(5.10) The completion of the perfection of giving is said to be
The thought wishing to give everything to all living beings,
Together with the merit that results from that giving;
Therefore, it depends only on mind.
Normally we think of giving as a physical action that transfers ownership of some object from ourself to others. In reality, though, it is a change in mental imputation that transfers ownership, not any physical moving of objects. Mentally we can give everything away right now by simply imputing “this belongs to others” on everything we own, indeed everything we encounter.
We need to stop thinking “mine”, feeling anything belongs to me to keep, to enjoy. We need to feel like nothing is ours. This is a training of mind, so we have to let go of this thought “mine”. Perhaps we are unaware, but if we check we will find we are still imputing “mine” on many, many things. If we check we’re still thinking this with respect to our clothes, body, friends, time, life, etc. We need to look for and know that mind. We need to ask ourselves the question, “what do I still consider to be mine? Why am I still trying to hold on to this? What good does it do me to have this attitude?” We need to make a distinction between possession and ownership. It is entirely possible for you to remain in possession of things, but you understand these belong to others, so you take care of their things for them and use these things for their benefit.
We must train in the thought to give everything, absolutely everything, to all living beings—even the merit we accumulate. We do this so that others can experience the good results of our virtues. We must train the mind to give up everything. If we don’t train in this mind now, then when we die, things will be ripped away from us. The perfect result of training in giving, we will find in the mind.
We need to train continuously in the mind of giving. Venerable Tharchin says it does not matter how much we give, rather it matters how often we generate the mind of giving. It is better to give a little quite often than it is a lot only a few times. Why? Because it is the mental intention we are training in, not the sum we give. Sometimes we think our giving is so small, it is not worth doing. But there is no act of giving too small. Surely giving nothing is worse than giving at least something.
Sometimes we do one act of giving and then think we have done our bit and can go back to taking. We do a few favors for others and then think, “now they owe me.” Or perhaps we give to the center and think, “now I don’t have to give again because I have done my part.” Giving needs to become a mental habit, where when we receive something we immediately think about how we can give it away. What are the best objects of giving? The three jewels, because giving to them gives to all living beings. Giving Dharma means giving Dharma advice where possible and making teachings accessible to others, for example through helping our local Dharma center. Giving to Buddhas means mentally offering everything we have to the Buddhas, sincerely requesting them to use these things for the enlightenment of all beings. Giving to Sangha means helping support our teachers, retired monks and nuns, and helping our Sangha friends gain access to teachings when it otherwise would not be possible for them.
One of my old teachers used to say, “we should give until it hurts.” Only then are we pushing the envelope and actually weakening our miserliness. Miserliness feels pain and loss when we give. This is one of the most deceptive of all delusions. Miserliness convinces us that giving makes us poorer and hoarding makes us richer, when in reality it is the exact opposite. Our miserliness condemns us to poverty and our generosity will make us rich. This does not mean we should be foolish in the way we give. For example, if we have a million dollars and transfer it out of our control, it will be a great act of giving. But if instead we mentally transfer the money as belonging to others but keep it so that we can give away the interest earned on that money, it can keep on giving indefinitely. It all depends upon the context, but one thing is clear: mentally we should give everything away right now. Afterwards, it is just identifying when is it most beneficial to actually physically transfer control.