The custom of dana–translated as generosity–is fundamental to Buddhist practice. Dana is considered to be the first of the six perfections of ethical practice. It is the heart-opening gateway to the other five that reduces acquisitive impulses, thereby deepening liberation from the clinging that causes mental suffering.
The practice is both a guide to and expression of the realization of interconnectedness. This selfless and spontaneous giving is the essential activity of truly relating to life, allowing us to open our hearts and foster empathy and kindness.
Not only is the practice of dana necessary for the continuation of any practice community, Buddhist teachers are also largely supported by the generosity of other practitioners. Our teachers have always been generous with their time and teaching and so we do what we can to meet their generosity with our own.
We want to emphasize that dana is not a simple quid pro quo as it is normally understood in our market-ruled economy. For example, we hope that our membership is not understood as the cost for coming to the zen center. Zazen is always offered freely. Rather it is an opportunity for formalizing a basic commitment of dana as it comes forth from you so that Brooklyn Zen Center can budget appropriately.
The Buddha taught that when we give to others, we give without expectation of return. We give completely without delineating between giver, receiver and gift so that this life may be released from the distressing grip of greed and self-clinging. In this broader light generosity is the wisest form of self-care, which is why the Buddha found it to be the seed of spiritual development.
All gifts are deeply appreciated. The hope is that our practice of dana allows us to gently test the edges of self without stiffening up under the violent reproaches of deluded, right-and-wrong mind. May we let our activity of giving ultimately rest in love for ourselves and for others.