Do you know what is better than charity and fasting and prayer?

It is keeping peace and good relations between people,

as quarrels and bad feelings destroy mankind.

- Prophet Mohammed


Day 22

I've been thinking about my blood a lot. Odd, no one really thinks about their blood, right? Well, yesterday I discovered that my blood type was O-negative --meaning that I'm the universal donor. I like that role, but in all honestly, I haven't ever donated blood. There's no fear of needles or hemaphobia to pair with my apathy for donation, I've just never done it.

I once tried to donate plasma in college. I went in there with a few friends who were probably considered regulars by the resident phlebotomists. Donating plasma wasn't a totally unheard of thing, either. I knew plenty of uber-lazy students who preferred this method (or mooching) to actual work. And why not? It was easy, clean and you could make forty-bucks in one sitting. That, plus you could justify your organic hocking as "donating". So, I went into this donation center fully prepared to squeeze out some plasma. I walked in and the heavy-set woman sitting behind the enclosed partition barked at me through a glass window.

"Sir, are you approved to donate at this site?"

"I'm not sure, it's my first time. How do I get approved?" I replied in the most cheeky of tones.
You see, even though I was among the degenerates who were selling their plasma for booze,drugs and whores, I was certainly not like them. No, no, no, I was a college student and students don't visit whores. Besides, I was new to this scene and it didn't matter why I was there. The lady didn't take to kindly to my projected snottiness. She'd seen guys like me hundreds of times and knew how to handle the type.

She stood up and walked around the partition. Her eyes were locked on mine. I remember wondering if my eyes were still bloodshot from that afternoon's "extracurriculars".  As she got closer, I was taken aback by her size. She not only towered above me, but her large frame dwarfed me by about fifty or sixty pounds. She snatched my arm, forced my sleeve above my elbow and took a peek.

I knew she wasn't going to be able to "get a needle" in either arm. She had already sized me up as a spoiled brat that was too lazy to get a job. And she was right, too. I was lazy. Still, she took a look at my other arm and proclaimed that I wasn't vascular enough for donation. That was baloney. My veins can be seen from the Blue Ridge Parkway. I'm about as vascular as a pacing steed, but I think she had simply grown tired of people donating plasma for the wrong reasons. I left that day and never returned.
"Nope. We ain't gonna be able to get a needle in here. Let me see your left."

While I'll never know exactly why I was turned away, I remember looking around that center in disgust. It was not a place that people were proud to be. The reclined chairs were all lined-up in a row --ten on each side. Everyone donating was forced to look at the person across the room and I'm willing to bet that everyone was questioning the motives of the other donors and silently ridiculing them. But the truth was, everyone was in there not because they cared enough to donate. They were in there for easy money and nothing more.

People donate a lot of things for the wrong reasons. Buddha says:
The practice of offering gets rid of selfishness. A true offering comes from a sympathetic heart. True offering springs spontaneously from one's pure compassionate heart with no thought of any return.
So, sorry plasma-junkies. Buddha isn't impressed with your "donations". What do you think his take is on those seeking deductions on their donations come tax season? (You think Buddha would be marching on Washington to complain about the top 2% of Americans being taxed? Don't tread on my CEO!) Personally, I've always been a little irritated by the fact that many donations are deemed as deductible from your taxable income. I know it encourages giving or perhaps even softens the blow a bit, but for some reason deducting tithes just feels wrong. However, after reading the Buddhist rules of offerings and karma, it appears that deducting donations doesn't de-merit your offering and resulting karma. As long as your intent is pure, then you're alright.

Aside from money, Buddha claims there are seven types of offering that we can practice: labor; compassion; glance; smile; words; seat; shelter. I have offered all of these at some point, but I can do more. I need to. I've always felt fairly altruistic throughout my life and that selfless concern is central to the teachings of Buddhism, but I don't think I'm doing enough. Do you?

Recently in Korea, there was a teenager who was suffering from lymphoma. His blood type was B-negative which is extremely rare in Korea. In fact, Asian's typically aren't Rh. negative. A blood drive campaign was started among expats based the country, but it wasn't enough. He died yesterday. There simply wasn't enough blood for him among Koreans or expats. That makes me feel horrible. I didn't know my blood type until yesterday, so I couldn't have helped anyways, but would I have?

I don't think so and that is something that I am going to improve on. Both my wife and I have made a pledge to donate once a month while we're still in Korea. She's A-positive which isn't unique at all, but my rare blood type could certainly help others in that position.


Just in case you're curious, Koreans are not big on blood/tissue/organ donations. In fact, their donation rate is among the lowest in the world. Predominately Christian nations are leading the pack on this front, but it's not just Christianity that promotes organ donation --nearly all religions believe it to be noble. So then, why is Korea, a nation swimming with proselytizing religiosi, not keeping up with the trend? One man: Confucius

This guy still has a stranglehold here in the land that "out-Confuciused the Confucisians."


  1. Hmm ... intriguing about the Confucius connection. Maybe you can explain. In class today, we read that André Malraux considered himself "un agnostique avec des reflets de bouddhisme." An we agreed the best translation of "reflets" was "sprinkling." An intriguing case study.

  2. Can I bring up the scene at the blood bank back in your college days? I was thinking maybe they were checking your arms believing you to be an IV drug user! Horrors! Glad it was only that your veins were too weak....little did they know how much good your blood could have done. I like your plan to donate blood regularly....a very selfless act.

  3. Uncle John,

    That's interesting and I think he was on to something there. I think that even people coming from other religions could benefit from carrying elements of Buddhism with them. Furthermore, I think Buddha himself would agree that there's nothing wrong with agnosticism so long as they weren't overly greedy, lustful or angry.

    That's one of my favorite parts of the religion; it doesn't have to be a religion if you don't want it to be. Buddha recognized that fact as well. Living well is for everyone.

  4. Harriet,

    I seriously doubt they thought a J Crew wearing college student was shooting up, but I'm sure they did have to check people from time to time.

  5. Yes, a path, not a religion. I liked that.