Resistance to acts of charity

Buddhist ethical conduct including the Five Precepts (Pañcasikkhāpada), and Eightfold Ethical Conduct (Aṭṭhasīla).
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angryrika
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Resistance to acts of charity

Post by angryrika » Mon Dec 15, 2014 3:40 pm

How do you overcome the guilt associated with not paying somebody back? Is this sense of remorse sometimes necessary? How do you deal with others generously giving you things you don't ask for or need without feeling like a greedy person for accepting?

I have two examples:

My aunt and uncle just recently mailed my family christmas treats (cookies, pastries, etc) and I didn't tell them until a couple of days after. My mom said that it's important for her to know right away, so she can send something back and not be a "bad person".

My half-sister recently invited me to visit her in New York — she paid for the plane ticket. My dad really didn't want her to, and he's giving me money to pay her back in full (200+ dollars). Not only would he be feeling guilty about her paying for the trip, but I'm also feeling guilty since I don't have a job and it's my second trip out-of-state this year that my dad's paid for (I don't have a job).
For a person tormented by evil thoughts, who is passion-dominated and given to the pursuit of pleasure, his craving steadily grows. He makes the fetter strong, indeed. He who delights in subduing evil thoughts, who meditates on the impurities and is ever mindful — it is he who will make an end of craving and rend asunder Mara's fetter.

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Sam Vara
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Re: Resistance to acts of charity

Post by Sam Vara » Mon Dec 15, 2014 4:17 pm

Interesting question.

This doesn't seem to be "resistance to acts of charity", but more about a temporary inability to respond in a way that the recipients would like to. My guess is that most people would like to have more of those acts of kindness, providing that they could themselves be kind.

There is a difference between feeling bad because we can't express our love and appreciation, and feeling bad because we fear people will think us mean, ungrateful, or just poor. If it is the first, then we can remind ourselves that this is already kammically wholesome - the recipient of the charity has good intentions towards others. You can remind them of this, and maybe encourage them express it through a letter or email. If someone does good, it is good to thank them.

If it is the second, then the motivation is more about fear and imagined social pressures. My advice would be to encourage your relatives to concentrate on the good that other people are doing, rather than those pressures which they feel. But it's a tough one. It is deeply culturally engrained, so there is not much one can do for other people. Focus on freeing yourself, by focussing on the positive aspects of giving.

perkele
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Re: Resistance to acts of charity

Post by perkele » Mon Dec 15, 2014 4:47 pm

My aunt and uncle just recently mailed my family christmas treats (cookies, pastries, etc) and I didn't tell them until a couple of days after. My mom said that it's important for her to know right away, so she can send something back and not be a "bad person".
That sounds sensible (by your Mom).
My half-sister recently invited me to visit her in New York — she paid for the plane ticket. My dad really didn't want her to, and he's giving me money to pay her back in full (200+ dollars). Not only would he be feeling guilty about her paying for the trip, but I'm also feeling guilty since I don't have a job and it's my second trip out-of-state this year that my dad's paid for (I don't have a job).
Being in the position of beneficiary for sure can be humbling. I know that.

I would say feeling guilty in these circumstance, is rooted in a kind of conceit. "I should not be in this position." against the fact that you are in this position. So it's a kind of struggle against the reality of your position. That, things being as they are, you are much dependent on others' kindness towards you.

I would say, accept it gracefully, make yourself humble, to gently work against that conceit. By receiving and accepting consciously, with a heart of kindness and gratitude, that you carry on into the moment, you actually would be paying back a lot.

I don't know if you do this practice. The Buddha taught the anussati, ten, or maybe six, themes to recollect from time to time. One of them is, I think "recollecting one's own virtues/generosity/etc."
For me, at some time, when I really had to depend on others, and still, I rather turned that into "recollecting the good deeds of others". Because as far as I could see realistically, my only true goodness could come from being grateful and remembering what good had been done to me. I think it is worth, and possibly a relief, to direct your mind in this way. Rejoice in, appreciate the goodness that is done for you. Turn the guilt inside out, transform it into metta and gratitude. It also can invigorate and somehow supply incentive for action to be on the ready when the opportunity arises to reciprocate the goodness done to you.

It is an ideal of our time that we are all so independent. But we are not. And it is a good quality of the heart to know this reality and be mindful of it.

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angryrika
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Re: Resistance to acts of charity

Post by angryrika » Mon Dec 15, 2014 9:03 pm

Thank you both :goodpost: :goodpost:
For a person tormented by evil thoughts, who is passion-dominated and given to the pursuit of pleasure, his craving steadily grows. He makes the fetter strong, indeed. He who delights in subduing evil thoughts, who meditates on the impurities and is ever mindful — it is he who will make an end of craving and rend asunder Mara's fetter.

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