Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.


The Eighth Grave Precept

Give generously. Do not be withholding.

I tend to be a generous person. I am happy to buy lunch for a friend who doesn’t have the extra cash for a lunch out. I enjoy sharing with people my time, my possessions, my energy and my passion. Most of the time. Despite all of this, I have become aware of the ways in which I want to withhold that spirit of generousity.

On the flight back from Hawaii there was a family that I was rather disturbed by. First was the look of pure adolescent venom one brother gave to the youngest of his brothers when asked to help get the younger child buckled into his plane seat. It was just so strong it shocked me. What came next was triggering to my PTSD. The very harried and irritated mother returned to this row with the two boys and when the youngest said something to her that angered her the mother reached out and slapped the young boy across the face. Not hard, there was no abrupt sound and if I hadn’t been looking at the family I probably would have never noticed it. But I did.

I remembered Chozen telling us when in doubt do metta practice. It immediately occurred to me that this family really could use a lot of Loving-Kindness directed at them, however, because it was so emotionally upsetting to me I felt intense resistance. A voice inside me clearly said, “No, I’m not going to give them metta.”

I felt guilty and awful. How could I be withholding, especially of Loving-Kindness? I finally made myself look out the window of the plane and try to offer metta to myself. Start with the angry, hurt child’s voice that felt entirely disconnected from this family and saw them as “other” and therefore unworthy. Even that was hard to press past, feeling the tension arise at touching Loving-Kindness at all.

It really made me think about how a disconnect between the self and others, not seeing all people as one, makes it really easy to forget the precepts, especially this one. When I feel that I’m not included or unworthy, it is easy to withhold something like Loving-Kindness from myself. When I see other people that way, when I allow them to become “Other”, then the impulse to give freely, generously is dampened down by that disconnect. When I tighten up, when fear arises and I feel the shutters close up tight around my heart, that's when I withhold.

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  1. I can’t find who you are, but I want to thank you for posting this. My teacher has asked me to write the precepts in my own words, and I am stuck on this one. I think I am a generous person, but I also like nice things. So I am acquisitive, and haven’t been able to separate it out from ‘avaricious.’ Also, a lot of mental habits about self-deprivation, so it’s an area where I get confused, get anxious, and therefore ignorant. Where do you practice? I appreciate your practice, and your generosity in sharing. Thank you. & gassho.

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