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Right: Meditating Buddha looks out at the Javanese landscape.



Generosity is materially beneficial to the receiver and psychologically beneficial to the giver.  Giving helps you overcome selfishness and attachment and increases your better nature. 

Giving can be giving money or material goods, or giving safety or protection or even giving the dharma.  It is sometimes hard to find good opportunities to give in affluent societies. 

In Buddhism, it is literally the thought that counts. 

Zen Buddhists believe our fundamental nature is good, so we have a natural impulse to help when we see people that need help.  As much as possible, you should act on this impulse quickly.  If you wait too long, your darker side will make up reasons not to help, or your pure intention will become polluted.  For example, when I give, I often find myself thinking, "I'm going to get some great Karma for this!".  This reduces the karmic and psychological benefits of giving. 

Ideally, you should give only what you can afford without making problems for yourself or your family. 

You should give intelligently.  For example, you should not give money to drunks that are clearly going to spend it on more alcohol.   You should give to charities that are efficient and honest. 

You should give an amount that you will not regret later, but rather feel good about in the long term.

Non-material gifts are often the best kind.  You can volunteer to help charities or educational institutions or your temple.  If you find a great book on  Buddhism, you can go to Amazon  and write a positive review of it.

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