Should we be generous to the ungrateful?

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archaic
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Should we be generous to the ungrateful?

Post by archaic » Thu Dec 06, 2018 12:43 am

I love to be generous. Even when I expect nothing in return. I don't mine anonymous generosity, in fact this can be the best kind.

However. I react differently when dealing with difficult people, or those who are so caught up in egocenteredness, who just expect others to help them without consideration to the sacrifice or effort made on their behalf.

It seems a slightly unskilled use of one's own merits to spend time when a person *expects* you to help and is thereafter ungrateful.

Did Buddha say anything about this?

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Re: Should we be generous to the ungrateful?

Post by Queequeg » Thu Dec 06, 2018 1:01 am

There's a story about a previous life of Shariputra. There are some variations... here's my mash up - He was practicing the Bodhisattva path. He was approached by a Brahmin who asked him for his eye. Shariputra dug out his left eye and gave it to the Brahmin. The Brahmin said, no, he needed the right eye. Shariputra just thought, I should have asked first. He then dug out his other eye and gave it to the Brahmin. The Brahmin took it, smelled it and threw it on the ground saying it was smelly. Shariputra didn't get mad, but concluded saving others was hard and that he would just concentrate on his own awakening, backsliding into the Hinayana.

I don't know if that's on point. It answers your subject line, I think, but not the question in the body of your post.

Teachings on the dana paramita suggest the recipient's attitude, disposition, reaction should not figure into practicing dana. We should give without even considering it giving. The ideal may be Buddha's previous life where he gave everything away to Devadatta. Talk about an entitled, thankless jerk.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

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Re: Should we be generous to the ungrateful?

Post by Ogyen » Thu Dec 06, 2018 2:04 am

If I dare be so bold, there is a way to evaluate with clarity 1. your resources and capacity, 2. the other's capacity, and 3. understand all generosity comes from your own motivation.

What I'm getting at is that it seems to be a question of skillfulness not generosity in itself. I'm sure there's a kind of "idiot generosity" in the sense of actually causing harm through wanting to be generous, just like there is such a thing as "idiot compassion" where without skillfulness one harms another through enabling some terrible habit.

You should be generous as a practice to cut ego, and that should work within your best capacity to do what you can when it can benefit others. A buddha can be very generous with someone who might actually react poorly even spit on him and yet the buddha's clarity is so perfectly developed that the way he responds might be the very seed that plants a new doubt in that ungrateful person... Someone who isn't a buddha might just get their feelings hurt, get wrapped in their karmic vision and go "why did I help that person, they didn't deserve it"

When I'm generous or giving I always look at myself and remember this is about me, not so much about the resulting gratitude or misunderstanding from someone who may not appreciate my kindness or even suspect of my motives. If I'm not able to be clear, I let myself be however I need to be at my capacity remembering to always be my own witness... eventually with practice, clarity emerges and it becomes more evident that my generosity has everything to do with my skillfulness and nothing to do with whether someone else "deserves" or doesn't deserve my kindness... Gratitude is not a coin. It's a result of a humble mind.

Essentially, you choose to be who you are because it's your habituation that you're working with, not theirs. If you are a naturally generous person you may have to learn to balance that with some sensible/common sense self-protection. If you're naturally a greedy or stingy person, you might have to learn to be generous to soften up some of that rigid ego. I see generosity is a vehicle not an end in itself.

:meditate:
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Re: Should we be generous to the ungrateful?

Post by archaic » Thu Dec 06, 2018 7:46 am

Yes, thank you!

I feel if one has limited resources, one must deploy them with skill.

If one uses resources on another who cannot be thankful, or use the resources wisely, you don't actually improve their life.

For example, it would make little sense to donate money to a person who is known to gamble and waste all their resources in that way.

Another example would be a person who never worked hard for their money, expects and is used to fancy gifts, and wastes what they have... It would seem to be unwise to spend precious resources on such a person.

In our world there are many potential targets for generosity... Those who would truly feel gratitude for one's efforts would seem to be a better target. You could improve their life and they would be most likely to pay-it-forward and spread generosity to others.

Giving an alcoholic 20$ so they can buy another 26 ounces seems counterproductive on numerous levels.

I am not sure about Sariputta... This story to me seems like giving his eyes is more of a demonstration of unattachment rather than generosity, because how can it be generous to give someone else your eyes when they obviously can't use them to see for themselves or any other useful purpose.

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Re: Should we be generous to the ungrateful?

Post by archaic » Thu Dec 06, 2018 7:56 am

From a purely behavioural perspective it is pointless to reward poor behaviour. If a dog bites you and you give it treats it learns nothing.

If you know a person to be thankless, why perpetuate or enable that mindeset to continue? Better to have them struggle and figure it out on their own until they see the effort needed and feel thankful to be the recipient of generosity.

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Re: Should we be generous to the ungrateful?

Post by shaunc » Thu Dec 06, 2018 9:17 am

I help some overseas relatives with a small business venture. It only costs us about $50AUD/week and it'll take about 2 years for them to see a return (approximately one year left).
But to the point in question, they're doing the work, I'm only rolling a bit of bugs bunny into it, they know what it's like to struggle and I feel very confident that they are grateful for the leg up.
I don't think that I could feel happy about donating to ungrateful people.
Just my 2 bobs worth.

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Re: Should we be generous to the ungrateful?

Post by edgar_d » Thu Dec 06, 2018 9:32 am

Ungrateful people are perhaps the people most in need of generosity. Remember the old bishop in Les Miserables who houses and feeds the escaped convict Jean Valjean, who in turn, ends up stealing the church silver from him? When caught and brought by the police back to the bishop, the bishop lies and says that he gave him the silver as a gift. This unexpected act of kindness following as it did, Valjean's theft, shakes him to the core and begins a transformation. In this moment, the old bishop's heart touched Valjean's bitter and wounded heart and set it on the path of healing.

Perhaps the true giving is to those whose hearts need it the most and they are often the most difficult customers.

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Re: Should we be generous to the ungrateful?

Post by Grigoris » Thu Dec 06, 2018 9:45 am

archaic wrote:
Thu Dec 06, 2018 7:46 am
If one uses resources on another who cannot be thankful, or use the resources wisely, you don't actually improve their life.
They are two seperate things. You may improve the life of the ungrateful person, even if they do not show gratitude to you.
In our world there are many potential targets for generosity... Those who would truly feel gratitude for one's efforts would seem to be a better target. You could improve their life and they would be most likely to pay-it-forward and spread generosity to others.
Ummmm... No. Generosity is not meant to be about you feeling good. It is meant to be about benefiting others. If you feel remorse about giving, then there is no benefit for you from the action, but rather than stop giving it is better to figure out why you feel remorse. It is better to analyse why you feel people should show gratitude to you.
I am not sure about Sariputta... This story to me seems like giving his eyes is more of a demonstration of unattachment rather than generosity, because how can it be generous to give someone else your eyes when they obviously can't use them to see for themselves or any other useful purpose.
Generosity is all about generating a lack of attachment. You are assuming that the eyes were not useful, as it fits your current narrative.

The tale is about the need for the application of wisdom when being generous.
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
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Re: Should we be generous to the ungrateful?

Post by Queequeg » Thu Dec 06, 2018 2:51 pm

http://www.buddha-images.com/vessantara-jataka.asp

I believe in the Pali tradition, this was the Buddha's last incarnation as a human before becoming Buddha.

IIRC in the Mahayana tradition, the Buddha feeds himself to a starving tigress and her cubs.

As mentioned above, the perfection of giving is overcoming attachment. The perfection of giving is giving beyond any reasonable bound. Who would give away their wife and children? Who would feed themselves to a tiger?

The thought of thinking a gift through, how it might be received and used by the recipient, that's a lot of idle thought. Sounds exhausting. Its certainly a lot of attachment to that gift which we are told is undermining the merit of that gift. And is it really generosity? Or is that some sort of investment, emotional, pecuniary or otherwise?

And if one's reaction is to fret about the recipient, maybe that's a reason to practice dana - to cultivate non-attachment. To practice not being attached to stuff. Even better if the recipient spits on your gift and throws it back at you. That takes something to not get angry.

I don't know. Like a lot of practice, dana is just something to do. Just do it. Don't worry about how it shakes out. The outcome is beyond control anyway.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

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Re: Should we be generous to the ungrateful?

Post by archaic » Thu Dec 06, 2018 4:38 pm

edgar_d wrote:
Thu Dec 06, 2018 9:32 am
Ungrateful people are perhaps the people most in need of generosity. Remember the old bishop in Les Miserables who houses and feeds the escaped convict Jean Valjean, who in turn, ends up stealing the church silver from him? When caught and brought by the police back to the bishop, the bishop lies and says that he gave him the silver as a gift. This unexpected act of kindness following as it did, Valjean's theft, shakes him to the core and begins a transformation. In this moment, the old bishop's heart touched Valjean's bitter and wounded heart and set it on the path of healing.

Perhaps the true giving is to those whose hearts need it the most and they are often the most difficult customers.
Alright, so we do give money to the alcoholic?
Are we being generous to give them what they think/believe they want, or are we being generous to give them what we think/believe they need?

I appreciate your example, but in this world we are presented with many who will take, take, take...
They would squeeze the life from a newborn for a hot dollar. I don't believe Buddha would prescribe them more infants.

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Re: Should we be generous to the ungrateful?

Post by archaic » Thu Dec 06, 2018 5:06 pm

Grigoris wrote:
Thu Dec 06, 2018 9:45 am
archaic wrote:
Thu Dec 06, 2018 7:46 am
If one uses resources on another who cannot be thankful, or use the resources wisely, you don't actually improve their life.
They are two seperate things. You may improve the life of the ungrateful person, even if they do not show gratitude to you.
Agreed, one may improve the life of an ungrateful person by being generous. In this case I would strive to be generous.

Now, in the case that I could choose between 2 equal recipients for my generosity, where both would benefit equally yet one would show gratitude or thankfulness or humility, I might prefer to give to them. Why? Perhaps my understanding is limited, but they would appear to have developed the awareness to understand the meaning behind it. I could chop off my arm and bury it in the soil for worms to feast on, but I'd prefer to use my arm to help those who are more aware.
In our world there are many potential targets for generosity... Those who would truly feel gratitude for one's efforts would seem to be a better target. You could improve their life and they would be most likely to pay-it-forward and spread generosity to others.
Ummmm... No. Generosity is not meant to be about you feeling good. It is meant to be about benefiting others. If you feel remorse about giving, then there is no benefit for you from the action, but rather than stop giving it is better to figure out why you feel remorse. It is better to analyse why you feel people should show gratitude to you.
Referring to your "ummm...noo Generosity is not meant to be about you feeling good" comment, you confuse me.

Where did I say generosity is for me feeling good? Did I not directly refer to skillful use of ones resources?

I do agree with your recommendation of self-awareness regarding "why people should show gratitude to you" except for the last 2 words. It's nothing about me, it's about them showing gratitude in general.

Why do I feel they should show gratitude? I would say it's not about my feelings on what they should or should not be doing, its about my desire to skilfully deploying my limited resources to those who would most benefit.

I'd say that all things being equal, a person who does show gratitude likely benefits more than one who does not.
I am not sure about Sariputta... This story to me seems like giving his eyes is more of a demonstration of unattachment rather than generosity, because how can it be generous to give someone else your eyes when they obviously can't use them to see for themselves or any other useful purpose.
Generosity is all about generating a lack of attachment. You are assuming that the eyes were not useful, as it fits your current narrative.
The tale is about the need for the application of wisdom when being generous.
Certainly the giving away of the eyes was useful to Sariputta to generate non-attachment, as I said "a demonstration of unattachment".

The question I ask, "to fit my current narrative" is could those eyes be used to help many others by Sariputta were he to retain them?

If so, then giving them away to the Brahmin who would be incapable of using them is such a way was not skillful, and the story must be purely referring to non-attachment rather than generosity. Again, this is what I was referring to earlier when I mentioned skillful use of generosity.

Grigoris you have a critical mind, and made some good points, thank you.

However from some of your statements I am not sure you thoroughly read what I posted early because you seemed to be correcting me by restating what I just stated. But perhaps I did not state my thoughts clearly enough the first time around, which caused you to misunderstand.

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Re: Should we be generous to the ungrateful?

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Thu Dec 06, 2018 5:07 pm

Yes, you should be generous to anyone you can, which is not the same in any way as enabling someone'a addiction. Really, the difference is pretty common sense., and your examples are a little silly. There are a million ways to be generous to (for example) an alcoholic other than giving them money for booze.

As far as whether or not they're grateful, it's pretty self-serving to base your generosity on whether or not people appreciate it. Additionally, there are lots of people who will thank you profusely who might, in fact, not appreciate it that much are are simply keeping up appearances. It is not so easy to measure something like gratitude in someone else.
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Re: Should we be generous to the ungrateful?

Post by archaic » Thu Dec 06, 2018 5:10 pm

Queequeg wrote:
Thu Dec 06, 2018 2:51 pm
http://www.buddha-images.com/vessantara-jataka.asp

I believe in the Pali tradition, this was the Buddha's last incarnation as a human before becoming Buddha.

IIRC in the Mahayana tradition, the Buddha feeds himself to a starving tigress and her cubs.

As mentioned above, the perfection of giving is overcoming attachment. The perfection of giving is giving beyond any reasonable bound. Who would give away their wife and children? Who would feed themselves to a tiger?

The thought of thinking a gift through, how it might be received and used by the recipient, that's a lot of idle thought. Sounds exhausting. Its certainly a lot of attachment to that gift which we are told is undermining the merit of that gift. And is it really generosity? Or is that some sort of investment, emotional, pecuniary or otherwise?

And if one's reaction is to fret about the recipient, maybe that's a reason to practice dana - to cultivate non-attachment. To practice not being attached to stuff. Even better if the recipient spits on your gift and throws it back at you. That takes something to not get angry.

I don't know. Like a lot of practice, dana is just something to do. Just do it. Don't worry about how it shakes out. The outcome is beyond control anyway.
Thank you for this post.

In regards to your last paragraph, I do agree with the spirit of your words yet I know Buddha valued discernment as incredibly important on the path. Mindless exercising of dana seems to be the opposite of employing of discernment.

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Re: Should we be generous to the ungrateful?

Post by archaic » Thu Dec 06, 2018 5:16 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Thu Dec 06, 2018 5:07 pm
Yes, you should be generous to anyone you can, which is not the same in any way as enabling someone'a addiction. Really, the difference is pretty common sense., and your examples are a little silly. There are a million ways to be generous to (for example) an alcoholic other than giving them money for booze.

As far as whether or not they're grateful, it's pretty self-serving to base your generosity on whether or not people appreciate it. Additionally, there are lots of people who will thank you profusely who might, in fact, not appreciate it that much are are simply keeping up appearances. It is not so easy to measure something like gratitude in someone else.
Yes Johnny my examples were meant to be "in extremis" in order to draw attention to the opposite side of the coin which is mean to ask, is there any difference between mindless generosity and skillful generosity.

You seem to be indicating there is no difference whatsoever and that discernment should not play a part in giving. Therefore if I met someone in extreme need of my shirt because they were shivering, versus a person who wanted my shirt simply because they liked the colour, I should not consider either difference and give the shirt to both equally.

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Re: Should we be generous to the ungrateful?

Post by archaic » Thu Dec 06, 2018 5:22 pm

There seems to be some confusion...

Some people seem to be thinking I want gratitude for myself... This is not the case.

I gain no reward from a person's direct gratitude, in fact I prefer to avoid being the direct recipient of gratitude.

I do however look for the person to show gratitude in general, which is tied to humility. Why this is... Well that's somewhat the point of this thread is to explore why.

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Re: Should we be generous to the ungrateful?

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Thu Dec 06, 2018 5:36 pm

So you want to give based on your judgement of someones humility? Theres enough wrong with that it'll take some time to unpack.
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Re: Should we be generous to the ungrateful?

Post by archaic » Thu Dec 06, 2018 5:52 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Thu Dec 06, 2018 5:36 pm
So you want to give based on your judgement of someones humility? Theres enough wrong with that it'll take some time to unpack.
The purpose of this thread is to explore the issue.

When you state it like "you want to give based on your judgement of someones humility?", it seems one-sided and judgemental of my own intentions.

My actual intention is to better appreciate the use of wisdom, skill, or discernment, when exercising generosity, as the Sariputta story seemed also to be related to.

You mention relying on common sense but clearly either you have common sense and I do not, in which case I would like your assistance in determining what common sense is.... Or both of us have a different version of common sense, in which case I would invite us to share and compare in that a common understanding could be built. Or the other possibility is that you have no common sense and I have it, in which case you should be listening.

If this topic was totally black and white, there would be no use for this thread. To me this is not a black and white issue, I am sorry if this violates your understanding.

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Re: Should we be generous to the ungrateful?

Post by Grigoris » Thu Dec 06, 2018 7:43 pm

archaic wrote:
Thu Dec 06, 2018 5:06 pm
Where did I say generosity is for me feeling good?
And I quote:
...without consideration to the sacrifice or effort made on their behalf.
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde

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Re: Should we be generous to the ungrateful?

Post by Ogyen » Thu Dec 06, 2018 8:07 pm

Grigoris wrote:
Thu Dec 06, 2018 9:45 am
Generosity is not meant to be about you feeling good. It is meant to be about benefiting others. If you feel remorse about giving, then there is benefit for you from the action, but rather than stop giving it is better to figure out why you feel remorse. It is better to analyse why you feel people should show gratitude to you.
:good:

100% agree

I did't get that the OP was necessarily saying about NEEDING to feel gratitude towards oneself, but noting gratitude as a marker of capacity in someone else, and being able to gauge one's means and skill in relation to that.

It's not an easy terrain to navigate in a practical sense, and I get that the OP is trying to establish a methodology in how to approach the "case by case" basis. AND one's own obscurations DO play into this process... I know I always have to check my motivations in altruism, and be really clear (as much as my capacity allows) to make sure that my action IS OF BENEFIT and not an ego stroke. Because you're 100% right it has nothing to do with self-gratification, but being subject to karmic vision, well, that's easier said than done... :tongue:

----> "My religion is not deceiving myself."
ALL of this ^^^
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Re: Should we be generous to the ungrateful?

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Thu Dec 06, 2018 10:31 pm

archaic wrote:
Thu Dec 06, 2018 5:52 pm
Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Thu Dec 06, 2018 5:36 pm
So you want to give based on your judgement of someones humility? Theres enough wrong with that it'll take some time to unpack.
The purpose of this thread is to explore the issue.

When you state it like "you want to give based on your judgement of someones humility?", it seems one-sided and judgemental of my own intentions.

My actual intention is to better appreciate the use of wisdom, skill, or discernment, when exercising generosity, as the Sariputta story seemed also to be related to.

You mention relying on common sense but clearly either you have common sense and I do not, in which case I would like your assistance in determining what common sense is.... Or both of us have a different version of common sense, in which case I would invite us to share and compare in that a common understanding could be built. Or the other possibility is that you have no common sense and I have it, in which case you should be listening.

If this topic was totally black and white, there would be no use for this thread. To me this is not a black and white issue, I am sorry if this violates your understanding.

It's not black and white, but putting conditions on generosity is not really generosity - this is arguably pretty basic Buddhist teaching. Not really engaging with the rest of the above proliferation.

Most of your examples (things like giving an addict money for drugs etc.) aren't even an example of generosity in the first place, because typically they aren't motivated by any kind of altruistic drive. Ask anyone who has been involved in co dependent relationship with an addict, that kind of "giving" has nothing to do with generosity.

So basically, you are asking if you should set conditions on generosity, the basic Buddhist answer to this question is "no". Of course, other ways of thinking may have different things to say about it. Not setting conditions on one's generosity does not mean that you give anything to anyone who asks uncritically, it means that when you do so, you do so with no expectation of results, and you do not make the giving dependent on results that you prefer. But it does not preclude withholding something based on rational observation that giving someone something might make their situation worse, rather than better. That is the part which is "common sense".

It really is not complicated, if you know someone is going to do something harmful with what you give them, then you find another way to be generous, that is where discernment comes in, not in judging someone else's ethical use of your own generosity.

Here's is an interesting text on benefiting beings by Patrul Rinpoche:

http://www.lotsawahouse.org/tibetan-mas ... iderations
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