Joy and Hope
Generosity of Spirit
Thursday, November 29, 2018
For a week in April 2015, Archbishop Desmond Tutu visited His Holiness the Dalai Lama at his residence in exile in India. Their dialogue and interactions, facilitated by Douglas Abrams, became The Book of Joy. I’d like to share some of their hard-won wisdom with you today.
Suffering is inevitable, they said, but how we respond to that suffering is our choice. Not even oppression or occupation can take away this freedom to choose our response.
As our dialogue progressed, we converged on eight pillars of joy. Four were qualities of the mind: perspective, humility, humor, and acceptance. Four were qualities of the heart: forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, and generosity.
[Archbishop Tutu said:] “Our human nature has been distorted, . . . I mean, we are actually quite remarkable creatures. In our religions I am created in the image of God. I am a God carrier. It’s fantastic. I have to be growing in godlikeness, in caring for the other. I know that each time I have acted compassionately, I have experienced a joy in me that I find in nothing else.”
When we practice a generosity of spirit, we are in many ways practicing all the other pillars of joy. In generosity, there is a wider perspective [italics mine], in which we see our connection to all others. There is a humility that recognizes our place in the world and acknowledges that at another time we could be the one in need, whether that need is material, emotional, or spiritual. There is a sense of humor and an ability to laugh at ourselves so that we do not take ourselves too seriously. There is an acceptance of life, in which we do not force life to be other than what it is. There is a forgiveness of others and a release of what otherwise might have been. There is a gratitude for all that we have been given. Finally, we see others with a deep compassion and a desire to help those who are in need. And from this comes a generosity that is “wise selfish,” a generosity that recognizes helping others as helping ourselves. As the Dalai Lama put it, “In fact, taking care of others, helping others, ultimately is the way to discover your own joy and to have a happy life.”
[Near the end of their time together, Archbishop Tutu offered this blessing:]
“Dear Child of God, you are loved with a love that nothing can shake, a love that loved you long before you were created, a love that will be there long after everything has disappeared. You are precious, with a preciousness that is totally quite immeasurable. And God wants you to be like God. Filled with life and goodness and laughter—and joy.
“God, who is forever pouring out God’s whole being from all eternity, wants you to flourish. God wants you to be filled with joy and excitement and ever longing to be able to find what is so beautiful in God’s creation: the compassion of so many, the caring, the sharing. And God says, Please, my child, help me. Help me to spread love and laughter and joy and compassion. And you know what, my child? As you do this—hey, presto—you discover joy. Joy, which you had not sought, comes as the gift, as almost the reward for this non-self-regarding caring for others.”
His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams, The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World (Avery: 2016), 7, 193, 257, 275, 298.