The Practice of Dana
As many of you know, Common Ground Meditation Center is supported entirely by the practice of dana, or generosity. Although dana often takes the form of donations, the practice of dana signifies quite a bit more than that. By way of explanation, here’s a recent talk on dana, given by longtime CG member Matt Buzzard at a Common Ground residential retreat at Holy Spirit Retreat Center in Janesville, MN.
Please take a moment to receive the gift of this retreat…. It feels good. This retreat is a gift for each of us. The food and accommodations, and the volunteer hours have all been freely given… so that we have this opportunity to practice Dhamma: Buddha knowing Dhamma, the way things are, the way it is.
Fully receiving these gifts is a practice…. Receiving the gift of the Buddha’s teachings, the wonderful and helpful knowledge and skill of our teacher Mark… the beauty of nature. All freely given. Our very lives…. The couple who built this retreat center and left it to the sisters, who lovingly maintain it so that people like us have the opportunity for spiritual practice. All of it is freely given…. Let’s enjoy these gifts and the opportunity they provide. Pleasantness arises when reflecting on this generosity and receiving these gifts.
Our lives arise and pass away. All conditioned things come and go. We are part of a larger cycle of giving and receiving. Giving and receiving feel good, part of a natural flow of life energy.
The Buddha taught generosity above other virtues as a means for liberating our hearts. Generosity loosens the grip of our self-centered clinging and tightness. When we practice we feel lightness and joy. It feels good when thinking about giving, when we are giving, and when we reflect on having given.
Common Ground operates on the principle of generosity and is dependent on our gifts for its continuance. It is unique compared to other dharma centers in the west in that it offers the teachings without charge. After the Buddha completely released his heart, he devoted his life to teaching the path of liberation. From then until now, through the centuries, monks and nuns have devoted their lives to practicing and teaching the Dhamma, owning only robes and a begging bowl. These teachings and this practice have found their way to us through Common Ground. We have the opportunity now to pass them along to others. Common Ground is a wholesome place. It creates a safe container where we are able to be vulnerable and deeply heal.
Generosity is a practice of joy and a realistic practice. Regardless of our circumstances, giving more than we can afford leaves us worried; and giving too little can leave our hearts feeling tight.
Sometimes I just say to myself, “Who will spend this money more wisely, Common Ground or me?”