IT BEGAN SOME TIME AGO
When the Buddha began to teach, he created an interdependent Sangha (community) system between the lay followers and the monastic monks and nuns based on Dana (the Pali word for Generosity). He taught the monk and nuns meditation (including Dana and Cila (the Pali word for Ethical Conduct) and he taught lay people practices of Dana and Cila.
The monastics, bound by rules of conduct, were not permitted to handle money or store food. Every day they made alms rounds, begging for their one meal. Lay people generously supported the monasteries and those who had taken robes to devote their lives to practice with food, clothing, shelter and medicine. From this practice field, the monasteries and monastics freely offered lay people spiritual refuge.
SO WE SEE Generosity is a practice not only of giving but also of receiving. Giving and being open to receiving are both acts of dana. Like breathing in and out connects us to the biosphere, giving dana and receiving teachings, we find ourselves bound in a community. Patrick Kearney talks about the “economy of the gift”. Giving and receiving means we recognise we belong to one another. When we are in service to each another in this way, we find joy in our connection, simply because we are humans; social creatures. Thus generosity is the seed of joy. It makes connection possible, plausible and more likely, whether we are giving our time, attention, labours, funds or gifts. See Barbara Fredrickson on connection and how acts of service affect us at a cellular level.
Integral to awakening, generosity can be a profound recognition of our interconnectivity
I teach some yoga and mindfulness meditation retreats freely. They are “Seeds of Joy” in my own heart. I offer them freely also as a recognition of the traditions in which I learned them (many practices were taught to me freely; especially the Buddhist practices). They were traditionally offered freely because of their priceless nature. For teachers who honour this tradition fully, this requires trust; trusting that what they need to support them will come. It is an opportunity for them to see fear, scarcity and self-interest as limiting ways of being.
Seeds of Joy Yoga and Mindfulness Meditation Retreats as well as Noosa Yatras also offer you the opportunity to participate in this tradition; an opportunity to participate in the joy of giving, binding not only you with me, but all of us with a tradition of more than 2500 years of exploring what it means to be free.
If you make an offering at these events, you are not paying for a service; you are recognising the value of these teachings in your life and expressing a desire to belong to this Sangha of like-minded men and women who care about awakening as it is taught by the Buddha. You are recognising the value of community. Your generosity is gratefully received.
Generosity as Practice
When you take on this dana / generosity practice as you might take on the practice of meditation, it’s good to cultivate awareness. Tune into your intention and aspiration!! Many of us have had the experience of the Church collection plate, the phone call from the charity, the person shaking a collection box at us in the street. And maybe we have given out of guilt… “I have so much” “I ought to give” or we justify not giving by reminding ourselves of our own limited circumstances. Thus we feel isolated and unsupported.
Intention Is Everything
So if words like “should” “must” “ought to” or “have to” come up……. try being mindful; observing, acknowledging, but not engaging those thoughts and see if there is another place from which you might like to offer something.
People ask HOW MUCH IS APPROPRIATE. I can’t really say because I don’t know TWO THINGS. I don’t know your financial circumstances. Or how important the Dharma is to you… basic guidance… if you come away from the Dana Box thinking “great event, what great value for money the Dharma scene is…”, you might have been able to give more…
And if you come away worried “my heart was cracked open with this loving kindness and appreciative joy, I was vulnerable and naive and now I can’t pay the rent / mortgage and what are the children going to eat this weekend?”, you might have given too much…
Try giving with the intention of connecting to JOY. Or as Martine Batchelor might say, CREATIVELY ENGAGE WITH GENEROSITY