Sometimes it seems like people are becoming more selfish and self-centered. There is violence, inequality, and injustice all around the world. So what can we do about this? Is there anything that can be done? It might seem like we are too small and insignificant to change anything, but in reality we can contribute to the world with our own actions. Our actions affect us, those who interact with us, and even people that we haven’t met yet. Since there is a reaction for every action, when we are generous we’ll more likely inspire generosity in others. This doesn’t always translate to them returning the favor to us, but it could create a domino effect of inspiration.
Generosity is one of the Ten Paramitas, or transformational practices, that a Bodhisattva (an awakening being) must practice in the Buddhist tradition. In the Christian tradition, this concept is better known as caritas, which is the Latin word for charity 1. Being generous is not easy to do, especially on an ongoing basis. We might be generous sometimes, under some circumstances, and with only certain people. However, through discipline, consciousness, and most importantly love, we can become more generous.
Although I mentioned Buddhism and Christianity, generosity is an act that goes beyond any faith, religion, or philosophy. We could be Jewish, Muslim, have some other faith or be atheists, and choose to be generous. Sometimes, we think too much about our limitations as humans, but there are plenty of examples of individuals that have achieved what was once considered unattainable. Likewise, if we think that we can only be generous up to a point, then we are already setting limitations. Instead, we could practice generosity with an open mind, and just see where it takes us. We might become “world champions” in generosity as long as we keep practicing it.
The act of being generous in itself should serve as our own personal reward. Therefore, feeling like a martyr or expecting something in return goes completely against the concept of generosity 2. If we choose to act generously, we need to remember that it is a free choice and that we are rewarding ourselves by simply choosing to be this kind of person. Now, the question is, how do we practice generosity?
- Be kind to others (follow the Golden Rule)
Be kind to others without exceptions. It is easy to be kind to those we like, those who treat us well, or those who are popular. Bullying is so widespread because we make many exceptions when it comes to being generous. Next time, let’s try to be generous regardless of the situation, the person, their race, their ethnicity, religion, or gender.
- Help others or demonstrate empathy
We might have little time or resources to help others. But let’s think small and remind ourselves that little gestures count. Maybe we could help our spouses more often with the children, or we could volunteer to do something to improve our community. Maybe all we need to do is listen with empathy to someone who is experiencing a difficult situation.
- Be generous with ourselves
I’m not suggesting that we become selfish, but to simply love ourselves. We aren’t perfect and we’ll make mistakes, but as long as we give ourselves a chance we can go very far in this path and become happier people in the process.
1 Lama Surya Das, Buddha Is as Buddha Does: The Ten Original Practices for Enlightened Living (New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco, 2007), 1-3.
2 Das, Buddha Is as Buddha Does: The Ten Original Practices for Enlightened Living, 1.
Dear readers, this article that you just read is one of the recent articles from my new blog www.libravit.com. I will continue posting some articles related to philosophy here, some will be only for A Modern Philosopher, some will be borrowed directly from Libravit. You can find this original article here, and other new posts.