You Give to Me

If I desire something from others, I am being greedy. However, when I give willingly out of happiness, I am being generous. When you willingly give things to me, then it is my pleasure to accept it and make a connection with you.

However, if giving is not supported by positive causes and conditions, it will create trouble and regret. That is not proper giving. Let us say you were to find me a job, speak well of me, and work very hard, sacrificing and energy on my behalf. These acts of kindness became a burden and aggravation to you. I would be the one at fault for accepting what you gave.

We should give happily, willingly, and without causing harm. When giving does hurt us, we give as if it were a matter of course. We are usually happy to give in small, undemanding ways, such as offering others a cup of water, a piece of paper, a friendly gesture, or some positive conditions.

However, nowadays, people are different. They believe that those who are rich must share their wealth. Some may even shamelessly demand valuables from others, stating that “what is yours belongs to me, while what is mine remains mine.” In reality, when we ask others to “give me” something, it reflects our own poverty, whereas giving reflects wealth. There is a saying that clearly illustrates this idea. “The virtuous does not take what others desire.” Even if others intend to give something desirable to them, the virtuous person would be reluctant to accept it. They would never consider taking anything by force, as this is clearly improper behavior.

Decades ago, a monastic came to me and demanded Shoushan Temple. Later on, someone in the United States came and asked for Hsi Lai Temple. These incidents have now become jokes at Fo Guang Shan. Recently, there was a story about a temple that was being reconstructed in Taiwan. Devotees of another temple came and requested that their Chan master be made abbot of the temple. Later, the Chan master actually came in person to demand ownership. The monastic who rebuilt the temple rejected their demands and explained, “I have my own master, and it is my responsibility to maintain my lineage. Therefore, I cannot give this temple to you.”

According to the Dharma, the purpose of giving is to encourage people to give rather than to ask others to give to them. It has always been a Chinese tradition for members of a community to support each other. We should take the initiative in our community and set an example for everyone else by being magnanimous and giving.

There is a good reason Buddhism lists generosity as the first of the six perfections. Buddhism advocates joyous giving, especially small contributions. In society today, many people feel entitled to what they have and are greedy for more. No matter what they receive, they demand more and better. As Buddhists, we should not encourage the development of such an attitude, constantly reminding ourselves of the true purpose of giving.