Jokai -The Perfection of Generosity

On the bulletin board, near the Temple entry, this question was posted: “How do you encounter generosity?” Well, it was something like that. I thought about this for a week before answering with: When I make dinner for my kids. It’s a daily occurrence that can take between 2 or 3 hours to complete, depending upon the ingredients I use. I enjoy building the meal from the ground up: I look at what I have, prepare it, and cook it. I could spare myself some time by buying meals that can be tossed in the oven, but I like the opportunity to focus my energy on something that directly nourishes my family as well as spending time with them.

After putting my response on the board, the thought that it might be a cop out from really giving to the sangha crossed my mind. Really, who could blame me? I have kids to raise, a working spouse to support and a house to take care of; besides, my budget is tight and my time is limited.I could have shrugged, left it there and not given it another thought. But I was raised in a church and community where members volunteer time and give money to support both. I grew up with the stories of my great-grandparents, who gave most of their time and lives to nurture that church and those communities in which I grew up.

From the time I was young, whenever I cleaned up after an event, put chairs away after Sunday services or went with my mom to take food to a sick neighbor, I directly experienced how giving to acommunity also feeds the giver, for we were often the recipients of the help that community offered.Part of my desire to join the sangha was to experience a place where I could get that same feeling of belonging I felt as a kid. Sitting zazen and wading through the dharma on my own is possible but isolating and unnecessary; practice is so much easier for one when you can be with other people.There have been times in the past ten years or so when I have needed the temple more than at other times. Every time I show up and the sangha is alive I am deeply grateful to all the individuals who keep it going.

The desire for returning the favor is one that keeps me signing up to help with the yard sale and work days, when time permits. Giving this way is very powerful for me because of the interactions we have while we work; we find out things about each other we might not otherwise know if we only come to sit. This way we get a sense of who we are supporting besides ourselves and our individual practices.

Perhaps my response to the question above could just as easily have been: When I help put up that impossible tarp for the yard sale, or when I dig sunchoke bulbs out of the garden during a rainstorm. This gives me the chance focus my energy on something that helps the sangha and shows my gratitude. The sangha is like family; my desire to nurture it is similar to how I want to nurture my family. From the ground up, my efforts are part of the fiber that holds us.