Tuesday, July 06, 2010


“When we live in harmony with the ways of Divine Presence, allowing loving-kindness, generosity and compassion to flow freely into the world through all that we do and say, then this journey called life becomes a great pleasure.”
Hazrat Inayat Khan

“I have three treasures which I hold and keep.
The first is mercy; the second is economy;
The third is daring not to be ahead of others.
From mercy comes courage; from economy comes generosity;
From humility comes leadership.”
Lao Tse

Humans are not by nature generous. According to Will Durant, the famous historian, humans have three basic imperatives; acquisitiveness, pugnacity and sexuality. The first because a hunter gatherer needed to get things in order to survive; pugnacity because fighting off other predators was the norm; and random sexuality because that was the deep physical impulse. This is how we lived for maybe a million years, no one really knows. But when we began to gather in larger groups certain moral standards were necessary in order to create some kind of harmony within the group. And generosity, among other moral customs, was born. For instance, it turns out that in many so called savage cultures, when a man made a kill it was his duty to call out as loudly as possible that he had done so that others within hearing might share in the food. But, as civilization slowly appeared and the idea of individual property took hold, generosity became a struggle.

Personally, I like civilization. I am quite happy with my lap-top which would not be possible in a nature culture. I like the idea of complex philosophical discourse, which is not possible in a culture that has no abstract words. I like my dentist and would not want to give up health care. So, this thought of generosity being a struggle seems to me to be a challenge for humanity in its current stage.

When I was living in New York City I made it a point of giving money to homeless people. At first I would always look at their shoes and if they had new shoes I would not give them anything. But then I realized that they may have just been given shoes by some homeless shelter. So I stopped worrying about that. Then I saw some homeless guy using a cell phone and that kind of freaked me out but then I realized that they are easy to buy. So I stopped worrying about it altogether and just gave money when I felt like it, regardless. And that is when I began to understand generosity.

Generosity is really very simple. It is sharing. We lost generosity when we declared that one person might have more property then another. It was a necessary phase, no doubt of that, but it does not mean that we should not continue to discover the many possibilities still open to humanity. We tend to believe that the way things are is the way they will always be, subject to minor modification. But why would we think that? Empirical evidence would seem to say that change is the only constant. We spend centuries building a city which can be destroyed in an hour or so by natural causes. Why would we think that anything is permanent?

If it is true that change is the only permanency then discovering the core of one’s being is essential.

Generosity is not just financial; it is system wide, so to speak, through all that we do and say. Initially generosity must begin with oneself. It is no good to begrudgingly offer a handout to someone in order to prove something, that is not generous at all, that is a kind of arrogance. Instead look to yourself. Do you see yourself in a loving generous way? Or, do you see yourself as deeply flawed with no recourse to healing? Think about it and then tell me.

One more thing; Pir O Murshid stated in the quote above that living in harmony with the Divine Presence is the key to allowing our generous loving nature to flow. And he states that the pay off, so to speak, is life becoming a great pleasure. It’s true. And it still starts with the self. Allowing one’s self to recognize that it is a part of God, a part of the Intelligent Universe and one has the right to a loving fruitful life is the first step towards becoming the vehicle with which the Divine Presence can in fact flow outward into the world.

The next article will deal with practical ways to create generosity within.

Love & Blessings, Musawwir

1 comment:

Sarala said...

When my friend and I left our host village of Wyndeede in Dakar, we gave a parting gift of money. It was the women [of course :-)] who decided how the money should be spent - they purchased as much rice as the money could buy, and divided it equally according to need amongst all of the families in the village.

Whenever one family, or one individual, enjoyed a 'wind-fall,'- earned money enough to buy, for instance, a sack of sugar - the sugar was divided equally amongst all of the families, no matter now small a scoop of sugar each family ended up getting.

This same sensibility was reflected at mealtime. Four to six people sat around a large bowl filled with spiced rice. Around the edges of the bowl, in front of each person was a pile of one type of vegetable. Every person in the circle had a large spoon (in fact, the number of people sitting around the bowl was determined by how many spoons the family owned) and each person spooned a portion of the vegetable that was in front of them to each other person in the circle. Then everyone ate according to his/her hunger. When satiated, one simply got up and the next person waiting took your seat.

There was no taking, only giving.

I think this illustrates the ultimate generosity: so much a part of who these people were that there was no thought given to the action - that is, it was not a choice or a decision. It simply was.