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The Buddha at Work - "Looking for Dana Time: Generosity in the Workplace"

This weekend was a real one-two punch, a real dharma smackdown. A true Buddhist cage match. Sorry, but I'm running a little confused today, after Thursday's visit to Blue Cliff Monastery, on the Bodhisattva Vow with Roshi O'Hara, Saturday night's Pacquiao fight and UFC 122, and Sunday's Rebel Buddha event. It's no wonder my head is spinning!


It was a crazy weekend, and in particular, I can't get the Bodhisattva Vow conversation out of my head. Specifically, dana, generosity. Roshi O'Hara discussed dana with us in the context of the Six Paramitas. I've been thinking ever since Saturday about how dana is showing up in my life and where there are opportunities for it to show up that I might consider taking advantage of.

What can dana look like in the workplace? How can we be generous to our co-workers? To our clients? How can we be generous to our families in the context of our work? To ourselves? I've been thinking about some of the things I am able to give in the course of a workday:

  • A smile
  • An ear
  • A break – giving someone else a break, giving myself a break
  • Credit
  • Acknowledgement
  • Championing (“You can totally do this, dude.”)
  • Time
  • Effort
  • Kindness
  • Dharma
  • A compliment
  • Courtesy
  • Doing more than is expected
  • Going home early
  • Coming in late
  • Taking a quiet lunch break
  • Stepping out for a walk in the middle of the day
  • A kick in the ass
  • A calm voice
  • A minute or two or five or thirty of mindful breathing.

I can give by letting someone else pick the music in the office. I can offer to get my co-workers coffee when I run down to get some for myself. I can call my wife in the middle of the day and tell her how amazing she is. I can clean up the kitchen when it isn't even my turn.

But here's a tip, from Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche (from his new book, Rebel Buddha):

The key to generosity in its transcendent sense is to give without reservation, without any sort of self-consciousness or worry. As long as you second-guess yourself or are apprehensive about the reactions and opinions of others, your generosity is not pure. It's the conventional mind of hope and fear clothed in propriety... as long as you've given with an open, selfless heart, then your act of generosity has been completed and is pure... Transcendent generosity is simply a willingness to be open and do whatever is necessary in the moment, without any philosophical or religious rationale. Seeing someone in need, you're willing to share your wealth, your happiness, or your wisdom, and you're also willing to share in the pain of others.”

If that's all I take away from this weekend, well, that's pretty darn good.

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There's a Party in My Mind

Thanks Jon, for your recap on generosity from the weekend retreat with Roshi O'Hara. I really liked the reminders from the retreat too regarding the vow and how to bring it home and make it more meaningful in a personal way. Certainly the writing exercise looking at how the vow is currently operating in our lives was a powerful one that stuck for me, especially when I heard how it was operating for everyone else.

To bring this all home, I recently downloaded the Talking Heads album "Fear of Music" and the lyrics from the track "Memories Can't Wait" struck me as relevant to some of the class discussions from the retreat:

Do you remember anyone here?
No you don't remember
anything at all
I'm sleeping, I'm flat on my back
Never woke up, had no regrets
There's a party in my
mind...And I hope it never stops
There's a party up
there all the time...They'll party till they drop
Other people can go
home...Everybody else will split
I'll be here all the
time...I can never quit

Take a walk through the
land of shadows
Take a walk through the
peaceful meadows
Don't look so
It isn't what you hoped
for, is it?
There's a party in my
mind...And I hope it never stops
I'm stuck here in this
seat...I might not stand up
Other people can go
home...Other people may just split
I'll be here all the
time...I can never quit

Everything is very quiet
Everyone has gone to sleep
I'm wide awake on memories
These memories can't

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