Dana, generosity practice, is an opportunity to express our appreciation for freely given teachings
Teachers in the Insight Meditation tradition offer the teaching freely and are supported through the practice of generosity to pay their bills and other expenses of living. Offering dana to the teacher is an opportunity to express our appreciation of their guidance and to support the ongoing teachings of the Insight Meditation in the West. The registration fee covers room-hire, the teacher’s travel expenses and other expenses related to making sure the day runs smoothly.
Often we think of dana as a financial transaction but in fact generosity is a foundation practice for the development of meditation and is the first item in the list of Ten Qualities Leading To Full Awakening and the list of Three Pillars of Dhamma.
Engaging with generosity practice is a precious opportunity to reflect on attachment, consider the way we relate to others and set a strong foundation for our sitting practice. For example, in the Numerical Discourses of the Buddha, book of the fives, we find the following teaching:
“A person, skilled in generosity, gives in five ways:
1. out of faith,
2. with respect,
3. at the right time,
5. without injuring himself or others”
Out of faith gives us an opportunity to check in with our motivation, to ask ourselves: why am I here, at this retreat? What is my intention? With respect is an opportunity to consider how we relate to the teacher, the teachings and the community. At the right time is an opportunity to reflect on our internal and external actions as we engage in the act of generosity. Unreservedly invites us to reflect on our attachments and without injuring herself or others is an invitation to check we are not giving so little that we feel stingy the next day or too much that we find ourselves struggling to pay the next bill.
Generosity practice is also an opportunity to soften the heart. The Buddha, so many decades ago, gave a generosity instruction that makes an interesting enquiry of 21st century attitudes to money and possessions – just replace the word stinginess with consumer-culture or acquisition.
“Furthermore, Mahanama, a noble disciple recollects his own generosity thus: it is a gain for me, it is well gained by me, that in a generation obsessed by the stain of stinginess, I dwell at home with a mind devoid of the stain of stinginess, freely generous, openhanded, delighting in relinquishment, one devoted to charity, delighting in giving and sharing. “ AN 6:10
Continuing to share the Dhamma (the Buddha’s teaching) on a Dana (generosity) basis means the act of generosity continues to be part of the practice and the teachings are available to all, regardless of financial means. The contributions we make is an important expression of appreciation and support for the continuation of Dhamma teachings and Insight Meditation practise in the West.