Venerable Ya-un: Being generous

This post continues the Venerable Ya-un’s Admonitions to Myself. Here he warns us about the limitations of desire, while encouraging us to pay attention to what lasts and what benefits us longterm.

Greed is the foremost cause of a suffering-filled rebirth.[1]  Giving is foremost among the six good practices.[2]  Stinginess and greed prevent you from attaining the true path, while compassion and giving help protect you from falling into evil ways. If a poor person comes to you begging for help, you should not be reluctant, even if you are in hard circumstances yourself. You came into this world with nothing and you will leave it with nothing. You should not cling to even your own possessions, so how can you think about other’s belongings? When this body dies, what will you take with you? 

The only thing that will follow you is the karma that you have made. If you cultivate your mind for three days, it can become a treasure that lasts for a thousand years. However, the accumulated possessions of a hundred years of desire will all be reduced to dust in the span of a few hours. 

            Where does the suffering of the three evil rebirths come from?
            From greed and desire accumulated over many lifetimes.
            Contenting myself with the Buddha’s robe and bowl,
            why should I accumulate ignorance?  

Kam-un Temple has been gone for over 800 years
yet to this day, the sincere efforts made by those long-ago practitioners still reverberate here. (The feeling of deep sincerity is so strong at this site that visiting it will make me teary-eyed.)






[1] In particular, rebirth in the hell realms, the hungry ghost realms, and the animal realms.
[2] The six paramitas – generosity, disciple, patience, exertion, meditation, and wisdom.

6 thoughts on “Venerable Ya-un: Being generous”

  1. Ya-un is the *man*!!!

    My Teacher Dr. Do always told us that ‘our’ possessions were not our own…we were merely tending them while we were alive, so why not share them?

    Thanks for this series Sunim.

  2. Fun to learn about Venerable Ya-un’s philosophy and how applicable it is to our modern world. Thanks Chong Go Sunim.

  3. Thanks for all your great comments, everyone!
    I’ve been a bit swamped and haven’t be able to get to them as I would have liked.

    Although Ya-un was writing for monastics (and a few parts really show that,) it is amazing how much of what he said can apply to anyone. I love that line, “Greed is the formost cause of a suffering-filled rebirth.” Actually, “love” might not be the right word, perhaps better to say that this line really sticks with me.

    Thanks Gary, for your encouragements about the class for “No River to Cross.” I’ll definitely include more posts from it. There’s just so much good stuff there. I know a couple of people who’ve actually worn out their copies!

  4. Hi Chong Go,
    Thank you for your posts and for the posts on, “No River to Cross” class! This is a book that is definitely worn in our household, and I look forward to reading more of your posts on it… 🙂

  5. Thank you! I’m struggling with the idea that asking someone for something they cannot (or do not want to) give is a form of greed/stealing. In my practice with this interpretation of the precept, I’m noticing the many subtle ways I “ask” of or “take” from others. Interesting.

    1. Yeah, that’s not an easy one; there’s certainly a lot of room for ambiguity there. For monks and nuns it’s really strongly worded “Taking what’s not freely given.” Which applies fairly well when one thinks of donations from lay people.

      However, with family or people you’re living with, then it’s a different story. If my parents had waited until I was ready to weed the garden of my own free will…^-^

      I’ve learned (finally!) to ask for help if I need it, but for me the really key point is that the circumstances have to be such that the other person can feel free to say “no.” In this case they aren’t being forced into something. Instead, I’ve let them know about a situation, and it’s up to them if they want to respond.

      Thanks for your great comments and questions! It’s really a lot of fun talking with someone who’s dedicated to practice! _/|\_

Leave a Reply

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

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

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s