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The Six Perfections

1. Charity

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1 : CHARITY

THE FIRST of the six perfections is the perfection of charity, or generosity,6 which is dana in Sanskrit and jinpa in Tibetan.

Charity is the thought of giving. If we have money and possessions, of course we can make one kind of charity by giving to others. However, even if we are poor, utterly without possessions, living an ascetic life, we can still practice charity. Charity is the wish to give rather than the actual giving, so it does not depend on having things. It is important to understand this; the perfection of charity is a mental activity rather than a physical action, so we can practice it without having anything at all. We can mentally give to others things such as our body, speech, mind, good karma, merit collected since beginningless rebirths, and so forth. For instance, when we practice tonglen, the practice of mentally taking others’ suffering and giving them our good qualities, we are offering charity.7 When we do the giving visualization, we give all our merits of the three times — past, present, and future — as well as our own body and happiness.

The action of giving becomes the perfection of charity when we give purely and utterly without any delusions such as pride. We can do this by dedicating any positive action we do and whatever merit we get from that action, ensuring it is never lost. This is very important when we practice charity or any of the other perfections. It is very easy to give something and regret it afterward, or to feel proud of our action of giving. It is especially easy to expect something in return for our generosity. Such minds weaken the act and stop them from being the perfection of charity.

We can mentally offer everything to all sentient beings, or we can physically offer a cup of tea to one sentient being. Although both are actions of charity, we need to make our action of giving as pure as 6possible by being very careful that the action is done without the slightest attachment to the object we are giving away. When there is still attachment, it is not really charity; when we give without attachment, that is charity.

The pure practice of charity is one of the principal causes of obtaining a perfect human rebirth; the other main cause is morality. Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo8 said that practicing just one of these perfections is not enough, we must practice both. And so from our own side, practicing charity is vital. When we practice it well and wisely it has great results.

THE PERFECTION OF CHARITY IS A MENTAL STATE

In the chapter on guarding alertness in A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, Shantideva makes the distinction between physical charity and the perfection of charity by showing how attaining the perfection of charity does not mean a bodhisattva has given every being everything they need. That would be impossible. He said,

If the perfection of generosity meant freeing the whole world from poverty, then,

since there still is poverty in the world today,

how could it have been that the Perfect Ones of the past

attained this perfect virtue?

It is said that the perfection of generosity is

the result of the will to surrender to all living beings

everything that is yours, including the fruit of such surrender.

Therefore, this perfection is only a mental act.

Where could I lead all fish and other living beings, so that I could avoid killing them?

But the moment one acquires a dispassionate thought,

there is agreement that there is perfection of morality.9

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The perfection of charity is not a perfection because it has rid the world of beggars and needy people. It is not even the perfection of charity when we have freed ourselves from all miserliness. Arhats have overcome miserliness and yet they are not bodhisattvas practicing the perfection of charity. For bodhisattvas, the perfection of charity is the wish, rather than the actual action, to give whatever any being needs, no matter what that is. It is a state of mind. For bodhisattvas, the wish to give their possessions, wealth, and even their bodies in order to help other beings comes effortlessly.

The perfection of charity does not depend on other sentient beings receiving charity from us, nor does it depend on not having any needy beings left. It depends on destroying clinging to what we each consider as ours, such as our body, speech, and mind, as well as our physical possessions and our merits. It also depends on not being attached to the temporal results of giving. As the number of sentient beings is infinite, when we dedicate our action of charity to all sentient beings with a sincere mind, we create infinite merit and we do unimaginable purification. Every time we do this, we come closer to enlightenment because we are working for all sentient beings without limit.

We have attained the perfection of charity when we can give our body to other beings as easily as giving a cup of water or a few vegetables. (Maybe now if we are very hungry it is difficult to contemplate even giving a few vegetables.) Until we reach that state, we need to endeavor not only to give freely but also to ensure that the action is done purely.

Our Worldly Mind Blocks Giving

Even if we have the wish to practice charity, we still often have many negative attitudes and actions to abandon.10 First, we might not be aware that the action of giving is a mental one and so we feel frustrated because we don’t have physical things we can give others. Even if we know this, we might try to give, but we might not create much good karma because we are clouded by delusions such as regret. These negative minds weaken whatever action of charity we do.

It is very important to not have pride when we practice charity. 8Giving with pride makes the merit very weak, like a business that has very little profit. It is also important to avoid having expectations of getting something back from our act of giving, such as material benefit or help. Such expectations mean that although we might physically give something to somebody, we are actually doing it for our own benefit. This is not charity. We are still attached to this life’s happiness, which means our motivation is for our own temporal happiness and not for the happiness of the person we are giving to. This stops the action of charity from being pure.

In the same way, giving with the expectation of receiving a good reputation or some praise is not pure giving. We give but we hope that others will see how generous we have been and think that we are so good, how despite our wealth we have so much love and compassion. We want to see our name in the newspapers, and we expect respect and admiration from the poor people we give to. In this way, the act of charity is done for our own worldly happiness and not for others.

Say somebody is starving to death and we give them some food, saving their life. Our main motivation for doing the act, however, might have been to be seen as a wonderful, generous, and compassionate person. If so, the action was about obtaining worldly happiness in this life. Our act of giving has allowed them to survive but is it a virtuous or nonvirtuous act? It might seem as if the action is virtuous because we have helped the other person and given them what they wanted, but that is not so. It is actually a nonvirtuous act because our motivation was not to help them but to have some worldly gain for ourselves. Of course, that doesn’t mean that if we see somebody in danger we shouldn’t help them because our motivation might be impure!

Unless we always check our motivation, it is very difficult to give to somebody else without the selfish attitude creeping in, wanting something in return for our act of generosity. This is because our self-cherishing mind always only ever wants happiness and comfort for ourselves alone.

Say we usually walk straight past a beggar we see in the street every day. However, one day, because there are many people around, we feel 9a bit self-conscious not to give anything, so we drop a dollar into their cup. If we give because we don’t want others to think we are stingy, that is attachment to reputation, a negative mind. We have wasted that opportunity. On the other hand, to give anything, even a few cents, with a sincere heart not only helps the beggar but also becomes a cause for enlightenment for us. To give with a mind unstained by selfish thought is the pure Dharma practice of charity.

Keeping our mind pure — free from pride, miserliness, and so forth — is very difficult for ordinary people like us. If we could give simply, without all these disturbing thoughts clouding our giving, our generosity would be perfect and attaining another perfect human rebirth would be easy. But this is a struggle for most of us. That is why we must always check our motivation and be diligent in observing our karma.

The villagers of Solu Khumbu, where I was born, have a very good custom to protect themselves and others. Because they are incredibly poor, theft is always a problem. Things are often stolen: cooking pots, money — even potatoes. In many villages the people bury pots of their precious potatoes outside to keep them safe, but thieves can generally guess where the pots are buried, and they dig them up. Also, sometimes people borrow things and don’t return them, no matter how much the owner complains and shouts.

In such cases of theft, the villagers often go to a monastery and ask the lama there to say prayers and dedicate the merit of the prayer to the thief, totally offering them that thing. Whether or not this becomes a virtuous act does not depend on the lama but on the mind of the victim. If the person can renounce the stolen object completely and offer it to the thief with compassion, then it is virtuous. The owner needs the object, but the thief also needs it, and so by renouncing it and offering it to the thief with compassion, the dedication becomes a virtuous action.

If somebody stole a hundred dollars from us and we cannot do the practice of dedication — if we cannot take the loss upon ourselves and offer the victory to that sentient being; if we still cling to that hundred dollars — how can we perfect the practice of charity? Even without 10considering how kind that sentient being has been, how precious they are, we should rejoice that they needed something and now they have it. Like us, they want happiness and do not want suffering — in that way they are completely equal to us — so why can’t they have that hundred dollars? If we were to find a hundred dollars, how happy we would be. If we were to find a thousand dollars or a million dollars, we would be so surprised and excited. We would clap our hands with joy. So why can’t we do the same thing for this sentient being who has come across a hundred dollars?

INTEGRATING THE OTHER PERFECTIONS INTO THE PERFECTION OF CHARITY

Each perfection depends on the other perfections. When we give with the bodhisattva motivation, with the wish to benefit other sentient beings, we are practicing the morality of charity. When we maintain our patience even though people might be ungrateful, we are practicing the patience of charity. When we avoid any laziness, such as thinking we can practice charity later, and instead give with continuous, strong energy, we are practicing the perseverance of charity. In this way, each perfection includes the others.

Since the perfection of charity — along with the perfections of morality, patience, and so forth — belongs to the merit of virtue, and the perfection of wisdom belongs to the merit of wisdom, giving even a cent to a beggar with the wisdom of charity, a deep understanding of emptiness, means that we accumulate both kinds of merit.11

It is very good to remember that whatever we give lacks even an atom of true existence, that the giver — ourselves — as well as the action of giving and the recipient are all merely labeled as such by the mind. This is the wisdom aspect of our practice of charity. We thus seal the action of charity with an understanding of emptiness.

A simple way to do this, something that gives the feeling of emptiness, is to not cling to the action. Although nothing exists from its own side, we cling to things because that is how they appear to us and we believe 11that to be so. Instead, we should look at everything as like a dream — subject, action, and object are all like a dream, without an atom of true existence. When we can do this, we lessen the sense that what appears to us as inherently existing actually does exist in that way.

If we cling to the action of charity as inherently existing, we might accumulate merit because of our positive action but we poison that action with the thought of true existence. In Seven-Point Mind Training, Geshe Chekawa12 advised, “Don’t eat poisonous food.” In other words, don’t let the merit we have accumulated be stained by the wrong conception of true existence.

Lama Tsongkhapa advised that if we have ultimate bodhichitta — the realization of emptiness within the mind of a bodhisattva — any merit we accumulate becomes the cause of enlightenment because we accumulate both types of merit. Without bodhichitta, even though we have the realization of emptiness, practicing charity only becomes the cause of liberation from samsara — not the cause of enlightenment. There is a great difference, like the difference between a handful of dust and the whole earth. By having bodhichitta, the merit has infinite results. Bodhichitta makes a great difference.

To practice charity without incorporating these other five perfections, we risk creating disturbances to the success of our practice. It is like a soldier who puts on some armor but fails to protect the entire body, leaving some spots exposed, risking fatal injury.

THE THREE TYPES OF CHARITY

Many texts list three types of charity:

1. The charity of giving material things

2. The charity of giving fearlessness

3. The charity of giving the Dharma

In the context of taking tantric vows, a fourth type of charity is mentioned, which is the charity of giving loving-kindness.

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1. The Charity of Giving Material Things

The first of the three types of charity is giving material things. This charity can be either physical giving or mental giving. The recipient of our giving must be another sentient being, although we can also make offerings to enlightened beings and to the guru, who is the embodiment of all the buddhas.

Like the other perfections, the perfection of charity is mainly to help us develop our bodhichitta — this is a mental training — and so the motivation should be to attain enlightenment. Because as a bodhisattva we have mentally given away all our possessions and have no attachment to anything, we should feel that whatever we offer others is already theirs, that we have just had it on loan. After safeguarding it for them, we are now returning it to its rightful owner.

We should see the receiver of our gift as our guru, helping us to complete the perfection of charity. If the recipient is an enemy, we should give with loving-kindness; if the recipient is suffering and miserable, we should give with compassion; if they are our superior in merit, we should give with rejoicing; if they are equal in merit, we should give with equanimity.

We should also give with joy. Rejoicing is an incredibly important practice, especially for people in the West, who are brought up in a very competitive education system. It seems to me that almost everything in the West — the schooling, the competition for jobs, even sports — is designed to make people strengthen their egos and strive to be better than others. Ambition is seen as a good thing, and somebody who does not try to be better than everybody else is considered weak. This kind of psychological conditioning is the complete opposite of the Dharma mind of thought-transformation practices, which always offers the victory to others.

By giving somebody what they want, we not only make them happy, which should be our motivation for everything we do, but we also come closer to enlightenment; therefore we should rejoice. However, it often happens that when we give, our self-cherishing fools us into feeling we have given away what is ours and what we need in order to be happy, 13which makes us miserable rather than happy. It can also make us either regret the act or feel proud about it. There are many ways self-cherishing can rob us of our merit.

By giving with the awareness of karma, we can truly rejoice because we see that having created positive karma in the past, we now have the means and the wish to be generous. Furthermore, with this act of giving we create positive karma that will ensure our happiness in the future as well as bring happiness to the recipient of our gift. When we give in this way, we create the habit of giving with joy and it becomes progressively easier. Even if we only do this with a rational mind, one that understands the advantages of giving with joy but without much actual joy in the act, our joy will grow with practice. After we have practiced this way for some time, it will come spontaneously; we will do everything with a Dharma motivation and always feel a deep joy in everything we do.

There Are Many Ways to Practice Charity

We should practice giving in any way we can, unless doing so becomes a hindrance to our Dharma practice. No matter how small it might be, we should use every opportunity to make charity. Take, for example, offering a little blood to a mosquito. Whenever we are hungry, we look for something to eat. The mosquito on our arm is also hungry, and she needs food for her children. She was a human being in previous lives but, not having Dharma wisdom and being under the control of karma, she accumulated the negative karma to be reborn in that insect body. There was no plan. She didn’t plan when she was in human form that she would be reborn as a mosquito, in the way that we might study to become a doctor or work to obtain another precious human body.

When we look closely at a mosquito’s stomach, it looks completely empty and transparent, a bit like the plastic wrapping that envelops a loaf of bread. The mosquito is starving. By accepting a little pain from her now, we enable her to live and, in return, she gives us enlightenment. That is incredible!

I find thinking like this while remembering the mosquito’s incredible kindness is very effective for the mind. Having taken that drop of blood 14from my arm, she is satisfied and, even though there might be a little pain while she is drinking, I feel real tranquility and happiness watching her fly away. Any pain disappears when I think of her kindness.

There was no wish and no choice at all to be born as a mosquito, a flea, a lobster, or one of those worms that people bait fishing lines with, pushing the hook right through that being’s body. They had no choice, and trapped in their animal body, they are so pitiful, utterly without power or guidance. We don’t need to think of any of their other sufferings — how they are hungry, thirsty, cold, hot, exploited by humans, and so forth. Just consider how they have taken that body without choice, and because of that, they must experience unimaginable suffering without choice — that is enough.

I often think that feeding birds is an act of charity not only to the birds; by helping the birds rid themselves of hunger, they are less inclined to kill worms for their food. With full stomachs, they sit very contentedly, very peacefully, and so we are feeding the birds and saving the lives of worms.

In Hong Kong and many other places, people help injured or sick animals, forming charities to build animal hospitals where the animals can be treated. We can help animals in many ways. Even if we don’t have any money or means to physically give charity, we can make great charity with our mind.

All wealth comes from the wish to give, whereas economic problems such as recessions are caused by the miserly mind. Therefore we should offer physical or mental charity as much as we can. Very often I receive messages from people asking me to help them build monasteries, hospitals, schools, and so forth. Usually I try to help in whatever way I can, but I cannot fulfill everybody’s wishes. I try to ensure that people aren’t left completely empty-handed — I always offer something — because they are giving me the opportunity to collect merit by practicing charity. Furthermore, if I can give with a bodhichitta motivation, it becomes the cause for enlightenment.

So even if we can’t help a person financially this time, and we are not ready to offer our body, there are always ways to practice charity. 15Maybe we can’t give even a little thing every time but, if we have the means, we should try to give something. That way we help fulfill the other person’s wishes and, by creating positive karma, our own wishes will also be fulfilled.

Train Until We Can Offer Our Whole Body

When we are training our mind in charity, we should give without any clinging to the merit of that action. Instead, we should completely dedicate the charitable action so that the being we are giving to is able to find a perfect human rebirth and that we ourselves can reveal the path to them and guide them to enlightenment. If the practice is done in this way, even with tiny actions, gradually our mind becomes stronger and more courageous. Finally, we become like the bodhisattvas, able to give not just a tiny drop of blood to a mosquito but our whole body to a needy sentient being, without any hesitation despite the pain, with only the thought of loving-kindness and compassion.

A favorite story in the Jataka Tales13 is of the time when Shakyamuni Buddha gave his holy body to a family of starving tigers. At that time, Shakyamuni Buddha and Maitreya Buddha were brothers and both bodhisattvas. When they came across a starving tigress and her four cubs in the jungle, they both felt great compassion, but whereas Maitreya left, praying for a fortunate rebirth for the tiger family, the Buddha offered his whole body to them, dying in order to save them from starvation.

The teaching on equalizing and exchanging self and others — one of the two techniques for developing bodhichitta — shows us that all our problems come from cherishing the self and all our happiness comes from cherishing others. Using the practice of tonglen, we learn to renounce the ego, the source of all our problems, and cherish others. With the tonglen practice, when we visualize taking all the suffering of all sentient beings and giving them everything, we are naturally developing the perfection of charity.

For most human beings, the basic problem is the struggle to survive; they lack the means to live. In the practice of giving, we visualize giving them everything they need. For those trapped by poverty, for instance, 16we visualize billions of dollars falling from the sky like rain for them, until their houses are overflowing with money.

Of course, what they really need is to meet the Dharma and actualize the path, and for that they need to meet a spiritual teacher who can show them the complete unmistaken path to liberation and enlightenment. We can visualize giving them that.

We cannot immediately give everything away to every sentient being and take on the whole suffering of samsara, but we can train with small things. We should develop a strong determination to train our mind until we can give them everything and we can take the suffering from all beings and experience that by ourselves. With that determination, we do whatever we can according to our capabilities. If we are able to give even a small thing or experience even a small problem on behalf of somebody else, we should do that.

If we cannot even offer a small comfort to another person at present, such as giving a plate of food or a cup of tea, how can we dedicate all our possessions, our body, our happiness, and all our merit collected over the three times to all sentient beings? At present, when we see a free seat on a bus we rush to grab it, and we feel so happy when we beat somebody else to it. Even for such a tiny thing we rush. It’s amazing. Yet everybody else on the bus is exactly equal to us in wanting happiness and not wanting suffering; they all want the comfort of that seat as we do.

We all want maximum comfort. I remember a long time ago when I visited a cemetery near Manjushri Institute14 in northern England, I saw a place where people had reserved their spots to be buried. They were still alive and yet there were pieces of stone with their names on them. Dying is very expensive in the West, and of course it is good to make preparations so that it won’t be difficult for other people. But it is pointless to pay for an expensive plot in a beautiful park so the corpse can be comfortable. The person will have died and be utterly unable to enjoy the flowers or the view, and yet they spend so much so their dead body can rot in a beautiful environment. Instead of always insisting on maximum comfort for ourselves alone and spending so much on a 17piece of land not much bigger than a table, we could use that money in practical ways to benefit others.

We need to start in a small way to train our mind to give progressively more until we can offer everything. In this way, we will gradually be able to offer more, from happily giving up our seat on a bus to bigger and bigger things. Each time we give a scrap of food to a dog or a dollar to a beggar, the thought comes more easily to give more.

Although at this stage our miserliness might stop us from giving anything to anybody, Lama Tsongkhapa explained a technique in which we practice having our right hand offer something to our left hand and vice versa, as if we are giving to somebody else. Of course, we are just giving to ourselves, but still we are practicing giving. To practice giving in this way, the mind is extremely happy and peaceful, which others see and so are made happy. So far, I haven’t managed to do this practice.

From there we can start helping others in small ways, such as taking the heavy load from somebody who is struggling. Renouncing our own comfort for others’ in that way is exchanging ourselves for others in an extremely small way, but it is a start.

Any practice of offering ourselves to others is based on the understanding that other sentient beings are so precious, so important, so kind. Recalling how they have all been our mothers and kind in four ways15 will help us see this. By reflecting deeply on the kindness of others, whenever we have dealings with people, that recollection will come spontaneously and the wish to benefit them will naturally be there.

The very fact of our existence, the enjoyments we experience, our ability to follow the path to liberation and enlightenment — all this is due to the kindness of sentient beings. For this reason alone we should renounce the self and cherish others. Because of the kindness of each sentient being, we can accomplish the three great purposes: ensuring the happiness of future lives, attaining liberation, and attaining enlightenment. We should cherish others more than ourselves for the simple reason that this being we call “I” is one, whereas others are countless. No 18matter how important we might think this I is, it is nothing compared to the importance of the uncountable other sentient beings. Instead of working always for the self, to obtain benefits for ourselves and to prevent our own suffering, we should practice with body, speech, and mind to work for the happiness of others.

2. The Charity of Giving Fearlessness

The second type of charity is the charity of giving fearlessness: guiding others from fear and danger. This can take many forms, such as preventing somebody from endangering themselves or others or giving medicine to protect a person from illness. When a counselor helps a person by advising on what to do and frees them from anxiety, that is also the charity of giving fearlessness.

We also give fearlessness when we show somebody weighed down with worry and fear how to obtain happiness through the Dharma, such as by practicing one of the thought-transformation techniques. When we do that, we are offering not just the charity of giving fearlessness but also the charity of giving the Dharma. When we give the Dharma to others, we protect them from the dangers of this life and from rebirth in the lower realms, so it is naturally the charity of giving fearlessness. Without using Dharma terms, we can show them how to transform problems into happiness and how to benefit all other sentient beings. For somebody with a serious illness, for instance, we can show how it is not just the medication that is important to healing but a good attitude as well.

Kyabje Serkong Rinpoche16 explained that giving fearlessness includes saving insects that have fallen into water from drowning by lifting them out. If we see animals attacking each other, such as when ants attack a living worm (the dead ones they can have!), we should help if there is a way. Finding some way to keep the ants away from the worm is giving the worm the charity of fearlessness. In the same way, we should save a mouse that our cat has caught. To not intervene, thinking that it is the cat’s nature, is not enough. The same logic would mean we do nothing when somebody attacks or abuses us; if somebody tried to kill us, of 19course we would do everything we could to stop it. We would not simply submit, thinking it was just their nature.

In Solu Khumbu and areas in Tibet, when a person has omens or dreams that suggest they are going to die, or if they have been sick for a long time, it is common for them to consult a lama to receive predictions. One of the recommended common practices is for the person to buy animals such as goats or chickens and keep them in the house, feeding them and caring for them until they die. Sometimes they take the goats to high lamas and ask for prayers or some blessings for them.

If we can also do that, caring for an animal that was destined to be slaughtered, that is very good. By feeding them every day, we perform both the practice of giving material charity and the charity of giving fearlessness, and we create much good karma. In that way, we not only bring happiness to the animal but we also constantly create the cause of our own future happiness.

Animal Liberation Can Incorporate All Six Perfections

According to our own capabilities, we should help protect people and animals from dangers in whatever way we can, trying to guide them from fear. If we are able to protect an animal’s life by buying it, rather than allowing it to be slaughtered by a butcher or bought by a restaurant, that is the charity of giving fearlessness. We should liberate animals if we can, depending on how much we can afford. For small creatures, such as fish or worms, we can buy many and do it often. It definitely works. Causing others to have longer lives is itself a karmic cause for our own life to be prolonged by preventing the hindrances that cause untimely death.

With the practice of animal liberation,17 we buy animals from places where they are going to be killed for food and release them into as safe an environment as possible, somewhere where they can live longer. This can be a simple act or part of an elaborate ceremony involving many people and thousands of animals. In Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, they don’t release animals by the hundreds but by the tens of thousands. So many lives are saved.

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It is very beneficial to practice the charity of fearlessness by practically saving their lives while at the same time giving them Dharma imprints by saying mantras and circumambulating stupas or other holy objects with them. The positive potential that they receive from such a practice is unimaginable. On one hand, we are saving their lives, and on the other, we are giving them the causes for full enlightenment. What more can anybody do for such animals?

In this way, such a practice becomes extremely rich. Wishing to save the lives of these kind creatures from the danger of death is the charity of giving fearlessness; feeding them before or after liberating them is material charity; and reciting those powerful mantras and blowing on them, causing them to purify their negative karma and to have good rebirth, is the charity of giving the Dharma.

Besides the perfection of charity, animal liberation contains all the other perfections if we do it correctly. Liberating the animals in this way, we are practicing both the morality of abstaining from nonvirtue and, because we are reciting mantras and circumambulating holy objects with the animals, the morality of gathering virtue. Bearing the hardships of setting up the liberation ceremony and of actually doing it becomes the perfection of patience; the joy and effort we make to do it and the concentration involved become the perfections of perseverance and concentration. And when we see how we ourselves, the animals, and the action of liberating are all nothing other than completely imputed by the mind, the action can become the perfection of wisdom.

Liberating animals in this way is extremely important because if we just buy them from a shop, even when we liberate them there is always the danger they might be killed by other animals. Then what? They can die at any time and most of them will be born again in the lower realms. Of course, there is some benefit in prolonging their lives if we can liberate them where there is no immediate danger from predators, but if we recite mantras and the teachings of the Buddha, such as on emptiness or bodhichitta, it leaves imprints on their minds. Then definitely, after death, they will be in human bodies and able to meet the Dharma, to listen to it, reflect and meditate on it, and actualize the path. That is how 21they become enlightened. This is what we can offer them; it is something extremely worthwhile.

3. The Charity of Giving the Dharma

While giving things and giving fearlessness are important practices, the most important charity we can give is the charity of giving the Dharma. What sentient beings need is to be free from suffering and its causes and to have peerless happiness, and that can only come when they practice the Dharma. So if we can give them that, what greater benefit can there be?

Giving food, money, or clothing; building schools, hospitals, and so forth — such things are of great benefit to others, relieving them of temporary difficulties, but they are not the greatest benefit. Sentient beings who currently need our material help have all been millionaires in the past countless times, but they are still in samsara; just having wealth alone did not free them from suffering. If it had, all sentient beings would have been freed from suffering an unimaginably long time ago.

What they need is to be liberated from the cause of suffering — not just from sickness, starvation, and

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