Do Not be Mean in Giving Either Dharma or Wealth

Each of the precepts, if looked at deeply, contains the whole of the Buddhist path. Do not be mean in giving either Dharma or wealth is the eighth Great Precept. To be mean is to resist giving to others, to try to hold on to everything that we have in the belief that we will suffer if we give anything away. We can be mean with money and material possessions, we can be mean with our time and energy and we can be mean with our love and attention. We can be mean towards others and mean towards ourself. Such clinging is the cause of suffering and is born of the belief in separation.

The opposite of being mean, and thus the way out of suffering, is to cultivate generosity or open-heartedness, I like to say wholeheartedness. To be wholehearted is to be willing to give whatever life asks of us.

If we are wholehearted towards ourself we will not judge ourself badly when we feel fear and resistance to giving. Nor will we ignore the resistance and force ourself to give out of a feeling of guilt or unworthiness. Instead we will be willing to sit with the resistance, to acknowledge and accept it and let the skilful way forward reveal itself. Sometimes, for example, it is indeed wise not to give what a person asks for, but we fear the confrontation if we say no.

If we are resistant or worried about giving we can try it out in a small way, giving a few coins to a good cause, giving a little of our time and energy to helping someone out or giving a friend a call to see how they are doing. Hopefully we will soon see how such actions open our heart and the hearts of others. We become more wholehearted through the practice of generosity.

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