In today’s post, I want to talk about charity, selflessness, kindness to others. I always feel that January lends itself to charitable deeds, and many people take up challenges such as Veganuary, or Dry January for example, often asking friends and family to sponsor them financially for their chosen charity. So I thought I’d give us all a little prompt to do our own self-audit of how charitable we’ve been this month. First here’s a tale which embodies the qualities of charity, selflessness and kindness to the max!:
In the Buddhist Jataka tales (Tale 316), a monkey, an otter, a jackal, and a rabbit resolved to practice charity on the day of the full moon, believing that a demonstration of great virtue would earn them great spiritual reward. They came across an old man begging for food and decided that giving him food would be a good way to practice charity.
First, the monkey gathered fruits from the trees and gave them to the old man. Next, the otter caught some fish and presented it to the beggar. Meanwhile, the jackal caught a lizard and stole a pot of milk-curd. The rabbit knew only how to gather grass. Did humans eat grass? it wondered. Then it remembered that they did eat rabbit meat, so it offered its own body, throwing itself into a fire that the old beggar had built.
But the fire did not burn the rabbit! The old man revealed himself to be Śakra, ruler of the Gods. He was touched by the rabbit’s selflessness and virtue, and drew the likeness of the rabbit on the Moon. In this way, all would see it and remember the rabbit’s kindness.
It is said the lunar image is still draped in the smoke that rose when the rabbit cast itself into the fire. The legend is popular and part of local folklore throughout Asia (in China, Japan, India, Korea, Sri Lanka and so on).
So how can we use this tale to do our self-audit? How can we endeavour to embody these qualities of charity, selflessness and kindness? We don’t have to literally give ourselves, but couldn’t we all give of ourselves to help others? How have you measured up this month? Is your first thought in the morning to check your social media for likes, or to call your mother to say good morning? When someone has admired something you are wearing or a treasured possession, have you felt puffed up with pride, or did you feel even a little impulse to offer it to them as a gift? If you won a Christmas hamper, did you keep it all to yourself or did you share it with friends and family (or neighbours, local community groups?). Don’t be hard on yourself, for that is a form of unkindness. Simply use your experiences as a starting point for improvement. You’re on the road to a new, kinder, happier you. Enjoy the journey, and remember to look up into the night sky every so often and think of the kindness of the rabbit!
Much love, Anita.