Chögyal Namkhai Norbu on Generosity

chnngenerosityChögyal Namkhai Norbu’s Oral Message at the end of the Longsal Longchen Nyer-nga’I Man-ngag Teaching Retreat at Merigar West, April 30, 2014

We did this retreat in a special way – for example, people who participated did not pay for the retreat. This is a program that I prepared one year ago but I have not applied it until now. Why did I do this? In Eastern countries, when a teacher is giving teachings the attitude is not that people pay for the retreat because sponsors who are interested in the teachings organize and sponsor the teaching retreat.

Here in the West when we started to do retreats, nobody did that. We had to organize by ourselves with people in the Community who were interested. Then when we did the retreats some people would come to the retreats and ask why they would have to pay for teaching. Nobody pays for the teaching.  They pay for the organization, for the place, for all the expenses. Sometimes they need to invite a teacher and then there are other expenses. But nobody pays for the teaching and many people do not understand that.

Then I thought that it would be better to try to educate people and make them understand that there is also a possibility to do like people do in Oriental countries. In this case we should make a kind of program because it is not the custom in Western countries. So then I explained how important it is when you are doing service or sponsoring the dharma for practitioners, giving many examples. There is a small booklet that you can read and understand.

This is our idea about how the teaching retreats in the Dzogchen Community can be applied in the future.

For people who have a little possibility to offer, to be sponsors, it is also a very good way for them to become wealthy because if there is no cause, there is no fruit and the cause of becoming wealthy is generosity. Generosity towards the teaching is something very positive for this life and also for future lives. So people should try to learn and develop this. I think it is something important.


There are many stories that tell how in ancient times, when Buddha Shakyamuni was alive, so-called khyimdag (wealthy householders) or jindag (donors) invited the Buddha and his retinue to their countries, and the Buddha transmitted the sacred Dharma to those fortunate beings. These wealthy individuals were putting into practice generosity, which is the first of the six paramitas, and gathered a vast accumulation of merits. This should be recognized as the unsurpassable behavior of a Bodhisattva. We can understand this by the following examples.

A very famous story in the Bodhisattva Vehicle tells that once, at the time of Buddha Shakyamuni, in China there was an important and wealthy householder called Hashang. He had very strong devotion and desire to invite the Buddha from India to China, but since the distance between the two countries was so great, and travelling so difficult, he understood that his desire was very hard to realize. Thus he remained with the thought, “What can I do about it?” Then a wise follower of the Buddha advised him, “Even though it is very difficult for you to invite Buddha Shakyamuni in person from India to China, since the Buddha is omniscient, invoke him one-pointedly and invite him one day for lunch. The Buddha and the Arhats of his retinue who are endowed with miraculous powers will arrive for the midday meal!”

The great householder Hashang arranged everything as advised, and when the time for the midday meal came, the Buddha together with the Arhats endowed with miraculous powers, known as the “sixteen elders”, arrived at the house of Hashang and partook of the food, thus completely fulfilling the wish of the great householder. Today, in most of the Buddhist sacred places in China and Tibet there are representations of the sixteen elders, and they all originate from the story of when the Buddha with his retinue travelled to China miraculously. The opportunity which the householder Hashang had to invite the Buddha and his retinue was due to an enormous accumulation of merits. Therefore from that time, the custom arose to place a big or small statue of Hashang in all households in China, Tibet, and Mongolia, with the belief that, thanks to the power of the vast merits produced by Hashang, in every house where his statue was displayed all good things such as prosperity and wealth would naturally increase. For this reason the representation of Hashang is very widespread in all regions. However, most people do not know Hashang’s story, and in the Western world it has also happened that those who possessed such a statue believed it to be a representation of the Buddha.

In the histories of the teaching of the Secret Mantra it is told that once, when Buddha Shakyamuni was alive, in the kingdom of Uddiyana there was a very powerful king called Indrabhuti. He had very sincere faith and devotion to the Buddha and therefore he invited some pandits who were disciples of the Buddha and honored them as royal priests. One day the king said to the royal priests, “I have the greatest desire to invite Buddha Shakyamuni to the country of Uddiyana, but as the distance between India and Uddiyana is very great, travelling is not safe, and so forth, it seems that I will not have the fortune to meet the Buddha, and that we do not have the merits to make the Buddha come to the land of Uddiyana. Alas! What can we do?”

Thus he lamented, but the pandits who were present advised him unanimously, “Since Buddha Shakyamuni is omniscient, he must surely know about your wish. He is endowed with miraculous powers, therefore if you invoke him with fervent devotion and invite him for the midday meal, the Buddha will arrive here for lunch miraculously. Thus you will be able to meet the Buddha!”

The king of Uddiyana arranged the midday meal perfectly as advised by the royal pandits, and prayed one-pointedly to the Buddha. When the time for the midday meal came, the Buddha arrived at the royal palace of Uddiyana together with his retinue endowed with miraculous powers. When the Buddha and his retinue had finished their meal, they recited:

Through the power of this vast offering

May all beings attain spontaneous enlightenment,

And may all those who have not been liberated by previous Buddhas

Be liberated by this act of generosity.

After this dedication and invocation, the king of Uddiyana addressed the Buddha, “Bhagavan Buddha! I have an immense desire to follow your teaching and reach the state of supreme liberation. However, since I have the responsibility to look after both the kingdom and my family, there is no way for me to renounce this and be ordained as a monk, and thus to practice your teachings.”

Bhagavan Buddha replied, “Great king! Following and practicing the sacred teaching must be in accordance with the capacities of individuals. Since there are various capacities, it does not mean that all those who enter the sacred Dharma must necessarily abandon their families, become monks and practice solely according to the path of renunciation. There are also profound upadeshas for individuals of high capacity who can attain enlightenment through the path of transformation, without renouncing emotions and enjoyments.”

Then the king of Uddiyana asked, “Supreme teacher, please teach me this extraordinary teaching!”

Accordingly, the Buddha saw that he was a special disciple and in an instant manifested as the mandala of Shri Guhyasamaja, both as the dimension and its deities inside, and transmitted the complete upadesha of the profound path of Vajrayana transformation. This is narrated in the history of the Guhyasamaja. Thus, also from the origins of the diffusion of the Secret Mantra teaching we can clearly understand the importance of being a donor.

When Bodhisattvas, the offspring of the Buddhas, enter the Mahayana path and apply sublime Bodhisattva behavior, they engage in the famous “six paramitas”: generosity, morality, patience, diligence, meditation, and discriminative wisdom. The first of the six is the paramita of generosity, which is subdivided into three aspects, the gift of the teaching, the gift of material things, and the gift of protection from fear.

The gift of the teaching

The supreme generosity is the gift of the sacred teaching for saving sentient beings from the great ocean of suffering. Of course the highest generosity is the “gift of the teaching”, when teachers who are able to directly teach the path of liberation perfectly transmit the sacred Dharma to other beings voluntarily taking care to benefit them. Nevertheless, if one does not have this capacity, even bringing about with pure intention the favorable conditions for teachers to transmit the Dharma, or helping in various ways, directly or indirectly, so that unfortunate beings who lack the favorable conditions for receiving the Dharma may obtain the possibility of receiving it, are extraordinary “gifts of the teaching”.

The gift of material things

The gift of material things means to make material offerings, large or small, with generosity, without hoping for an immediate or karmic reward, and without the concept of the giver, the receiver and the giving, to any beings afflicted by poverty. As far as making the “water offering” to the beings who dwell in the ocean, or the “burnt offering” to those beings who feed on smell, all are included in the “gift of material things”. In reality, wealthy householders who have the courage to make the supreme offering, by giving to destitute students the favorable conditions to listen, study, and practice the sacred Dharma, certainly show unsurpassable excellent behavior in which the gift of the teaching and the gift of material things are inseparable.

The gift of protection from fear

All beings are afflicted by the famous “eight and sixteen fears” until they die. Giving assistance and protection from these fears as much as one can, directly or indirectly, is known as the gift of protection from fear. Nevertheless, in the excellent behavior explained above in which the gift of the teaching and the gift of material things are inseparable, also the gift of protection from fear is naturally included. In fact, all of us are miserable beings subject to karma and emotions, imprisoned in the net of infinite suffering of the ocean of samsara, always afflicted by continuous fears, absolutely similar to animals in the hands of a butcher. The only method to release us from all this is the sacred Dharma, and the Dharma has to be received from a supreme teacher, and listened to, studied, and practiced in order to integrate it into ourselves and achieve the state of liberation. Therefore, to offer destitute beings the necessary conditions to follow the sacred Dharma and liberate themselves from the fears of samsara is certainly an extraordinary “gift of protection from fear”. Being such the nature of the three kinds of gifts, and especially of the gift of the teaching, it is very important that we, while living in the dualistic vision, precisely put into practice this excellent behavior, and follow the principle by which “behavior must be according to the place and time”.

The way to put into practice this excellent behavior

Whenever, in any country of this world, we want to invite a Master who teaches the pure sacred Dharma and organize a teaching retreat, whether big or small, the indispensable preliminary step is that the Gakhyil, who has the responsibility for the Dzogchen Community, be it large or small, jointly (decides to) completely fulfill the wishes of the Community. From ancient times until now, in the eyes of all human beings, it has always been clear that trying to achieve worldly riches, power, position, and so forth, by means of the Dharma is a type of behavior contrary to the Dharma, while undertaking hardships and applying perseverance as much as possible for the sake of the Dharma is a type of behavior corresponding to the Dharma. However, it is very easy to understand that if someone, for the sake of the Dharma, imposes an enrolment fee on those who wish to receive the Dharma, this is contrary to correct behavior. Nevertheless, in our present condition, if we have to invite a Master to a country in order to fulfill the wishes of the students, there are many expenditures, such as those for the Master’s travel and the stay, for the place where the retreat is to be held, and so forth. If we lack these factors, it is clearly evident that there is no way to establish a teaching retreat in that place. Although making all participants of a teaching retreat pay for all the expenses of that retreat is not in complete accordance with the principle of the sacred Dharma, because of the conditions of the place and time, it has been considered indispensable to adopt this system, and therefore the necessity has arisen for all students to pay a sort of enrolment fee in order to attend a teaching retreat.

In the future, in order to be in total accordance with the principle of the sacred Dharma and to be able to put into practice in an authentic way the “behavior according to place and time” without leaving it as a mere talk, any Gakhyil of the Dzogchen Community that, on the basis of the wishes of Community members and of the various necessities of the place and time, has to plan the organization of a teaching retreat, whether big or small, must first of all follow this fundamental procedure:

.    1)  First of all the particular reason or importance of that teaching retreat has to be widely communicated to all Community members so that a clear understanding of it may arise in all those who are interested.

.    2)  Those who wish to sponsor the specific teaching retreat, either an individual donor or a group, must inform the Gakhyil in due time, and then the Gakhyil together with the sponsor should decide the place and time of the retreat, and all its necessary factors.

.    3)  The Gakhyil and the sponsor must jointly take full charge of the teaching retreat, and ensure that all the activities of the retreat will be perfectly accomplished.

.    4)  All Community members, both as a group or individuals, will only make donations and presents to the Master and to the Community according to their wishes, and no specific enrolment fee will be requested.

.    5)  It is important that the sponsors, without wishing for an immediate or karmic reward, train in the excellent behavior of the Bodhisattvas, scions of the Buddhas, and that they do not even show an air of self-importance in front of the Community for the fact that they are sponsors.

.    6)  The Master, the Gakhyil and all the members of the Community will rejoice in the merits of such sponsors, and properly express the wish that they may attain inexhaustible happiness.

These six points which are related to the principle of the six spaces of Samantabhadra, I, the Dzogchenpa Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, offer to all the members of the Dzogchen Community as a means to keep presence and awareness alive. May good things increase!


Download PDF