This excerpt on Generosity is from No Time to Lose, by Pema Chödrön, © 2005. Reproduced by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc., www.shambhala.com
But those who fill with bliss
All beings destitute of joy,
Who cut all pain and suffering away
From those weighed down with misery,
Who drive away the darkness of their ignorance—
What virtue could be matched with theirs?
What friend could be compared to them?
What merit is there similar to this?
Verses 20 and 30 refer indirectly to the paramita
of generosity, the generosity that frees us from stress and selfishness. According to the teachings, there are three types of generosity, three ways of helping others by giving of ourselves.
The first kind of generosity is the giving of material things, such as food and shelter.
The second is "giving the gift of fearlessness." We help those who are afraid. If someone is scared of the dark, we give them a flashlight; if they're going through a fearful time, we comfort them; if they're having night terrors, we sleep next to them. This may sound easy, but it takes time and effort and care.
The third kind of generosity drives away the darkness of ignorance. This is "the gift of dharma" and is considered the most profound. Although no one can eliminate our ignorance but ourselves, nevertheless, through example and through teachings, we can inspire and support one another.
The inconceivable wish to help all sentient beings always begins with oneself. Our own experience is the only thing we have to share.