Dana, Freely Giving and Freely Receiving by John Dienhart

Much thanks to John Dienhart for taking the time to write down his reflections on generosity (dana), titled: 
Dana, Freely Giving and Freely Receiving
When I first came to Common Ground in the summer of 2015 I did not understand the concept of freely giving and freely receiving, Dana. I’m not sure exactly what I thought it meant, but it was probably something like this: Common Ground did not charge for any programs or services. And, there was no suggestion donation in terms of money or work. That meant I was free to give whatever I wanted. So far so good.

However, I was flummoxed about how much I should give. I tried thinking about what others were giving and would try to match that. However, I had no idea what others were giving in terms of money or time.

Next, I tried to think about what a typical market organization would charge for these kinds of services. But this was no help either, as I could not think of a organization that did what CG did.

As I heard more and more about Dana, I realized that my approach of trying to match my contribution to what I was receiving was misguided.

My approach assumed that Common Ground was providing these programs and services, expecting a certain amount of renumeration. My job was to figure out the correct renumeration given the programs and services I received/consumed. Yes, I was “free” to decide the amount of the renumeration, but there was a correct renumeration, a market value, if you will, of what I received/consumed. I thought my freedom lay in being honest about what I really owed, since CG did not keep track of what people received and gave.

What I did not initially understand was that my approach to solving this problem was itself a choice. When I realized that, my understanding of Dana began to develop.

Dana is giving from the good of one’s heart. When we give from the good of our heart, it makes us happy. So, CG was not giving with the expectation of receiving. CG was giving from the good of their collective hearts. I should decide what I give from the good of my heart.

This insight changed my whole relationship to CG.

I was no longer consuming or receiving programs and services. Instead, I was participating as a member of a Sangha dedicated to giving from the good of one’s heart. That solved my problem of what and how much to give. I simply let my heart decide. Whenever I give, I ask my heart, does that feel right? Is it too little, too much? It’s a Goldilocks issue. I just need to give what makes my heart joyful, and that will be just right. Impermanence means I will adjust that over time as my situation, the needs of my Sangha, and who knows what else change.

Dana beyond the CG universe, as well. I work with a man named Jeff who repairs my guitar amplifiers. Recently I asked him to work on an amplifier that had some problems. He spent at least an hour or an hour and 1/2 trying to replicate the problem. He could not, and did not charge me for his time because he didn’t find anything wrong. Knowing Jeff, not charging me came from the good of his heart. A gift freely given.

When I heard that he was not charging me, my gut tightened up. I knew I could not pick up the amp without freely giving. I decided on an amount that made me happy and gave that to him when I picked up the amp. He graciously accepted it and we parted, it seemed to me, with our hearts in good shape.

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