Taking and Giving
It is seasonal to think about giving, so it may seem odd to title a post Taking and Giving.. how are they related? Well, one thought might be that there is always a receiver for every giver, but that is not what we are talking about here. There is a very special practice in Mahayana Buddhism called Taking and Giving.
In this practice we TAKE by means of compassion and GIVE by means of love. So it is a heartfelt, direct, and “no holds barred” way of practicing love and compassion. How amazing!
You may build up to this practice with developing and enhancing your mind of love, growing your compassion and generally diminishing your self-cherishing. But maybe it is your karma to jump right in, because it is said that in dependence upon this practice of Taking and Giving, we can develop a very special bodhichitta, and then engage successfully in the six perfections, which is the actual path to Buddhahood.
So we start out meditating on Taking. In this meditation we are taking on others’ suffering. We start by just taking on our own future suffering. How clever, really. The Buddhas know we are still full of self-cherishing so we can start by just moving it one step out and taking care of our future selves. This meditation is a POWERFUL method for purifying our negative karma, which , of course, is the main cause of our future suffering.
Then when we have also had experience with patiently acepting our own suffering, we won’t have so much difficulty in taking on the suffering of others. That is the next step, as you might have guessed – taking on the suffering of ALL living beings. We make a heartfelt wish that all the suffering, fear, negative karma, and delusions of all living beings gather together in the aspect of black smoke and dissolve into our heart. In the process our self-cherishing mind is destroyed. We generate joy and meditate on this.
At first we do not have any power to actually take on others’ suffering, but through repetition with conviction, we do gradually develop the actual power to do this. It is like using our imagination to grow our buddha seed and eventually become a Buddha. And at the conclusion of each meditation we definitely dedicate our merit to this end.
Having learned taking, we have increased our merit and now we can give some away. In this meditation we start by imagining we have a pure mind of wishing love and a GREAT accumulation of merit. We further imagine that our body transforms into a wish-fulfilling jewel that has the power to fulfill the wishes of each and every living being. We let infinite light rays radiate from our body and pervade the entire universe and develop the conviction that all living beings are experiencing peace. We develop joy and mediate on this feeling.
We could also focus on specific individuals or types of individuals in our meditation- those sick with cancer, family members with problems, etc. We give each of them what they need to find peace and happiness.
When we finish, we dedicate our merit so that all living beings can find true happiness. This dedication of our merit to others is, in itself a form of giving.
While we are principally training in the thought of giving, we can also engage in taking and giving in practical ways during the meditation break. We can give material help, our skills, our labor, Dharma teachings.. whatever we have. If we meet people who are depressed, we can give time and love. We can also give to animals by being kind to pets, saving insects from drowning, being mindful of the needs of wild creature around us, etc.
Once we have learned these meditations we can go on to the magical practice of mounting giving and taking on the breath.
If you want to learn more, I suggest the book Eight Steps to Happiness by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. ( This book is available in our book store in both book and audio book forms) This is also the book that is currently being studied in our Foundation Program on Thursday nights. Contact our Centre for more information.
This post was written by Julia