The Act of Generosity:
One thing that had me intrigued when I moved to Cambodia was the sense of generosity shown by its people. One of the reasons why I wanted to immerse myself in to a culture such as this one was so I could investigate these notions of living compassionately and generously. I read certain books written by Buddhist elitists, such as the Dalai Lama and Thich Naht Hanh. This word ‘generosity’ continued to pop up each time I explored the world of Buddhism and spirituality.
I grew up being told that sharing is caring. Being generous with my time and resources was the ideal way to live. I could see why, I guess. If you are generous, you can help people who need it. Also, it felt good to be generous. Every time you bought your friend a drink at the bar, or offered a helping hand to someone who required your time and effort, you felt a sense of accomplishment. I realize this now, however at the time I was just going through the motions.
I wanted to know more, however. There had to be more to this act than what I knew of it. I had a surface level understanding and so I set out to find out more. What I came to learn about the act of generosity not only changed my life, but it continues to change my life with every single passing day.
Timing was impeccable. I opened a book titled ‘The Code of The Extraordinary Mind’, written by author and entrepreneur Vishen Lakhiani. In his book, Vishen explains a concept he refers to as ‘blissipline’. There are three acts in blissipline which involve forgiveness, gratitude and generosity. These are the three acts which can be performed at any time, under any circumstances that will allow you to feel some level of happiness and joy. They come at no cost, they are honorable acts and they are extremely easy to perform on the go.
I began adopting each discipline on a daily basis. I would wake up and write three things that I am grateful for each morning. I would perform a forgiveness exercise meditation and then I would set off and look for ways in which I can express generosity. Looking back now, I feel as though my perception of what generosity really means was quite flawed. Well, not entirely flawed, although I still had many things to learn.
I recall the exact moment when I experienced a complete paradigm shift. It was as if a lot of the things I thought I knew about the act of generosity was turned on its head. One sunny morning on my way to work, I pulled up on my bicycle to a set of lights. As I came to a stop, I spotted an elderly man on the footpath near the lights. He was wheelchair bound as a result of losing both his legs. He sat there with a hat in his hands, waiting for people to kindly place some money in his hat. This man had no other option but to sit in the scorching sun and rely on the kindness of others for support. It was then when I saw a tuk tuk driver pull out his wallet to slip some of the money he had made into the hat of the disabled man.
Astonished by this display, I paused while my internal world made a complete shift in perspective. The wage of a tuk tuk driver is known to be relatively low in Cambodia. Informal surveys conducted by expats estimate that tuk tuk drivers get paid an average of between $5-$10 per day. With some who have families to feed, this is considerably low.
Witnessing a tuk tuk driver give what he had for someone in need was something that shifted my whole view on this notion of living generously. It was this notion of giving to the most of your capablities. Witnessing such a moment made me re-think what I thought I knew about this concept of generosity.