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 Post subject: Rejecting an Offering
PostPosted: Wed Jan 23, 2013 6:26 pm 
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Yesterday I did something kind for someone and in return they offered me something I didn't need. It was obvious to me that they could clearly use this thing in the future and that I didn't need it, wouldn't even use it because it was a coupon for free food that I wouldn't eat. I told them that I really appreciated the gesture, which was true, but that they should keep it and use it themselves. Obviously my intention was that they should receive the most benefit possible and that I should not take something from someone who was as impoverished as they were.

However immediately a thought occurred to me that maybe I had done something really bad by rejecting her offering, and I felt really bad for not taking it. In theory, although I am not any kind of great practitioner, lama or Guru, I aspire to be a better practitioner and have taken Bodhisattva vows and so forth. On some level I wondered if rejecting her offering had eliminated a potential cause for her to accumulate good karma and merit since she was making an offering to a Buddhist (even if she didn't know it), and my main concern is that I might have done just this.

So my question is this: Should we always accept offerings from people even if we know they need it more than us simply to allow them to generate karma and merit? Since she does not know I am a Buddhist and her intention was simply to return kindness, was any harm actually done by my rejecting it? I know if I could go back in time I would accept it, simply based on my immediate reaction and awareness of how I might negatively affect someones ability to generate sources of merit and good karma. At the same time her intention was the same either way, it was a completely selfless gesture made by someone who had nothing in order to return kindness to a complete stranger who obviously didn't need it and on that level I can see how she still generated good karma and merit.

If I have done something to deprive her of good karma please let me know so I can make offerings and do practices and dedicate the merit and karma to her. Thanks in advance!


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 23, 2013 6:51 pm 
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I was in a similar situation. I don't think I can address the issue of merit and karma from a Buddhist standpoint correctly, but unless she was highly offended or insulted, I think you did no wrong. I can tell you what I would do (and have done). I would have accepted the coupon (if I thought she might be offended or insulted at the refusal of the gift), then turned around, used it and sent something to her anonymously, maybe after a few days or week so as not to tip her off it was you. In fact, if she mentioned the anonymous gift of food or whatever, I'd say "How wonderful! You helped me and someone helped you!" She did help you, by letting you help her. Convoluted, I know. :tongue: It's not a lie; I don't even think it's deceptive. If she needed the food more than you did, and she was not offended, I actually think you did good.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 23, 2013 7:01 pm 
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I would think that the benefit of charity comes from the inner state of giving, not whether the gifts are accepted externally.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 23, 2013 7:03 pm 
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That makes sense to me, it seems like the question is really whether or not you encouraged, or made her aware of her altruism..that is really the central bit, right?

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 23, 2013 7:27 pm 
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How did she react afterwards?

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 23, 2013 7:37 pm 
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futerko wrote:
How did she react afterwards?


I gave her a very heartfelt thank you and show of appreciation for the fact that she was offering it to me, and I really did appreciate it so I think I conveyed that appropriately. She seemed to accept it well, she was smiling the whole time and never seemed let down, then she went over to another table and started talking to her friend about unrelated things, so it didn't appear to effect her negatively to any great degree.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 23, 2013 7:43 pm 
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I think you did the right thing. You didn't need the gift. She may need it in the future. You showed your gratitude for the offer. I think everyone's motivation here was sound. I don't see a problem. She get's the good karma for offering to you. You get the good karma for appreciating her gift AND making sure she does not go without in the future. WIN-WIN all round I'd say.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 23, 2013 7:47 pm 
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I agree with the other posters. You made an instictive decision based upon the information you had at the time, and were right to trust that.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 23, 2013 7:54 pm 
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wisdom wrote:
However immediately a thought occurred to me that maybe I had done something really bad by rejecting her offering, and I felt really bad for not taking it. In theory, although I am not any kind of great practitioner, lama or Guru, I aspire to be a better practitioner and have taken Bodhisattva vows and so forth. On some level I wondered if rejecting her offering had eliminated a potential cause for her to accumulate good karma and merit since she was making an offering to a Buddhist (even if she didn't know it), and my main concern is that I might have done just this.

So my question is this: Should we always accept offerings from people even if we know they need it more than us simply to allow them to generate karma and merit? Since she does not know I am a Buddhist and her intention was simply to return kindness, was any harm actually done by my rejecting it? I know if I could go back in time I would accept it, simply based on my immediate reaction and awareness of how I might negatively affect someones ability to generate sources of merit and good karma. At the same time her intention was the same either way, it was a completely selfless gesture made by someone who had nothing in order to return kindness to a complete stranger who obviously didn't need it and on that level I can see how she still generated good karma and merit.
I once went to a fish release. However when we arrived at the docks there were no fish to buy. The Lama with us (Thubten Nima) said we had generated the same amount of beneficial karma regardless, as we had had the intention to purchase and free fish.

Thus, since your friend had the intention to give the gift to you and carried out the intention to the best of her ability, she generated the same amount as if you had accepted.

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Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
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Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 23, 2013 9:04 pm 
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I think the paramita of generousity gives whatever is needed, and accepts whatever is offered, spontaneously and without discrimination. It is equally meritorious to accept as to give. Also I think it unnecessary to worry about other peoples merit. In this instance I think your merit would have been even greater if you had accepted the gift. For merit without boundary then there are no consideration of giver, gift, or receiver. Or so I have been told. Personally I find that my intentions was somewhat "purer" before I found Buddhism and learned about the concept of "making merit".


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 24, 2013 1:50 am 
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It was spontaneous at the time. Certainly ive turned down all kinds of things before and never given it second thought. It seems however that i am merely elaborating the situation too much. I believe it threw me off guard to have anyone give me anything, im not used to that, but also that an impoverished person would do that with the kindness that she did made me second guess my actions. Thank you all for your insightful responses!


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 24, 2013 2:18 am 
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which will expire first...the merit or the coupon?
.
.
.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 24, 2013 2:20 am 
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As usual, great responses. Both responses are great, to receive or to receive the intent only. Perhaps another possibility is to accept the gift and pass it on to someone in need of it, even if this puts us out. A sort of generation of more generous intent . . . :twothumbsup:

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 24, 2013 3:56 am 
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There are numerous stories of teachers and guru's who accept food from very poor devotees. There is a spiritual exchange of sorts. The love and devotion of the giver is acknowledged by the receivers understanding of the 'quality' and the depth of sacrifice he has been given.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 24, 2013 8:55 am 
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I think, to recect the offering was not a bad deed. But to take it next time would be better. Because it was her decision to give it she could live with it also.
To take the offer means also to respect her desire for giving.
"There's nothing I can give in return" is not a very uplifting feeling.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 24, 2013 3:14 pm 
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her karma of giving would only become complete had you accepted the gift

losing 1 coupon this life and gaining 100 in a future life vs gaining 1 now and none later. hmmm. well at least there is still a large effect from positive motiviation


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 24, 2013 3:20 pm 
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5heaps wrote:
her karma of giving would only become complete had you accepted the gift

losing 1 coupon this life and gaining 100 in a future life vs gaining 1 now and none later. hmmm. well at least there is still a large effect from positive motiviation
That is assuming that she was giving without any conception of the giver, recipient, or the act of giving. It is quite possible that she was doing it because of the conventions about gifting - the idea that we shouldn't just take without offering something in return, which is based on karmic notions of self and pride - so in challenging that it may well have resulted in a reduction of karma, which is preferable to an accumulation of merit.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 24, 2013 6:14 pm 
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The idea that it isn't selfish to accept a gift on the basis that it allows the other to practice generosity seems quite different from the idea that one must necessarily accept all offerings in case it deprives the other of that opportunity.

The first maintains the flow of energy and openness based on the idea that the self is an illusion, so one shouldn't feel guilty for accepting a gift - in that sense it works against us being obsessive about it.

The second does the opposite and turns the idea into an obsession, drawing a line under the interaction which assumes that the "bottom line" has been reached and the cycle of karma can somehow be closed. This fixes the energy flow and suggests that merit trumps wisdom, which seems a bit misguided.

The action in question was not only done out of compassion, but also the wisdom of this action lies in leaving things open and fluid. Who is to say whether that incompleteness may not lead to something far more auspicious than if the action was completed?

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 24, 2013 9:22 pm 
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futerko wrote:
5heaps wrote:
her karma of giving would only become complete had you accepted the gift

losing 1 coupon this life and gaining 100 in a future life vs gaining 1 now and none later. hmmm. well at least there is still a large effect from positive motivation
That is assuming that she was giving without any conception of the giver, recipient, or the act of giving. It is quite possible that she was doing it because of the conventions about gifting - the idea that we shouldn't just take without offering something in return, which is based on karmic notions of self and pride - so in challenging that it may well have resulted in a reduction of karma, which is preferable to an accumulation of merit.


She seemed to be a very kindly disposed person. I believe she was acting out of her own sense of whats right, that you should return favors to people who extend favors to you. She was trying to close some kind of gap or debt that she perceived existed. She was too impoverished and did not have enough pride to reject my gift to her, but she had enough to want to return the favor. The reality is that there was no debt because I didn't lose anything since I wasn't imputing any absolute reality onto the thing being given in the first place.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 24, 2013 9:34 pm 
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wisdom wrote:
She was trying to close some kind of gap or debt that she perceived existed.
This is exactly what I mean - such a gap is the space where the possibility of insight can arise.

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