By Ango Leaders Kosho and Jikai
This week we’ll be exploring the Paramita of dāna, or generosity, a key way of life of a bodhisattva. “Para” in Sanskrit means the “other shore,” or in this case going beyond our notions of self. Zen teacher Norman Fischer shares this story: “Someone once asked Tang dynasty Zen Master Baijang why giving is the gateway to the bodhisattva path. Baijang answered that it is because to practice giving is to practice letting go. The monk then asked, ‘What do you let go of?’ Baijang said, ‘You let go of narrow views. You let go of the idea that things are small and tight, graspable and possessable.'”
Dana is a deep acknowledgment of no self and no other, in accord with the truths of interdependence and impermanence. During Ancient Way Sesshin last week, we chanted and studied the Diamond Sutra, which very clearly lays out how the merit of great generosity in understanding, embodying, and explaining to others this foundational teaching of no self and no other is far greater than the merit of any other kind of giving. Norman Fischer writes: “Things are not separate from one another. Everything is flow, everything is complete. Since no one owns anything, there is no giver or receiver. Life circulates as a gift.”
Wisdom traditions throughout space and time have come to realizations that love is not a finite resource. Once when I asked my vivacious 94 year old Grandmother the secret to her vitality, she barely skipped a beat before saying, “Well, when I get an idea in my mind that I want to give someone something, I just go ahead and do it.”
What are some ways you might bring generosity practice into your life? One practice Norman Fischer encourages us to try is the dedication of merit. He writes: “Transfer merit. At the end of the day offer whatever goodness you might have generated during the day to someone you know who is sick or having a personal challenge and might need the help. Offer the stock of goodness to everyone in the world who is suffering; offer it to yourself. Alternatively, do something intentionally that would generate goodness (a few moments of reading a spiritual text; chanting; offering incense at an altar, if you have a home altar) and offer the goodness as above.”
This Ango, may our lives be infused with curiosity and wonder as we aspire to walk the way of the Bodhisattva.