His Holiness the 17th Karmapa speaks of the essential meaning of life in terms of giving to others:
Many of us try to get a purpose or a meaning for our life in this world. The time that we have on this earth is quite short and our life is impermanent. Because our time in this life is short and so uncertain, taking this into account… then, whether we are able to get the essence of, or the essential purpose of this life, does not depend on whether we can do lots of things, or achieve something. Rather, whether we get that essence or not, depends on whether we can get something that pertains to the essential purpose of our life. So what is the essential purpose of our life? I think that if we can give everything that we can for the sake of society, everything we can for the purpose of bringing benefit to others, then I think that is the essential purpose of our life. 1
The Dharma Fellowship performs charitable work. Motivated by a wish to "make the world a better place for all beings," to lessen the suffering and pain of others, this sacred work consists of spreading both material and spiritual benefit where appropriate. We encourage not just members, but also non-members to help us perform this work:
We believe all sentient beings to be part of One Undivided Whole and that the same Indwelling Flame dwells in the heart of each and every living entity. Accepting that we are all one, and that life has profound meaning, we must seriously take responsibility for the world in which we live. Consequently, we hold that Love, and acts of Compassionate Love in the form of Charity, forms the very foundation of an authentic Spiritual Life; that making the world a better place for all is itself a sacred work; and that the highest principle of Dharma is to do no harm to any living being.
Charity as Spiritual Practice
The true work of life for each and every one of us, apart from the evolution and eventual enlightenment of consciousness, is to make the world a better place than we found it, for the sake of the planet and all living beings. The mindset necessary to make the world a better place is a vitally significant expansion of consciousness based on a recognition of the essential unity of all sentient beings. The great Sages of the world have equally taught this same truth. They have all taught one message: that compassion and love for others is the very basis of Dharma. "Without violence, conscientious, full of compassion, let one be only desirous for the good of living beings," said the Buddha.
Charity toward others is an act of spiritual practice. It is an "apolitical" means of changing the world. It is the true work of the saints, the work of those aspiring to become the "Enlightened-beings" (Bodhisattvas) of our world.
The Dharma Fellowship's Role As Charity Giver
Gampopa, great Lama-Saint of the Kagyu school, defined three types of charity: the giving of material aid, the giving of sanctuary from fear, and the giving of spiritual guidance. The goal of members of the Fellowship is to live up to these three ideals of charity.
The material charity of the Dharma Fellowship focuses on helping the very poor, and in particular on helping destitute and orphaned children, where the need is so great. The Dharma Fellowship also has a duty to help support monks and nuns, yogis and yoginis, people who have truly dedicated their lives to a path of prayer and meditation. This is a material charity, but one that produces a spiritual result.
To give spiritual charity, to give the Dharma itself, the Fellowship engages in establishing meditation centers where the Path to Enlightenment may be taught and practiced in the West. The present example of the latter is our first center, the Hermitage on Denman Island, in western Canada. Thus spiritual charity is disseminated through demonstrating the Dharma's practical application in the form of individual development, meditation, inner yogic practice, and attainment of self-realization.
How You Can Help
Charity requires dedicated individuals driven by a wish to make a better world. We must appeal to YOU, and to your sense of generosity, to support our work. The Fellowship needs funding. The children in Tibet need your assistance. See what you can do to make a donation, sponsor a child, become an Honorable Patron of the Fellowship, or support the Hermitage meditation centre.
1. The quote is taken from a speech given by the 17th Karmapa Orgyen Tinley Dorje at Tilokpur, Feb. 21st, to the Tilokpur nuns, as reported by April and Paul, who were present during this stirring event. April and Paul"s account was passed on to us by Karma Tashi Drolma.
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