Dana is a Pali term that is most often translated as "generosity". In the Buddhist tradition, the teachings (the "dharma") are considered "priceless". Continuing this tradition, all teachings at San Jose Insight Meditation are given freely...with the opportunity for voluntary donations to support the teachers and the sangha.
More About Dana
From the dictionary:
GENEROSITY: a willingness and liberality in giving; a freedom from pettiness in character and mind. [from the Latin: 'generosus' = noble ~also consider: 'magnanimity' = great + soul]
Generosity can be developed at many levels and its value as a transformative practice can not be underestimated. It can be contemplated as a simile of the third Noble Truth - non-desire, freedom from attachment, letting go. It acts as a balance to greed and selfishness. When we give, how easy it is to part with the things that we don't really want or need. Those things that we are attached to are not so easy to give. Giving is literally a practice in letting go. But often we don't really let go - sometimes we attach a subtle net of 'strings'; our giving is conditional.
Our society seems to function mostly through an acquisitive mode - how much junk have you got hoarded away, stashed in cupboards, under stairs, in boxes in the attic? When was the last time you gave a whole bunch away? The irony is that in an affluent society so many people have so much they don't need but don't give it away. In poorer societies people have much less but seem to share or give away more stuff. There are of course many exceptions, and you may well be one, but the consumer society is fueled on greed - and we do want the new, the interesting, the pleasant - and the old becomes the not interesting, which is the unpleasant. Practice giving. Practice being content with little.
Giving is usually associated with material things and it is probably the easiest place to start. Just try giving things - perhaps to friends as a beginning. The important thing with giving is the intention that motivates the act. If it is sincere then you can give almost anything and the object becomes entirely secondary, almost unimportant. It is a bit of a cliché but it is truly the thought that counts :
- give them a sweet
- an article from the newspaper they might be interested in (unless you have - wisely - given newspapers up)
- a bunch of wild flowers - or some vegetables or flowers from your garden
- a smile
- a greeting
- share your recent photos
- share your lunch
- a bunch of grapes
- a card
- a note of thanks
Giving gifts can
unfortunately be equation based - 'Aunt Mary gave me that for my birthday how
could I possibly only give her this old thing?' and we are shamed into spending
more. Material gifts are also generally perceived as purchased - time again,
who has enough of it to make things? Or who can be bothered?
- The greatest gift you can
give to another person is your time. For parents to spend time with their kids
- and kids their parents. To sit with someone when they are unwell - even if
there is nothing to say, just being with them, sharing your life with them. The
archetypal picture of lovers - those who love each other - just sitting looking
at each other, content with each others presence. Time is too often translated
as money and that I spend my time making money and then give you lots of money
is not the same as giving you the time direct.
- It is important to experience generosity as a two way exchange - giving and receiving.