Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Non-attachment to the Act of Offering (三轮体空)


One day, I was pondering on the subject of offering after hearing it from Acho Rinpoche. “Do not be attached to the act of offering,” I thought it was difficult for me to do that. While I was pondering on this subject, I saw a snail walking pass me, crossing the pedestrian path. I nearly stepped on it. “This is dangerous,” I thought. I picked it up from the floor and moved it to the grass field. And I continued my walk. Again, I pondered on the connection between the non-attachment to the act of offering and the merit of offering. Suddenly, a thought appeared in me telling me that “What you just did was similar to the non-attachment to the act of offering.”

I recalled my thoughts when I tried to help the snail. I did not think about merit at that point in time but thought that it was a natural act that I must do. I pondered deeper, “If that was non-attachment to the act of offering, then the first thought that arise in me must be the bodhicitta and compassion. When you have compassion, you will do for others but not yourself – that is non-attachment to the act of offering.” That was my realization at that moment that touched me deeply.

Acho Rinpoche:

The non-attachment to the act of offering is very important. Commoners, out of ego, will think about the returns before they give. And there is a slight unwillingness to let go, “How much should I give? What do I get in return? Will it be worth it?” When they hesitated on such considerations, they are far from the non-attachment to the act of offering.

The commoners wish to be recognized and praised by others for giving and doing good deeds. Sakyamuni Buddha said that such actions would generate merits too. However, such merits are small. For the giver is attached to his ego. The giver expects something in return when he gives. He will end up earning limited merits that will only result in his subsequent births in the heaven or human worlds. When you do something for another person, the latter will give you something in return either in this present lifetime or in the next life. As you have helped him, he will have to give you something in return eventually. But if you do it with the expectation to get something in return, the merit generated will be small; you will not be able to liberate yourself from the cyclic existence.

There are people who are more willing to give than to take. For once he takes, he must give it back in return; one must return the favor either in this life or work hard for the giver in his next life. So, Buddhism talks about giving rather than taking. And Christianity also talks about the one giving is more fortunate then the one taking.

How could we give without attachment? You must first attain the realization of “No Ego”, when you only think of the interest of others but not yours. When you give without seeing the “I” who gives, the other party who takes and the thing given, and without attachment to the merit generated, the merit generated from such act of offering will be very great. You will then make good advancement in your cultivation. The act of offering is the first listed in the Six Perfections. So, it is very important. Our ego and greed can only be eradicated by the act of offering.

I like to make offering. But sometimes I deliberately hold it back because I want to create the opportunity for you to perform the act of offering. If I do it every time, you will not stand a chance. I have always said, “Whenever I am with the Buddhist monks, I wish to make offering to them so much and I truly enjoy giving.” But if I do it every time, you will not have the chance to do so. Whenever I am with others, I feel so glad to give everyone a treat. Giving is one of the acts of the Six Perfections.

We should rejoice in our act of offering. Do not ask -- “Why am I the one giving all the times when others do not?” When you do it with reluctance, you are not doing the real act of offering. It means that you have not understood the true meaning of offering; you would rather not give. After you give, forget about the whole thing. Dharma Brother LCN did it right when he tried to help the snail; he did not even think about the merit. That was good. There was no “I”, no “you”, just help it.

We should internalize the teachings in every aspect of our daily life. “Am I doing the right thing?” Do not make your own assumptions and expect others to behave according to your expectations. Do not discriminate between “you and I” but remove the “I”. When you removed the “I” and do it just for others, you will be a free person. You will find it alright in whatever others do and be free of all mental disturbances. You will then progress towards the ultimate goal of true liberation.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The First Thought in the Act of Offering (布施第一念)

Although offering is the first practice in the Six Perfections (offering, discpline, tolerance, diligence, meditation, wisdom), it is not easy. Actually, all six practices in the Six Perfections are difficult tasks. None of them is easy. That is why it is called the Bodhisattva Path. Had it been easy, it would not have been called the Bodhisattva Path. The importance of the act of offering is mentioned in many of the Buddhist sutras. But there are few who understand the true meaning of offering, and few could reap the true benefits from the act of offering.

The first thought that came to mind in the act of offering is important. There are many people who start calculating the possible returns from their act of offering, before they start taking actions. This is against the spirit of offering. “Will my offering be worth it? How much should I give?” When you start calculating the possible returns in your mind, you have already missed the point. In the Diamond Sutra, it talks about the Three Wheels of Emptiness: There is no one offering, no one receiving and nothing being offered. Since there is no one offering, no one receiving and nothing being offered, what is there to be calculative about - “How much will I get in return when I offer this?” There are people who give for fame and status, for something in return, or for recognition by others; they have actually missed the point.

There are many forms of offering besides the monetary offering. Monetary offering is quick and easy. But there is also the offering of the Dharma - sharing the teachings of the Buddha with others who have never heard them. When we bring others into the teachings of the Buddha, it is an act of offering of the Dharma. There is also the offering of fearlessness, including sacrificing one’s life for the sake of others. These are crucial points of offering.

Most of you would have heard this story. During the time of Sakyamuni Buddha, there was a rich man who donated very generously, in millions of dollars. He also offered many lamps to the Buddha. But there was also an old woman who was very poor, who sold away her only possession – her hair – for a tiny lamp in return, as offering to the Buddha. There were many lamps being offered to the Buddha in an assembly where the Buddha gave his teachings. Suddenly, the wind blew very strongly, blowing out all the lamps except one. The smallest lamp offered by the poorest woman was the only one that remained brightly lit - because she offered all she had to the Buddha.

So, the size of offering is immaterial. If you have 10 million dollars and you offered only one million dollars, it will not earn you a big merit in return. For it is only 10% of your wealth. If you have only one dollar and you offer this one dollar completely, at the expense of your next meal, and with the expected outcome of your starvation, you will earn a merit that is far greater than that of the rich man. The rich man gave away his one million dollars but he still had 9 million dollars in his bank account. This old woman earned herself tremendous merits from offering all she had to a Buddha and planted a seed of enlightenment in her being.

The most genuine interest to give is one without a second consideration - it is about giving away everything in one’s possession without hesitations. An act of offering done with the most genuine interest will gain one inconceivable amount of merits. But most people are calculative when they do their act of offering – “How much do I have in my bank now? How much money do I have in my possession? I only need to give a little…” When you are being so calculative, you will earn yourselves little merits. So, the act of offering is not an easy task. But I hope that you will ponder the true spirit of offering.