THE SPIRIT OF GIVING
by the Imperator
Gift-giving, as history tells us, is one of the most ancient customs associated with Christmas. In fact, it is a practice that is older than the holiday itself. Many ancient tribes held celebrations in the month of December in which the exchange or the giving of gifts was a prominent feature. This was true of the early Romans and well as of numerous pagan tribes in Europe. In modern times, a personification of the gift-giving spirit is St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children, who is more popularly known as Santa Claus. As he is a favorite among the young and the young-at-heart, he too is well loved by merchants peddling toys and various gift items. For them, the gift-giving, spirit embodied by St. Nick always means good business and great profits.
But true giving does not depend at all on the size, price or material value of the gift. It only depends on the spirit by which the act of giving is done. The true giver gives out of the goodness of his heart, with no selfish intentions or hidden motives, with no expectations of being rewarded or benefited in return. Thus, one does not have to buy anything or spend money to be able to give. In fact, the gifts that bring the greatest good and happiness are often non-material. A spontaneous smile to a stranger, an encouraging pat on the shoulder of a troubled friend, a humorous tale told to a sad person, time spent with an ailing relative, an inspiring word, a warm hug - these are but a few examples. They bring joy because they are given freely and sincerely, out of pure love and the inherent goodness of the human heart.
As true giving uplifts the spirit of the receiver, it also brings joy to the giver. This is in conformity to the universal principle which says, "As you give, so shall you receive." When you give and thus become an agent of joy, you also receive joy. Many will recognize this as a working of the Law of Karma or the Law of Compensation. It is also the same principle stated in scientific terms by Isaac Newton as, "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."
But while this law is well known to many people, its application is extremely one-sided. Most people work and expend much energy in order to receive. In other words, most people want to be receivers, and so they work hard in order to gain or receive something. Sure enough, according to the law, their effort bears a corresponding fruit, and so they receive or acquire something in return.
But that is looking at just one side of the law. There is an opposite side, in which a person can choose to be a giver instead of a receiver. Because he gives, he then receives. Again, this is but the natural working of the same immutable universal law. Strangely however, very few people take this course; the path of giving is traversed only by mystics, saints, philanthropists, humanitarians, and other highly evolved people.
These people have discovered a remarkable secret: the path of giving yields greater and sweeter fruits than the path of receiving. Giving does not deplete the giver; instead, it replenishes and even brings him abundance. Why so? The nature of the Supreme Divine Being is to give and provide, not to receive or acquire. God is Compassionate, Loving and Giving. Thus, when a person gives, he works for and with God. He attunes to the highest and noblest forces within himself and without. Because he has enlisted the aid of the infinite powers of the Cosmic, he is also able to surmount great difficulties and accomplish "miracles." His rewards are equally immense; they include true happiness, profound peace, and a sense of having found a real meaning to life.
In comparison, he who treads the path of receiving is able to accomplish less because he draws only on his limited human resources. Moreover, his rewards are often material or worldly things - such as fame, fortune and power - which do not bring lasting joy or satisfaction.
Many of the greatest men and women who ever lived are givers rather than receivers. Jesus Christ himself, the central figure of Christmas, is an epitome of selfless love and giving. He dedicated his life wholly to helping and serving humanity. In more recent times, we have the examples of Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa to look up to. These are persons of limited material and physical means, but their indomitable spirit and utter dedication to the service of humanity enabled them to accomplish colossal feats.
We need not become a Mother Teresa or a Peace Pilgrim in order to live a life of giving and loving. For some people, what is needed is merely a change of attitude, not even of habits or lifestyle. I know of a salesman who was good at his work, but he was unhappy and dissatisfied. He realized that although he worked hard, his motive was entirely selfish: it was to make as much money as possible. He then changed his viewpoint such that now he worked in order to help people and not himself. That is, he now sold to people something which would benefit them instead of himself. In other words, he now gave instead of taking from his customers. As a result, he enjoyed his work much more and, incredibly, he made even bigger sales and profits than ever before. He also gained some new friends. Now he is much richer both in spirit and material things.
Every occasion in our lives can be spent as a giving moment. We need not wait for Christmas to come before we give of ourselves to others and to the world. For sure, there is no shortage of needy people and worthy causes who can use our help and generosity. We only have to open our eyes and look around us. Who knows, there may be someone in our own homes who needs our attention or giving. He may be our own parent, child, spouse, sibling, or house help.
As Peace Pilgrim advised: "We can spend our lives going about doing good. Every time you meet a person, think of some encouraging thing to say - a kind word, a helpful suggestion, an expression of admiration. Every time you come into a situation, think of some good thing to bring - a thoughtful gift, a considerate attitude, a helping hand."
As members of our beloved Order, we are also given unique opportunities to give to our fellowman and help uplift their lives. We can employ our meditation and radiation techniques, as well as give our sincere prayers, in order to quietly yet powerfully serve mankind and help bring Light and Peace in a troubled world. We can also contribute in our own little ways to support the Order and its many activities.
Not the least, we can live the highest principles and ideals we carry in our hearts, so that we can become the best we can be. When we do this, we give the world our best, and so we contribute in the shaping of a better, more prosperous, peaceful and enlightened world for ourselves and future generations.
To a cup that is already full, no more can be added.