I am pausing in my almsgiving preparations to link up with Angela at Tracing Rainbows, in her Pause in Advent.
This is a busy time of the year for many of us, as we rush about making all those preparations for whatever it is that we celebrate at this time of year, whether Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or an almsgiving. Sometimes, we get stressed and frazzled by all the preparations. Then, it becomes an onerous chore and we complain about all what we have to do and it becomes all too easy to forget why we are doing what we do, our original intentions, which might have been to express our devotion, to affirm our faith, to bring joy to others, or, simply to celebrate.
Yesterday, as I rearranged the furniture in the living room to accommodate the seating arrangements for the monks who will be arriving for the year-end almsgiving, I spent some time reflecting on what I am doing and why.
"Sraddha" is a Sanskrit word (in Pali, the liturgical language of Buddhism, the word is "saddha") which means anything done or said with sincerity and faith. By definition, it is intentional. If one does something with sraddha, even the most mundane act becomes elevated into something that is meritorious and an expression of ones devotion and faith. It becomes a meditation as one concentrates on what one is doing (moving a piece of furniture) and considers the reasons why: so the monks can be seated in a manner in which one doesn't show disrespect to them by turning our backs to one of them while serving another, because the disciples of the Buddha are worthy of respect and showing respect to them is a meritorious deed. The faith comes in with the equating of meritorious deeds with beneficial repercussions, in the belief that good deeds or karma (karma means deed or action, in Sanskrit; the Pali word is kamma) will have beneficial results and that the accumulation of such beneficial results will make our present lives easier and better and will result in a better life after death, and may eventually lead to that state of Nirvana (Nibbana in Pali) at which point there is no more rebirth after death.
So, as I make my preparations for the almsgiving, I do so with intention, with purpose, with focus, with faith, with devotion, with sraddha. Just as faith and devotion will lead to the lighting of Advent candles in other homes, on this third Sunday leading up to Christmas. May our faith in whatever we believe, sustain and bless us and elevate all our actions from the mundane to an expression of devotion.