The Paramis are the ten qualities of a person that, when developed, lead to Bodhisattva “awakening”. Sounds exciting, right? Guy Armstrong called the paramis the “perfections of heart and mind”.
The first of the ten Paramis is Dana, the development of generosity.
Generosity is the foundation on which the other nine paramis must stand. Similarly to how we begin the 8 Fold Path with Whole View, we begin with Dana in the Paramis, because Dana is the whole view of the Paramis.
First of all generosity is a scary thing. I mean, just think about it: it means to give. How do you feel when someone asks you for a donation, or you are given a bill for something and wonder if you’ve been fairly charged?
The common view is that what you have given is gone forever, and you’re left the poorer for it. We can feel the same way with other things that we give: our time, our kindness, our thoughtfulness, information, or our forgiveness.
Sometimes giving can bring up common fears: being taken advantage of, or being abandoned for example. We give sometimes reluctantly or eagerly with an underlying tone of wanting our output to be matched in some way, fearing it won’t be, and resenting if it isn’t right away.
Meditation teachers Doug and Catherine Sensei have said that generosity is seen as weakness in today’s society. We’re suckers who give to other people. It makes sense to invest your energy in sources that are more obviously going to to give a return.
However things are not always as they seem. You must not be quick to trust your own instincts, and in the case of generosity it pays off to stretch your mind to look at the bigger picture.
The bigger picture in this case means to include other people into your view of life. It is to stretch your imagination (or expand your personal boundaries) to think of another person as “me”. At the same time that “me” expands, “other” seems to expand into yourself, and you learn to view yourself as what you are: 1 in 7 000 000 000; humans anyway. And let’s not forget that Earth is just a flake of dust in a universe of countless stars within galaxies.
Why would you want to expand your reality, and sense of being? Namgyal Rinpoche said on this:
Consideration for others is really in your own interest […] You will be fortified by more wholesome states of consciousness.
Every night reflect on your day. Identify 6 acts of generosity:
2 that were emotional (a smile, complements, expressing empathy, a warm hug)
2 that were intellectual (advice, sharing an event you heard about)
2 that were material (financial, borrowing a tool or book, buying the coffee/ meal out, giving a generous tip)
The most important part of this practice is in the reflection, and making a habit of reviewing our day for where we seized the opportunity for generosity.
Give what I need to other people.
This is different than being the change that you want to see in the world. It is more like the golden rule – do unto others what you would have them do unto you.
You can take this a stretch farther, and when you are feeling like you need comfort, give a comforting word to someone else. When you are feeling separate and want to connect, reach out and help someone else who might feel lonely to connect.
Since money is one of the biggest triggers for people in feeling a sense of abundance or deprivation, try looking at your relationship with money.
Find a Money Coach, or read a book involving relationship with money.
Something that money coaching does is help you to identify the “archetypal” behaviours you have around money, which can also help you to look at your patterns around abundance and generosity.
Write an affirmation that speaks to you around generosity. Begin your affirmation with the statement “I endeavour to …” rather than “I am” or “The world is”. We cannot force ourselves to think or be differently right away, but we can always endeavour.
Say your mantra to invoke the feeling of generosity, and imagine a bright orange colour. You can also imagine another image that brings to you a sense of abundance, such as a jolly fat Buddha or a bush full of juicy, delicious blue berries.