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Dana – The Perfection of Generosity
When we give without thought of reward or personal gain, we experience wholeness because we are one with that which is given.
In the Sappurisa Dana Sutta: The Discourse on the True Person’s Giving, a True individual (sappurisa) is described as either a saint of the path, or a true practitioner, that is, one aspiring for awakening in this life. A true individual arises for the good of all beings. This is a person that embodies the seven skills below:
1) He knows that Dhamma
2) He knows the purpose of the Dhamma
3) He knows himself
4) He knows moderation
5) He knows the time
6) He knows the group
7) He knows the difference in the individual
The five qualities of a giving in a true individual are described in the sutra as:
1) Giving in faith: (being happy before, during and after)
2) Giving with respect: (that is, with care, thoughtfulness, deference, and mindfulness , paying great attention to HOW we give)
3) Giving at the right time, (to guests, travelers, the sick, when food is hard to get)
4) Giving with a hospitable heart: (beginning at home, free from stinginess, devoted to charity, open-handed, delighted in giving, delighted to have a share in giving). In this sutra the Buddha goes on to say that with this wholesomely generous quality of heart, a true individual’s sense-faculties are so well developed and acute the giver is able to truly enjoy whatever he experiences, that is, in a wholesome manner.
5) Giving Without harming himself or others, in other words, by keeping the five precepts.
The practice of giving, known in Pali as Dana, is an important aspect of a moral and ethical path. It is not a reaction to a situation that arises. Dana is a moment by moment mindfulness of generosity of spirit as a support for mental cultivation. With abundant moral virtue it is easier for one to cultivate the mind. Conversely if one finds difficulty in meditating then one should examine one’s moral conduct and rectify any unwholesome habits.
We practice generosity and aspire to its perfection, (Dana paramita). The essence of this perfection is unconditional love, a boundless and openness of heart and mind, a selfless giving that is free from attachment and expectation. We engage wholeheartedly offering our love, compassion, time, energy and resources to serve the highest welfare of all beings. The real perfection of this enlightened quality of heart, which is the very essence of our true nature, is the pure motivation of genuine concern for others. Dana is a result of the awakened heart full of compassion, wisdom and unconditional selfless love. The greatest gift we can give ourselves and others is a loving presence.
To the best of our ability, we may also offer others explanations of the Dhamma, the Buddha’s teachings. This offering can serve to free others from wrong perceptions that lead to suffering and confusion. We offer fearlessness, care and comfort, helping others to feel safe and at peace. We practice the perfection of generosity in an especially powerful and beautiful way when we embrace all living beings continually in the luminous love of our heart. Offering the Buddhadhamma is Dana.
Enjoy Your Practice. Moira.
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My Dhamma articles and talks are based on the Buddha's teachings (suttas) as preserved in the Sutta Pitaka, the second book of the Pali Canon. I have relied primarily on Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s excellent and insightful translation of the Pali generously made freely available at his website Dhammatalks.org, as well as the works of Acharya Buddharakkhita, Nyanaponika Thera, John Ireland, Maurice Walsh, Hellmuth Hecker, and Sister Khema, among others, as preserved at Access To Insight.
Also, I have found Bhikkhu Bodhi's translations from Wisdom Publications Pali Canon Anthologies to be most informative and an excellent resource.
I have made edits to the suttas from these sources for further clarity, to modernize language, to minimize repetition, and maintain contextual relevance to Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths.
Becoming-Buddha.com and Dhamma articles and recordings by John Haspel are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.