January 4, 2009

All Giving is not Created Equal. [Trungpa, Moses Maimonides, Idiot Compassion, Microfinance]

A worthy-of-contemplation article via Norris Burkes of the Zanesville TimesRecorder.


…Maimonides’ Eight Degrees of Charity – describes eight levels that motivate our giving to those in need. Read the paraphrased list below along with my comments and ask yourself which one best describes your motives.

1. Giving to the poor unwillingly.

This is what Buddhist leader Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche called “idiot compassion.” It’s the kind of giving we do when we can’t bear to see someone suffer. That’s co-dependency and we only do it out of our own need to avoid suffering.

2. Giving to the poor happily, but inadequately.

This happens when the coffee barista asks whether you’d like to add $1 to help AIDS orphans in Africa. We smile generously, because smiles are cheap, and we reply, “Certainly” – even though we know a buck is woefully “inadequate” for such a momentous task.

3. Giving to the poor after being asked.

This can either be giving pocket change to the homeless or writing a large check at a charity benefit. You do it because in some sense you had to be pressured before you “noticed” the need.

4. Giving to the poor without being asked.

Giving gets a bit harder at this level. You’ve got to be looking for needs. As Kaiser Cement Corp. used to say, “Find a need and fill it.” Truthfully, I usually hover about a “4.”

5. Giving to the poor without knowledge of the recipient, but allowing the recipient to know your identity.

This is giving to someone we don’t know, but we still “allow” ..

…read the rest.

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