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GENEROSITY AND COMPASSION
The Buddhist Way

Daya Hewapathirane

A true spiritual life is not possible without a generous heart. Generosity is the very first “parami”, or quality of an awakened mind. Generosity could be considered as the foundation of the Buddhist path. The cultivation of generosity is the beginning of spiritual awakening. Generosity arises from an inner quality of letting go. Letting go gives us profound freedom. Generosity according to Buddhism, opens our heart, frees us from attachment and is the basis of all good qualities. Pure unhindered delight flows freely when we practice generosity. Generosity is to give without expectation of anything in return. Our most basic drive is a longing for happiness. We all want to be happy. When we are giving something without any expectation in return, this is what we are acknowledging. Both parties become happy.

If we give a gift without attachment to a certain result, without expectation of what will come back to us, it is like a celebration. It is celebrating freedom within ourselves as the giver and also freedom that is generated in the receiver.

Although from outside it looks like they have nothing to give, even very poor people have enough to share and keep giving. They give what they can. They also have a strong sense of abundance. But, there are some wealthy people in this world who have a tremendous sense of inner poverty, that it is very difficult for them to let go of clinging to their possessions. It is very painful and very hard for them to share and give.

Inner discipline is the basis of a spiritual life. Inner discipline involves combating negative states of mind such as greed and cultivation of positive states of mind such as generosity, compassion, tolerance and caring. It is the fundamental method of achieving happiness.

Compassion is Free From Attachment

Compassion is a state of mind that is non-harming and non-aggressive. It is a mental attitude based on the wish for others to be free of their suffering and is associated with a sense of commitment, responsibility and respect towards the other.

Compassion does not involve a give and take principle. Genuine compassion is based on the rationale that all human beings have an innate desire to be happy and overcome suffering. They have the natural right to fulfill this fundamental aspiration. On the basis of the recognition of this equality and commonality, one develops a sense of affinity and closeness with others. With this foundation one can feel compassion regardless of whether one views the other person as a Buddhist, Christian, Hindu or Islam. It is based on the other’s fundamental rights rather than your own mental projection.

Generosity, Compassion and Human Health
In recent years there have been many studies that support the idea that developing compassion, generosity and altruism has a positive impact on our physical and emotional health. Reaching out to help others can induce a feeling of happiness, a calmer mind and less depression.

Adopting an altruistic lifestyle is a critical component of good mental health according to many studies. They have shown that those regularly involved in volunteer activities helping others, display feelings of warmth, more energy and a kind of euphoria. They have a distinct feeling of calmness and enhanced self-worth following these voluntary activities. Not only did these caring behaviors provide an interaction that was emotionally nourishing but it was also found that this “helpers calm” was linked to relief from a variety of stress- related physical disorders as well.

Need for Organized Volunteer Services
As an integral part of the social value system, taking the initiative voluntarily to help others, takes place spontaneously among the Sinhela people in times of crisis. This has been noticed time and gain in the past, and was well displayed during the recent tsunami event. However, as far as regular on-going community service activities are concerned, except in occasional “sramadhana” campaigns, our people have still not been well organized and mobilized to be involved in volunteer services on a regular basis. The majority of our population consists of young people, and it is important that they are organized in a meaningful manner, to serve on various community projects on a volunteer basis. These youth voluntary services should be appreciated and receive due recognition by the schools, universities and the governments at various levels. It should be considered as an accomplishment on the part of a student and carry weight in his or her curriculum vitae, like in Western countries. With all the deceitful activities going on in the country threatening Buddhism and Buddhist culture, we need to make use of our youth – both male and female, lay and ordained, initially on a town, village and district basis, to help protect these foundations of our life – Buddhism and Buddhist Culture, from being undermined and threatened by Christian elements in various direct and indirect forms, sometimes with the support of corrupt, and treacherous politicians.



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