Sep 26, 2018

Posted by in BUDDHISM IN OTHER LANGUAGES | 16 Comments

A VIEWPOINT ON CHARITY (Một góc nhìn về hoạt động từ thiện)

A VIEWPOINT ON CHARITY (Một góc nhìn về hoạt động từ thiện)

A viewpoint on charity

“Did you see P’s recent photos at a charity posted on facebook?”

I smiled in response and then browse on facebook to see how her boyfriend is doing with his charitable work. Sharp, up-close photos popped up showing the face of every person who participated in that charity. I glimpsed through the pictures then quickly switch back to the news. I have once asked P the reason for doing charitable work; and the answer – not only to help others but also (and primarily) to get him and his company some publicities. That is an example about using charity as a medium to advertise one’s name or business, a tactic often used by those who want to “upgrade” themselves, to build their image, especially in the field of art and business. I recall working for a charity under the Red Cross 20 years ago when I first graduated; at that time, my president was a Buddhist follower who launched a monthly charity campaign and even adopted homeless people. As a newcomer to this organization and also never practiced the Dharma, to me, he was a man with a kind heart. After about six months, however, I realized the primary purpose of those charitable events – to polish one’s image and develop new businesses. I was shocked when I visit the old man adopted by him – being locked inside a tiny room with his clothes that were ragged and dirty. Whenever there is a guess coming to visit, the old man was brought out to “display” like a commodity to celebrate the image of a “humane and kind-hearted leader.” A year later, his business came apart. He lost both his fortune, his position and even had to sell off his home.

I now occasionally encounter postings on social media like “singer X at a charity in A province,” “businessperson Y at a charity in B province.” There are companies (that I know) who owe their employers months of salary, yet their presidents use that money to donate or sponsor in many other places, and even loudly declare that “I want to do something meaningful for this life, like helping others with disadvantages.”

The Vietnamese have a tradition of sharing in the time of need, as evidenced in the idiom “the good leaves cover the ripped ones.” In general, this is one of the beauties of the human race. However, when charities are strategically used to serve one’s self-interest, it would no longer bear the meaning of “loving others as you would be loved by,” but instead becomes hypocritical and immoral. Such practices only exploit the unfortunate as the stepping-stones toward a successful career or business.

As a Buddhist, I have been taught by the Guru that, “a true Buddhist, or in other words – a Buddha’s child, must reside in the house of Mindfulness, live with compassion, act with wisdom, and show an undiscriminating attitude towards objects and events.” (Letter No.145: WHO IS THE TRUE BUDDHIST?). Besides, “the debt to all sentient beings” is among the Four Debts of Gratitude because, as the Buddha has taught, all sentient beings have been our mother and father in countless lives in Samsara. Also, Bodhicitta is one of the Three Essentials helping Tantrayana practitioners quickly attain Enlightenment.

To requite the debt to all sentient beings as well as benefit ourselves and others, practitioners practice Bodhicitta on the foundation of Sammaditthi (Right view), accordingly to the Buddha’s teaching. Among ten spiritual activities in Buddhism, there are making offerings (to thirteen subjects for making offerings) and giving alms (to one subject for giving alms – animal). They exclude those noisy and ordinary charities with self-benefits. With that being said, do not confuse that Buddhism is uncompassionate towards the poor or the homeless. The Buddha’s compassion is extensive and equal to all beings for the sake of their happiness; the poor have the sufferings of the poor, and the rich have the equivalent sufferings of the rich. Therefore, the Buddha has granted to all sentient beings a practical vehicle – taking refuge in the Three Jewels. With this vehicle, we cultivate ourselves accordingly to the Dharma’s orbit and attain “peacefulness in this life, ultimate bliss for the afterlife.” The Buddha has promised: “I need not live through 500 lives as Chakravarti (the King of four continents) to attain Enlightenment. For that reason, I transfer all that merits to all my disciples – they will never suffer hunger even when rice costs like jewels and wood costs like cinnamon.”

Additionally, the sutra of Upāsaka Precepts stated “When one takes refuge in the Three Jewels, one’s good merits will be endless. Listen now, good man. There is a treasure store called Pingala in the kingdom of Kalinga. Its people, young and old, man and women carry its treasure away by horses, elephants, and vehicles for seven years, seven months, and seven days without ever depleting it – those who determine to take refuge in the Three Jewels will receive the merits as hundreds of thousands of times as the treasures in that treasure store.“

“I need not live through 500 lives as Chakravarti (the King whose wheels are moving) to attain Enlightenment. For that reason, I transfer all that merits to all my disciples – they will never suffer hunger even in the time when rice costs as much as jewels and wood costs as much as cinnamon.”

Considering compassion, helping others to Take refuge in the Three Jewels is indeed more beneficial than offering them a meal or several pieces of clothing. The feed can ease the hunger for the day. The clothes can relieve the cold for a couple. Still, for the rest of their lives of 60 years, 365 days/year on average, not to mention the next lives lying ahead, what would happen? Who else will take care of them? And if they committed the wrong views, their consequences would be much higher for not only in this life but also the followings.

Nonetheless, according to the Law of Cause and Effect, when we give away a fortune to those who have yet to accumulate enough merits, they gain no benefit from it. Some people live in plenty but undergo miseries when “Samsara is on fire, infinite sufferings surrounded.” The only way out is to Take refuge in the Three Jewels and practice the Dharma to eliminate sufferings and hunger, to cure our mental illness, and attain “peacefulness in this life, ultimate bliss for the afterlife.” When teaching about requiting the debt of gratitude to our parents, the Buddha has taught: “Requiting the debt of gratitude to our parents by taking care and making monetary offerings to them will never be enough. Listen now, Bhikkhus, to those parents who have no trust in the Three Jewels, encourage them to have trust in the Three Jewels. To those parents who live outside of the Dharma, encourage them to enter the Dharma. To those parents who are greedy, encourage them to give alms. To those parents who have wrong views, encourage them to have the right views. Listen now, Bhikkhus, when achieving as such one fully requites the debt of gratitude to his parents.”

Considering merits accumulation through making offerings, a Buddhist must remember the motto “to combine merit and wisdom in practice.” In “Kutadanta Sutta” of “The Long Discourses” (Dirghagama), the Buddha encouraged his disciples to accumulate merits through making offerings to Buddhist monks. Then He mentioned the level of accumulation (from low to high) of each action as following, “Building shelters for travelings monks, declaring aloud “I take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha”, keeping five Buddhist precepts (killings, stealing, telling harmful lies, committing sexual misconduct, abusing addictive substances and behaviors), meditating on compassion towards all sentient beings within the time to complete milking a cow, renouncing one’s home to practice the Dharma, having unimpaired precepts and virtue, attaining Arhat-ship.”

Through this teaching, we can understand making offerings or building shelters for monks as external offerings (or external merit accumulation). The rest are behaviors of speech and mind, which are considered internal offerings (or internal merit accumulation). Internal accumulations are much faster because, within every action, there imply certain levels of self-control and self-correction that is hard to obtain to even those who are the bourgeoisie of the past or billionaires of the present.

Therefore, when Buddhist practitioners have a complete understanding of the teachings, they no longer yearn externally even in merit accumulation activities. They turn their focus inward to hone their mind and cultivate their virtue and precepts. By this practice, they collect more merits with fewer offerings. Regarding the use of external offerings to accumulate merits, in the Sutra of Forty-two Chapters, the Buddha has suggested, “it is better to offering a meal to a cruel person is less than offering to a good person. Offering to a good person is less than offering to a person who keeps the five precepts…Offering to ten thousand people who keep the five precepts is less than offering to a person who attained srotapanna-ship…” The ultimate offering is to the Ones of “no thought, no cultivation, and no attainment.” This is when making little offerings gains lots of merits. (PRACTICE LOTS OF CHARITY, GAIN LITTLE VIRTUE)

On top of that, referring others to enter the Dharma and praying for all sentient beings to attain Buddhahood are the practices of Boddicta. They aim for the benefits of all sentient beings, for the unification of the one’s mind to the stream of Mahayana, the attaining to become “Bodhisattva of Initial Determination,” and the accumulation of infinite merits. Regarding the merits of “Bodhisattvas of Initial Determination”, in Avatamsaka Sutra, Chapter “Initial Determination”, the Buddha described – “Suppose there is someone who offers every desirable offering to all sentient beings of countless world, in ten directions, for a hundred of lives then teach all of them to cultivate the ten paths of good. Offering as such for a thousand of lives then teaches them Four-Meditation. Offering as such for a hundred thousand of lives then teaches them Four-Unlimited-Minds. Offering as such for an eon of lives then teaches them to dwell in the Four-Formless-Samadhis. Offering as such for a hundred eons of lives then teaches them to dwell in the Srotaapana stage. Offering as such for a thousand eons of lives then teaches them to dwell in the Sakridagamin stage. Offering as such for a hundred thousand eons of lives then teaches them to dwell in the Anagamin stage. Offering as such for a hundred thousand nayuta of eons of lives then teaches to dwell in the path of a Pratyeka Buddha. Listen now, the disciple of the Buddha, in your opinion, must this person have plenty of merits?

“The person’s merits is only known to the Buddhas” – answered the King of Heaven.

Then the Dharma Wisdom Bodhisattva replied, “Listen now, the disciple of the Buddha, the merits of this person, compared with the merits of the Bodhisattvas who Initial Determination is only one in a hundred, and patience is as tiny as a grain.”

Putting in social contexts, there is the proverb “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. But if you give him a fishing rod, you feed him for a lifetime.” Helping others to overcome dangers in time of need is necessary; helping others to accumulate Buddhist merits, however, ensures their lifetime well-being and the potential liberation from Samsara. Moreover, those who are “worth-saving” are not only those who are homeless, in immediate danger, or miserable. Those who are “worth-saving” are also those who are successful and healthy, and wanted to do charitable works to accumulate merits but have yet to follow the orbit of the Dharma. Another proverb, “An idler eats away a mountain,” shows how spending without accumulating leads to poverty. Likewise, success and wealth will be spent away sooner or later if one could not accumulate merits through Buddhist practices. Making external and especially internal offerings is the practices for collect merits and attain “peacefulness in this life, ultimate bliss for the afterlife.”

I was fortunate to follow the footsteps of the Guru, to declare aloud “I take refuge in the Guru, the Buddha, the Dharma, and Sangha”, to practice “Meditation on Boddhicitta”, “Samayagdrsti-Prabha Samadhi”, “Uninterrupted offerings,” and especially, to connect with the pure spiritual energy from the Guru and the Buddhas through the foundational practices towards Enlightenment, helping myself and others to attain “peacefulness in this life, ultimate bliss for the afterlife.” As Ven. Geshe Kharak Gomchugn has stated, “The Guru must be revered as the origin of all attainment, both worldly and beyond.”

May all Buddhists will not disregard their precious opportunities to cultivate accordingly to the orbit of the Dharma for the attainments in this life and the afterlife.

May the light of the Dharma enlighten everywhere.

Om Mani Padme Hum.

Mật Diệu Hằng

Translated by Mật Nhất Nguyên

Vietnamese version: Thư Hà Nội: MỘT GÓC NHÌN VỀ HOẠT ĐỘNG TỪ THIỆN 

  1. Mô Phật !

    Mật Diễm hoan hỷ với thiện hạnh của Mật Nhất Nguyên đã chuyển ngữ bài viết của đạo huynh Mật Diệu Hằng sang tiếng Anh. Ngõ hầu giúp cho các bạn đọc hữu duyên với ngôn ngữ này có cơ hội biết đến  bộ môn yaga Thanh Trí thông qua kênh vận chuyển vị Thầy  làm lợi mình, lợi người .

    Con cầu nguyện sức khỏe và sự trường thọ Thầy Cô vì lợi lạc chúng sanh.

    Cầu nguyện cho tất cả chúng sanh tỉnh thức với trạng thái giác ngộ.



  2. Tantra Amishuta says:

    Dear Holy Guru,

    This article makes sense to me I appreciate  you taking the time to write it for us. Thank you so much for your lessons I learn more with each new writing. Om Mani Padme Hum and may you be well for the sake of all others. May we continue on our path to liberation and may we find enlightenment in this lifetime.

  3. Tantra Upatissa says:

    Dear Guru thanks for sharing this article.

    Thanks to Mat Dieu Hung also for writing such a beautiful article and explaining us the importance of human life. We should not ignore this precious human birth and we should try to accumulate as much as merits possible for having peacefulness in this life and in coming lives. We must also help others to stay connected with Dharma orbit and do our best to get them liberated.

    May Guru and his consort live long and protected and get enlightened.

    May all beings be free from suffering and get enlightened.

    May Guru’s disciples be free from suffering and get enlightened.

    Om Mani Padme Hum..

    • Nguyên Thành
      Nguyên Thành says:

      I agree that We must also help others to stay connected with Dharma orbit but not do our best to get them liberated beacaus they are dont want to be free from suffering!

  4. Mật Diệu Hương says:

    Dear Guru,

    I have already read this article in Vietnamese. Thank you so much for your sharing!

    May this lesson be spread everywhere for the sake of all sentiment beings!

    May the light of Dharma enlighten everywhere!

    Om Mani Padme Hum.

  5. Bishnu Prasad Das says:

    Respected Guru Ji,

    Charity and its proper utilization is a matter. Most of the people and Charitable trust are providing Charity for advertisement, self publicity and anticipation to to get profit from it. In other term it is an indirect business game.

                  Dharma and Charity both are different…. two types of characters are available in the society , 1st type is about 99% those who like publicity and to grow through charity. 2nd type is only 1% who are silent charity holder…never bother for publicity…they only know how to solve the problems of victims, how to feed the hungry, how to give shelter to the homeless. This is one type of Dharma.

             Guru ji taught us some good lessons and Buddhism shows the right way to implement the real advice of Buddha for the peaceful life.

    Nice article and meaningful advice…..i feel myself cool when go through this type of letters. We are waiting for the next letter…..

    Om Mani Padme Hum.

    Tantra Vikrachitta.

    Bishnu Prasad Das



  6.  Tantra Mahavita says:

    Dear Holy Guru : Thank you very much for sharing this beautiful article and explaining the importance of human life . Dharma and charity are different .Our Guru teaches us good lessons and Buddhism shows  and  the correct way to implement the Budhhas true advice for peace feel life .I appreciate that you take the time to share it with us . We must not ignore this precious human birth and we must try to acumulate everything possible to have peace in this life and in the coming days .We must also helps others to stay connected with the orbit of the Dharma and do our best to liberate them .Long time and this protege .All beings are free of suffering and enlightened .OM MANI PADME HUM

  7. Mô Phật!

    Mật thúy rất hoan hỉ với thiện hạnh dịch bài viết của đạo huynh Mật Diệu Hằng sang tiếng Anh của Mật Thất Nguyên  Cầu nguyện cho đạo hữu luôn tin tấn thực hành pháp để được tha lực hộ trì cầu mông tất cả chúng sanh luôn có duyên lành biết đến chánh pháp OM ah hum.

  8. Kính Bạch Thầy.

    Con hoan hỷ tán thán thiện hạnh của đạo huynh Mật Diệu Hằng, đã chuyển ngữ bài viết của Thầy sang tiếng Anh nhằm giúp cho những chúng sanh hữu tình ở nước ngoài, được tiếp cận với ánh sáng chánh pháp của Đức Phật ngang qua những bài viết trên Và được cơ hội bước đi trên con đường giải thoát theo sự chỉ dạy của vị Thầy Mật giáo.

    Con câu nguyện cho sức khỏe và sự trường thọ của Thầy Cô vì hạnh phúc của chúng sanh.

    Cầu mong cho tất cả chúng sanh thành tựu hạnh phúc của Phật tánh.

    Om Mani Padme Hum.

  9. Dr. C H Lakshmi narayan. says:

    Respected Guruji I bow my head at your lotus feet.

    Charity is a process of two steps involving the giving hand which is always up and the receiving hand which is always below !. One’s hands should always be UP !

    By cultivating the Dharma practices of Charity or ” offerings ” you are climbing the ladder step by step to reach the last but one step of ” Renunciation ” to get Enlightenment.! And by taking total refuge in Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, one is cultivating the noble practice of Charity which helps to get rid of sufferings and hunger.

    The real meaning of Charity is ” loving others as you would be loved by” !

    Last but not least is” Practice lots of Charity, Gain little Virtue”

    In this context, I take refuge in Guru, Buddha , Dharma and Sangha to practice ” Meditation on Bodhicitta”, “Samyagdrishti prabha samadhi ” and  ” Charity” to connect with the pure Spiritual Energy from Guru and Buddha through these Practices towards Enlightenment.!

    The Guru must be reverted as to the origin of all attainment of Spiritual Energy and also the detachment of worldly desires and pleasures.!

    Om Mani Padme Hum.

    Dr C H Lakshminarayan.

    (Nirvadeva )

    • Kính bạch Thầy!

      Con xin phép được dịch comment của đạo hữu Tantra Nirvadeva sang tiếng Việt như sau:

      Kính bạch Thầy tâm linh tôn quý!

      Con xin cúi đầu đảnh lễ dưới chân sen của Thầy.

      Từ thiện là một quá trình được thực hiện bằng 2 bước đó là: cho và nhận. Cách tốt nhất để thực hiện việc từ thiền là làm cho cả hai bên, người cho và người nhận đều cùng được lợi lạc. Đó chính là bằng cách thực hành “bố thí”, “cúng dường”, hành giả sẽ từng bước leo lên được bậc thang của tinh yếu giác ngộ  đầu tiên là “xả ly” và dần dần thực hành để đạt giác ngộ. Bằng cách thực hành tác pháp Quy Y, thì hành giả đang thực hành tu pháp cao cả để tích tập công đức để thoát khỏi khổ đau và nghèo đói.

      Thực nghĩa của việc từ thiện đó là: “thương người như thế thương thân”. Nhưng nếu từ thiện không đúng pháp thì cũng chỉ là “làm phước nhiều được phước ít”

      Đọc bài viết này, con nên thực hành xướng ngôn” con quy y Đạo sư, quy y Phật, quy y Pháp, quy y Tăng”, thực hành “bồ đề tâm định quán”,  thực hành “chánh kiến quang minh tam muội” để  kết nối với trường tâm linh thanh tịnh của Thầy và chư Phật; và, thông qua những tu pháp này giúp con đạt được giác ngộ.

      Con cũng ghi nhớ rằng vị Thầy cần được tôn kính như suối nguồn của mọi thành công thế gian và thành tựu xuất thế gian, đồng thời giúp con xả ly những thú vui thế tục và ham muốn thế gian.

      Om Mani Padme Hum.

      Con – C H Lakshminarayan.
      (Nirvadeva ).

  10. Dr. C H Lakshmi narayan. says:

    Correction please.

    ” reverted’. Should be read as ‘reverred ‘.

    ( Typing mistake). Thank you.

  11. Simon Michael says:
    Dear holy Guru,

    I want to use this opportunity to thank you for this wonderful article you have given to us.  I learned a lot regard to charity in other to accumulate merit may you give us the heart of doing good to those that deserves it so that we will accumulate much merit.

    May Guru live long for the seek of happiness of all sentient being.

    Om mani padme hum.

  12. Tantra Sagovana says:
    Dear Guru,

    My name is Tantra Sagovana.

    Thank you for sharing this article.

    Charity and generosity done selflessly and not for self-interest will earn merit, but we must also earn merit and wisdom through other means like keeping the precepts.

    May all sentient beings be healthy and well and be free from suffering.

    May Guru be healthy and well and live long for the benefit of all beings.

    Om Mani Padme Hum.

    Tantra Sagovana (Ahmed Khan)

  13. Totte Nordahl
    Totte Nordahl says:

    Dear Guru

    My name is Tantra Mitraga

    Thank you for this article, and thank you Mat Dieu Hang for the point of view.

    I agree with the differens in charity and offerings. Sadly i meet people that have charity as PR-stunts.

    Thank you and may the light from the three jewels enlighten the path for Guru and his consort.

    Thank you Mat Dieu Hang and may you get your righteous wishes and peaceful on the path of enlightenment

    Regards Tantra Mitraga

    Om Mani Padme hum


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