Fear builds walls. Fearlessness builds bridges.
- Bunan Unsui
According to the Online Etymological Dictionary, the word donation originates from Middle French, circa 1425, and from the Latin donatio, circa 10th century BC. This dictionary also suggests a comparison to the even older Sanskrit word danam, circa 1200 BC. This oldest form of a word for generosity may help us understand how to be fearless in this time of economic uncertainty.
The Sanskrit term Dána (from danam) is used in the Buddhist tradition as one of the 6 Perfections or Paramitas. According to Bunan Unsui, a Buddhist monk, these perfections represent passage points from suffering (Samsara) to happiness and awakening (Nirvana). According to Unsui, the Dána Paramita (or Perfection of Generosity),
is the practice of giving freely, without attachment or expectation. This can be giving in the monetary sense, or giving of our time, our love, and ourselves - giving of our presence. Regardless of what is given, or why it is given, the very act of giving must, by definition, involve the act of ‘letting go’ by one of the parties involved.
Unsui provides 3 types of giving in the Dána Paramita, 1) giving of wealth or material resources, 2) giving of teaching, and 3) giving of fearlessness. He says,
Courageousness and bravery are not products of the reduction of fear, but of transcending fear… of going beyond fear… of acting according to our values despite the presence of fear!
So the question is, how can we hold and recognize our fears, whether they are about our current economic situation, our prospects in the foreseeable future, or even what will happen to our resources many years from now, and still act concurrently with our values? According to this Buddhist tradition, by being fearless and continuing to be generous, we are not only benefiting ourselves and moving along a path to happiness, we are also giving fearlessness to others.
Think about it. Letting go of your fear and acting that out through being generous in giving to others, your gifts can not only provide for the material needs of others, but can also inspire them to be brave and move toward a fearless place themselves.
If you knew what I know about the power of generosity,
you would not let a single meal go by without sharing it.