I do not have time to follow many blogs these days, but John Stepper’s continues to give cause for thought. A recent post was on the subject of generosity. To view the full post go here. It starts with this little cartoon and three questions about how you feel when you do something like open the door for someone: I agree with him that the little test below is quite an eye opener. It requires you to be brutally honest with yourself.
When I do this exercise, here’s what happens.
- I get a good feeling when I decide to open the door. I’m about to do something nice.
- I make eye contact with the other person or say something to make sure they see me opening the door for them. After you!
- When they thank me, I get another surge of good feeling. If they don’t, however, I get irritated, even angry. How rude!
How did you do?
I think I have times when all three scenarios apply, but I recognise that I do like applause. ‘Don't expect applause’ is the last of the 59 aphorisms of mind training – lo jong (blo-sbyong), by Chekawa Yeshé Dorje (1102-1176). I am writing a book on this teaching at the moment, and am finding this an inspiring journey – though sometimes a little uncomfortable when I recognise the patterns of self-centredness that are still strong.
Generosity is pure and simple: you give. You give your time, your energy, your help, something someone needs – it is an open-hearted act. If, however, there is a sticky residue of ‘and what about me?’, it is not true generosity. To give, even with the stickiness, however, is a stage on the journey, and it's important not to be too hard on the poor ego which still thinks it exists and needs to be seen and applauded. We have to keep on aiming to be generous, and be amused when the need for the recognition of our generosity, or the ‘what about my thank you?’ pops up at the end.
As a Buddhist practitioner, it is essential to have a sense of humour.