Generosity

174 pig

“Should there be a limit to generosity? What if the best thing to do is not to give anymore? After all, there is only so much a person can do to help.”

These questions have been bugging me for quite some time. I have witnessed people in the course of my life who would be extremely generous, but, unfortunately, others would abuse that kindness and in the end their act of generosity would bring so much pain despite their good intentions. From the Buddhist perspective, it would revolve around karma: the giver would gain merits (good karma) and the receiver who abused the giver would gain bad karma. The pain that the giver felt as a result of the receiver’s abuse of kindness  is a product of his/her past actions, i.e. bad karmic seeds that were planted in the past, which now “flourished” in the present.

There is another Buddhist way of looking at the giving process: there is no giver, gift, and receiver.  I do not fully understand how this concept works, but I will share my views anyway. I think what the concept of “no giver, gift, and receiver” is telling us is that when we wish to help others, we should do so and then forget our actions. For instance, when we see that our friend is hungry we naturally want to help that person. So we give him/her food. But after giving the food, we should forget about the whole “giving event”. Why? Because in the future when we are the ones in need of food and we remember that we once helped that friend, we will expect that friend to help us as well. Remembering gives rise to expectation, which I think is a form of craving. We expect to gain merit and we expect the receiver to help us in the future. As a result, we suffer in the end. However, expectations will not be present if we forget about the giver, gift, and receiver. In other words, we must give because we want to help, not because we want others to feel indebted to us and not because we want to gain merits.

It becomes apparent with the above concept in mind that there should be no limit to generosity. But this is so much easier said than done. I for one have a simple principle that I have been practicing for many years: I help a person. If the person accepts my help, great! If not or if the person just abuses my kindness, I would simply stop helping them (i do this very easily without regret, mind you) and remind myself that there are other people in the world who would be happy to receive help. I am slowly realizing, however, that my method seems to be prone to indifference, which is bad, bad, bad! As Luc Ferry said in his book, “A Brief History of Thought,” we should always strive to be compassionate and benevolent, not indifferent.

Okay, I’ll try this “limitless generosity” thing.  How about you? I would love to hear your insights on the topic too! :)

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Of Love and Life

May 6, 2012

It is often hard to write about ‘love’ because people always have the tendency to make it emotional. Moreover, when people see you write about ‘love,’ they will most likely ignore it because, again, they would probably assume it to be another one of those cheesy blog entries about heartbreak or bliss or whatnot. Another reason why I shy away from writing about this topic is because people don’t associate me with ‘love’ (palibhasa wala kasi akong love life, lol). That is why when I write about the topic, I anticipate that it would come as a shock to those who know me. But come on, we are all people and there will definitely come a point in our life when we would want to talk about this complex word called ‘love’. In my case, that point is now. So please bear with me for a while as I try my best not to be emotional or cheesy in this blog entry. :))

According to the book I’m currently reading (A Brief History of Thought by Luc Ferry), the Christian idea of love has three levels: (1) Love-as-attachment, (2) Compassion, and (3) Love-in-God. The first level is when we love someone so dearly that we cannot imagine life without them. This level of love is usually governed by jealousy and possessiveness, which consequently cause us much suffering. A higher form of love, compassion, is when we unconditionally care for others who are in need. This level of love is selfless. The highest form of love is love-in-God, which is when we love what is eternal in other people. I do not understand completely how this goes. I guess it is when we love someone not because of physical or outside appearances, but because of who they are inside. Okay, so perhaps we know this one already. Why then are many people still suffering because of ‘love’ even though they have learned to look beyond physical appearances? I will deviate from the book and just base my answer from observation and experience.

People still suffer because love needs to be mutual. I mean imagine, even if you learn to love all the people in the world, but not a single one would love you back, would you be happy? Of course not (unless you’re a martyr or something, but hey, let’s be realistic. You won’t be happy if no one loves you back!). Love should be two-way. Give and take as they say. So others suffer because they are forcing themselves into the heart of someone who cannot love them back.

People suffer because of fear. Fear of being left for another, fear of death, fear of criticism, etc. Fear breeds jealousy and insecurity. That other person is more beautiful than I am, that other person is more sensible, that other person has more sense of humor, and so on and so forth. Obviously, love with fear is in the lowest level of love-as-attachment. This is probably the reason why the Bible stresses that “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18).

But how can we as humans be capable of giving out this “perfect love”? Perhaps you would say, “by love-in-God”, or by loving what is eternal in another person. But such an answer would only bring us back to where we started (see the last part of the second paragraph).

Okay, I don’t know how this “perfect love” works. Is there even such a thing as perfect in this world? There is still a lot to learn.

What is Philosophy?

April 30, 2012

I stumbled upon a book yesterday entitled, “A Brief History of Thought: A Philosophical Guide to Living” by Luc Ferry. As always, it was the cover of the book that attracted me. So I scanned it and found the content interesting. It is like an introduction to philosophy for lay people. I have always been interested in Eastern philosophies such as that of the Buddha, Confucius, and Lao Tzu, but rarely did I consider reading more about the Western philosophies of Epictetus, Aristotle, and others.

The first time I encountered a discussion on religion vs. (Western) philosophy was during our PI 100 class with Ma’am Albina Peczon-Fernandez. I really enjoyed her class because she would always throw in thought-provoking statements (e.g. “Man created God”). And although it was very challenging to follow her discussions about dialectical idealism, Kant, Marx, and other technical philosophy stuff, I believe that it was then that my interest for Western philosophy started (unconsciously).

Below are my notes on the first chapter, followed by a short reflection.

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Chapter 1: What is Philosophy?

* conventional (textbook) definition/description:

– formation of a critical and independent spirit

– method of rigorous thought

– art of reflection

– rooted in an attitude of “astonishment” and “enquiry”

* The author believes that the above descriptions of philosophy has nothing to do with the question, “what is philosophy?”, because they are non-specific, i.e. there are a lot of other fields where the above descriptions apply. People tend to narrow down philosophy to reflection and argument, but these are merely tools used in philosophy.

* Philosophers view humans as ‘finite beings’– mortal beings- and we are the only creatures who know our limits, i.e. we know we are going to die. Thus, people turn to religion for salvation. The Catholics go to Heaven, the Buddhists go to the Western Pureland, and so on for other religions. What about non-believers? This is where philosophy comes in.

* Philosophy says that death is more than just a biological ending. Instead, anything that is irreversible can be classified as having died already. This includes everything that happened in the past, things that we can no longer change. Thus, it is this fear of the irreversible that we need to conquer in order to live a joyful life.

* Religion generally addresses this fear through faith and humility at the expense of freedom of thought. Generally speaking, you cannot reason with what the Bible or other Scriptures say. People take it as it is because of faith. In contrast, philosophy also promises salvation, but through careful study of our environment, ourselves, and others. “To philosophise is to learn how to die.” ~ Montaigne

* Philosophy urges us to live in the present. The passage below (from the book) clearly shows this point:

Greek philosophers looked upon the past and the future as the primary evils weighing upon human life, and as the source of all anxieties which blight the present.

* Philosophy refuses to believe in a god because it is simply too good to be true and, again, the price we have to pay for having faith is freedom of thought. It is essential to point out though that philosophy respects other people’s belief. It does not strive to prove the non-existence of God (for how can someone actually accomplish such a thing?). Instead, philosophers are people who are not convinced with the idea of faith and thus have to turn to something else for salvation.

* Three dimensions of philosophy (sometimes also called the three stages of thought): theoretical stage, ethical or moral stage, and the final stage where one attains salvation or wisdom.

  • Theoretical stage: involves the process of understanding the world we live in and understanding how we gain such knowledge.
  • Ethical stage: involves the process of understanding other people and how we coexist in this world and time
  • Final stage: overcoming fear of the irreversible by attaining wisdom

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After reading the first chapter of Ferry’s book, I was surprised to find many parallelisms between the Western philosophical ideas with that of Buddhism such as the importance of living in the present, coexistence, and the belief that salvation can be found inside every individual and not through a higher Being (take note that Buddha is not a god).

I believe that the goal of every religion is to make each of us a better person. As my father once told me, “Religion has different flavors to suit the taste of different people.” Therefore, the important thing is to respect other people’s beliefs or better yet, have an open mind and get the good stuff out of different religions and philosophies.

I’ll stop here because I am terribly sleepy (it was such a long, but thankfully productive day- traveled from Antipolo to Calamba to UP Los Banos and back to Antipolo again). Thoughts of why I exist and what I should do came barging into my brain again. But then I guess a lot of people think of that too. Anyway, enough for now. Good night!