Generosity in Daily Life

When the group began the topic “Generosity”, most of us figured it would be a quick,

one night discussion.  We started with our current definitions for generosity.  These

ranged from giving money to charities, doing volunteer work, giving spare change to

people on street corners to providing gifts to family and friends.  None of us really

focused on our states of mind during the “being generous” process nor did we mention

anything about the perspective of the receiver of a generous act.  Over the weeks of

discussion, the group’s perspective totally changed as we investigated the Buddha’s

teachings and learned from our teacher, Thay Thanh.

Mindfulness is the cornerstone of generosity and giving.  Understanding that the act of

receiving a gift is as important as the act of giving in the generosity equation surprised

many of us in the group.

We learned that a mindful gift has the following characteristics:

- It must be pure,

- It must be timely,

- If appropriate, the gift should be repeated often,

- It must be allowable,

- One should investigate the recipient, be aware of the recipient’s situation to

assure the gift is within these characteristics

- The giver should be happy in giving the gift.

The group touched on each of these characteristics in discussion.  Some of the

characteristics seemed more obvious than others.  For example, the item being given

should be pure (in a good state of repair, ready for its intended purpose, etc.).  In fact,

some people will gift worn or unfit items to others with the impression that giving

something is better than giving nothing.  In fact, for positive karmic effect, the item being

given must be of good quality for the recipient.

The timeliness of the giving is also important.  If the recipient is not in actual need of the

gift, the benefit to the giver is negligible. Why give a person a pair of shoes when that

recipient already is in good supply of serviceable shoes?  Shouldn’t the shoes be given

to one who has none?

Repeated giving also seems to be quite logical, provided it is in fact done in a mindful

manner.  The same is true for allowable gifts. If one is capable of repeating a good

deed, it should be done.  Gifts should be appropriate for the recipient as well.  As an

example of this, we talked at length about helping out homeless people who are asking

for cash when we have reason to believe they will use cash to feed their addictions.  We

noted that perhaps it is better to buy a cup of coffee or a meal for a person rather than

just handing over money.

The group spent a lot of time talking about the recipient characteristic. Investigating or

knowing about the recipient prior to deciding to render a gift sounded somewhat foreign

or awkward to us.  It also appeared to negate giving situations many of us are used to,

such as working food distribution lines or donating funds to large charitable

organizations in which we had no control over the distribution of our gift.  We talked this

through over several evenings, coming to the understanding that for our gift to be truly

meritorious and mindful,  having knowledge of the recipient(s) whenever possible helps

make sure that the other gift giving characteristics are positive.  This will assure the

recipient and the giver both have positive experiences and results as a result of the


Finally, the giver should be in a happy, positive state of mind when giving a gift.  Doing

so in a state of anger, unwanted necessity or other negative circumstances undermines

the nature of giving.

We also learned that generosity contains characteristics for recipients. Recipients

should be mindful to accept gifts that are needed and put them only to good use. The

Dana Sutta (A.N. 6.37) states:

 “There is the case where there are three factors of the donor, the three

 factors of the recipients…  There is the case where the donor, before

 giving, is glad; while giving his/her mind is bright and clear; and after

 giving is gratified… There is the case where the recipients are free of

 passion or are practicing the subduing of passion; free of aversion… and

 free of delusion or practicing for the subduing of delusion.”

In conclusion, we learned there is more to generosity than many of us thought.  Being

mindful of both ourselves and the targets of our generosity is important for the benefit of

both parties.

Weekly Schedule


8.00 am - 9.00 am: Public Services in English: Such as chanting, Meditation,  Dharma discussing

10:30 am – 12.30 pm: Public Services in Vietnamese: Such as chanting, Dharma discussing (with English translator), offering to the deceased ones 


English Dharma Class, open discussion.
@ Dharma Hall, Virginia Beach
1st, 2nd and 3rd  and 5thTuesdays, 7pm-8.30pm.

English Dharma Class, open discussion.
@ Pitts Center, Southern Shores, NC
4th Tuesday, 6.30pm - 8.30pm 


5:45 - 6:45 pm: One Hour Meditation. Public is welcome. English language introduction. Silent, seated meditation in the Dharma Hall.

7:00 pm – 8:30 pm: Public service in English: Chanting, meditating, Dharma discussing in English


8:00 pm – 9:00 pm: Chanting 21 time Great Compassion Mantra (Vietnamese)


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Virginia Beach, VA 23462

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