Sunday, May 21, 2006

"Don't give on the outside, give on the inside"

I was just at Whole Foods and saw this statement at the checkout stand: "Don't give on the outside, give on the inside" It was targeted to charitably minded people who would give food or money to the homeless people who congregated outside the store. Rather than give to the people who congregate outside, give to a charity who then gives to those people.

Interesting concept, but my mind took a very different direction from this.

The statement is very Buddhist in nature, even if the program is not. In Buddhist teaching we are told that everything we see in the world is a projection from inside us. Put another way, every part of the world is inside us, because the whole world is one identity, and our supposed separate identities is some kind of illusory madness.

For example, if you witness some kind of pain in the world the tendency is to go to that pain and try to fix that pain. That's an example of dualistic thinking, that the pain you're witnessing is outside yourself and therefore must be corrected outside yourself.

A Buddhist way of dealing with an "external" pain is to meditate on what that pain brings up inside you, sitting with it to learn about it.

What struck me as I walked outside and was approached by someone soliciting for donations is ... when I give to a charity, in a way it affirms or witnesses some form of lack in the world. They need money, therefore I will give it to them.

But, where am I needy inside myself? What part of myself feels it is lacking something? And, wouldn't it be more honest for me to find a way to satisfy that inner feeling of lack? And, wouldn't it be wonderful if everybody had a way to learn to satisfy their inner feeling of lack?