On our Bodhisattva path of living for the benefit and liberation of all beings, there are six practices we take up to cultivate this mind and body of devotion to all. The first of them is dana, which is usually translated as generosity. Taking up the spirit and practice of giving is considered to be the gateway to the other five, opening our more bountiful hearts to the disciplined behavior, patience, effort, meditation and wisdom.
In the beginning, giving may feel like something we “over here” do for others “over there”. In exposing our habits to a spirit and practice of giving, we witness our edges, tightness, greed, impatience, fear and desire to turn away from others and ourselves. In time, however, the practice of dana unlocks us as we witness firsthand that we are always receiving. In fact, we cannot stop the flow we call generosity and eventually the separation between giver, receiver and gift dissolves into the dynamic, sustaining intimacy of life.
In our fee-for-service society, giving from the heart without receiving something first is often held in suspicion. However, this is not the spirit of dana. To practice dana is to challenge the ego’s frame that in order to give, we must get. Dana is instead a trusting step, a confidence in the universe that allows us to open to life. So we turn our intention toward this practice through which we deeply realize our interconnection to all that is.
Dana for the Teacher
The passing on of Buddhist practice and wisdom is impossible without the practitioners who have come before us, who have devoted their lives to the dharma for decades before we entered. Some of these practitioners commit their lives to teaching dharma to others. When attending a talk, retreat, discussion group or meeting with a dharma teacher in practice discussion, we remind ourselves that they have diligently spent many years deepening their practice of dana and service so that we can now be supported.
Practice discussion, or dokusan, is a part of Zen practice whereby a student meets with a teacher for practice guidance. It is customary to give dana to a teacher anytime we meet for practice discussion. When doing so, we leave dana in an envelope with the teacher’s name on it in the Dana for Teacher box in the entryway.
Dana for the Temple
For ages, Zen Buddhist communities have survived on the dana of their practitioners. Not only is this an important spiritual practice, it is impossible for the dharma to survive without this practice. This is strikingly evident in New York City where dharma communities struggle to keep up with the spectacular and crushing rents, not to mention our need for critical staff members and other costs.
Though the spirit of dana extends far beyond the giving of money, we ask that you consider the preciousness of places devoted to peace, clarity and wisdom in our time and give from the heart that so often stretches the habit. Please leave dana for the temple in the Temple Donations box in the entryway or give online here. Small gifts when gathered together change the world.
We are in need of practices that awaken us all to the peace, love, dignity and interconnectedness that characterize our most authentic nature together. We can only keep doing what we do because of your commitment to sustain the practice. Even if you cannot attend as much as you would like, we ask that you support our efforts by giving dana at the temple or here online.