Monday, December 22, 2008

Generosity in times of financial hardship

Back in October, I wrote about unwholesome and wholesome states of mind. Today a new reader of this blog, read that post and left a comment thanking me for clearly defining what constitutes wholesome and unwholesome in Buddhist psychology. He inspired me to reread that post, and I was surprised and saddened by its continued relevancy as we face an ever-deepening world financial crisis.

Since this is an annual time of generosity, I thought I would repost this entry, in the hope that it might inspire generosity of giving, especially during this time of financial belt-tightening when we all have so much less to offer the needy and the charitable organizations that help them directly. Some may think, "Oh, I am so financially strained this year, how can I help anyone else?" Just remember that giving feels good for both the giver and the receiver, and there are numerous ways to be generous: we can offer our time, energy, money, creativity or skills. This said, here is the repost of the information on wholesome and unwholesome states of mind.

Buddhist psychology delineates six basic mind states that characterize most affective or cognitive activities of the mind. These six are divided into two groups: three wholesome mind states—Generosity, Love/Compassion, Wisdom; and three unwholesome mind states—Greed, Hatred, Delusion. The overall quality of our lives is primarily dependent upon the amount of time we mentally spend with any of the six mind states. Suffering arises from over-involvement in any of the three unwholesome mind states. Liberation is an outcome of intentional cultivation of one or more of the three wholesome mind states.

The current freefall of the world economy has highlighted the end game of a global over-indulgence in the three unwholesome states of mind. Since the 1980’s the cultivation of greed in business practices has mushroom out of control and like a virus, infected all aspects of the global economy. The ever-increasing desire for more wealth created dysfunctional world markets that have for the last 15 years gorged upon the delusion of permanent expansion as a fact of life. The best example of this would be the directive after 9/11 to display our patriotism by consuming as much as possible.

Greed breeds hatred. Hoarding implies withholding from others; withholding is an outcome of separation; the ideation of separateness from all other existent phenomenon is the primary delusion at the source of all greed and hatred. The desire to remove ourselves from others is rooted in non-caring. Cultivation of the three wholesome mind states decreases the incidence and influence of unwholesome states of mind. Generosity is the antidote for greed. Compassion and lovingkindness are the antidotes for hatred. Wisdom is the antidote for delusion.

As we witness the external collapse of world financial structures, we are presented with a golden opportunity to look within and honestly appraise our own involvement in the three unwholesome states of mind. Radical appraisal requires a bare attentiveness to actualities that can be very painful. Cultivating the three wholesome states of mind—Generosity, Love/Compassion, and Wisdom—helps us bear the pain of staying present with painful insights.

This bare attention is best applied with generosity and compassion toward our own failings, misperceptions and deeds. We must extend this generosity and compassion to include the insights that arise from radical appraisal. Insight combined with compassion and lovingkindness toward self and others blossoms into wisdom. And wisdom ensures our ability to behave more skillfully as we move through this period of crisis and the future rebuilding of a global economy built upon principles of fairness, inclusion, conservation, thoughtfulness, and basic human kindness.

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