Dana is an act of selflessness.  

When we experience suffering, we seek ease from suffering. Over time there is the experience that the ease is transient and there might be an inquiry as to why that is. After looking closely there is the realization that that disruption of ease is often caused by witnessing ,or being on the receiving end of, the suffering of others. Looking more closely at this type of suffering, we may understand that our actions, while promoting and maintaining our own ease, may be the cause of the suffering of others. This may lead to the realization that the suffering of others is the same as the suffering of self. There is also the realization that the ease that comes from the relief of self-suffering is transient unless it also provides the relief from suffering for others. The foundation of dana as selflessness is when there is a realization that there is no separate self that suffers, or that experiences ease.  

Practicing dana. 

  • Noticing suffering; our own or another’s.
  • Asking what the cause of suffering is, and what is wished for to relieve the suffering. There may be a tendency to skip these steps, because we think that we know what is best to bring about ease. When it comes to ourselves there may be a habitual practice of relief by self medicating or just doing what someone else tells us to do. When it comes to others, instead of asking and listening we impose our own ideas of ease on the other in ignorance of their self-awareness and wish. The practice is to ask and then…
  • Listening. Relinquishing the self to make space for the wish. Sometimes this is all that is wished for. Deep, open minded, selfless listening disarms the defensive and protective ego, of the giver and receiver, so that the nature of the suffering and the remedy that is wished for can be revealed. 
  • Self-inventory. Am I able to provide what is wished for? If not, is there some way that I can acquire or provide support for attaining it. Will fulfilling the wish cause greater suffering? There is no indication in any buddhist canon that one should inflict suffering to relieve suffering.   
  • Selfless giving. One may have experiences of ease, happiness, praise, accomplishment, and pride, resulting from fulfilling a wish and will then continue to give in order to have those experiences again. Giving to get something in return will cause suffering when one realizes that the experiences are transient. This type of giving sets up a cycle of miserliness. Giving with an expectation of specific results will also cause suffering, regret, sadness and doubt about the practice. Giving without thought of self is liberating for both giver and receiver.
  • Selfless receiving. Moving through the world with an empty begging bowl without expectation or desire to have it filled can be a very challenging dana practice. Allowing the bowl to be filled with whatever is offered is dana of equanimity. Openly practicing selfless wishing allows the true nature of dana and the thoroughly established goodness of reality to manifest. 

With the practice of dana and fulfillment of transcendent, perfect, dana paramita, there is the realization that there is no separate self that gives or receives and no dana that is done; a realization that dana is the natural way of being. Ask the sun and see. 

Sutra: The Buddha told Sariputra, “It is by means of the dharma of having nothing whatsoever which is relinquished that they prefect dana paramita. This is because benefactor, recipient, and material object cannot be found.”1 



With these words I pay homage to all buddhas, bodhisattvas, sentient beings, and the totality. May these words not confuse, bring doubt, or harm, but bring ease and warmth and an end to suffering for all beings.

William

1Nagarjuna on the Six Perfections. An Arya Bodhisattva Explains The Heart of the Bodhisattva Path. Exegesis on the Great Perfection of Wisdom Sutra, Chapters 17 – 30. P 80. Translation by Bhikshu Dharmamitra. Kalvinka Press, Seattle, Wa. 


A boy who is said to have offered a mud pie to Shakyamuni Buddha. According to The Story of King Ashoka, a work translated into Chinese by An Fa-ch’in in the early fourth century, one day when the Buddha was begging for alms in Rājagriha, he came upon two boys, Virtue Victorious and Invincible, while they were playing. The two boys wished to present an offering to the Buddha but had nothing to give, so Virtue Victorious hastily fashioned a mud pie and placed it in the Buddha’s begging bowl, while Invincible pressed his palms together in reverence. Because of the blessings from this offering, a hundred years after the Buddha’s death, Virtue Victorious was reborn as King Ashoka and Invincible as his consort.


Practice 

Practicing in sangha, even virtually, supports the practice of meditation differently than sitting solitarily. The members of the Sangha of the Pandemic, invite you to practice with us. No experience is required. There is no cost. Everyone is welcome. 

We practice on ZOOM: 

  • Mondays – Calm abiding and insight meditation. 6 AM Pacific Time 
  • Tuesdays – Body awareness. 6 AM Pacific Time 
  • Thursdays – Tonglen, 6 AM Pacific Time 
  • Sundays – Brahmavihara. 7 AM Pacific Time 
  • Monday and Thursday. Contemplation and meditation. 4:30 PM Pacific Time 

ZOOM Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89989680789 

Please feel free to reach out with questions or insights. Please also feel free to forward this post and invite others to join the sangha. You may find more reflections, poetry, art at sanghaofthepandemic.org . If you would like to leave comments or participate in ongoing discussions about a blog, go to the end of the individual post or click on the little green box floating on the page.

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