When a Buddhist monk or nun ordains, they give away everything. They give away their relationships, their families, their business career or job, house, car, clothes - everything. They trade it all for three simple robes and a begging bowl, and perhaps a chance to see the “Dhamma" - a catalyst for personal transformation.
Then they even give away any understanding that they might attain, by not being attached or proud of it, but by teaching others how to understand for themselves. And within all of this giving away, a Buddhist monk or nun discovers the only true happiness - letting go of everything, which is the basis of true generosity and the only complete happiness that we human beings can achieve. Because when we hold onto things; anything, we are always afraid of losing it someday.
Letting go involves relinquishing closely held opinions and judgments, because opinions and judgments are offshoots of the one big opinion - “self. " When we hold tight to anything, especially ideals and opinions, we become tight internally; our hearts become tight, afraid that someone will challenge our opinions. And being afraid means that we are uncertain, deep inside, that our opinions are true. Opinions are usually something we have heard and taken as our belief, because seldom do we do an in depth, open minded investigation of our opinions, looking at all sides of the argument objectively. We likewise become confused with the idea of a “self, " that “I" thought that keeps us from lasting happiness.
If we have an old coat hanging in the closet that we no longer need, it is easy to give it away. And when we begin to see through the illusions of the world, when our illusions become no different from old, worn out coats for which we have no further use, then it is easy for us to give that all up as well. We no longer “give" to feel good, or to gain some kind of merit, we now give because we personally no longer have a need for that which we find ourselves giving to others.
Now, time for ourselves is not so important, and we give our time to others. And after we have enough money to live modestly, we begin to take care of the needs of others. We do this because we only need so much; we don't need an endless supply of money. We no longer need absolute security either because the one who was so insecure, our false “I" thought, no longer plagues us as it did before.
And as we slowly give up all that we once required to keep ourselves happy, and which did just the opposite, we find ourselves slowly becoming really happy, for true generosity, giving with the heart, and not the mind, is the only true happiness.
E. Raymond Rock of Fort Myers, Florida is cofounder and principal teacher at the Southwest Florida Insight Center, http://www.SouthwestFloridaInsightCenter.com His twenty-eight years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents, including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Theravada Buddhist monk. His book, A Year to Enlightenment (Career Press/New Page Books) is now available at major bookstores and online retailers. Visit http://www.AYearToEnlightenment.com