Vows, commitments and modern life: Give everything you have to others
The four commitments of the family of Buddha Ratnasambhava
The four commitments of the family of Buddha Ratnasambhava function to purify our aggregate of feeling and transform it into the wisdom of equality. When we have cultivated this aggregate within our mind, then our every experience of every object will equally be the feeling of great bliss.
To give material help.
The commitment is to develop the thought to give material things six times every day, and then when we are out of meditation to give as much as we are able.
Giving, quite simply, creates the cause to receive. Whatever you give, you create the cause to receive. The only reason why we have anything is because in the past we gave these things. We may think it is because we worked hard, earned money and bought these things. Surely, that is a circumstantial cause, but the substantial cause of us having anything is our past practice of giving.
Very often we have enormous resistance to the idea of giving material things, especially our money. When we see beggars, we tend to walk on by and try not to look at them. When there are fund raisers at work or at our Dharma center, we are quick to become skeptical and find all sorts of excuses why we can’t give. We feel like our material needs are not being met, and we need whatever money we have for the things we want to buy. We keep storage closets stuffed to the brim with old and unused things that we are keeping just in case we might one day need it. Miserliness is an all pervasive aspect of our personality.
I always find it useful to consider the example of Bill Gates. He is by far one of the richest people in the world, and he essentially gives away everything he has made. He single handedly gives more aid to others than the vast majority of entire countries. Why is he so rich? Because he gave extensively in his past lives. Why does he give so much now? Because he has built up within his mind the mental habit of giving. What will his future be? He will be even richer. I also find it useful to consider the example of my mother in law. She has essentially nothing. But virtually everything she has, she gives away freely and happily to her children and grandchildren. She almost never spends money on herself, but instead gives everything away. More important than the fact that she gives more in absolute terms than far richer other relatives, the percentage of her things she gives is near 90%. Who amongst us does that?
To counter our miserliness, we can adopt some very simple rules. First, we should adopt a policy of giving something every single time we are asked. Throughout life, there are all sorts of instances when we are asked to give, but if we check they are not that frequent. But we should tell ourselves that every time we are asked, we will give something. It doesn’t matter how much we give, what matters is how often we generate the mind of giving. It was said before that it is karmically vastly superior to generate the mind of giving one penny one hundred times than it is to generate the mind of giving one dollar only once. Give a little if you have to, but give something every time.
Second, we should go through everything we own and anything we haven’t used in over a year, unless we have a VERY specific purpose in mind that we know we are keeping the thing for, we should just give it away. If you haven’t used it in the last 12 months, it is unlikely you will use it in the next 12 months. Instead of sitting in your closet or garage, better to give it away to somebody who might need it. Some people try sell their old things on eBay or in a garage sale, but from a karmic point of view this is quite foolish. If we sell our things, we might make a few dollars (while spending a lot of time selling it, shipping it, etc., but in the end, what will we have to show for it? Nothing. If instead, we give it away, then we will create the causes to receive things we need in the future, and more importantly we will reinforce our mental habit of giving.
Third, Venerable Tharchin advises us to quite simply ban the word “mine” from our set of mental imputations. When we impute “mine” on anything, then for as long as we maintain that imputation, we are burning up our merit. If instead, we impute “others” onto everything, then even if we maintain possession of the object, instead of burning up our merit, we will continuously be creating the karma and mental habits of giving. For example, we can view our house as the thing we are giving our family to live in. We can view our clothes as the courtesy we give to others so they don’t have to behold our unbecoming naked body. We can view our money as belonging to whomever we will eventually give it to when we buy something with it. The fact that they also “give” us something at the same time doesn’t mean we can’t mentally view our paying for things as an act of giving. We can view our body as belonging to others, we are their servant. We can view our time as the thing we give others when we help them. If you check, we have no need to ever impute “mine” on anything. Everything can be mentally given to others. We may remain custodian of certain things until a later time, but we never consider the things in our possession, “mine.”
If we train in these ways, we can train in the practice of giving material things every moment of every day.