Wise Habit, Generosity

DSC_1707 Panyaden School Director, Neil Amasby Panyaden School Director, Neil Amas



Giving and sharing

Panyaden School student giving massage to senior citizen, community service by the school in Chiang Mai

Panyaden students have been practicing Caga (jaa-ka) or generosity. Here is some further information that you may find useful.

Caga (pronounced jaa-ka) means generosity. It is the quality of delighting in giving, sharing or relinquishing and expecting nothing in return; it is when the love of giving becomes a virtue in itself. Caga is being generous not only with material things but also with your time, your energy, your forgiveness, and your willingness to be fair and just with other people. It is the opposite of selfishness, stinginess, being attached to me and my things, needs or views, and, as such, caga also means to give up those thoughts and habits.

Dana (’giving’ or ‘gift’) is the external manifestation of the internal quality of caga. While giving can be done without generosity, such as in order to get something in return or for the promise of a future reward, dana that is motivated by caga is so much greater.  Giving up the unwholesome thoughts that prevent generosity, such as meanness and unwillingness to forgive, are also qualities of caga. We might see this as a ‘gift’ to ourselves.

Caga is the foundation of dhamma practise, being a pre-condition for sila-samadhi-panya (Threefold Training).  It is also one of the 5 attributes that must be cultivated if one is to enter the higher stages of dhamma practise (‘stream-entry’): sadda (conviction), sila (moral conduct), suta (learning), caga and panya (wisdom).

Ajahn Chah
Ajahn Chah

Helping others and offering service are ways of stepping over the boundaries of me and mine which, when stretched, often make us feel uncomfortable or threatened (Ajahn Pasanno, A Dhamma Compass). Forgiveness is a further step, a higher form of dana, because it is more difficult to forgive than it is to give material things.  The highest form of giving is dhammadana or sharing the principles and practise of dhamma. This is not beyond non-monastics. Venerable Ajahn Chah once said, ‘It is enough to set good examples and follow the Precepts.’ Like the vine which grows and is shaped by the nearest tree, children are more effected by their parents’ example than anything else. When we think of the people who have most positively influenced our lives, ‘’it is not because of the kinds of cars they own or vacations they have taken but because they have been trustworthy, kind and patient with us. They’ve made us feel good, no matter how badly we feel about ourselves. This kind of giving is not beyond the capacity of anybody. Increasing well-being and decreasing dukkha (dissatisfaction, suffering) are gifts we can all give” (Ajahn Pasanno, ibid).

From an early age if children are praised and encouraged for freely giving to others, they grow up with a pleasant feeling associated with being generous. The idea that you gain happiness by giving things away does not come automatically to a young child’s mind, but with practice they will find that it is true. They will learn that when we give, we put ourselves in a position of wealth. The gift, no matter how small, is proof that you have more than enough. Caga helps build confidence in children because by being able to help other people we develop a sense of self-worth. It also creates a sense of openness in the mind which helps break down boundaries with others that otherwise would keep the goodwill from spreading around. Caga can be a catalyst for family togetherness because, as Venerable Jayasaro notes, ’’few things enhance the sense of connection between family members as group acts of generosity.”

The nature of the desire mind is that, even when we have enough, we feel there is always a lack of this or that, never enough, or we fear that something is going to slip away or get taken away from us. This creates a confined, fearful world because there’s never enough, as opposed to the confident and trusting world we create through acts of generosity. As we practice caga, we realise that we can get by on less, and that there is a pleasure that comes with giving to people. This, it can be said, is a true sense of wealth.

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Download above article in THAI (ในภาษาไทย): Caga_THAI, Panyaden School

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