Dana – Living on Trust
Exactly what is dana? How do we cultivate this quality of giving, generosity, liberality and munificence? There are many different translations of the word dana. It is the quality of generosity that gives physically and from the heart. Hearts with dana are generous, open-handed, and liberal in terms of willingness to give, share, to be present and to help. All of those qualities take us away from me and my needs, me and my necessities, me and my demands, me and my expectations, me and my essential fixed residence in the middle of the universe. – Ajahn Passano – The Delights of Dana
Yesterday we met with our friend Eric (not his real name ) who teaches Qi Gong and meditation at retreats in the U.S. and Europe. For over twenty years dana has been his sole financial resource – he has no fixed price for his teachings – instead he accepts donations in any amount from participants.
Sometimes the donation box is weighted with generosity, other times filled with lack – no one is turned away because they can’t come up with a fixed dollar amount.
Eric said, “Sometimes someone may only give ten or twenty dollars for several days of teaching, others may give hundreds, I never know. Dana is part of the Theravada Buddhist tradition that dates back to the time of Buddha.”
Eric does not have children or elders tugging on his coin purse, so financial support through dana he acknowledged, “Is easier for me than most meditation teachers who need additional ways to supplement the dana they receive for teaching.”
How many people living outside a monastery or other environments where basic necessities are taken care of are so willing to live on slippery footing?
“One time,” Eric said, “after a ten-day retreat I received a check in the donation box for $15,000!”
“Really? Did you cash it?” I asked.
“No, no way. I thought once the woman went home and got her thinking on straight she would regret it. Maybe in a moment of bliss, she wanted to renounce everything, who knows! I still have that check though, I come across it once in a while – it makes me smile.”
I said, “It’s an uncommon lifestyle living on dana in the west, not many people can trust enough to take what comes.”
“Not really,” he replied, “we really are all taken care of.”
We REALLY are taken care of! How true!
But…. sometimes the little me-story forgets!
S H A N T I