Common steps and sub-activities

Serving others [charity]

The old fashioned name for this technique is ‘charity’ but this term has become so abused and misused in its meaning that I have picked a name which is more representative of what we are trying to do.

Charity does not mean giving money to charity, it means giving yourself.  It means service to others, constant service.  Whatever you want to do is replaced by doing what others need – as long as what others want harms and hurts no one or no thing.

 

Background

These days and it would seem from the quote below in days gone by too, charity was defined as the giving of money or similar to the ‘needy’.  So seriously have we western nations taken charity as a virtue, that it is now a state institution, the taking of money from those who are working via taxes and the giving of their money by government to those who are not working whether this is via foreign aid or via social benefits.  But again, charity did not originally mean this…………

The Sutra of Hui-Neng – Grand Master of Zen [translated by Thomas Cleary]

Governor Wei said
I have heard that when Bodhidharma first tried to teach Emperor Wu of Liang, the emperor asked ‘All my life I have been building temples, ordaining monks, giving alms and charitable meals; what virtue have I achieved?’  Bodhidharama said ‘In reality, no virtue is achieved’.  I do not understand the principle of this, please explain.
The Master said
There really is no virtue achieved; do not doubt the words of the ancient sage.  Emperor Wu’s mind was wrong and he did not recognise true teaching.  Building temples, ordaining monks, giving alms and charitable meals, is called seeking blessings.  Blessings themselves cannot be considered virtue achieved.  Virtue is the embodiment of qualities, not cultivating blessings

In effect, you have to be charitable in your action to people, not give them so called charity.  It is no use, for example, as a leader starting a war in which thousands are killed, then perhaps writing your memoirs and promising to give a portion to the widows of those killed.  The original act of charity would be to not start the war!

The aim of the charitable act is to help you to stop adding to the list of your Desires, and the way it works is by making sure you always think of the other person and their needs first.

By acting charitably towards others on a continual basis, Desires – which are the most stubborn and the biggest block to any form of spiritual experience - are gradually subdued and can be better controlled and even eliminated.

If we take the example above – the start of a war is an act of personal ego, and the writing of memoirs is an act of ego, and the giving of a portion to charity is an act of ego, despite what it may seem, because the objective is to help your own conscience, each act of ego is a block to any form of spiritual experience or influence. 

It is worth mentioning that most religions heavily promote the giving of alms and money to them in order that the religions continue.  In some ways a bit like giving a subscription to the club you belong to, but this has nothing to do with charity in its true sense.  ‘Earning merit’ by giving money to a priest is rather meaningless in spiritual terms, it has no effect at all on your ability to have spiritual experiences.  If you want to give money to a priest, it might be better to do it because they have helped you.

There is also another way in which ‘charity’ in its true meaning comes into operation.  One of the things that we can access is our Perceptions and possibly the Perceptions of others.  It is thus fairly obvious that the more pleasant we can keep these Perceptions the better for the experience.  It is, in other words, no use being pleasant and polite to someone, if you are actually thinking unpleasant thoughts about them.  The Perceptions will capture both what you said and what you thought, so ‘uncharitable’ thoughts can rebound on you during a spiritual experience and of course may be accessible to others.

The Diamond Sutra  - Shakyamuni Buddha

‘Subhuti, what do you think – if someone were to fill the universe with precious substances to use for giving in charity, would this person gain many blessings because of this?’
‘Yes, World Honoured One.  The person would gain very many blessings because of this’
‘Subhuti, if blessings had substance, the Realised One would not say that many blessings are gained.  Because blessings are non existent, therefore the Realised One says many blessings are gained

Method

How do you do this?

You have to teach yourself.  There is gradual tuition of the Will via the use of unselfishness and the constant serving of others.  You give and give and give and you give actively, you don’t [like many of our present day charities and clergy] urge others to give – you give.  And you serve.  If they want and it does not hurt anyone, including the one who has asked, you give and you help.  

You do not seek reward, you do not seek for thanks, you do it as an act of genuine charity and and love.

Giving ‘alms’ is giving money and if you happen to have a reasonable amount of money, it needs little thought nor loss of ego.  On the contrary it is quite likely to act in the opposite way – to give you a false sense of pride that you gave something to someone.

The objective of a true charitable act is to suppress the Will and your Objectives.

A true charitable act requires activity– you give by doing and by doing without thought of reward and for someone else.  In the UK, our scouts used to do ‘bob a job’ which was an act of charity.  The little scouts would do whatever job was asked of them by householders, - mow the lawn, cut the hedge, paint the entire house, [no I’m joking] and each time they would be given a shilling [a bob] which is about 10 pence – it wasn’t much even in those days.  This 10 pence went into scout organisation coffers.

The saying "Charity begins at home" is used because it is a lot easier to give genuine charity to those around you and near you, but it doesn’t have to be. 

I think we need to be aware how very corrupt this term has become and thus how useless many people’s actions are.    In medieval Europe, it was customary to 'feast the poor' at the funeral in return for their prayers for the deceased. This is not charity.  Institutions may commemorate benefactors by displaying their names, or name buildings or even the institution itself after the benefactors. This then is not charity by the benefactor.

Institutions may be charities or may not.  An orphanage is properly regarded as a charity if it actively looks after orphans and perhaps the people looking after the children give their time for free.  A hospital may similarly be regarded as a charity if it looks after the sick without charge and without reward.  Organizations that visit the homebound, imprisoned, or very old, and actively help them might be charities, if the people who do it are volunteers.  But one would be hard pressed these days to find a reason to label many religious institutions as charities, for example, or many organisations that label themselves as charities.

Observations

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