Ultimate stages of the path: The perfection of giving

According to the normal sequence of the 21 lamrim meditations, the next meditations would be tranquil abiding and superior seeing, but for purposes of this series of blog posts, I will do each of the six perfections in order, with tranquil abiding and superior seeing being treated in the context of the perfections of concentration and wisdom.  The six perfections are the perfection of giving, moral discipline, patience, effort, concentration and wisdom.  By the bodhisattva training in the six perfections, they create the causes necessary to become a Buddha.  What makes the practices of giving, moral discipline, patience, effort, concentration and wisdom “perfections” is if they are practiced with a motivation of bodhichitta.

There are four types of giving:  giving material things, giving fearlessness, giving Dharma and giving love.  Giving material things is the giving of material things to another to make the other person happy.  Doing this creates the cause for future wealth.  Giving fearlessness is anytime we protect or free somebody from some danger so that they don’t have to be afraid.  Doing this creates the cause for ourselves to always be protected and it creates the cause for future power.  Giving Dharma is any giving of Dharma (such as through teaching, giving good advice or showing a good example) out of a love for others, understanding the Dharma functions to free their minds.  Giving love is any act of body, speech or mind that actively works for the happiness of somebody else.  This creates the cause for others to naturally love you in the future and for you to be charismatic, attractive and pure.

To make these practices perfections, we consider how the specific benefits that flow from each type of giving are helpful for our swiftly attaining enlightenment for the sake of all.  The perfection of giving is, motivated by a wish to have these benefits for the sake of others, we engage in the action of giving.  Giving material things creates the cause for wealth.  The Bodhisattva wants wealth in the future so that they have more resources with which they can help others.  Giving fearlessness creates the cause for power.  The Bodhisattva wants power so as to be able to have the power to fulfill their bodhichitta wishes for others.  Giving Dharma creates the cause for receiving Dharma teachings and wisdom.  The Bodhisattva wants teachings and wisdom in the future so that they can continue to make progress along the path.  This is actually the most important type of giving because if we have the fruit of the other three types of giving but not the fruit that grows from the giving of Dharma then eventually we will exhaust our merit and fall back again deeper into samsara.  But if we have the fruit of the giving of Dharma, then we can eventually gather the other types of fruit from giving through relearning their corresponding practice.  Ideally, we would have all four fruits, which would enable us to use the fruit of the other three types of giving to better engage in the practice of giving Dharma.  Giving love creates the cause to be loved.  Bodhisattvas wants others to love them so that others are naturally drawn to them after which the Bodhisattva can give Dharma.  We engage in the perfection of giving when, seeing how these benefits help us accomplish our bodhichitta wishes, we engage in any of the four types of giving.  The ultimate perfection of giving is engaging in the perfection of giving conjoined with an understanding of emptiness.

Here it is useful to consider the emptiness of the three spheres as they relate to the perfection of giving.  The three spheres are ourselves, the person we are giving to and the giving itself.  It has been discussed at length in previous posts how both self and others are empty, just different waves on the same ocean of the mind.  For the emptiness of the actual giving, we can consider “when one wave gives something to another wave, does that something ever leave the ocean?  No.”  And, “just as the tides come in and out, so too do the fruits of our actions – whatever we give out eventually comes back in.”  The ultimate perfection of giving is when, understanding this dynamic, we engage in any of the four types of giving.  Such karma is completely pure, and the fruits of such actions ripen directly in the form of the Pure Land you are building for others.  Unbelievable!

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