Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Generosity

It is no accident that every religion places such great emphasis on the virtue of generosity. Not only does generosity enable society to work more smoothly, but it also has a profound spiritual effect on both the giver and the receiver. In practicing generosity with intelligence and openness of heart, we draw closer to the truth of oneness and love, while serving life and the Divine. Acts of generosity manifest that deeper reality wherein we are not separate. In helping our neighbor, we also serve our own eternal welfare by purifying our will. A Sufi teaching enjoins the seeker to help people, to “be their shade in the sun, their cloak in the cold, and their bread in time of famine.” [1]

With most of us, our motivations are rarely 100% pure. Self-seeking insinuates itself even when we give. Nevertheless, we practice generosity now, not waiting for that ultimate stage of enlightenment where egoism vanishes permanently. Generosity requires us to see beyond ourselves. It diminishes our self-centeredness, even when our ego tries to co-opt and take credit for our generosity, attempting to inflate itself thereby. True generosity, by definition, involves giving to others beyond what is required of us, and that outstrips any self-centered motives we might harbor in the process. Ego wants to take and to hold, not to give. But generosity moves against ego, helps expose its illusory nature, decreases its hold on us, and lowers the barriers separating us from others. The more one practices generosity, the more selfless it becomes.

One inner meaning of tithing is to give of our very substance, of what we are, to transfer our merit to those in difficulty. To a person in need, we always have the possibility of responding with a wholehearted wish for their welfare and a prayer from the depth of our being. Indeed, prayer for the benefit of others is a very important form of generosity. The stronger and deeper the prayer, the more it can help. Generosity also lives in the simple giving of our time and attention to others, for example by listening from a place of stillness, compassion, and appreciation.

While giving outward, material help is the time-honored form of generosity, other forms also call to us. For example, our inner work, our transformation of energies, our doing the right thing — all serve the higher worlds and society.

As always, the spiritual path depends on awareness, not only of the other person, to see what they need, but also of ourselves. We can look inwardly before, during, and after acts of generosity, to see ourselves more clearly, to step toward greater freedom. What feelings, thoughts, and impulses accompany our consideration and performance of acts of generosity? In this seeing, we measure our generosity against the aim of simple, compassionate giving without expectation of reward or recognition, the aim of doing right by others because that's what we do.

No discussion of generosity would be complete without gratitude for the loving generosity of the Divine. From the beauty and life-giving quality of Nature to the hidden, inner help that enables our spiritual work, the sacred higher continually bestows on us, personally and collectively, Its bounty of love, energies, and wisdom. To the extent we are prepared to receive it, this outpouring from the timeless Source feeds us heart and soul, and points our personal way toward transformation and service. Thank You.

Finally, in receiving generosity we incur an obligation to live up to our highest ideals, to be worthy of all we have been given.

[1] Holland, Muhtar, translator, Beads of Dew from the Source of Life: Histories of the Khwajagan, The Masters of Wisdom (Ft. Lauderdale: Al-Baz Publishing, 2001), p. 9.


     

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