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The Gift of Dharma
In the teachings of the Buddha, the practice of giving claims a place of special eminence, one which the Buddha singles it out as being the foundation and seed of spiritual development. For all who benefit from the Dharma and aspire to attain liberation for the benefit of all suffering beings, it is vital to understand how 'pure offering' and generosity are as important as all the three turnings of the wheel of Dharma. In the Pali suttas we read time and again that the "talk on giving" was invariably the first topic to be discussed by the Buddha in his "graduated exposition" of the Dharma.
Whenever the Buddha delivered a discourse to an audience of people who had not yet come to regard him as their teacher, he would start by emphasizing the value of giving. Only after his audience had come to appreciate this virtue would he introduce other aspects of his teaching, such as the law of karma, the benefits in renunciation and the compassionate path of the great Bodhisattvas who practice the six perfections.
Only after the value of pure offering and generosity had made an impact on the minds of his listeners would he expound to them that unique discovery of the Awakened, the Four Noble Truths. Over time the Buddha gave the core teaching of giving up attachment through meditating on the view of emptiness found in the Heart Sutra, and finally he revealed the teachings on Buddhanature found in the Lotus Sutra. He taught the three kinds of Generosity - offering of material objects to support those in need, offering of life and limb to protect the innocent and the most profound offering of Dharma.
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