Monday, March 15, 2010

Getting Pinched

When you are practicing generosity, you should feel a little pinch when you give something away. That pinch is your stinginess protesting. If you give away your old, worn-out coat that you wouldn’t be caught dead wearing, that is not generosity. There is no pinch.
Gelek Rinpoche
So this morning my dharma mailing from Tricycle got to me. Generosity, is it? Yesterday I pledged to my church for next year, more than I had thought I would. It put me in mind of the fact that I had not made my monthly donation to extreme poverty. (You can see a post about this here.)

What I pledged to give to poverty is not that much money every month. Heck, only yesterday I spent $10 on clothes at the thrift store that are pure luxury - I do not need the colorful unlined blazer or the nice woven straw purse, irrespective of what great bargains they were. I have purses enough to last how many lifetimes? I don't know. They are mostly from my old life, I mean pre-old economy and pre-Buddhist practice. As for unnecessary spending, I don't have the heart to tell you what I spent on my weekly lunch at Red Lobster with my good friend. You do that, there's a brief pinch, Ouch, when you get the bill. But it's different - you gave that to yourself. In a way, flaunting the rules. (Delusion?)

Ah, the pinch of stinginess. Me, mine, want. In Zen we say the Four Great Vows, one of which addresses this:
Greed, hatred, and ignorance rise endlessly; I vow to abandon them.
So it means I, in myself, vow to step back from my greed, or call it stinginess. The Bodhissatva vow, for that matter, is about giving, listening, helping out a little bit.

Giving and feeling that pinch of stinginess - this detachment from the constructed ego and reflexive desires is hard to explain. It is not self-sacrifice or martyrdom but detachment from our preferences, call them desires. We still have them. They pinch sometimes. Ow.

. . . Ha, a chickadee on the near bush. He hung upside down for a moment, then off. Spring has retreated here to cooler weather, but the birds are singing and nesting and the daffodils are pushing up, committed to their annual agenda, to bloom in the snow.

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