Letting Go and Generosity: Some Tales of Buddhist Ancestors

I’ve recently finished a wonderful book by Lama Surya Das called Letting Go of the Person You Used to Be. Just before the ending of the book, he shares a couple of tales about Buddhist ancestors, letting go, and generosity. I’d like to share this passage. I’ll also write another post related to the closing chapter of the book as it fits well with some of the difficulties of growth and healing that I have been going through recently.

Patrul Rinpoche’s life exemplified generosity; whenever he was given money or offerings, he quickly handed them over to others, giving generously to the poor and the homeless. It is said that there was little that Patrul Rinpoche loved more than being able to give to others. A favorite story my teachers told concerns a man who approached the learned teacher and begged him for some money.
“Oh my poor friend,” Patrul said. “Just say to me, I don’t need any money, and I will give you some.”
The beggar thought that he had been misunderstood, so he repeated his request for money. Once again Patrul answered, “Just say to me, I don’t need any money, and I will give you some.”
Finally the man uttered the sentence Patrul had been requesting. “I don’t need any money,” he said. Patrul in turn rewarded him with a handful of silver coins.
Then Patrul told the beggar the following story about Lord Buddha.
It seems that one day as the Buddha traveled through India, a poor man came up to him and gave the Buddha the only gift he had, a single piece of milk sugar candy. As the Buddha was looking at the candy and wondering what to do with it, another man, known for his greedy inclinations, saw the candy in Buddha’s hand and asked if he could have it. The man, of course, knew that the generous Buddha never said “no” to such a request.
The man was quite surprised when the Buddha did not immediately hand over the candy. Instead the Buddha spoke to the man, saying:
“Just say to me, I don’t need this milk sweet. And then I shall give it to you.”
The man did as the Buddha requested, and he got the candy which he promptly popped into his mouth.
Later the Buddha’s disciples asked the Buddha why he wanted the man to say these words.
“Because,” the Buddha replied, “through hundreds of lifetimes this man has never even once said the words, I don’t need. By saying these few simple words, he may have momentarily experienced the feeling of needing nothing. These words undermine greed and may help plant the seeds of generosity.”


I don’t need any candy…

Padma Sambhava, the great Indian master who introduced Buddhism to Tibet in the eighth century, told his disciples that when asked, they should say, “I don’t know, I don’t want, I don’t need.” I try to remember that.
This is a lesson in nonattachment and acceptance. It is a lesson in learning to love unconditionally without expecting results, rewards, or payments of any kind. It may feel counterintuitive, but acceptance does have a transformative effect. Nonattachment and acceptance have their own magic and can transform anything. Letting go is the ultimate act of generosity and faith. And every good deed is a gift to both giver and recipient.
– pp. 209-210 Letting Go of the Person You Used to Be, Lama Surya Das

Try it yourself. Say: “I don’t need …” and let the attachment slip away. An even better practice: give away some small thing (you can work up to bigger things later) that you feel attached to. Give it to someone who would be happy to have it. This is a very mindful experience of attachment and its hooks. If you can do this and say to yourself I don’t need this, you’ll find the peace of liberation after the pangs of attachment pass.

May this inspire your own ability to let go and to be generous to others.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: