The Second Grave Precept

Be giving. Do not steal.

The second precept starts for me with the idea of not taking what is not mine to take. This initial reaction to the second precept arises out of the foundation of “You shall not steal” from the Ten Commandments I was taught as a child. “Do not steal” sounds much the same, therefore, evokes the same internal response. It also immediately recalls memories to mind of punishments that came about from not respecting what another considered to be theirs (“That’s MINE”).

I find that the idea of “mine” unravels with attention; the essential nature of impermanence means nothing ever truly belongs to anyone since either the object or my body will eventually wither away. Although I recognize this, I also find that in order to function in the day-to-day world of a householder I simultaneously need to think of the house I live in as “mine”, as allowed to me by the financial institutions that receive “my” money for the mortgage. The clothes I’m wearing, the laptop I write on, the books I read, the career which pays me money, all of these impermanent things are viewed as “mine” in order to denote responsibility for the objects or roles. Ultimately the view of something as “mine” and the accountability that accompanies that view must be based in a respect for the same type of view held by other people. This ensures that I do not steal.


When I expand my thoughts beyond the “Do not steal” part of this precept and move into what is involved with “Be giving” I move beyond the inherent absurdity of “mine”. To be giving means that I have a willingness to share not only my property, but my time, my knowledge, and any other resources I may have to offer. To be truly generous the heart needs to be open to the act of giving and not generate a resentment arising from a belief that others “steal” my energy or resources.

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