“Give so you have no regrets.” All year long, I’ve been contemplating this statement, which I heard attributed to the Buddhist meditation teacher Joseph Goldstein. Someone asked Goldstein how much they should give in “dana,” which is the Pali word for “generosity.” In the Theravada Buddhist tradition, there is basically no set fee for teachers or retreats. Students and retreat participants are to give what they can in the spirit of “dana.” Not surprisingly, many students find this challenging (which is why they have had to impose a minimum).
“Give so you have no regrets,” answered Goldstein. Beautiful, right? Don’t give so much you can’t pay your bills and cause yourself all kinds of suffering, including resentment. Don’t give so little you suffer remorse later over what a cheapskate you are. All year, I’ve considered what it can mean to give so you have no regrets, in money and life.
Now Easter is here, and once again I find myself thinking of the boundless love and generosity of Jesus Christ, giving himself as a sacrifice for the whole world. What an utterly free act, no guarantees, every attachment relinquished in the moment of sacrifice. This year, however, I have a heightened awareness of the difference between that act of divine love and the way we must love, giving (and taking) so that we have no regrets.
Here’s how Richard Smoley puts the issue in “Love and Money” (from the current “Love” issue of Parabola: “What, then, is love? Here is one answer: love is that which unites self and other. This is as simple and naked a characterization as I can imagine, but even so one refinement may be needed. After all the lion loves the lamb so much that it wants to make the lamb one with itself. Perhaps, then, we should add this modification: Love is that which unites slef and other while maintaining the integrity of each.”