In an earlier blog post, I talked about “The 10 Perfections.” These are the qualities of the heart that are eventually developed with the practice of mindfulness meditation.
In this post, I will talk about the first perfection, generosity.
All spiritual traditions place a lot of emphasis on the virtues of generosity. Within the Buddhist tradition, the dynamics of generosity have been laid out in such a way that it inspires us to maintain our practice of mindfulness meditation.
Practicing mindfulness meditation can take us out of our perpetual obsession with ourselves thereby allowing us to be aware of others around us. This can naturally lead us to participate in acts of generosity to help others.
When the spirit of generosity is strong, a sense of gratitude emanating from it can fuel our practice.
The act of generosity can lead to a calm, restful mind that can become mindful naturally. In order to participate in acts of generosity, we have to let go of whatever it is we want to give. It could be a material object, time, or energy. Letting go is the reverse of holding or clinging. Holding on to something leads to a constricted, selfish mind whereas letting go of something can lead to a more expansive, spacious mind and heart. And a more expansive, spacious mind and heart can transition into mindfulness meditation quite easily.
Acts of generosity can lead us to experience joy in our lives.
Joy is an inner selfless quality that supports the path of mindfulness meditation. We realize that our private practice on a cushion is a generous act because it inspires us to make a difference in other people’s lives when we are out of it. An unusual aspect of generosity is that self-giving (giving up of ourselves) is a part of self-development. We develop ourselves by giving stuff away. Being selfless is a way of finding oneself. The giver often receives more than the receiver. Generosity, therefore, is a manifestation of mindfulness practice. It also provides the context and support for our practice.
I want to take this opportunity to talk about one of my favorite avenues for practicing generosity. With the advent of an interconnected, wired world comes new opportunities for us to make a global impact. For more than 10 years now, I have been an evangelist of micro-lending and micro-finance industries. Micro-lending is the business practice of making small (often interest-free) financial loans to business-minded people from around the world who do not have access to the traditional avenues for raising capital.
Kiva Microfunds (commonly known by its domain name, Kiva.org) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that allows people to lend money via the Internet to low-income entrepreneurs and students in over 80 countries. Kiva’s mission is “to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty.” I have been an active lender on this website for over 10 years now. So far (as of April 2019), through lending and re-lending a modest sum of money, I have made a difference in the lives of over 250 families spread out in 65 countries. It gives me great joy to see my portfolio of loans and to see the small impact I have made in the lives of so many people from around the world.
A focused and mindful approach to generosity over a period of time can accrue to make a huge impact.
That impact can fuel our practice.