What follows is some of the material we covered during the Union of Sutra and Tantra discussion of the qualities of generosity. Much of it is paraphrased from the taped talk given by Deborah Simpson at Zuru Ling in Vancouver on March 23rd, 1999. 

Every act of generosity has three components: motivation, method and dedication

Motivation -- There are different levels of motivation. The highest motivation being that of Bodhicitta. And that would be this thought: "Through this action of giving, may I and all living beings be freed of suffering and quickly attain Enlightenment."

Method -- The method is the awareness of the emptiness of the giver, the emptiness of the object being given, and the emptiness of the receiver of the giving.

Dedication -- The dedication of the merit gained from the generous act, dedicating it, and asking that this act be a cause for "the quick enlightenment of myself and all living beings."

There are three types of generosity. The first one is the giving of material things. This is the one that is generally practiced by lay people. This would be giving wealth, possessions, enjoyments and even your body. You should only do the last when you're a Bodhisattva. (This refers to the stories of Bodhisattvas, due to their great compassion, actually offering their body to hungry animals.) It is taught that at first it's better to give small things -- inexpensive gifts so that you don't have any miserliness in your mind. It's important not to have residual miserliness, so that when you give something you don't regret it afterwards, and kind of want it back. It is suggested that you think of ways that you can start practicing the type of generosity that suits your lifestyle. For example, how much time you have, or how much money you have. It could be just feeding birds, or it could be visualizing yourself giving your food to hungry spirits. The value of the gift is not important. It can be a small gift with the right motivation.

The second type of generosity if giving the Dharma. This is any speech that conveys the meaning of Dharma. It is using your speech to remove the suffering of others. It could be talking about impermanence, karma, compassion, emptiness, the six perfections, the qualities of the Buddha, or Enlightenment. Actually, when you have a pure motivation, anything you say becomes Dharma giving. Also, when doing mantras or prayers you can think that some beings can hear you and that you are reciting them for these beings. Another way of giving Dharma is at death time -- saying prayers for the dying, or people who have already died.

The third type of generosity is giving protection. This is helping others to overcome their fear and anxiety. It's also protecting them from danger, rescuing people from dangerous or life-threatening situations, saving lives of animals, giving medication, nursing people to wellness, or helping them change their behavior to sustain a healthier lifestyle. These are all part of this perfection.

For Bodhisattvas, just the thought of giving fills them with immense joy. So this is a joyful practice. When we do give, in the right situations, we feel really, really good. And that's o.k. It's not pride and it's not regret, it's o.k. to feel good about giving.

Tips for Practicing Generosity Perfectly

Give without expectation of result, repayment or reward.

Give without discrimination or favoritism.

Don't think that some sentient beings are not worthy, or are worthier than others.

Before giving, contemplate if the receiver will be satisfied, not because you want to get rid of it.

Gifts should be of good quality.

Gifts shouldn't be at another's expense.

Be aware of the right time, circumstance and type of gift.

Give directly with your own hand if possible, rather than through someone else.

Give the gift with respect.

Be patient if the recipient is not pleased.

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