The Paramita of Generosity in Action

The Paramita of Generosity in Action


Executive Director Leslie Shelton reflects on how Sukhasiddhi’s volunteers embody the practice of dana (selfless service, or generosity), one of the three central practices of Buddhism often overlooked by Westerners.

WE HAVE certainly had our share of community and nationwide challenges in Northern California this past year — floods; enormous fires, loss of power and evacuations; and now the COVID 19 virus bringing things to a standstill as we step into spring. These are times that can try one’s spirit; and often, when facing such daunting challenges, our hearts shut down and minds become dazed. Giving gratitude and serving others are two of the best healing actions to keep our hearts open and rekindle our bodhisattva vows to be of service.

From this perspective, it seems the perfect time to say THANK YOU to the cadre of our Sukhasiddhi volunteers — bodhisattvas on the path who quietly serve others and the organization with little recognition or compensation. Sukhasiddhi Foundation has no paid staff. These members step forward often, and have done so over many years, to offer significant time and skills, meeting others with a smile at events or working behind the scenes in countless roles to keep Sukhasiddhi functioning and thriving. It is held and nurtured by this loving and committed web of individuals who are more than volunteers. They quietly practice the Paramita of Generosity — to give without expecting anything in return, the essence of non-attachment. The many ways they give will be highlighted in more detail below.

But first, let’s put their acts of service in perspective. While the Buddha described generosity, or dana, as one of the three central practices of Buddhism, along with morality and meditation, it is often overlooked in the west, which has focused more on mindfulness and peace. Yet this first of the six transcendent perfections is a crucial practice in pursuing the path to enlightenment because it emphasizes giving as an act of selflessness. To give a pure gift with pure intentions without any attachment to outcomes, one’s state of mind and intention matters. If one thinks first about what they should be paid for what they are doing, it’s no longer an act of generosity. Ego has slipped in.

Luckily, Sukhasiddhi has an amazing group of volunteers, Board members, Lamas and teachers who each contribute countless hours of whole-hearted service to help diminish the suffering of others and guide them onto the path of enlightenment. The new series of online classes, meditation sessions and teachings in response to the coronavirus is an obvious testament to this. In addition to the Lamas and meditation leaders who are more visible and known, we’d like to acknowledge the incredible generosity of the following individuals (apologies to those left out due to lack of awareness of the writer):

• Jaime Bickner – our Center manager (at least 15 years) who handles all the physical demands of the center, managing the heating system so the building is warm when classes are in session, ordering supplies, keeping the restrooms in TP, scheduling the cleaners, coordinating the packing and moving of everything needed for off-site retreats, and more. She also serves as a sungkor.
• Elizabeth Navas – Volunteer Coordinator and leader of the Admin Council, which plans and organizes all the staffing for events and classes, including registration, audio recording, shrine, etc.
• Adrian Jordan – the audio/visual recording studio genius who help set-up the original recording system of teachings and events and created a library of recordings with Joanne 10+ plus years ago. Also serves as a sungkor.
• Diana Lopez – Bookstore manager, sacred text keeper, current AV manager, and assistant in all sorts ways to support the teachers and lamas, Also serves as a sungkor.
• Jona Scovil – Audio/Video recording support, uploading recordings to Teachable, and answering general emails or sending them on to be answered by the Executive Director.
• Jennifer Dunn – Chopen support, a documentarian who wrote extensive guides and procedures for chopens in support of different practices and pujas. Also coordinated and documented procedures for shrine cleaning and led training for chopens in the Shangpa program.
• Trinity Sipula – Lama support, plant waterer, Lujong meditation leader and co-coordinator of the Sungkor team of protectors.
• Gitte Drobrer – Admin Council member, event registration, Lujong meditation leader and person who wears many other hats.
• Suzi Maggiora – provider of gorgeous bouquets of flowers from her garden for the shrines and lama throne; 2019 Bhutan Pilgrimage coordinator .
• Kent Uchiyama — Library manager who has also provided audio/video support.
• Chris Olson — Audio/Video recording support.
• David de Adrade — Audio/Video recording support, also serves as a sungkor.
• Stephen Lones — Video editing.
• Eric Ramsted – Website design, editing and management.
• Barbara Juniper, Ian Albert and Scott Davis – The team that planned and supported and/or led the Wisdom River Institute programs over several years
• Leslie Shelton – Sungkor coordinator for several years, currently serving as Executive Director.
• Joanne Molyneaux – Executive Director since the founding of the organization 22 years ago until recently, who continues to serve as the Financial Manager, assist with recordings, and with the website.

Immense gratitude for the countless acts of kindness and service of these folks and many more unnamed sangha members who wholeheartedly step up every day in their own expressions of generosity.

Some of Sukhasiddhi’s volunteers: Diana Lopez, David de Adrade, Trinity Sipula, Michael O’Rourke, Adrian Jordan and Jaime Bickner.