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Posts Tagged ‘dana prajna paramita’

Shunryu Suzuki in his famous book wrote, “Every existence in nature, every existence in the human world, every cultural work that we create, is something which was given, or is being given to us, relatively speaking.  But as everything is originally one, we are, in actuality giving out everything.  Moment after moment we are creating something, and this is the joy of our life (Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, 1970, page 65).  At Thanksgiving time we are especially busy giving and creating things from a sumptuous dinner for family and friends, to decorations for the table, to food for the local food bank for the Thanksgiving Dinner baskets for the needy, and this year to the victims of the Super Storm Sandy.  We are creating and giving from the material to the ephemeral in our prayers and well-wishes for all those on planet earth, planet earth herself, and beyond.

How do we do this?  Suzuki goes on to say, “But this “I” which is creating and always giving out something is not the “small i”; it is the “big I.”  Even though you do not realize the oneness of this “big I” with everything when you give something you feel good, because at that time you feel at one with what you are giving.  This why it feels better to give than to take. (page 65)”  This month in church we have been collecting money to purchase enough celery for 250 families that are receiving Thanksgiving Baskets from the food bank.  We do this every year!  We give the celery.  Sounds silly maybe but what would Thanksgiving be without celery in your stuffing, or on the table filled with something like cream cheese or peanut butter, and what would the leftover turkey salad be without the celery.

Those in need of food baskets often do not get fresh vegetables and fresh food because the food pantry cannot take perishables.  So even a bunch of celery can be an exciting thing for children to experience and green is good for everyone.  In fact, many children in urban areas today do not even know where the food comes from.  When a classroom of children were taken to the grocery store one day and the teacher asked them where the meat came from in the packages they could not tell her that it was from a cow or a pig.  They could only identify that the chicken was at one time a living bird.

Suzuki goes on to say “Actually, to create with the “big I” is to give; we cannot create and own what we create for ourselves since everything was created by God.  This point should not be forgotten. But because we do forget who is doing the creating and the reason for the creation, we become attached to the material or exchange value.  Everything you do should be based on such an awareness, and not on material or self-centered ideas of value. Then whatever you do is true giving, is dana prajna paramita. (pages 66-67)”

This is why we enjoy this time of year so much because it gives us that opportunity to have a reason to give whether it is gifts for our family and friends, time at the food bank or soup kitchen, help to provide food for the turkey baskets for families in need, or just to give a smile to the clerk in the store.  Rich or not so rich—we can give with abandonment.  And most of the giving can be free of any monetary value, so how about giving some of your time and yourself this year along with your cash.  When we do this type of giving from the “big I” Suzuki believes “we will not be attached to it, and we will not create problems for ourselves or for others.”

Today is the perfect day to view each thing that you give as coming from the “big I” and seeing yourself as the conduit of the teachings of the great masters of the world from Jesus to the Buddha to Mohammad, to Krishna, and many more whose names I have not mentioned, down to you.  Selfless giving is selfless living at its best.

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