PLATTSBURGH - In Buddhist teachings, there are 10 paramitas, or perfections, of which one may practice as a way of purification. The first perfection is known as "dana," or generosity.
Luis F. Sierra, a certified trainer in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Integral Yoga Hatha at Adirondack Connections ADK Yoga, explored the depths of generosity during his workshop Dec. 10. "What does it mean to be generous," Sierra asked the group. "What defines generosity for you?"
Sierra helped the group understand for themselves these questions and many others.
"To a large extent, much of what happens in our lives is dependent on someone's generosity and also on our own generosity towards others," Sierra said.
He further explained that everyone is surrounded by a web of generosity which has its own level of interrelatedness and interdependence.
To help the group understand this, he quoted Martin Luther King Jr. in his speech titled "Christmas Sermon on Peace" from 1967: "It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly ... We aren't going to have peace on earth until we recognize this basic fact of the interrelated structure of reality."
"When you think about what's happening with the economy right now, not just in this country, but globally," Sierra said. "People losing their jobs. People that are feeling insecure. All of us that may not really know what's going on. There are levels of generosity that crop in the context of this."
During the workshop, Sierra also explained various aspects of generosity, including the eight ways of giving, which include spontaneously, out of fear, believing it's a good idea, and to help someone who can't help themselves.
This part of the workshop is what participant Beth Nolland found to be the most interesting.
"I think sometimes we think we're very generous and also I think that generosity is sometimes misinterpreted as well," said Nolland.
Another point Sierra discussed with the group is the three ways in which the Buddhist teachings say one can be motivated by generosity. The first being tentatively, in which someone is unsure as to if they want to give. The second is friendly giving, in which you give because you care for the person who's in need. Then, finally is noble giving, when you give and expect nothing in return.
"If you practice generosity, it opens your heart, it's a form of service, it's a form of connection," said Sierra. "[It] leads you to the understanding that it's through ethical behavior that we're able to cultivate and maintain that generosity and through an understanding ... and cultivating of that kind of purity of ourselves, we can then sit and be present in our lives."
Sierra also wants people to understand you don't have to be Buddhist to believe in the practice of giving.
"They're just teachings; they're just philosophical teachings," said Sierra. "The teachings of generosity are in Christianity and Judaism. You find them in many religious traditions."