught in the Sutra of the Repository of Miscellaneous Treasures. This is the teaching of “the Seven Types of Non-material Giving.” Even a person lacking money, things, honor, and status can carry out seven types of giving as long as he has an intention of giving. The seven acts are the Gift of a Kindly Gaze, the Gift of a Peaceful, Friendly Look, the Gift of Kind Speech, the Gift of the Heart, Giving through the Body, Giving Place to Others, Giving of Food and Shelter.
The first, the Gift of a Kindly Gaze, means having a gentle gaze and striving to ease the minds of people around you. “The eyes can speak,” and “The eyes are the mirror of soul.” As these proverbs show, nothing can express such complex shades of meaning as the human eye. A peaceful light in the eyes does a great deal to calm and encourage others. Especially when someone has committed an error and is overcome with grief, a gentle look can be a caress leading to a fresh start in life.
Next is the Gift of a Peaceful, Friendly Look, which means wearing a gentle smile when interacting with others. A beautiful heartfelt smile is truly the flower of life.
When people encounter a pure, innocent smile, for a moment they forget their cares and feel life is worth living. Smiles calm the atmosphere and smooth prickly relationships.
Third is the Gift of Kind Speech, which means striving to speak gently to others. Once Turgenev, having nothing to offer a beggar standing on his doorstep, felt so sorry that he grasped the other’s hand in his and, with tears in his eyes, exclaimed “Brother!” For many years the beggar had received various things from a large number of people, but nothing ever made him so happy as that incident, it’s said he later recalled.
Kind words spoken in sincerity have unfathomable power to bring joy to others.
Fourth is Giving through the Body, which means devoting oneself to serving others and society. This is physical labor done without pay.
Giving through the Heart means to offer words of sincere thanks. “Thank you”: there is no telling how much these two words do to make the world a brighter and more livable place.
Giving Place to Others, the sixth type of giving, refers to the thoughtfulness of giving up one’s place or seat to others. From struggles for seats on trains and buses to scrambles for power, in whatever age you examine, you can see how needed this form of giving is. Even a little of this mindset would make the world a more pleasant and livable place.
Last is Giving of Food and Shelter. This means that if someone comes to call, or asks for something, you should offer them a night’s lodging and a meal in recognition of all they have been through.
I think you can see that in this way, as long as we have the intention of giving, all of us, even people who own nothing, can perform acts of giving anywhere, anytime.
Unsown seeds never sprout, but the fruit of seeds that are sown will manifest itself to the sower without fail, so strive to put these things into practice.
(Petals of Shinran, wisteria volume 37)
By Kentetsu Takamori
Translated by Juliet Carpenter
Source: The Buddhist Village Times #24 | 2013, Can’t People Without Money and Possessions Perform Acts of Giving?
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