At holiday time, we all enjoy giving the most we can to those we love. Yet in these challenging financial times, we may not have the resources to give much – materially. We can take comfort in the Yoga Sutra on Astheya (generosity) which tells us:
"Abiding in generosity and honesty (Astheya), material and spiritual prosperity is bestowed."
The interesting thing about this Sutra is that it links generosity and honesty, speaking to the fact that we should give within our means, and from what is authentic in our hearts. And it promises that in return, we can expect to receive both material and spiritual prosperity, indicating the intertwined nature of giving and receiving.
Rather than go into debt to give more than we are capable of, we can generously share in other ways – our patience, service, skills, attention, energy and love. These are gifts that hold more lasting value than anything purchased at the mall anyway.
“Generosity gives great gifts in many small ways,” writes Devi. Consider for a moment how you might "give greatly in a small way."
One interesting practice that engages our generosity of spirit is a “giveaway.” Different from the commonly practiced “regifting” of something we didn’t want to someone else, a giveaway asks us to offer something that we love to another, because they will benefit and be blessed by it as much as we are.
Another practice to consider is from an additional interpretation of Astheya, which is “non-stealing.” By reflecting on ways in which we might normally take from others - their time, their ideas, their energy – we can make adjustments and practice offering rather than obtaining. This requires that we recognize our natural abundance from our Source. When we recognize the infinity that exists in the Universe, we feel no lack or greed, or need to take from others. By opening our hearts we magnify prosperity for ourselves and those around us. As we cultivate a mentality of abundance, we also accept the nature of change and the impermanence of all things material. By embracing the ebb and flow of life, we enjoy freedom in the simplicity of letting all come and letting all go without expectation and attachment.
More than anything else, we can give generously of our love. Everyone needs that. Included in gifts of our love are actions and attitudes like compassion, understanding, thoughtfulness and helpfulness. By approaching gift giving in this way, we can offer our care in many simple yet profound ways – cooking someone a meal, watching their kids for a night, asking how they are and listening intently, praying for them.
The beauty of Astheya is that it asks us to link our honesty with our generosity and by doing so, experience the benefits of a prosperous heart.
This article is part of an ongoing series on the yamas and niyamas. For the full 10-part series click on each link below: