Giving In The Conditioned World
[On our "How Does A Heart of Service Respond?" call last week, Rev Heng Sure shared illuminating insights that reflected back collective themes shared; described three forms of giving of wealth, insight and courage; and more. Below is the recording and transcript.]
So I'm here in Gold Coast, Queensland [Australia]. I'm looking forward to hearing from Bonnie as well. Bonnie, glad to be on the panel with you. We've been part of ServiceSpace together for some time. And getting to hear from Preeta and Aryae and all our ... and also from Sri from the front lines. This is rich. So I'm a preacher and you have to stop me before I preach again, because I go long -- and I don't want to do that. My prep info was five to seven minutes, so I'll try my best. But looking at the luminary -- looking at the light gathered on my screen -- I want to reflect back what everybody else is shining.
So anyway, wisdom -- which is to say, how people have done it before and what worked -- let me suggest one: if you say "what can I do?", especially if I'm ... look at our new language, have you all learned social distancing? Have you learned "herd immunity"? And virologists are learning so much. What do you do? What can you do that can affect, positively, the whole when you're behind your own door?
And I'm going to suggest that -- ServiceSpace is famous for the gift economy, and "giftivity" and all, "giftiveness" -- and our collective humanity has had ... from this lens, from a Buddhist lens, we've got three ways to give. One is material goods. So I've been a recipient of material goods today. Somebody else fed me. I just had to show up hungry. I got to eat because that's the system that sustained Buddhist monks for 2,500 years. So being a recipient of goodness is also a kind of giving -- you're participating in that flow. So giving of wealth is a good way to do it -- caring for elders, for example, or the needy or the sick. And the Chinese say [Chinese expression]: helping others is the source of happiness. So if you want to be happy, give more.
There's another kind of giving that the ancients have always praised, which is the giving of, we say the giving of Dharma -- giving of insight, giving of principle. And here's one for us, facing the coronavirus: It hurts. This is painful. Change is painful. But when change involves cutting our social fabric, when change involves facing fear and learning how to live with that, that's painful. And someone said, "what is the nature of a world where things come together is that things come apart?" Everything that is made of conditions -- of phenomena -- will, at some point, be unmade by those very same phenomenon. That is the nature of things. And we hurt in that process to the degree that we don't want it to change, and resist change, and deny it's changing, and fear change. So what does that mean? Can we look straight into the face of this virus and say, "this is not a good deal. This is frustrating. This is stressful. This is frightening. This is ...." Look at it. It's painful. This is the nature of the world.
How do you respond? Can you face that? First of all, if you can, how do you respond? Skillfully or unskillfully? Unskillful is denial. Blaming somebody, scapegoating it, saying it doesn't exist, or running from it, or drugging yourself in a ... putting yourself in a narcotic haze that "it's going to get better bye and bye," or someone else's .... Or a more skillful response is just to say, "look at that. That is the nature of the world, including the smaller body and the bigger body (the world around it)." It's my body that's the problem when I get infected with a deadly disease, right? So can I find a way to balance in the midst of that and understand that it's universal? Every single human being with a body is in the midst of, they say, old age, sickness, death, rebirth. Welcome to the conditioned world. Welcome to our reality.
Now, why is that important? I think, that's a maturity that our relatively young, not even 300-year-old American society has a hard time dealing with. We have Tylenol therapy. We have retail therapy, amazon.com therapy, Netflix therapy -- anything to postpone the reality of the nature of our being, which is "it comes apart and it hurts."
We're face to face with it now. So what is the giving? When the time is right, if you can share that with your friends and neighbors, your family, and say, "This is how it is." How much energy does that free up in the "no, it's not really happening" stress? Let it be truth. This is true. Get on with the second step, which is learning to balance in the midst of that and finding joy in the giving.
Now there is a third kind of giving they talk about -- and I'm almost done, almost done -- there's a third kind of giving, which is giving of courage, and it also translates as fearlessness. Tell that mosquito to be unafraid of me. I'm not going to ... leave me alone! [mosquito buzzing at him]
So what is the giving of courage? And that is all around us. Preeta was saying that she brings people together just to calm ... and you can calm them, you know, find the person around you [Hello there; there's a bug] and find a way -- what are they afraid of? And talk about it. Clair mentioned that she listens and what a gift that is to be able [hello (to mosquito)] to be able to [it's right on my nose -- do you see it? -- and it's a mosquito and he's/she's hungry.] And so to be able to give courage is a huge gift in the time of fear. And what do you say? You say, "this will pass, this will pass." And so buckle in. Be patient. Understand that everybody's feeling it the same. This is not just me, this is fear. And I can [big breath] get through it. I'll get through it, and maybe together we'll get through it stronger, and then find someone else who's terrified and find a way to give courage.
So the giving of wealth, giving of principle and truth and Dharma -- seeing it the way it is, just as it is, and saying, "celebrate it. It's fleeting and it's joyful and it's awful." And then the giving of courage -- that kind of giving is a source of infinite happiness. The more you give, the happier you get.
The last thing I wanted to say was, it seems to me that, given that many of us have been through the fires of the last three years, Northern California -- I spend half my time in Ukiah in Mendocino County, and anybody in the North Bay knows, anybody in LA knows -- so what if the lessons that we learned this time with the coronavirus, what did we notice about people's strengths and people's deep, deep, deep weaknesses that we can apply for the next challenge, be it drought, water wars, earthquakes, fires? (Australia here just went through bushfires. Terrifying.)
What did we notice? Just as we heard from Sri, people come together and there's a window of goodness. Paul just mentioned this window -- that the decisions we make now make a big difference coming up. So let's watch and listen. Gather those stories and see what people do this time. Because as much as this is not a rehearsal -- this is the real thing -- in fact, this is a rehearsal for what's coming down the road. And let's get through it wisely together. So thank you. Bonnie. You're up.