Middah of the Month – Generosity

March Middot – GENEROSITY (Nedivut)

Anglican Archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Desmond Tutu writes in God Has a Dream: “Like humility, generosity comes from seeing that everything we have and everything we accomplish comes from God’s grace and God’s love for us. In the African understanding of ubuntu, our humility and generosity also come from realizing that we could not be alive, nor could we accomplish anything, without the support, love, and generosity of all the people who have helped us to become the people we are today. Certainly it is from experiencing this generosity of God and the generosity of those in our life that we learn gratitude and to be generous to others.”

Tikkun Middot
A set of two

• Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield, quoted in The Faces of Buddhism in America, says: “To cultivate generosity directly is another fundamental part of living a spiritual life. Like the training precepts and like our inner meditations, generosity can actually be practiced. With practice, its spirit forms our actions, and our hearts will grow stronger and lighter. It can lead to new levels of letting go and great happiness.”
• Franz Metcalf in Just Add Buddha states: “When someone asks you for a favor, just say ‘yes’ without hesitating and without thinking. Don’t make any room for equivocation or evaluation. Say yes and think later. . . . It’s a wonderful practice to do every now and then. With repetition, you’ll break down the tension between giving and paying that taints ordinary giving. You’ll slowly approach the freedom of pure giving.”

Donald Altman in Living Kindness writes about Jewish concepts of generosity: “In Judaism, the concept of giving is essential through what is known as tzedakah, or charity. Actually, the roots of the word stand for justice, righteousness, or fairness. It was in the twelfth century that the Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides compiled his ‘eight levels of charity’ as a kind of guide to enlightened living. The levels, starting from the lowest to highest, are as follows :

1: Giving unwillingly.
2. Giving willingly but giving less than you could.
3. Giving only after being asked.
4. Giving without being asked.
5. Giving to a recipient you do not know, but who knows you.
6. Giving to a recipient you know, but who does not know you.
7. Giving when both parties are anonymous to each other.
8. Giving that enables self-reliance.”

Joseph Bruchac in Our Stories Remember states: “The potlatch ceremonies found among many of the Native peoples of the Pacific Northwest have been referred to as “fighting with wealth” by anthropologists who describe them as ceremonies in which a prominent figure tries to outdo a rival by either giving away or destroying vast amounts of personal possessions. . . . It could be said that while the accumulation of personal wealth is a desirable social norm in mainstream American culture, just the opposite is true in American Indian cultures. . . . At its best, a potlatch was a way to redistribute material wealth rather than leaving it in the hands of a few.”

An interesting set together

  • In Celebrating Silence, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of The Art of Living Foundation, says: “Poor people fight for food. Rich people share their food. Richer are those who share power. Richer still are those who share fame. Richest of all are those who share themselves. A person’s wealth is measured by his ability to share and not by what he hoards.”
  • Buddhist teacher Norman Fischer writes in Taking Our Places: “The practice of generosity is a good way to counteract whatever tendency to stealing we might have. To practice generosity is to make a conscious effort to give away whatever we can — money, time, food, feeling — as a way of realizing that generosity is perfectly safe and it’s even a relief to give things away.”