Recently, I volunteered to serve as the registrar for an online retreat. This role primarily involved keeping track of participant registrations. It also included responding to their emails if they had issues or questions. Every email I received was about offering donations (called dāna in Buddhism). So, for this month’s blog article, I thought I would share one of my responses when a retreatant asked for guidance in the practice of offering dāna.
You recently asked for some guidelines regarding how much to give for the upcoming retreat. This is what I can offer you: there is no expectation of how much one should give when offering dāna. It is an expression of your personal practice of generosity.
Dharma teachers teach with the intention of generosity. The teachings themselves express the teachers’ generosity of time, study, and years of practice. These teachings are also offered to cultivate generosity in others, such as yourself. Thus, generosity can be viewed as a mindfulness practice. Whereas mindfulness and meditation water the seeds of peace, wisdom, and compassion, giving dāna waters the seeds of generosity, renunciation, and letting go. The more we practice and water these seeds, the more they grow and the stronger they get.
So give what feels good to you. Give an amount that will help water those seeds of generosity, renunciation, and letting go. When giving dāna, offer it mindfully and with full awareness. Acknowledge the body and mind, the physical actions and mind-states in the moment of giving. Remember, it is not about the amount of money. It is about your practice and intention behind the giving itself, which becomes a cause and condition for the cultivation of generosity in all aspects of life.
Hope this helps. Feel free to respond with any more questions. Thank you for registering and participating in the upcoming retreat. May it be fruitful and full of insights.
By Chaplain. Kyle Sorys, MDiv.