by Ed and Deb Shapiro: Bill Gates is a rare breed. He defies what most billionaires appear to be: trapped in the hoarding of money with a large dose of poverty mind. While most people are obsessed with getting money, Gates wants to give it away.
“The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows.” — Buddha
By the time he was 32, Gates was a billionaire; in May this year he was declared the richest man in the world with a net worth of over $72 billion. He stopped working at Microsoft five years ago in order to focus on using that money to make the world a better place. He and his wife founded the Bill and Miranda Gates Foundation, along with investor Warren Buffett. The primary aims of the foundation are to enhance health care and reduce extreme poverty. To begin, Gates is committed to ending polio by 2018, with tuberculosis and malaria to follow.
Although, obviously, few of us have money to spare like Gates or Buffett, and it is easy to applaud them while feeling useless ourselves, it doesn’t mean we can’t give or help another in need, using whatever means we have.
“A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things that renew humanity.” — Buddha
We were in McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, in northern India, attending the Dalai Lama‘s teachings. It was crowded, cold, and very uncomfortable sitting close together on mats on a concrete floor. Deb was longing to go back to our hotel room so she could meditate quietly on her own when the Dalai Lama start talking about the dangers of solitary peace. He spoke of how tempting it can be to want to be on our own, but how easily this can disengage us from the reality around us. That it is vital to be in communication, engaged in giving, sharing and caring for each other.
Wise spiritual teachers from all traditions have taught how the path of service is the most important of all, as it means we are less self-obsessed; through caring for others we can step out of indulgence and into big-heartedness, releasing any sense of separateness.
“Just as treasures are uncovered from the earth, so virtue appears from good deeds, and wisdom appears from a pure and peaceful mind. To walk safely through the maze of human life, one needs the light of wisdom and the guidance of virtue.” — Buddha
The generosity Gates is sharing is not the stuff many rich people are made of. It can be very difficult to give when you have so much, as it incites tremendous fear of loss. We only have to look at the upper 1 percent of this country to see how greed and selfishness rule the day, as they hide their money in offshore accounts, avoid paying fair taxes, and have little time for the poor or needy.
When we feel uncomfortable with generosity we get stuck in our limitations and fear. When we appreciate the joy of kindness our life is transformed. We can both give and receive. Such egoless moments are exquisite!
We may think we have little to offer but whether it is a few pennies or a whole bankroll, a cup of tea or a banquet is irrelevant — it is the act of giving itself that is important. Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” In other words, although life changes are inevitable we can initiate personal change so that we rise to the challenge and become a bigger and better person as a result. As Mahatma Gandhi also said, “Almost anything we do will seem insignificant, but it is very important that we do it.”
“Be generous. Give to those you love; give to those who love you, give to the fortunate, give to the unfortunate — yes, give especially to those you don’t want to give. You will receive abundance for your giving. The more you give, the more you will have!” — W. Clement Stone
As one of our teachers, Sri Swami Satchidananda taught: “Who is the most selfish person? It is the one who is most selfless! Why? Because by being selfless, you will always retain your happiness. A selfish person can never be really happy. So to be happier, be more selfless!”
“I slept and dreamt that life was joy
I awoke and saw that life was service
I acted and behold, service was joy.”
— Rabindranath Tagore