When life is all about “me”, I am a “taker”. I am stingy. There is no one else in the room with me—I am the only one. Everyone else is just an object that impacts me in some way.
Identifying as the one true shrunken self only makes us miserable. Misery, then, is the bottom line of all vibrations; it is the goal, the shrunken self’s “love”. This unfortunate truth is evident in the way the world is evolving right now. The miserable person receives all the attention and “love” from the world. So the way to get “love” is to be miserable. You suck everyone in. And in order to be included as part of “the world”, others have to be crushed and made miserable.
Attending to Baba in the ashram courtyard in Ganeshpuri provided amazing opportunities for my sādhana on all levels. Once, when the courtyard was empty except for Baba and the other attendant, I watched someone arrive from Bombay with a gift for Baba. It was a watch. As the man gave Baba the watch, I said internally, “Baba, my watch broke. I need a watch. I don’t have a watch anymore. I need a watch.” I was standing toward the back of the courtyard and obviously not part of the interchange Baba and the man were having. Baba took the watch and said nothing further. The man left.
About fifteen minutes later Baba got up from his seat. He would normally go into his house using the door to the left of his seat. But instead he started to come in my direction. Just at that moment my then husband, who went by the name Niranjan, came through the courtyard. Baba said to him. “Your wife needs a watch. I will tell the jeweler to talk to you when he comes.” We all kind of laughed, especially me, and then Baba disappeared to lunch.
After lunch that day I went to my usual place at the back stair. Baba came out in a beautiful blue velvet hat with beads on it. He asked me to get my husband. Once Niranjan arrived, Baba gave him the hat and said, “Now will you not be a miser and buy your wife a watch?” Niranjan laughed. And that seemed to be it. The next day Baba came out in a velvet vest with hearts for pockets. Baba asked me to get my husband. I did. Baba gave him the vest and said “Now will you not be a miser and get your wife a watch?” This dance went on for days; Baba lavished Niranjan with beautiful gifts. Each time there was laughter. In the end, Niranjan agreed to talk with the jeweler on Sunday. The watch came several days later; Baba gave it to me. The jeweler gave the bill to Niranjan. The story seems so playful, but Baba was always teaching. Would there have been any generosity in this situation without Baba’s generosity?
Even when misers give, they are merely performing gestures; their seeming generosity is actually robotic. It is behavior modification with no underlying sincerity. But the miser expects others to be generous and openhearted toward him, by which the miser means they should forsake themselves to please him.
|Miser / robotic||Generous / openhearted|
|Self-contained / clear-sighted||Wasteful / lost in others|
In Hui-neng’s commentary on the Diamond Sutra, he talks about charity:
When ordinary people practice charity, they are just seeking personal dignity, or enjoyment of pleasure: that is why they plunge back into the three mires when their rewards are used up. The World Honored One is very kind, teaching the practice of formless charity, not seeking personal dignity or pleasure; he just has us inwardly destroy the attitude of stinginess while outwardly helping all beings. Harmonizing thus is called practicing charity without dwelling on form….To practice charity in accord with a formless mind like this means there is no sense of being charitable, no idea of a gift, and no notion of a recipient. This is called practicing charity without dwelling on appearances….[T]he practice of charity is universal dispersal. If you can inwardly disperse all false thoughts, habit energies, and afflictions in the mind, the four images are gone, and nothing is stored up—this is true giving. (trans. Thomas Cleary)
True charity is never about an action; it can only exist when we have sacrificed our own miserliness.
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