Gail Iverson’s Reflections on Dana
We have the Buddha’s teachings on awakening due to the practice of generosity.
Without the Indian tradition of giving alms to mendicants the Buddha would not have had the means to pursue his path to liberation.
Over the past 2500 plus years this practice has been kept alive through the practice of dana and therefore the teachings are still available to us.
Monks and nuns repay their debt to their lay donors by trying to rid their minds of greed, aversion, and delusion. They are in no way obligated to teach, which means that the act of teaching is a gift free and clear.
The way the Buddha presented the teachings, was through a gradual path starting with generosity. The Buddha said the ideal gift had six qualities:
“The donor, before giving, is glad; while giving, their mind is inspired; and after giving, is gratified. These are the three factors of the donor…
“The recipients are free of passion or are practicing for the subduing of passion; free of aversion or practicing for the subduing of aversion; and free of delusion or practicing for the subduing of delusion. These are the three factors of the recipients.”
When asked when a gift should be given, the Buddha simply state, “Wherever the mind feels inspired.” In other words — aside from repaying one’s debt to one’s parents — there is no obligation to give. This means that the choice to give is an act of true freedom, and thus the perfect place to start the path to total release.
The sheet by the dana bowl is entitled “freely giving, freely receiving”. This aspiration is 180 degrees from our societal conditioning where nearly everything has a price or comes out of duty, or obligation. We can practice looking for when the mind is inspired to be generous and then choose how to act on that inspiration.