As we continue from the Four Means of Embracing mini-series, we continue to explore the first means of embracing: Generosity. Generosity is important in many aspects. First, it is the first of the six paramitas. Second, it is also the first of the four means of embracing. Third, many Buddhist practices stress the importance of generosity. Fourth, there is a saying that generosity is the medicine of greed. In this aspect, we would think that generosity is limited to an act of giving monetary possessions to those in need. However, generosity goes beyond monetary possessions; it encompasses wisdom and compassion in every act. We can think of generosity as giving (1) material wealth, (2) Dharma, and (3) fearlessness.
While giving material wealth is commonly thought of as giving monetary possessions, we can also think of material wealth as our skills, expertise, time, and effort. Even if you don't have money to give, you can be generous by offering your time to sit with someone and listen through their stories. You can offer others help; if you are skilled at something and others are in need of that skill with something, offer your guidance. If you are unable to provide anything, rejoicing in other's generosity is also a way to practice generosity.
The giving of Dharma can be thought of as giving others methods to improve their lives, develop their wisdom, or correct misunderstandings. It can be direct or indirect. Dharma will not only enrich people's lives but also make it more meaningful. For example, teaching a person how to cook is better than feeding the person all the time, because the person will know how to cook and survive. Furthermore, he or she can take it to the next level and create something new entirely to make the dish their own. It is up to their creativity and wisdom to create such food and pass it on to the next person.
The giving of fearlessness can be considered giving others a sense of safety and security. We can stand up for people who are being bullied, step in to correct a mistake, take up responsibilities, taking the initiative to do something, etc. We can also think of giving of fearlessness as upholding the laws and precepts. That way, we are not harming others, and because of that, we are giving others fearlessness and developing our virtues.
Generosity in sum brings about good affinity with others. People will draw closer to you as you radiate warmth to others. You are like the warm sunshine during the cold winter and the breeze during the hot summer. This, in short, is generosity.