The greatest gift is the act of giving itself. Traditionally, three kinds of giving are spoken of. There is beggarly giving, which is when we give with only one hand, still holding onto what we give. In this kind of giving we give the least of what we have and afterward wonder whether we should have given at all.
Another kind of giving is called "friendly" giving, in which we give openhandedly. We take what we we have and share it, because it seems appropriate. It's a clear giving.
Then there's the type of giving that's called "kingly" giving. That's when we give the best of what we have, even if none remains for ourself. We give the best we have instinctively with graciousness. We think of ourselves only as temporary caretakers of whatever has been provided, as owning nothing. There is no giving; there is just the spaciousness which allows objects to remain in the flow.
We've all experienced these kinds of giving in our lives; giving from us and giving to us. We all know what it feels like when we hold on to what we give, when we're giving, attached to a particular response to the gift: "Will I be loved because I gave this gift?" We're attached to ourselves being the giver. It's not such wholesome giving. We've also given when we felt it right to let something go into another's hands, just let it flow right through. That's the kind of giving that comes through people who are healers. They don't hold onto it -- the life energy moves right through them. There's no one healing; there's just healing coming out. That's the kingly kind of giving.
More generally, as we grow into ourselves, we find ourselves giving, sharing openhandedly, and honestly. That feels good. That bring us to the kind of friendship, the kind of love that nurtures growth.
Indeed, giving can become a whole practice in itself. Many times in our meditation, we become beggarly and we don't give ourselves away. We hold back, we resist certain states of mind, giving ourselves practice with the one hand, pulling it back with the other. We're constantly checking how we're doing, measuring who we are now, evaluating. But as we awaken, more and more we come to give ourselves away.
And as we gradually give more of ourselves to ourselves, we naturally give more of ourselves to others. There is a way we are with people which makes it easy for them to be themselves. We're not being someone who encourages to act in any other way. We're an open space, holding to nothing, giving it all away.
Stephen Levine is a celebrated author. Excerpt above from his book, Gradual Awakening.
SEED QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How do you relate to the three kinds of giving? Can you share an experience of kingly giving from your life? What do you understand by using giving as a practice in itself?
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I used to feed birds by throwing grains on the ground. Behind this act was fear that the birds may hurt me. Then I decided to offer grains from an open palm. Gradually the birds started to sit on my hand to feed. Their touch and their trust banished even traces of fear and love took its place.
Giving and taking are actions. All actions connect people. In the absence of a human connection the action becomes exploitative and degrading. Giving becomes throwing and taking becomes snatching.
When there is a human touch the action is bound to raise the consciousness of the people involvved to a higher plane.
Thank you. SHRADDHA: I don’t know the correct word in English. However it means “intention to learn with mindful awareness”. Further to my reflection earlier, I wish to add the following: “Giving need not be material or is it about the cost; it can even be mentally a sincere thought. One can mentally pray for a person or send him blessings. As per scriptures, even these are acts of giving.” Thanks.
Great comment.The difference between Apatra and Gupta danam is very significant. Overprotective parents can do a lot of damage to their children when their giving is from attachment. This is commonly overlooked. I would like to know the meaning of Shraddha?
Giving is nice. Somebody in need coming asking for something is to be considered as a big favor done to us. But giving unasked will have no value. At the same time knowing other persons need and helping him in time unasked will give lot of satisfaction for both. This has been experienced by me. Anything we give, we need to give to a deserving person. Apatra danam is considered as a bad karma. Gupta danam : as per the scriptures Charity should not be revealed. Charity has no value if we give because of our attachment without examining whether one really needs it or not. Giving for a higher cause is always better. If we give food, that time’s hunger is taken care of. If we give medicine, that day’s sickness is taken care of. But if we give knowledge, that takes care of him forever. Lord Krishna also says in Gita that this knowledge is a supreme and to be given only to a person who has interest, shraddha and bhakthi. One of the important principles of the universe is giving. In nature whatever does not flow will stagnate. Anything that stagnates will degenerate. Every time you get something there is some one behind it, who is the giver. when you get something someone else is giving something., So the total giving and receiving in this universe is nil. This is the law of nature.( Newton’s law:- matter can neither be created nor destroyed, it simply changes from one form to the another.).
What need is there to categorise? Don't we know instantly when we give reluctantly and with some afterthought, and when we give in a limited way but with a clear intention? As for 'kingly' giving, has anyone given that kingly who did not first answer for himself the question: what would I give my life to? I feel this is the one important question that conditions all the rest if one can answer it whole-heartedly, without reserve. For all I know, those who have answered it do not think of theirs as a giving. They are happy to serve. Life is feeding them back their very generosity without any need for them to measure up their commitment to some sort of scale.
My father used to say, "Any fool can give away what he does not want. If you give what you want, that is something but the sublime gift is that which you need." I don't know if this is kingly or not but it still makes sense to me.
As a healer, I have learned through my experience to give from an overflow and not from an empty cup.
The three kinds of giving make sense to me. I've certainly done a good deal of the beggarly giving, that is, giving only the least of what I have. I've done a great deal of friendly giving, that is, sharing of what I have. I've done the least of kingly giving, that is, giving the best of what I have even if none remains for me. I think the kingly giving I've done has been giving of what I am experiencing such as my thoughts and feelings, which is valuable -- I have seldom given the best of what I have materially even if none remains for me. I've been rather selfish, sad to say. I have done a little more friendly and kingly giving in recent years, happy to say. What I do realize is that kingly giving doesn't really leave me depleted but leaves me with more than I had or more of something I didn't have or had very little of. Kingly giving is difficult for me -- it really is a matter of learning that I don't really own anything, and what I think I have I am only using, and the best use of it is to let it pass through me rather than hold tightly to it.[Hide Full Comment]
Thank you for the opportunity to respond. Intellectually, I hold that giving is far superior to receiving. I also hold that when I give I simultaneously receive since, intellectually, I hold that I am one with everyone and everything. As a matter of practice, I do not often live this way and I'm not sure why. It would be an easy explanation if I said it was because of my habits,but it is more than that in a mysterious way. I formerly thought that when I give I will be rewarded in heaven. Now when I give, I notice that I experience a bit of heaven at the present moment (during the giving).. I work in his soup kitchen several hours a week and when I give food to the poor I experience that I get more out of it than those who receive the food do. Warm and kind regards to everyone.
This passage, particularly the end, offers a nice way to practice giving. I never realized that it can be cultivated through meditation. Giving more of ourselves to ourselves...what an inspiring and simple place to start! I will be more mindful of being kingly rather than being beggarly the next time that I sit. Thank you for sharing this reading. :)
This was an interesting read particularly the last paragraphs of;
“And as we gradually give more of ourselves to ourselves, we naturally give more of ourselves to others. There is a way we are with people, which makes it easy for them to be themselves. We're not being someone who encourages to act in any other way. We're an open space, holding to nothing, giving it all away.” I found this statement so interesting to read, because I never thought, consciously thought, that if I give to myself, that that giving will initially be a giving to others, Oh yes I know in the growing and awakening of the self that we may have talked about it, studied it, chanted on it, meditated on it, put intention out to do it. But to sit back and read that to look after me, can help someone else, in a giving of me to them.. Nice.. Maybe I have just grown with these words. As I ponder on this and the giving’s I had gave, I think many of us ‘age give’, in our early childhood, we give because we do not judge and give freely - share, in our adolescence we give because maybe we want to be noticed or liked, then in our growing age we give to help, give freely, openly from the heart. So do we not walk the path of Beggarly, Friendly and Kingly in our growth, our growth into learning of self and growing into self… Hmm I give; I am a natural giver, even when the giving may not be wanted :-) But thinking back, I think giving even our ear to someone, to listen to someone is of a Kingly giving, and yep, I see now, how that comes from an internal growth of an open and willing space. This is a very lovely piece of self-learning. Much gratitude and appreciation xoxo