Summary: A meditator asks about gift-giving. (She received a pair of men’s socks and later a used glove in a chocolate box.)
Sathi listed the four results of gift giving or responses of the giver and the person receiving the gift. He emphasizes that we are only responsible for your own actions. When you are giving a gift, give it unconditionally. When you receive a gift, receive it unconditionally without expectations.
An interesting conversation results in sharing many interesting (and funny) gift giving situations.
[Sathi] Are there any questions or suggestions for teaching? [Meditator] I have a question. It is about gift giving. There is a member of my family and when they give gifts, they are not very thoughtful. They just do it for the fact of doing it.
An example is recently, I got a gift that was for men’s socks. I said, “This is men’s socks.” [And she replied] “Oh, it was supposed to be a glove.” So, a couple of days later I received a glove but it was a used glove in a box of chocolates.
I called and I thanked her. But, it just tickles me a little bit. And, how do I even deal with this?
[Group is laughing] [Another Meditator] You need a really good sense of humor.
[Meditator] I know. But it goes a little deeper than that and I’ve been ignoring but then it keeps coming back.
[Sathi] It is a good, practical question that we can all practice. Hmmm? When we think about gift giving, mainly there are two parties involved. The giver and the receiver.
A few things can happen.
1) By giving a gift, both the receiver and the giver will be happy. They will experience huge happiness.
2) On the second level, the receiver is happy but the giver is not that happy.
3) On the opposite side, the giver is happy, but the receiver is not happy.
4) The receiver and giver are not happy.
I’m sure we have all have [experienced] each of those situations.
There are certain qualities, certain actions, involved with each of these activities/[scenarios].
Gift giving is a tradition for certain occasions. Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays. Those are not actually unconditional giving. Just think about it. If you don’t give a gift for your partner on Valentine’s Day what would happen to you? [laughing and giggling].
If you don’t receive a gift on Valentine’s Day, especially if you are….
[Meditator] You can say it… [laughing] [Sathi] Think…. what do you do to your husband? [laughing] Sometimes the giving is an obligation. In most of the cases it is an obligation.
When it becomes an obligation it is not happy giving or receiving. As I mentioned, those four categories are there. But the first, category, the giver is happy, the receiver is happy. The giver is happy. There shouldn’t be any obligation towards spending money or energy toward that gift.
Then, when the giver sees that the receiver is really happy from receiving it, that gives more energy, more happiness, more joyfulness to the giver. Then, every time you see that the receiver is using that gift with care, with respect, and enjoying it… Then, each time the giver experiences happiness.
Think about how many times you have been given such a gift in your life.
I’m sure you have been doing that kind of gift-giving. But, if you really think about whom you have given such a gift, mostly, it is to someone you love very much. [Someone] you care about very much.
With that gift, you have received happiness more than the value of the gift. Therefore, you don’t really care how much money or energy you put into the gift because there is that much love in it.
Think about how many gifts you have received in your life. Probably, such a gift you have received only from somebody who loves you very much.
They are unconditionally happy and they have put a lot of meaning into that gift. Maybe value-wise, only a few dollars. But the love, in that gift, really gives you a lot of meaning. Sometimes the value is a big value, but, of course, you will see the love in it.
Where does the trouble begin? The trouble begins… if you are a person who is giving gifts to others, respecting the gift and the person with a lot of care. If you are such a person, I know some of you, some of you are thinking all year long, “What should I give to this person for next Christmas?” You are putting a lot of thought into it; a lot of meaning. A lot of love in it. A lot of care.
But, if you are such a person then automatically you think others do the same thing. But, there is something we need to understand. We can only be responsible for your own action. We cannot be responsible for the actions of others. If you happen to lose yourself due to other’s action or unmindfulness or other’s thoughtlessness, you should [evaluate] to yourself. Is it really worth losing your peacefulness due to someone else’s thoughtlessness or unkindness?
Unfortunately, in today’s time, you are just giving a gift because it is a tradition.
Let me share a story with you although it is not 100 percent related to this question. One of the meditation teachers, who I dearly love, by the end of the year, around January 1st, all the students and the friends of his were just giving gifts. Most people buy shirts or pants or a sarong. Sarong is the clothes we wear as an Asian teacher.
When this teacher was appreciative and thanking everyone. But, by the evening, he was also giving gifts to others. [laughing] What does he do? He collects all the gifts and gives them to others.
So, one day, one of my friends who gave [teacher a gift] with a lot of energy and a lot of thought, and sizes and everything. He spent a lot of money to buy this shirt for this teacher. But, he received the same shirt back. [group laughing]
Then he said, “Bhante, I will never give a gift to him anymore because he is not going to use it. He is going to pass it on to somebody else.” So, when this comes up in discussion one day, after meditation, [the teacher] said, “Don’t blame me. Gift-giving has become a tradition and an obligation. Sometimes you receive the gift you don’t want. You have many of the same things but you keep receiving it.”
Think about it. When you are receiving a gift it makes you happy. Just think, which category am I in? Think about what you can be responsible of? What is your job? What is your duty?
Let me tell you what I have done. I don’t want to say I am right. But, sometimes I receive a gift I don’t want. But, at the same time, I don’t want to make this person unhappy. I thank them and take it. But, I pass it on to somebody else.
Sometimes the other person has put a lot of energy, a lot of thought into it and they find that gift.
So, what is our job? Our job is to not make the other person unhappy. We don’t gain anything by giving a lesson to another person [by saying] “You should give more thought into your gift-giving because that is what I do.” No. Just appreciate it. Maybe this person gives me something I don’t want, maybe a rock. This person gives me a rock. That’s okay.[A meditator] Laughing. That’s an idea! More laughter. I could give it back to her. [Sathi] That might hurt that person. That might hurt. What is our trouble? You know how serious you are when you are looking for a gift for somebody and then we indirectly think that that person has to do the same job. That’s where we struggle. Because when we don’t see the same respect, that’s what you have seen with your experience. You don’t see, even the meaning for it, “Why did you give me male socks? I’m not going to wear them.” Maybe this person was giving you socks for your husband. [Laughing] [Meditator] My dad used to wrap up stuff in our house and give it to me for Christmas. Like one year he gave me a towel that we already had in the house. Because he thought that Christmas was too materialistic. So, that was his way of dealing with it. [laughing] [Another Meditator] My husband is a horrible gift giver. He just isn’t very good at planning ahead and thinking ahead of what he has to give. So, it is never going to be reciprocal. But, some people might have a limitation that they might not be aware of. I don’t know. Does this person put more thought into gifts for other people or is that how they give gifts uniformly? [Another Meditator] I have a friend who was living with somebody and as they were exchanging gifts this person gave her a wrapped up gift. It was a box of Kleenex that was already opened. It was meant to be an insult. Your story made me think of that. I don’t know if it was meant as an insult or… [Meditator] I don’t think so. I think that consciousness is not there. [Sathi and Meditator] That might be the case. [Meditator] But, then for me to be able to handle it, that is the question I have. Because I can’t change, you know. [Sathi] Actually, what is underneath there, just think about it, the meaning of giving gifts is a generosity. Without generosity, you can’t practice gift-giving. [A Meditator] But there is also have to be unconditional receiving. My friend, who lives across the hall, is leaving chocolates for me. And, I feel bad. I haven’t given him anything. But, that is not part of the exchange. That’s putting my ego into it. [Another Meditator] Sometimes I invite co-workers to go out for lunch. They are very sensitive about “Oh, you are paying for lunch. I’ll have to pay for lunch in the future.” I have the means, I enjoy the company, just take it. I’m not expecting anything in return. Right?
This formality of exchanging money over the Holidays, we basically pass around money. We buy gift cards for the kids and the adults. And, they give a gift card, and it is just like we are just moving money around really. That is all it is. It’s like we recovered all the money! [laughing] [Another meditator] I had to stop giving presents to my best friend from childhood. I just loved to think about what to give him. But, he has regifted me stuff. There’s like a whole story about that. So, finally, I just couldn’t figure out how to be with that. It was too hard for me.
Finally, I said I think it is time we stop this tradition. Even though I enjoyed it, I couldn’t fully enjoy it because I knew I was going to get some crappy re-gift that wasn’t thought through. Even though we are dear friends. It’s just that he couldn’t do that. He couldn’t get it together for that. It wasn’t his thing. He will send me a card for every holiday under the sun, you know. But I had a struggle with this. I would like to continue this because I was enjoying it. But I couldn’t be that receiver. So, its a limitation. I can’t get over it. I’m just going to have to stop the tradition and free myself from that whole cycle.[Another Meditator] I think that speaks of something bigger too. Like the best gift he can give you is friendship. He has been giving you that gift for a long time. To buy a thing, is never going to match how you feel about having a good friend. I think you are wise to not do that thing to prove you are good friends. Just spend time together instead. Or, send cards on the holidays to let you know you are thinking of each other. [Another Meditator] Sounds to me like the problem is being able to receive. [Group] Ahhhhh. [Meditator] You are able to give, but you are expecting that back. He is giving what he has to give. [Meditator] I couldn’t get over the ahhh, disappointment of it. [Meditator] Right, that’s on the receiving end. The problem is being able to receive. [Meditator] Right, right. I know that is the problem. I couldn’t get over it. I couldn’t let that be okay. I enjoyed the giving. I loved thinking of what he would like. [Meditator] So, my question is, you are enjoying the giving, but you are unable to receive. [Meditator] I know, that’s the thing! I just knew he didn’t think it through for one second. He is a teacher. He would get something from a student. I got the same thing two years in a row. Because it was left-over stuff from when his mom shut down shop. And, that was the end of it. I said, “Oh, here we are again. He didn’t think you know.” [Meditator] Even now you are making it about him. Not yourself. [Meditator] No…..oh, okay. I have to be okay with him not caring about this. [Meditator] He probably does care. Just in a different way than you do. [Lots of conversational bits back and forth between the meditators] [Sathi] So, we cannot change others. The only person we can change is ourselves. We cannot make others do this. How can we change ourself so we don’t experience this unnecessary pain? Checking out expectations, in both ways. When you are giving a gift, do you have any expectations of it? Well, it is okay to give our thoughts and make that person happy, putting your thoughts and energy into [the gift] and giving your best.
At the same time, check your generosity. Can I really do this unconditionally? You put a lot of energy into something. But, this person throws it somewhere and is not using it. What is happening to you? You had all the energy and finally, you can’t be happy because that person is not using it or respecting it well. Now you are unhappy due to that person’s reaction.
Therefore, when you are giving a gift. Give it unconditionally.
When you receive a gift. Receive it unconditionally. Without expectations. Don’t expect that person. This day, what do kids do? You write what you want. Then, you expect, “Oh, I wish he or she will buy this for me.” Then, even before you receive the gift you know what you are going to receive for Christmas. This is what you receive for your Thanksgiving. Or even Valentine’s Day. “Oh, my husband or wife will give me this.”
What’s behind it? You are using the opportunity to touch something. There is no real meaning behind the gift. You have expectations. Gift receiving and gift-giving have to be a surprise and happy and without expectations. Those qualities are not there anymore. That’s the trouble.[Meditator to another Meditator] You probably did the right thing. You said there are four ways that gift-giving can happen. And the best way is if both people are happy. And, both people were not happy in this situation. So, saying “Let’s just not have this situation anymore.” is probably the best solution. Right? [Meditator] It would have been an interesting opportunity for me to get out of that place. I tried, I failed, I stopped the situation because it was just being an impossible situation instead of using it as an opportunity to be in a different place with it. [Meditator] Maybe he didn’t like giving gifts. So, maybe it was the best thing. You weren’t happy. Maybe he wasn’t happy either. So, why do this? [Sathi] Again, don’t go to him. Come to you. [Another Meditator] This makes me think about what I observed about lending money to friends and family. They advise you, if they don’t pay you back, are you going to be okay with that? Or, just the best way to lend money to somebody is to just expect that it is not going to be returned. If you can’t be okay with that then don’t lend the money. [Another Meditator] or books…. [Much laughing] … That’s a gift…. [Another Meditator] That unconditional part. Once it is given it is a gift. You don’t get to decide how they feel about it or what they do with it. Once, you’ve given it… [Another Meditator] But, she’s talking about something that is actually supposed to be a loan. Not a gift. It’s a transaction. [Another Meditator] Sales reps do it all the time. “I’m giving you a gift.” Now, there is an obligation to that. That’s true. Absolutely. That’s why I don’t take gifts from them anymore. [Sathi] Always it comes to us. Check your mind and how you are doing it. Don’t suffer because of another person’s unthoughtful actions. [Another Meditator] Actually, you have given me an incredible gift. Because I’m just picturing you opening a chocolate box with a single glove in there. You’ve taken this gift and turned it into a gift for me now. [laughing] [Another Meditator] It is so funny that it was just one glove. [Meditator] No, no, it was a pair of gloves. It was a used [pair of] gloves. [Meditator] I think it was the chocolate box that did it for me. [More laughter] [Meditator] Every time I would give my Grandma a give she would give it back to me, “I don’t want this.” So, one year I gave her some gloves that matched my coat. [Laughter and clapping] [Meditator] Did she give them back? [Meditator] Yes. like everything. [Sathi] We don’t have to teach this to anybody. For me, if somebody feels obligated to give a give, and this person doesn’t have a rich or peaceful generous mind, and only feels obligated to do it. Then, what this person is really doing is just trying to cover up the obligation. That is what this person is trying to do.
That person is blind with greed. Blind with the lack of attention. Finally, what that person is expecting, “Okay, I’m done. I’ve given the gift.”
You don’t have to appreciate the gift you received, but you can appreciate the action of that person. You can say, “Thank you for giving me a gift.”
Recorded on February 1, 2020, at the Meditation Center in Chaska, Minnesota.
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