Lama Zopa Rinpoche talking with a person begging on the street after making an offering, Moscow, Russia, May 2017. Photo by Renat Alyaudinov.

When making charity to people who are begging, Lama Zopa Rinpoche teaches, first think of bodhichitta. In a short video clip recorded during the 2017 Light of the Path retreat, Rinpoche explains that one should think, “The purpose of my life is to free the numberless sentient beings from the oceans of samsara and bring them to peerless happiness, buddhahood. Therefore, I must achieve state of omniscience. Therefore, I must make charity.”

“Then, think that all the past, present, and future happiness up to enlightenment came from that sentient beings. Think of the kindness,” Rinpoche says.

“Then after that, think of the three-times happiness you receive from this beggar, who is most precious, most kind, most dear, most wish-fulfilling. Trying to think like that is good.”

When making the offering, Rinpoche says, “I try to remember to make the offerings respectfully, with two hands. I offer to them like this, with the two hands.”

“Then when you offer, if possible, seal the offering with emptiness,” Rinpoche explains. “[Think that] I and the action of giving and to whom you are giving are empty. They do not exist from their own sides as they appear to you. Looking at emptiness, ultimate reality, you offer.”

So when charity is offered not only with bodhichitta but with emptiness, Rinpoche explains, “it becomes the remedy to samsara. Your charity becomes the remedy to samsara.”

“Then, you see, it becomes most pleasing. It becomes the best offering,” Rinpoche concludes.
“It becomes the offering to all the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha—numberless Buddha, numberless Dharma, numberless Sangha.”

Watch Rinpoche teach on “How to Think When Making Charity to Beggars”:

Quoted text based on the unedited transcript for the 2017 Light for the Path retreat, which you can find here with video recordings of the complete teachings:

Find more video clips from Lama Zopa Rinpoche:

Lama Zopa Rinpoche is the spiritual director of the Foundation for the Preservation of Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), a Tibetan Buddhist organization dedicated to the transmission of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition and values worldwide through teaching, meditation, and community service.