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Rissho Kosei-kai
International of North America
Buddhism for Today
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Giving Leads to Wisdom

Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai

President Nichiko NiwanoThrough Generous Giving, We Learn Happiness

Giving is one of the virtuous deeds categorized in
the Six Perfections as the first practice that a bodhisattva undertakes. A Buddhist scripture says, “Donation is the Pure Land of bodhisattvas,” which
means that giving is important to those learning the
Buddha’s teaching, and can be called the bodhisattva practice closest at hand.

What, then, is the spirit of giving that supports
this practice?

It is compassion, consideration, and empathy.
Giving is mainly of three kinds: material donations,
such as offering food and clothing to the needy and financial support to Buddhist organizations; donations of the Dharma, sharing the Buddha’s teachings with others; and donations of the body, or relieving the anxieties or suffering of others. All of them are demonstrated in concrete actions and expressions of thoughtfulness and empathy, so giving, in other words, equals compassion.

It follows, then, that donation is not some rigid requirement that we have to follow.

The spirit of giving arises from compassion and consideration for others so that we do not just stand by, but cannot help doing something for others. It may not be wrong to say that giving will give equal joy to the donor, and that moreover the donor and the recipient experience happiness together.

Becoming Profoundly Compassionate

A friendly look, a cheerful face, kind words, volunteer service, being considerate, giving someone a seat, offering a place to rest—these are the seven types of nonmaterial donation, the practice of compassion that we are taught anyone can put into practice. The point of this teaching is to knowjoy of giving as a manifestation of the compassionate mind, even without financial means.

Shakyamuni preaches the meaning of giving this way: “Those who share what little they have with others are practicing the Dharma. Even though people who are capable of making thousands of sacrifices have made hundreds of thousands of sacrifices, they do not receive even one hundredth of the merits received for such deeds from those with little.”

What he means is not that we should give because we have much, but that giving even when
we have little brings us greater merits.

In Rissho Kosei-kai at an earlier time there were occasions when people who were in difficult
economic circumstances or who suffered due to their self-interest were advised to make material donations. When I was a young man, this struck me as a little harsh, but eventually I realized that in doing so one is complying with the profound wish of the Buddha.

The Buddha’s wish is that by giving up our attachment to money we realize that happiness
develops from being grateful, and also that by using our money to make others happy we experience a joy that cannot be obtained by measuring our own gains and losses.

When we free ourselves from attachments by giving, we are able to see things the way they really are. Through this, our fixed ideas are removed, the wisdom-eyes that are inherent to human nature are opened, and then we begin to see the ultimate reality of all things. Indeed, we can say that giving leads to wisdom.

It takes time, however, for new members who are too concerned with their own interests to appreciate this. In such cases, it is important that older members in the Sangha describe their own experiences and tell of the joy they realized when they let go of even a little of what they possess, and share the happiness of serving others with a compassionate heart.

That giving is extremely meaningful is demonstrated by the fact that the practice of giving makes every person a profoundly compassionate human being.

What is most important for Rissho Kosei-kai and the Sangha is how best to use the money that members gladly donated, to lead to the happiness of many others. In this sense, the development of our Sangha of good friends and acquaintances, through the cooperation of all members, has become an issue of great importance.

This is because when the Sangha is functioning in a lively spirit, it demonstrates that it contains many members whose hearts are overflowing with compassion and their number is increasing. When this happens, we will be closer to our goal of a peaceful world, and many more people will have achieved happiness. Thereby, the practice of each and every one of us will be meeting the wish of the Buddha.

August 2010
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing

Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.

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