The Art of Giving vs The Act of Receiving

Mar 18, 2024

More Than The Art of Giving

We all like receiving gifts.

But something we often forget is that the act of giving can be as important for the GIVER as it is for the receiver

Sometimes the most important thing to do is accept a gift that you might not want in order to acknowledge the giver’s need to give, rather than your need to receive.

It’s a very simple mind shift, but a very powerful one.

Whether it’s a small token of appreciation or a grand gesture of generosity, each act of giving holds immense power to uplift spirits and touch hearts on both sides.

The Importance of Receiving

In the Buddhist tradition, there’s a beautiful concept known as “making merit.”

One way of doing so is by giving generously.

Another way is by allowing others to give.

As much as we cherish the act of giving — and quite rightly so — it’s equally crucial to allow others the joy of giving to US.

In doing so, we not only express gratitude for their kindness; we also create an opportunity for them to experience the profound joy of generosity and make merit themselves.

Roles & Relationships

If you’ve lived in Thailand for any length of time, you’ve probably seen monks on their alms rounds in the morning, collecting offerings — normally of food — from the locals. 

People who wish to give will wait patiently at the side of the pavement and wait for the monks to approach, then will raise their hands to their forehead in a traditional ‘wai’ and ask permission to place offerings into the monk’s bowl.

The bowl is commonly referred to in English as a’ ‘begging bowl’, which is, to be honest, a clumsy and crude translation as there is no ‘begging’ involved.

The Buddha expressly forbade monks to ‘beg’ at all.

Instead, he explained that by walking on their daily alms round, the monks give the opportunity for the laypeople to make merit. 

The relationship between the Thai people and the monks is a special one. 

By willingly giving alms (offerings), the lay people make merit for themselves and help to keep the monks healthy in body.

The monks, in turn, teach the Buddhist dharma (as well as fulfill other roles by chanting at weddings and funerals etc.) and by doing so help keep then lay people healthy in mind. 

Even in Thailand, some of the poorest people will still try to give alms to the monks regularly and especially on auspicious days.

It’s pretty humbling to see. . .

The Importance of Receiving

It’s that act of giving others the opportunity to give that is crucial and often overlooked.

Why?

Because by kindly accepting gifts, we enable others to accumulate positive karma, cultivate a sense of fulfillment and joy within themselves, and experience the profound joy of generosity.

This in turn increases their spiritual wellbeing.

Old Tibetan lady

Receiving With Grace

One powerful story that I heard some time ago (please forgive me if the finer details are incorrect!) beautifully illustrates this concept.

It involves the Dalai Lama, a Western journalist, and a humble old lady.

The Lady & the Scarf

During one of his visits to a remote Tibetan village, the Dalai Lama was approached by an elderly woman who had been waiting patiently to see him.

Despite her obvious poverty, she had brought him a simple white scarf as a token of her deep reverence and love.

Initially, the Dalai Lama hesitated to accept the gift, considering her impoverished condition.

However, upon realizing the profound joy and fulfillment it would bring her, he graciously accepted it.

A Western journalist who had been traveling with the Dalai Lama for a few days had seen him repeatedly accepting gifts from equally poor people and was getting sick of it.

He saw it as exploitation. 

When he confronted the Dalai Lama about it, the Dalai lama explained that the reason he accepted the gifts was not because he wanted to accept them; it was because they needed to GIVE them.

He explained that by graciously receiving the old lady’s gift, he had allowed her to experience the joy of giving and in the process make merit, and that was of far more importance to her spiritually than keeping the scarf. 


That story perfectly sums up the point of this whole post.

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