Sunday, December 24, 2006

Giving Without Attachment

The Diamond Sutra, one of the prajnaparamita (perfection of wisdom) sutras of Mahayana Buddhism, has the Buddha say this concerning the giving of gifts, an insight which can be quite helpful this time of year:

...when bodhisattvas give a gift, they should not be attached to a thing. When they give a gift, they should not be attached to anything at all.

Here is what I wrote concerning this idea in a commentary for my college course in Buddhist Philosophy:

We give gifts for many reasons. Sometimes we give gifts out of love for a person. Sometimes we give gifts because we wish to be seen giving gifts. Often we give gifts because it is socially acceptable, or somehow required of us. But, whatever our motive, we often have expectations for the person who receives our gift. If and when they fail to meet our expectations for them, we manufacture suffering, both in ourselves and in others. Therefore, when we give a gift (as in all situations) we should not be attached to anything, but simply give our gift, for the sake of giving our gift.

I had hoped to write more about giving without attachment, but I got distracted by an excellent comment by Crystal on my last post, so I fritted my writing time this morning away on my response to her. I suppose that was my act of giving without attachment.

May your gifts this season sow only good in both the giver and the receiver. Give mindfully, and without attachment.

Merry Christmas, and make merry this Christmas.

Happy Holidays, being holy on these sacred days.


PamBG said...

Good post and I now have three thoughts.

Giving gifts became a lot more fun (and free) when I stopped worrying about whether I was thanked or whether the gift was reciprocated. It became a REAL gift-giving experience.

Second thought. This is how God gives to us - except obviously more perfectly than any human being could do. God gives the gift of himself freely and without there being any sort of obligation attached. Although we preach grace I think a lot of us don't really much like the idea that God's gifts come without an obligation on our part. (Or maybe we like it when God gives us free gifts but we want him to attach obligations on the gifts he gives to other people.)

Third thought. Many congregations would be greatly helped in their own discipleship if the gifts they gave to the congregation or to other members of the congregation were truly given without expectation (sometimes hidden expectations at that!).

crystal said...

It's so hard to give without strings attached (for me, anyway)! As someone once said on an episode of Star Trek .. that person (who didn't appreciate my gift :-) did the worst thing another person can do to us - failed to meet my expectations.

I do strive to be unattached.

Paula said...

Merry Christmas Chris and thanks for this post!

Sandalstraps said...


Marvelous thoughts.


That is one of the reasons why Buddhism teaches not to have any expectations. Suffering comes from the distance between our expectations and our reality.


Merry Christmas to you and yours as well.

And, of course, a hearty Merry Christmas to all again.