Can generosity be taught?

Have you ever felt the hunger of a poor person, his desire to wear new clothes, and his dream to live in a secure place? If you are a little sensitive to what the other person lacks in his life, you will not hesitate to share things you have in abundance. Thus, the world will become a better place.

This article focuses on how you can cultivate the habit of generosity in the process of developing the mind.

What is generosity?

Generosity means to share material and immaterial things with others according to your means. It begins with the willingness to give away your possessions for the comfort of others.

What are examples of generosity?

People engage in generosity in various means such as;

  • Donating material things like food, clothes, medicine, shelter, money, etc.
  • donating body organs and parts such as blood, kidneys, eyes, etc.
  • Giving free services such as teaching, volunteering, advising, etc.
  • Donating time to serve others

Is it good to be generous?

What we are today or who we are today depends on the generosity of others to a great extent. So you need to give back whenever possible.

Also, generosity creates happiness in the mind. When you see someone is using the things you donated, you feel happy.

You also feel happy by getting detached from things that belong to you.

In short, the happiness you gain through donating your possessions is more than the happiness you gain through holding on to them. Therefore, it is always good to be generous. 

How generosity promotes compassion?

When life goes in full swing, we generally forget the poor or the needy. We live the life of a self-centered person who does not care about others.

To become generous, you need to put yourself in the shoes of a less fortunate person and be aware of what the other person is missing out on in his life. Then you will realize how many people lack even the basic needs that they are supposed to receive as human beings.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 820 million people around the world are in hunger whereas no less than 150 million people are homeless.

An act of generosity comes with a compassionate thought. It is an essential quality that one must cultivate.

When you feel compassionate about the hardships of another human being, you will immediately put your generosity into action.

For more details, read Should compassion be cultivated intentionally?

Why generosity is important in life?

Some incidents that happened across the world remind us no matter how rich or powerful you are; you might need the help of another unexpectedly.

The Coronavirus pandemic is the most recent event in which we needed the help of each other. So make your first move to help someone especially during the pandemic because you will never know when and where you need the help of others.

How generosity can change your life by overcoming defilements?

Greed and jealousy can act as a barrier on the willingness to give. They are called defilements.

Donating one’s own belongings is compared to a battle because a generous thought that arises in the mind can be restrained by a second thought of greed. Greed arises because you think there will not be enough for you when you donate something to others.

Also, jealousy arises when you do not like to see others using your belongings. Moreover, jealousy can go to the extent where you do not like others using the same goods that you use.

Generosity is a way to train your mind because generosity makes the mind free from defilements.

Also it promotes generating compassion, friendliness, and happiness. Then you will find it easy to practice meditation.

Why is generosity important in a friendship?

Generosity is always the best way to make friends. If you are generous enough to bring bagels on every payday-like my Deputy Director used to do, you will definitely make a lot of friends even at the workplace.

Is it better to give than receive?

We have a great attachment toward our belongings. All the time, we feel happy and proud about what we have gathered in our lives.

Unfortunately, your ego and attachment will also build up along with the possessions you have.

When you are generous to share your possessions with others, you can let go of the attachment toward the material things and you will find it beneficial to give than receive.

Can I be generous with whatever I have?

You may find it easy to let go of things when you have money or wealth in abundance. Nevertheless, if you also lack the basic necessities, it would be difficult for you to be generous.

For example, if you have only a pair of shoes, can you think of donating them to GOODWILL in cold winter for the wellbeing of another person?

I still need a lot of practice in getting there. However, there have been and there will be people who think about others before themselves. Therefore, do not be reluctant to share even a little with a needy person.

How to teach generosity in 4 steps?

No small act of generosity is looked down on. However, there are a few things we should learn before putting generosity into action. It is true that people give out depending on the available sources they have. However, there is a saying “a man reaps what he sows.” Therefore, remember the following things before you donate something to others.

1. Do not offer things which are inferior to what you consume:

Some people consume better things. Still, they choose inferior things to give on charity even if they have the capacity to get the good stuff. For example, you would buy a cheaper or less qualitative thing when you make a donation.

Latent defilements in the mind such as greed can influence the degree of generosity. It is always good to give something than not giving. However, do not give leftovers or things that you would like to get rid of to others.

Always try to donate something useful for the receiver. Giving qualitative things will bring happiness to your mind as well to the receiver.

2. Always engage in Superior charity or mediocre charity:

Some people are generous enough to give things better than what they consume. It is superior charity.

There is a friend of mine who built up a house for a family. He came across a family which strived hard to build up a house for a period of 10 years. My friend undertook to build up a house for the family and spent around $10,000 for the project. Now the family is living in their brand new house. To show their gratitude toward my friend, they are keeping a photograph of my friend at the entrance to the house. This is an example of superior charity.

Sometimes we cannot afford superior charity. In such cases, you can try to donate things that are equal to what you consume. It is called mediocre charity.

3. Donate right thing at the right time:

We should donate the right things at the proper time. For example, if we donate winter clothes during the summer, it is of no use. Of course, the donee can keep them for the winter, but he cannot get any use of the winter clothes in the summer. So be mindful to donate the right thing at the right moment.

4. Do not expect anything in return

People engage in charity based on various reasons. The fame they receive, based on a family tradition, based on religious perspectives, or some other benefit they receive from the donee is a few reasons for a person to engage in charity.

When you engage in generosity, do it with all your heart without expecting anything in return. That is the pure type of generosity.

What are the benefits of generosity?

  • The foremost benefit you experience is happiness
  • When you share things with others, your mind will be away from greed
  • Your act of generosity brings a smile on another person’s face
  • You will be known as a person who is keen on giving
  • You will also be helped by someone when you are in need

How can I be generous without money?

This depends on the type of generosity you choose.  Sometimes generous thoughts can be hindered by financial aspects.

There are so many types of generosity that do not need money to make. For example, you can go for a blood drive to donate blood. Also, donating hair for cancer patients is something I have done several times. Check for places that give you a free haircut when you donate hair. Volunteering with Treepeople is another good event you can schedule on weekends to plant trees.

To conclude, generosity is a lifetime practice that you should maintain. It brings you happiness, pure state of mind as well as lays a foundation for your mind developing process.

Photo by Elaine Casap on Unsplash


Rathsara (Sara) is an attorney-at-law who holds a Diploma in Buddhist Studies in ITBMU. She has engaged in community service in Sri Lanka and the United States helping many individuals. She is interested in reading, writing, and researching areas related to mindfulness. Inspired by spiritually developed individuals around the globe, Rathsara is keen to learn and practice mind-developing techniques. In the meantime, she would like to share her experience and knowledge for the well-being of others.

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