We will first discuss generosity. We know very well that generosity consists of giving in both the material and spiritual sense, as well as in a non-strategic way.
Regarding generosity, there is a very good question one may ask oneself in order to bring more insight into the matter. This same question is often posed by Zen masters to their students. `Is there anything that is yours?` You have to be able to come up with an answer to this question. [A student replied, `Everything is mine.`] Well, this is an excellent answer! Since nothing is yours, therefore everything is yours. This is a model answer that exemplifies a certain realization of the Tao. [laughter, audience laughter and applause] Generally a Buddhist practitioner will reply that nothing belongs to one, as this is what is often emphasized to one by one`s guru. So, if you offer a view different from what is ordinarily taught and claim that everything belongs to you, you have attained a certain realization. You have realized that there is no separation between you and every phenomenon in the world; therefore, what belongs to others is also yours. This does not mean you are sanctioned to take things away from others! [laughter and audience laughter] It is true that when one achieves realization, one will engender this kind of view, that everything belongs to one. This is also considered a correct view.

Ordinarily, a Buddhist teacher teaches, `Nothing belongs to you, including you yourself.` In the past, I did not completely understand the meaning behind this. A doctor friend of mine who owns a clinic in Taichung, Dr. Chou Tai-shou, the same pediatrician who cured my son, Fo-chi, of allergic gastroenteritis, used to give me the same piece of advice each time we met. When I was still living in Taichung, each time I ran into him, Dr. Chou would ask me to go with him to a Japanese restaurant or a sushi bar and drink beer. Each time, while he was drinking his beer, he would remark to me, `Only things that you eat and use are yours. Look at this food. It is mine only if I eat it. It is yours only if you eat it.` He was pointing out that only things that one had eaten or used could be claimed as one`s own; otherwise, nothing else belonged to one. Such a realization of his, albeit different from the Buddhist claim that nothing belongs to one, does indicate a certain level of maturity. At that time, I did not truly understand him. But now, thinking back, what he said was a very realistic statement. If an ordinary person can mature to understand the truth in Dr. Chou`s statement, he or she will derive great benefits in life by putting it to use.

Many rich people have amassed for themselves a great deal of wealth. When I used to do geomancy inspections, I had the chance to visit the homes of many rich people. What I found was that many of those rich folks had not really put their money to use. They were not living in luxury, and some were actually leading rather sub-standard sorts of lives. A rich man may live a `pauper`s life.` There are many such rich people who appear to be wealthy, but in reality they live like paupers. The truth about money is that it is merely pieces of paper if it is not used. If one just keeps looking at one`s bank book, becoming euphoric when the account gains another digit and refusing to spend any of it, one is being controlled by one`s money. That is why there is a certain grain of truth behind the words of Dr. Chou, `Only what you have eaten or used is yours.` Things that you cannot eat or use are not yours. One may be very rich, but the wealth is useless if one does not put it to use. Today, as Buddhist practitioners, we have an even deeper level of understanding, and we know that nothing is inherently ours. With such an understanding, the paramita of generosity will manifest itself. Since nothing inherently belongs to one, then why not share what one `has` with other sentient beings? This is generosity. Generosity is to take out all you have and offer it to be used by other sentient beings. [laughter and audience laughter] Many of you will be unable to let go of all your possessions. The ability to let go and give is an external manifestation of one`s evolution to the state of `self-release.`

I remember a particular incident from my childhood. When I was in grade school, I used to run the hundred meters dash. Those of you who have run the hundred meters dash, how fast can you run? Well, San Yuan [to Master Richard Yan], how about you? [audience laughter] About twelve seconds? That is not bad. But, if you had to do it now, wouldn`t you be rolling like a ball? [laughter and audience laughter] I used to be able to do it in twelve seconds. Now, I don`t know how long it would take me. [audience laughter] Let us have a hundred meters dash event one of these days and find out. In any case, when I was in grade school, I was indeed able to run a hundred meters dash in twelve seconds. I was the shortest one in my class and yet I was the first one to finish the dash every time. As soon as I finished, I would return to the classroom to look for food to eat. Children get hungry very easily. In those days, every student brought a lunch box to school. When the teacher turned his back to us, we students would sneak some food from our lunch boxes and put it in our mouths. When the teacher turned his back again, we would immediately start chewing. [laughter and audience laughter] So, although the lunch period was scheduled between the fourth and the fifth periods, almost all of our lunches would be gone by the second period. That time, as soon as I returned to my classroom, I thought of eating my lunch. Our lunch boxes were kept inside our desks. Among my classmates, there was one student by the name of Chou Kuo-chang who was very tall and often bullied me. I can still recall his face clearly! [audience laughter] That one time I suddenly had the strong urge to find out what was inside his lunch box. I went over to his desk and opened his lunch box. Wow! There was a soy-pickled egg in it! A food item of high cholesterol! [laughter and audience laughter] I looked around the empty classroom and an idea came to me. I could save my own lunch to eat later during the lunch period. For now, I would eat his first. I picked up the egg and started chomping away. Then I finished all the delicious pickled vegetables and went on to eat a few more mouthfuls of rice. Afterwards, I replaced the cover of his lunch box and returned it to its original spot. Then all the other students came back to the classroom and returned to their own seats. At that moment, I was secretly very happy. [audience laughter] I was in a very good mood because I was able to save my own lunch for later by finishing off half of his first! [laughter and audience laughter]

Then came the third period, and a loud scream resounded in the classroom. It had come from Chou Kuo-chang. [audience laughter] Honestly, the scream made me feel good. To this day, I can still remember very well this scream of his. [audience laughter]

This incident is in fact an illustration of an ordinary mind that is without any spiritual awareness. Generally speaking, a person without spiritual awareness is often reluctant to part with his own possessions, but very generous with other people`s. [audience laughter] This is true, isn`t it? Everyone is watching out for the big `number one` by placing one`s own benefit before other`s. One might even totally disregard others by violating other`s rights while keeping a close guard on one`s own. This is because one lacks the Bodhisattva`s heart: Bodhisattvas are different; they know how to give. Ordinary people are concerned with private interests, while Bodhisattvas are completely selfless. In walking the Bodhisattva Way, the Bodhisattvas do not just share with others, they even sacrifice everything they have for others. As Buddhist practitioners, it is very important that we learn to give up private considerations. In fact, after practicing Buddhism and generosity, you will be able to see beyond someone`s actions and know how much of it is motivated by private or public concerns. You will see through the various facades and karmic relationships in the undertakings of the sentient beings, and you will not become entangled and go along with those who perform unwholesome deeds. To a person who has not engaged in any Buddhist practice, eating another`s lunch is not only acceptable, it is even pleasurable. I was, of course, very happy at the time. Prior to that incident, it was I who would scream when being bullied by him. That one time, I could hear him scream for a change. [laughter and audience laughter] It was definitely a different experience.

However, things are different for me today. After becoming a Buddhist, I can only have a heart that is totally open to sentient beings and without a shred of personal concern. One has to constantly reflect on how much of one`s mind is on oneself or on others. Only by constantly engaging in such an introspection can one engender the heart of generosity. [audience applause]

There is a story about a previous incarnation of Shariputra, of which you might have heard. Although this is a story, it does tell us something about the challenges a Bodhisattva faces. Sixty kalpas ago, Shariputra had not yet met Buddha Shakyamuni, but he had already engendered the desire to become a Bodhisattva and vowed to give up everything he had to help others. As soon as the devas learned of Shariputra`s intent, they came to test him. A deva transformed himself into a young man, weeping bitterly on a roadside. Coming upon the wailing young man, Shariputra stopped to inquire and offered help. `My mother is severely ill. Only an eyeball from a young spiritual cultivator can cure her,` replied the young man. Shariputra realized he, himself, was exactly the person the young man was looking for ?a young spiritual cultivator who had just made the vow to take up the Bodhisattva Way. After all, he still would have one eyeball left after giving one up. Swiftly he gouged out one of his eyes and offered it to the young man. As soon as the young man got hold of the eyeball, he started stamping his feet, `You have made a mistake. This is from your left eye, what I need is an eyeball from your right eye.` Wow! As soon as the first challenge was met, the second challenge surfaced. Wouldn`t he be blind without either eyeball? Shariputra thought about his vow of total sacrifice and proceeded to gouge out his other eye. When the young man took hold of the second eyeball, he gave it a sniff and exclaimed, `What kind of eyeball is this? How could a spiritual cultivator`s eyeball smell so foul! I don`t think you are a true spiritual cultivator at all.` He threw the eyeball to the ground and started treading on it with his foot. Although Shariputra was blind, he could hear the squashing sound coming from the trampling of his eyeball. He sighed, `How difficult it is to walk the Bodhisattva Way! I think I might as well go back to paying attention to my own salvation, without thought of others. I will just aim at becoming an arhat instead of a Bodhisattva.` As soon as this intent came forth, the devas spoke to him, `Shariputra, please continue on with your cultivation of the Bodhisattva`s Way. This was just a test from the devas to find out how strong your determination truly is.`

From this simple story, one may begin to understand how difficult it is to be a Bodhisattva. Just the paramita of generosity alone is not easy to carry out. Can one sacrifice oneself if faced with a challenge similar to Shariputra`s? This story shows how difficult `giving` can be. In this world, one will come across many such incidents. The challenges of a Bodhisattva can be higher than the mountains and deeper than the seas. Therefore, the first paramita is to practice `giving.`
We have here a thangka of Machig Labdron. She was the first lineage holder of Chod, the Tibetan Body Offering Practice. Chod was the major practice taught by Machig Labdron, and `generosity` is the basis of its teaching.

Now, among our students, there are some who have requested that I establish a charitable organization for the purpose of practicing generosity. Actually, people with clear perceptions understand that many charitable organizations are not what they purport to be. Someone approached me to give him permission to set up a charitable organization. I asked him, `What kind of charity work are you going to do? Tell me some of your plans.` He proceeded to tell me that the first person to benefit from the organization would be himself, as he was unemployed and without any source of income. If that is charity, anyone can do charity! [spoken Taiwanese to audience, laughter] This kind of concept is totally wrong.

Another person approached me and said, `Grand Master, you can set up a large charitable organization without spending a single cent. All you need to do is ask students and other people to donate.` This is not right either. Why should one not contribute a single cent? Set up that way, the organization should be called the `Charity Intermediary Company.` Think about it, if you do that, you are just a mediator asking others to come to you, and letting you do the charitable work for them. Since you are merely a go-between and do not spend any money, the merits would go to the true givers and not to you. That is not charity. True charity consists of giving truly from yourself, including all of what you have. [audience applause]

Since the well-known Buddhist charity organization, Tzu Chi Charity, has produced excellent results, many other groups are trying to emulate them. Suddenly, many charitable organizations have sprung up. At the same time, instead of taking an active role in `giving,` many people just wait for such organizations to do the job. If an intermediary takes from the public and returns to the public, it is still acceptable. If one fattens one`s wallet from the public coffer, that is greed, and this will cause one to descend to hell. Many `charitable` organizations use the following strategy: they appeal to the public to send them the money, then they keep seventy percent for themselves and use only the remaining thirty percent for actual charitable work. This is where the flaw is. Groups who keep only thirty percent for themselves and use seventy percent of the revenue for charity are not as bad. Obviously, there are `charitable` groups which satisfy their own greed under the pretext of charity. True charity or giving is: when one collects ten dollars from the public, one adds two more dollars to it from one`s own pocket, and uses the total twelve dollars on public welfare. In our school, we can do this kind of charity with a heart of total giving. Do not think of not spending a single cent and using only other people`s money. Many will ask others to donate money to them to build temples. This is wrong. Such funds are not public welfare funds but private welfare funds, with only a very thin line between the latter and complete avarice.

The key to the important issue of generosity or giving is provided by the answer to this question: `Is there anything that belongs truly to you?` As Buddhists, we know that nothing inherently belongs to us, and everything ultimately is ours. When one reaches the state wherein the limited ego is completely released or transcended ?a state wherein nothing is one`s and yet everything is one`s ?any giving or generosity then becomes true charity.

慶賀真佛宗根本傳承上師八十聖壽 「一生一咒」800萬遍上師心咒活動,從今年師尊的佛誕日正式啟動,請參加者到TBSN官網以下鏈接登記資料: 每持滿十萬遍上師心咒者,宗委會將把名單呈給師尊加持。每持滿一百萬遍者,將列名護摩法會功德主,資料請師尊主壇護摩法會時下護摩爐。