What Gifts Do You Enjoy Sharing?

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Dear Still Water Friends,

The other day I came across this question, “What gifts do I enjoy bringing to the Sangha?” Immediately, I felt a surge of delight. Even before any attributes came to mind, I was comforted by the thought that I possess qualities that benefit this community. It also struck me as a question that I rarely consider, and one that I wanted to share with others.

In my practice as a therapist, I witness so many sources of conditioning – ranging from various religious teachings to our propensity for self-help projects — that dwell on our negative qualities. With so much attention to our failings, we may struggle with a nagging sense of unworthiness.

Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh), in The Heart of the Buddha’s Teachings, expresses the belief that—far from being unworthy—we all have inherent goodness inside:

In each of us, the seed of Buddha, the capacity to wake up and understand, is called Buddha nature. It is the seed of mindfulness, the awareness of what is happening in the present moment. If I say, “A lotus for you, a Buddha to be,” it means, “I see clearly the Buddha nature in you.” It may be difficult for you to accept that the seed of Buddha is in you, but we all have the capacity for faith, awakening, understanding, and awareness, and that is what is meant by Buddha nature. There is no one who does not have the capacity to be a Buddha.

It is helpful to see that we already have the innate capacity to give tremendous gifts to others: our love, compassion, and mindful attention. I believe that the more we recognize these capacities, the more they will grow.

One of the gifts I enjoy sharing with our Sangha is my presence. Thay often said that our true presence is the most important gift we have to share. It’s not always easy for me to bring my full attention to those around me, even to those I love most. But I know it is something that I can start over with at any moment. It is something that is almost always available and doesn’t require any special equipment.

Something else I enjoy sharing with the community are my struggles in my daily life and in my practice because I know I am not alone. When I hear others speak of their own vulnerabilities, it helps me to feel more connected and open. I hope that others gain insights into themselves when I share my experience.

This Thursday evening, after our meditation, we will explore the gifts we enjoy sharing with the Sangha and others. We will start with these questions:

  • What gifts do you recognize that you bring to the Sangha
  • What helps or hinders you from sharing your gifts with the Sangha?
  • Which gifts would you like to cultivate and share more freely?

An excerpt from Thay on our Buddha nature appears below, after the announcements.

Warm wishes,

Rachel Phillips-Anderson

From Peaceful Action, Open Heart: Lessons from the Lotus Sutra
by Thich Nhat Hanh

In chapter 20 of the Lotus Sutra, we are introduced to a beautiful bodhisattva called Sadaparibhuta, “Never Disparaging.” The name of this bodhisattva can also be translated as “Never Despising.” This bodhisattva never underestimates living beings or doubts their capacity for buddhahood. His message is, “I know you possess buddhanature and you have the capacity to become a buddha,” and this is exactly the message of the Lotus Sutra—you are already a buddha in the ultimate dimension, and you can become a buddha in the historical dimension. Buddhanature, the nature of enlightenment and love, is already within you; all you need do is get in touch with it and manifest it. Never Disparaging Bodhisattva is there to remind us of the essence of our true nature.

This bodhisattva removes the feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem in people. “How can I become a buddha? How can I attain enlightenment? There is nothing in me except suffering, and I don’t know how to get free of my own suffering, much less help others. I am worthless.” Many people have these kinds of feelings, and they suffer more because of them. Never Disparaging Bodhisattva works to encourage and empower people who feel this way, to remind them that they too have buddhanature, they too are a wonder of life, and they too can achieve what a buddha achieves. This is a great message of hope and confidence. This is the practice of a bodhisattva in the action dimension.

Sadaparibhuta was actually Shakyamuni in one of his former lives, appearing as a bodhisattva in the world to perfect his practice of the dharma. But this bodhisattva did not chant the sutras or practice in the usual way—he did not perform prostrations or go on pilgrimages or spend long hours in sitting meditation. Never Disparaging Bodhisattva had a specialty. Whenever he met someone he would address that person very respectfully, saying, “You are someone of great value. You are a future buddha. I see this potential in you.”

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