Giving: A Worthwhile Cause
by Kenneth Mondal
Generosity is so important that it is listed as the first of the six far-reaching practices of a bodhisattva. It is hard to develop ethical conduct, patience, joyous effort, concentration, and wisdom without developing some semblance of generosity.
The Buddha taught us that there are four basic types of generosity; 1) giving material things such as food, clothing and money, 2) giving protection from fear, anxiety and danger, 3) giving love and 4) giving the Dharma.
What is worthwhile?
For as long as I can remember I have had the strong desire to support worthwhile causes. What I defined as worthwhile was any organization dedicated to the relief of suffering and the betterment of the planet and the beings that inhabit it. Over the years that has taken the form of supporting environmental, health related, educational, animal rights, human and civil rights and religious organizations.
Sometimes I would be digging in the dirt repairing a hiking trail or walking a dog at an animal shelter. And, of course, there was always the financial support that accompanied my time and energy. Every time I heard about yet another mass shooting my checkbook would come out in order to support sensible gun legislation efforts.
What brings the most good?
Lurking under the surface, however, was a not so subtle uneasiness. There is so much suffering in the world. Where would my efforts bring the most good? So many causes. So little time (energy and money). As the Buddha taught we have 84,000 afflictions and it seemed to me there were 84 million worthwhile organizations out there addressing the problems in the world.
The Dharma has finally helped me to resolve this internal struggle. I must emphasize this is how I have worked through this in my own mind and others may see it differently. I was just getting tired of having one “pet” charity after another.
The Dharma teaches us that all those 84,000 afflictions can be boiled down to one root affliction—a self centered attitude that my happiness is more important than the happiness of anyone else and a self grasping ignorance that actively misunderstands how I and everything in the universe exists.
Without this self centered attitude and self-grasping ignorance it is basically impossible to have the other 83,999 afflictions. And without all those afflictions non-virtuous actions of body, speech, and mind disappear. Which means we are no longer killing each other, degrading our precious environment, abusing animals, repressing the rights of others, etc.
Perhaps this is a naive view. And there will always be natural disasters that require humanitarian relief organizations. But it seems to me that many of our charitable organizations would no longer be needed if we could understand that one’s own happiness is totally dependent on the happiness of each and every living being on this planet.
Support for the Abbey
Sravasti Abbey has given me the most precious gift of all, the gift of the Dharma. I cannot envision a more worthwhile cause than to support the Abbey in its efforts to spread the Dharma’s message of peace, love, and compassion.
That is why I have decided to devote my time, energy, and financial support so that Sravasti Abbey can continue to grow and flourish.