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The Buddha on Dana (gifts, acts of giving)

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  • Antony Woods
    The Buddha encouraged a lifestyle of easy maintenance for the Sangha and dharmasalas (dharma centres) to keep such environments simple and sustainable. He
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 20, 2006
      "The Buddha encouraged a lifestyle of easy maintenance for the Sangha
      and dharmasalas (dharma centres) to keep such environments simple and
      sustainable. He advocated dana to serve as an antidote to desire. In
      the 45 years that the Buddha walked the length and breadth of the
      Sakya kingdom and neighbouring countries, his students were often
      referred to as `savakas' – meaning `the one's who listen' (to the
      Dharma). Upasaka is the Pali word for householders who follow the
      Dharma. - upa – `up close' `as' – `to sit') Upasakas are men and
      women who sit up close and listen to the Dharma teachings.

      Through the act of listening, men and women explored the Dharma. The
      insights that emerged from the act of listening found expression in
      dana, including the understanding of the importance of acts of giving
      between from the donor to the donee (receiver). The teachers gave the
      teachings as a dana and the listeners gave as a dana various forms of
      practical support for the teachings.

      Dana belongs to the Buddha's practical strategy to encourage letting
      go, loving kindness and compassion thus ensuring giving and service a
      pre-eminent place in the Dharma.

      The Buddha spoke of saddaya danam deti – to give with confidence. He
      made it abundantly clear that the Sangha of noble men and women of
      practice are truly worthy of acts of support, hospitality and
      generosity while the giver of dana makes merit – meaning there are
      personal beneficial result through acts of giving. `A deed of merit
      brings one happiness' said the Buddha.

      Since dana relates directly to ethics, practice, values and social
      justice (available for one and all regardless of financial
      circumstances) then it will demand from one and all in the Sangha
      both teaches and students, a determination to ensure this tradition
      sustains itself through commitment, taking risks and a love of
      unmeasured giving.

      The Buddha said:
      "Some provide from the little they have
      Others who are affluent don't like to give
      An offering given from what little one has
      Is worth a thousand times its value" (SN 1.107)

      In his typical free spirited way, the Buddha urges Upali to give dana
      to the Jains, since the Buddha regarded the act of giving as so
      significant, even if it meant to those following a point of religions
      view that the Buddha did not altogether feel comfortable with
      (M.1.371) in every aspect. When rumours went around that the Buddha
      expected only dana to go to him, he told people that they should give
      dana to those they `have confidence in,' to those of `upright
      character.' In his encouragement to examine our intentions, since
      motives can be healthy, unhealthy or mixed, the Buddha explained
      there are eight ways of giving (A.8)

      1. Spontaneously
      2. Out of fear
      3. S/he has given me a gift so I must give one in return
      4. It feels good to give
      5. I serve but they (spiritual seekers, meditators) don't
      6. To develop a reputation
      7. To adorn the mind
      8. To ennoble the mind

      The Buddha said that dana ranked alongside truth, self-control and
      patience in terms of its importance for humanity. While praising
      those who give `a dharma residence as giving a great deal', he said
      the one who' teaches the Dharma is the giver of the Deathless.'
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