Dana/Generosity by Valley Insight Meditation Society
- "By being generous -- not only with material things but also with your time, your energy, your forgiveness, your willingness to be fair and just with other people -- you create a good world in which to live." -- Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Giving is encouraged in many of the Buddha's teachings; and one should realize that giving in this sense is not at all limited to money. There is a very good article on the practice of generosity in the Winter 2006 INSIGHT Magazine (put out by the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies and available on line) by Taraniya, our advisory teacher:
She starts out telling of her experience in working with a group of volunteers at a meditation center. They weren't fully connecting with their volunteer work as a practice of generosity in that they weren't touching the aliveness and immediacy of the felt sense of their offerings. They weren't paying attention to the effects of giving. Because of this they were missing out on the important power of generosity to transform the heart. Taraniya wrote:
"The idea is to be attuned to the motive -- whatever it is -- and to learn from our direct experience. Ajahn Chah said we begin doing away with selfishness through giving. Selfishness leads to a sense of discontent. A selfish heart takes us in the direction of self and separation from happiness... a selfless heart is one of the most powerful tools we have for overcoming the suffering states."
The Buddha suggested that it is important that we know this directly.
He taught that the highest or best of the many motives we might have for giving is "to ennoble and adorn the mind' and to feel this transformed mind. Thanissaro Bhikkhu says this so beautifully:
"So this is what generosity does: It makes your mind more spacious and creates good connection with the people around you. It dissolves the boundaries that otherwise would keep the happiness from spreading around."
We are encouraged to be mindfully present as we give in order to experience this lightness when and if it happens in the heart.
Thanissaro Bhikkhu again:
"The quality of generosity, what they call "caga" in Pali, is included in many sets of Dhamma teachings. One is the set of practices leading to a fortunate rebirth. This doesn't apply only to the rebirth that comes after death, but also to the states of being, the states of mind you create for yourself moment to moment, that you move into with each moment. You create the world in which you live through your actions."