Does Buddhism say I should give money to panhandlers?

Does the Buddhist concept of generosity mean when I see people on the street asking for money I should always give it to them?

Lion’s Roar
31 October 2017

Generosity, or dana, is indeed one of the predominant Buddhist virtues, and it’s deep and far-reaching. Generosity is not merely about giving things. It begins with cultivating a generous nature that sees the good in others and the sources of their pain, which helps you see them as not separate from yourself.

Practically speaking, one can give three main types of gifts: material things, including money; encouragement and good wishes; and the gift of dharma, as discussed above. Seeing which of these gifts is most appropriate in each circumstance requires skill. It’s possible to engage in “idiot compassion,” giving a person something that does not help them, or may actually hurt them. Whether and how you give someone on the street money depends on your deep intentions and skillful attention to their real needs.

Lion's Roar

Lion’s Roar

Lion’s Roar is the website of Lion’s Roar magazine (formerly the Shambhala Sun) and Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly, with exclusive Buddhist news, teachings, art, and commentary. Sign up for the Lion’s Roar weekly newsletter and follow Lion’s Roar on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.