Supreme Master Ching Hai's Commentary On Excerpts From Kahil Gibran's: The Prophet - Chapter On Giving Charity

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Spoken By Supreme Master Ching Hai Tainan, Formosa (Originally In Chinese) 1990.5.5

This is about giving charity. The Prophet said:

"You give but little
when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself
that you truly give."

If you give away your wealth, this is considered very small, it is nothing great. When you give of yourself, that is true giving. I don't know how a person can give of himself? Do you know? Let's see how he did it then I can explain:

"For what are your possessions but things you keep and guard for fear
that you may need them tomorrow? And tomorrow, what shall
tomorrow bring to the over-prudent dog burying bones in the
trackless sand as he follows the pilgrims to the holy city?"

 Your property is something that you keep and protect carefully, because you fear you might need it tomorrow. But maybe nothing will happen tomorrow! What can tomorrow bring us? Just like a cautious dog that buries the bone in the sand, so that not a single trace can be found. The dog follows its owner to worship the mountains, so it buries the bone there. How can it find the bone later?

"And what is fear of need but need itself?"

 He said that when we fear that we might need something tomorrow, there is actually no power in what we fear; the power is in the fear itself. When we are frightened, the fear itself is the most dangerous thing, and not what we are afraid of. The fear is more dangerous than what is going to happen; because at that time, we've lost our courage. Losing our courage is more dangerous than anything that is going to happen. Maybe that thing might never happen. When we are in fear, maybe it will happen, maybe it won't; but at that time, we already feel very bad. It doesn't have to happen, yet we already feel bad enough.

For example, suppose there is a person who is sentenced to be executed in two weeks. If you tell him now that he will be shot two weeks from Sunday, wouldn't he feel miserable for the entire two weeks? It is better to tell him on the last day, or don't even tell him at all -- just shoot him, for example like that. He still has to die, but his suffering will not drag on, as if he were shot every day. This feeling of terror, frustration, depression and sorrow is what he would experience every day. Image Intro

"Is not dread of thirst when your well is full, the thirst that is unquenchable?"

 When we are in fear, we are like a person who has a well full of water but worries that one day the well might dry out and he might die of thirst.

We Chinese have a story too, "The man of Qi worries about the sky." Every day this man worried and feared that the sky might eventually fall.

"There are those who give little of the much which they have; they
give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome."

  Some people do give away part of their possessions to others, but they have some secret intentions when they give. They like others to recognize their kindness, and to praise them. Therefore, no matter how much wealth they give away, those things that they give are not pure, not pure enough. Doesn't this sound like, "to give without giving is the true giving" in Buddhism?

This person went to America from Lebanon, yet he spoke about something that is also oriental. This shows that all fully enlightened beings talk about similar things. Jesus Christ also said: When you give with your right hand, do not let your left hand know. Even the left hand is not allowed to know.

"And there are those who have little and give it all.
These are the believers in life and the bounty of life,
and their coffer is never empty. There are those who
give with joy, and that joy is their reward."

There are other people who have very little, but they will give whatever they have, everything they have. They have faith in life and God. They don't think that God will let them lack anything on any day of their life. That means there is always something for them. They are not worried that they might have nothing tomorrow. For these people, their treasure chests are never empty, because they believe in God's love, and believe that life is always full of whatever they need.

These people, when they give, they give wholeheartedly, very happily and without regret. When these people give, their joy and happiness are their rewards. There are some people who expect something in return whenever they give. But he said that when we give happily, the state of happiness and joy is itself the reward. Yes, it really feels good, very good. When we give, help others, and make them happy, we also feel great. Sometimes, we will dance, sing, and feel beautiful.

There are some people who expect something in return whenever they give. But he said that when we give happily, the state of happiness and joy is itself the reward. Yes, it really feels good, very good. When we give, help others, and make them happy, we also feel great. Sometimes, we will dance, sing, and feel beautiful.

"And there are those who give with pain, and that pain is their baptism."

 Some people feel bad when they give. They give with a reluctant heart, and this kind of sad feeling baptizes them. Perhaps it will gradually make them feel better by doing so. Even if they feel miserable and bad when they give, it is better than nothing. (Laughter) Meaning take it slowly.

The first time you give, you might feel very bad; the second time, you might be more used to it -- less bothered by it. (Laughter) The third time, the annoyance reduces a little more, and the fourth time you will be used to it -- no more bad feeling. Then the fifth time, maybe you will feel more happy and joyous. You'll think that this is what should be done, and there's nothing to be talked about. Learn it slowly.

Just like all of you who meditate. Of those who came for the 7-day retreat, some came just for the retreat; some came because they wanted to become a Buddha; some came because of others, because of their wives or followed their husbands to come here; some felt bored having nothing to do at home because their fellow initiates had gone away. (Laughter) Having no one to chat with, so they also came.

This may be the case for the first time. The second time will be slightly better, and the third time -- forget it -- everyone goes to meditate, so we follow, no matter good or not. Then, even those who wish to go out and chit-chat, when they see the others are so diligent, they'll feel embarrassed. (Laughter) So we learn slowly like this. That is why every 7-day retreat is useful. Even if I don't say anything special, or do sensational things to surprise you, it will be very helpful for you because of your diligent meditation.

"And there are those who give and know not the pain in giving,
nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue;
they give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into the space. Through the hands of such as these,
God speaks; and from behind their eyes,
He smiles upon the Earth."

When some people give, they don't know whether they are happy or sad. They do not chase after happiness. They are not really aware that they are giving. They don't care that the merit of giving is great. When they are giving charity, they are like the roses or wild flowers blooming in the deep mountains -- their scent naturally permeates the sky, everywhere. They don't think of anything. Through the hands of these people, God gives us true gifts. Through the mouths of these people, God really speaks to us. Through the eyes of these people, God really smiles upon the people of this world.

Normally, people smile with their mouths! How can we smile with our eyes? This is beautiful! Yes, we can. Sometimes, when we look at a person, we know that he is smiling at us. No wonder when people fall in love they look into each other's eyes. (Laughter)

"It is well to give when asked, but it is better to give unasked,
through understanding; and to the open-handed the search for one
who shall receive is joy greater than giving."

 When others ask for something from us, we should give. If we give before we are asked, it will be even better. But when we give, we have to give with understanding and not just give blindly; meaning we should observe what others need, and give before they ask. It is better this way. We should know why we are giving, not just give blindly because we have too many things.

Some people are too shy to ask because they are not sure whether we can give them those things. They don't know whether we have what they need and whether we are willing to give. It never occurs to them that we are people that they can rely on, people that they can ask from what they need. Perhaps we are not their good friends, or people whom they remember or know.

We should observe who needs what. If they really need, we give; then forget about it. The more generous people will look for the needy people and give them what they need. To the givers, the happiness and joy they get is a million times greater than those who receive.

"And is there aught you would withhold?
All you have shall some day be given. Therefore give now,
that the season of giving may be yours and not your inheritors'."

 He keeps asking if there is anything that we need to keep for ourselves, whether it is really worth it for us to cling to and to keep for ourselves. Anything we have, we will have to give one day. Therefore, give in charity now. We should give. Let the season of giving in charity be ours and not our successors'.

Meaning if we give in charity now, the merit is ours. Why should we let someone else get it? Of course, we do not think of the merit when we give, but why let others have this happiness and joy? Why should it be our neighbor? Why not us?

"You often say, `I would give, but only to the deserving.'
The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks
in your pasture. They give that they may live,
for to withhold is to perish."

 You always say, you will give but only to those who are worthy. The trees in your garden do not say that, and the animals do not think this way. They give because they want to live. If we cling to something and keep it, that means we will die. This is also very logical.

When we were staying in Xin Dian, some farmers living nearby owned a tangerine orchard. They often asked their friends to come and pick the tangerines. They also invited us to pick some. At that time, we did not do anything for them, so how could we take their fruit? However, they explained: "Master, please pick the tangerines. If you don't, next year not as many tangerines will grow." They pleaded with us.

"Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and his nights,
is worthy of all else from you. And he who deserves to drink
from the ocean of life deserves to fill his cup from your little stream."

 He means that anyone who can stay alive is worthy of receiving your offering. Don't worry whether anyone is worthy or not. If God gives him one more day or one more night, you can give to him on that day or on that night. You can give to anyone. Anyone who is worthy to swim in the sea of life is more than worthy to swim in your little stream.

He meant, it is no big deal for us to give a little bit. God has given so much to all of us; God gives us life, and lets us use everything in this world. So, it's nothing that we give a little to others! Why should we calculate so clearly who's worthy, and who's not. Oh, this is beautiful!

"And what desert greater shall there be, than that which lies in the
courage and the confidence, nay the charity of receiving?
And who are you that men should rend their bosom and unveil their pride,
that you may see their worth naked and their pride unabashed?"

 He says that never mind who is worthy, and who's not. The act of receiving is most deserving of the merit, because to accept things from others is itself a merit, a courageous and a very generous act. Why? Because we have to forget our ego, our reputation and our discrimination in order to accept things from others with ease. Therefore, he thought the person who takes is also generous, and has a heart of giving. This is beautiful! (Applause) And it also takes courage.

Really, don't we feel sad if we offer something to people and they don't accept? (Audience: Yes.) So they have no choice but to accept so as to make us happy, no matter if they need it or not. When we are in the mood to give, and if they accept, we will be happy. So, the person who accepts is very generous. (Laughter and applause)

Just now he mentioned that everyone is worthy, and if they can accept our things, they are worthy and courageous enough. Then he asked further that if you think not everyone is worthy of your giving, have you ever asked yourself who are you? Who are you to let people strip bare their self-respect, just to show you their worthiness? Why should they report to you what they are worthy of? Beautiful! Why should they strip themselves to let you see the part of themselves that is worthy? He wrote it very beautifully.

"See first that you yourself deserve to be a giver,
and an instrument of giving. For in truth it is life that gives unto life,
while you, who deem yourself a giver, are but a witness."

 He means we should first look at ourselves to see whether we are worthy to be a good tool for giving. In fact, it is life and the love power that give to them! It is not from us. We think we are the ones who give, but actually, we are just the witnesses. Meaning we are only there to observe, like watching a movie. Through us, God and the loving power give to them; it is not we who give. Therefore, we should not care about who is worthy who is not. We should worry if we are worthy to be a good tool for giving. Isn't it beautiful? Audience: Yes. (Applause)

"And you receivers -- and you are all receivers -- assume
no weight of gratitude, lest you lay a yoke upon yourself and upon him
who gives. Rather rise together with the giver on his gifts as on wings;
for to be over mindful of your debt, is to doubt his generosity
who has the free-hearted Earth for Mother, and God for Father."

 He also mentioned that we shouldn't say who is the recipient. All of us are beggars, and all are recipients. Where do we come from, and what have we brought along? When we were born, we didn't even have a piece of cloth. In fact, all of us are the ones who receive, so no one needs to be so appreciative. That means, we don't have to create a serious atmosphere of appreciation. If we do this, we are only putting pressure on ourselves and the ones who give, thinking that there is now a debt and feeling of gratitude between us.

In fact, it is the life force of God that gives. We should use these gifts as "wings," to elevate both the ones who give and the ones who receive, meaning to uplift their levels. If you keep reminding yourself of the kindness of the person who gives, meaning remembering the debt, this shows that you doubt the intention of the ones who gave. The ones who give should understand that the Earth is their Mother and God is their Father, meaning nothing belongs to them! The people who give should be this generous, and understand this clearly. If the receivers cannot forget the debt and the kindness, and are forever grateful, this means they don't trust the generous hearts of the givers. (Applause)

It is so comforting listening to these words. Measure your own heart and see whether you have reached this level. If you have, you will feel comforted; if not, you have to climb, climb to the peak, so that when you give you are neither happy nor sad. Give just because you want to give, with no intention. Give, because you are honored to be God's tool in giving.