June 23, 2015

No Giver, no Gift, no Receiver.

waylon lewis

May we with all beings realize the emptiness of the three wheels, giver, receiver, and gift.”

In Buddhist teachings, there’s a teaching about how to give a pure gift. A pure gift has no attachment, no strings, no expectation in the giving or receiving. The gift itself is freely given.

That’s all very nice…but there is a seemingly contradictory teaching about “idiot compassion.” We can not give if the act of giving is bad for us, if we are being taken advantage of, or if the gift itself is bad for the receiver—i.e., maybe putting your 40-year-old son or daughter in your basement is an act of generosity…or perhaps it is an act of idiot compassion that is not as good for your child as kicking them out might be. Sometimes tough love is kinder than generous love.

Buddhist is all about contradictions: the healthy tension of a koan that doesn’t quite add up. When the wisdom traditions of the East meets the energy and know-how of the West, the sparks will fly, said Trungpa Rinpoche of Naropa University.

You ever read Malcolm Gladwell? Well, I’m a connector. A community guy. Everyone knows me, a little. I connect folk—whether for jobs or relationships or friendships or what-have-you. I’m good at it. I just did it twice, today, and didn’t get a word of thanks.

And that hurts. No thanks hurts.

Whenever I help connect folks—which takes my time and energy—it’s fun, and fulfilling…but rarely do folks thank me. Generally, I write them off as selfish, and keep close those who treat my friendship or kindness with respect and appreciation. And for my part I do my damnedest to appreciate others’ generosity to me.

And so I come back, again and again, to those two contradictions. I must give without expectation. What goes around comes around…except when it doesn’t. Life isn’t fair. Treat those who appreciate you with appreciation—those are friends worth keeping around. But keep giving. Even if nothing comes back, the world will be that much kinder, sane-er, whole-er.

And that’s gift enough. But do not give if you don’t feel appreciation, or if the receiver seems unappreciative. Maybe they need a message from the phenomenal world: treat those who treat you with thoughtfulness with thoughtfulness.

And that lesson is a gift of another sort, perhaps more precious.


“We can begin anything we do—start our day, eat a meal, or walk into a meeting—with the intention to be open, flexible, and kind. Then we can proceed with an inquisitive attitude. As my teacher Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche used to say, “Live your life as an experiment.”

At the end of the activity, whether we feel we have succeeded or failed in our intention, we seal the act by thinking of others, of those who are succeeding and failing all over the world. We wish that anything we learned in our experiment could also benefit them.”

~ Pema Chödrön

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