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Judith Johnson

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Generosity or Greed -- It's a Matter of Choice

Posted: 03/15/2012 11:09 am

"There is a struggle that is more interesting than pleasure or ego satisfaction... There is something far more interesting than what money can buy." -- Jacob Needleman

I find it fascinating that 92 percent of Americans claim belief in God yet current politics suggest that only 1 percent of us have it all while the other 99 percent share in experiencing not enough. If we are all equal in the eyes of God, how come we are so far from that in the eyes of man? What have we created, promoted and allowed to happen here?

All major religious and spiritual traditions urge us to live our lives from the inside out, expressing outward into the world instead of in reaction to externals. We are urged to ground our consciousness in the core of our being where we find a oneness with others that allows us to be together in a loving, caring and cooperative manner. Whether one believes that this core of our being is God or love or something else, when we touch into this place an urge to unite is aroused. Some fear that this urge to unite is diametrically opposed to personal material wealth and comfort. Others suggest that as in the two parables of the loaves and the fishes where Jesus is said to have fed a multitude with just a few small barley loaves and fish, compassion creates possibilities that are invisible to those driven by self-interest.

Since we are social beings, we are individually and collectively faced with an existential challenge regarding our level of concern for the welfare of others. Each collective, whether a family, a country or our entire global community, contributes to the state of our consciousness through the creation of a particular set of social systems and culture. Each collective encourages us towards certain beliefs, desires and behaviors, and discourages us from others. Each inclines its members towards competition or cooperation in relationships with others.

Unfortunately, in contemporary American society the two major relationship models are co-dependency and competition. Neither fosters a strong sense of self-worth, equality or caring for one another. As a result, most individuals end up as losers in these models.

Money and material wealth have become the language and measurement of human value. Our economic system, which necessitates growth to survive, serves as the bedrock of society. The structures and norms of our society are designed to ensure the survival of our economy and have cast us in the roles of producers and consumers, ceaselessly barraged by commercial enticements to stimulate and indulge our desires. This entraps us in a system that serves too few at the expense of too many and leaves us with little time or energy to explore other dimensions of our selves. For too many of us, our material success has brought with it a poverty of spirit.

Distracted by the external world, we lose sight of the intimate dance of the relativity of our mental, emotional and spiritual selves with one another. Yet, it is the social dimension of our lives that gives moral meaning to our individual and collective choices. Perhaps this is why the fundamental teachings of all the major world religions contain a version of the Golden Rule to guide us in our social interactions.

When we look outward instead of inward, it is easy to become disconnected from a deep sense of the relevance of our being and our connection to one another. Too many of us are caught up in the illusion that our personal happiness and success in life will be achieved through the acquisition and accumulation of monetary wealth and possessions. Yet, ultimately, we come to realize that financial and material riches are empty and unsatisfying in the absence of a state of consciousness that deeply connects us to others. Indeed, a diamond ring or a Hummer is of little comfort on your deathbed.

Ultimately each of us is responsible for the priorities we set in our lives, the choices we make and the effects they have on ourselves and others. We come to realize that financial and material riches are empty and unsatisfying in the absence of a state of consciousness that deeply connects us to others.

Many of us, disillusioned by the empty promises of the gravy train, are instead boarding the generosity train, delighting in its riches of loving, caring and sharing and are finding ourselves humbled and surprised by the abundance that is achievable when we first ground ourselves in a consciousness that is concerned about the highest good of all concerned. As the signs and wonders of this powerful shift in consciousness take hold, it manifests in new attitudes, beliefs and actions and a commitment to reach for something higher and nobler within and among ourselves.

In Buddhist teachings, greed, hate and ignorance are considered three poisons in human consciousness that lead to the evil we create in the world that is the ultimate source of our suffering. The practice of generosity is the first stage of the Buddhist spiritual path and an opportunity for any of us to reverse a greed-based view of life. Giving with a kind, loving heart opens the human spirit to fulfillment through nonattachment and loving kindness. It lightens our mind, makes us more available to insight and sets us free from our greed.

Perhaps I sound like a Pollyanna socialist to some. I assure you, I am neither. I am simply someone who thinks we have taken a devastatingly expensive wrong turn in our search for happiness. My goal is to raise consciousness about this so we can do something constructive that has the potential to bring us a whole lot more happiness in our lives.

I have a request -- please watch the following two videos about generosity.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

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