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A generosity of spirit

December 30, 2010

Lama Doboom Tulku, Dec 27, 2010, 12.00am IST

Times of India

In Tibetan Buddhist scriptures, human life is referred to as precious
because it has special powers of accomplishment. One comes across three
things in the context of human life: body, enjoyments and virtuous
roots. We offer these to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha in the
mandala-offering practice. We are also expected to dedicate these to the
well-being of sentient and non-sentient beings.

The body refers not only to the biological body but to the whole
psycho-physical existence of human life. As humans we have the capacity
for both positive and negative forms, just as technology could be used
for either positive or negative purposes.

Our strength lies in vivekvigyan or our power of discrimination that
enables us to know the difference between the good and bad -- for
oneself and others. A Buddhist scripture says , "Happiness in human life
is not possible without satisfying material requirements". It also says
"the satisfaction of requirements come from generous activities". If you
get something it becomes your responsibility to give something back to
its sources, sentient or non-sentient.

The phrase "generous activities" may be seen as covering not only the
giving of the material but anything that benefits others. It refers to
the "non-attachment" aspect of spiritualism which rises from
"renunciation". From this term one may get the idea that you must first
leave society and family and go somewhere else, instead of starting from
where you are. Well, if you look at the life of the Buddha, he left the
palace and spent a long time in solitude in the forest. So did Sain
Milarepa in Tibet. These demonstrate to us the extent to which one can
go if one develops a strong determination. Practicing renunciation does
not mean you have to abandon everything. You may be staying apart from
people physically, but if your mind is occupied with worldly things it
is not renunciation. Renunciation has to come from sustained meditation
and reflection on the whole predicament of cyclic existence.

As long as we live in the human realm, we should try to be engaged in
generous activities which are pragmatic and not fixed theories, ideas or
rules. It is about generosity of spirit that creates goodwill and well
being for not just self but for all.

The Buddha taught us that there are three roots of virtues:
non-attachment, non-hatred and non-ignorance. These can be understood
respectively as, renouncing selfish desire, the focus of Buddha's first
Sermon at Sarnath; loving-kindness towards all, the message from the
Third Turning of the Wheel of Dharma at Vaishali and other places; and
the power of the Special Insight into Emptiness, the direct teaching
contained in the second Sermon delivered at Rajgir near Nalanda in Bihar.

The very basis of roots of virtues is the pure nature of the mind. The
elaborate ceremonies associated with various tantric rituals, and the
ritual arrangement of implements and paintings, mudras and dance, are
meant as an aid to understanding and imbibing the teachings of the
Buddha. They are not to be mistaken for the essentials.

In other words, renunciation is necessary, but does not imply
denunciation of worldly life; loving-kindness is a must, while
pretentiousness must be abandoned; special insight is the most important
of the roots of virtues, and can never be accompanied by showmanship.

(As told to Sudhamahi Regunathan)

Read more: A generosity of spirit - The Times of India
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