Cultivating Skillful Means

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Generosity — the antidote to greed

Miserliness (or greed and stinginess) — the feeling we don't have enough, that we must horde and protect what we do have — is another afflictive emotion we can eradicate by cultivating its opposite or antidote.

The cultivation of generosity is essential to counteract our tendency to guard our possessions and even our energy too closely. Ethics for the New Millennium

Can you identify greed in yourself? If we use the words stinginess or miserliness, do you see yourself? Do you feel you don't have enough to give away? Do you justify your holding on to what's "yours" by asking, "What will be left for me if I give things away?"

While most major religions and civilized societies honor giving as an important virtue ("It's better to give than receive."), to really understand this affliction we must recognize the different types and degrees of giving.

As the Dalai Lama has emphasized, motivation is critical.

If we give with the underlying motive of inflating the image others have of us — to gain renown and have them think of us as virtuous or holy — we defile the act. . . . One who gives much may not be so generous as the one who gives little. It all depends on the giver's means and motivation. Ethics for the New Millennium

What kinds of generosity are there beyond giving gifts? Are you generous with your self?

Generosity extends beyond giving; otherwise only the rich could be generous. We can give time and effort, as did so many people in the recent natural disasters around the world.

Willingness to not protect one's feelings can be a form of generosity. For example, as we saw earlier in this lesson, a willingness to see a person's anger as a reflection of that person's needs or conditions can be a gift.

The most compassionate form of giving is when it is done without any thought or expectation of reward, and grounded in genuine concern for others. This is because the more we can expand our focus to include others' interests alongside our own, the more securely we build the foundations of our own happiness. Ethics for the New Millennium

This insight becomes the guide for our efforts to stem our greed and cultivate generosity — awareness of our motivation and freedom from selfish intentions.