Giving – known as “dana” in Pali, the language in which the teachings of the Buddha were first written down – is the first of the ten “paramis” or perfections of a Bodhisattva, a highly Awakened person who postpones his or her ultimate enlightenment to bring all beings to liberation.

The other nine paramis (with links to the fantastic Access to Insight website, for more information) are virtue (sila), renunciation (nekkhamma), discernment (pañña), energy/persistence (viriya), patience/forbearance (khanti), truthfulness (sacca), determination (adhitthana), good will (metta), and equanimity (upekkha).

In their most complete expression, these are combined with compassion and skillfulness, and they are untainted by any kind of craving, self-centeredness, or positional views.

Of course, these qualities are present to some degree in us all. Even without being – or even aspiring to be – a Bodhisattva, it is a wonderful thing both to express these qualities as they already exist, and to cultivate them further in our mind and heart, in our thoughts and words and deeds.