Offering Dāna: Some Guidelines and Practices

Dāna as an active practice

Planet Dharma teachings are offered according to the ancient practice of dāna, a mutual exchange of generosity and abundance between teachers and students.

“Dāna” is a Sanskrit and Pali word meaning “generosity”.  It’s a powerful and active spiritual practice.  This page has been written by Planet Dharma students as an offering to anyone wanting to learn more about dāna practice.

Wongkur blessing

© D. Steinbock

Dāna in Buddhism 

In Buddhism dāna has been the traditional approach for thousands of years.  Through our cultivation of dāna, we leave habitual states of mental poverty behind and steadily grow a reality of psychological, spiritual and thus material richness. Dāna practice is a thread that weaves through Planet Dharma’s approach to awakening (see How it Works) and so all Planet Dharma’s teachings are offered on the basis on dāna,

In our current times this ancient practice is also being understood in new lights with movements such as the “gift economy” and “sacred economics”.

Dāna as the first step on a spiritual path

The practice of generosity is the essence of the path to freedom – the first crack of light in our ego-protected lives. Moments of generosity open up space in our hearts, alleviates fear that we don’t have enough, and allows us to relax our clinging.

Generosity allows us to experience one another more fully, opening up a space for receiving and learning.  Because of this, it’s generally recommended that dāna is given before a class or retreat.

How much to give?

Kyoto-dragon-golden-Gion

@ C.Pawasarat

However much we offer, the key is to give dāna with a heart of generosity, a sense of abundance, and a strong intention for our and others’ unfoldment.

In a sense, transformative teachings are priceless – what price freedom from suffering?  But practically speaking we give in a way both sustainable for us and that sustains the teachers and teachings we wish to hear.

One way to approach the question “how much?” is to look at what we pay for other things.  Maybe we’ll happily pay 15 dollars for a movie, 30 dollars for a yoga class, or 150 – 400 dollars for a session with an experienced life coach.  If we offer less dāna for teachings on awakening than we would pay for a movie, we are sending a message to ourselves that entertainment is of higher value to us than the opportunity to receive.

For example a good quality 4 week online course might typically cost between $200 and $500.  So we typically recommend offering dāna in this range for a Planet Dharma online course.

Part of the beauty of dāna is that no-one is excluded through lack of money.  If we are sincerely challenged for money we can offer less.  If we are in a good financial position we can offer more and know that our generosity is helping the teachings to be sustainable and available to all.

 Checking in with your heart

Retreat Centre Meditation Sunset

© D. Steinbock

1) Take a few quiet breaths and center yourself. Spend a few moments to reflect on each of the below:

  • the beauty and integrity of dāna practice;
  • the value of receiving direct teachings from lineage holders in a recognized spiritual tradition;
  • the reality of your financial situation.

2) Spend another few moments contacting a sense of health, strength and abundance. You have a healthy mind, a body, senses, the good karma to have heard the teachings, and conditions to support your practice of Dharma. Celebrate this!

3) Now check with your heart and mind what amount feels both consistent with your situation, and expressive of your aspiration.

May this practice of dāna open up a space inside me to learn and receive.

May this gift support the teachers and teachings for the benefit of many other people.

May this gift directly support my own awakening through a strong dāna practice.

This gift, myself the giver, and the teachers are all impermanent – with this in mind I give lightly and generously, for the benefit of all beings!

Getting Financially Stable

edmund-jones-nuno-jimenez-guatemala-friendship_0124It’s an important part of our practice of generosity to be in a financially stable situation where we can manifest generosity to ourselves and others.  If you feel what you can offer as dāna is lower than you would like, make a strong commitment to yourself to examine and change your financial patterns or situation.

As the saying goes, “The difference between a dream and a goal is a plan.” Make a plan and craft a timeline for when you’re financial situation will empower you to be more generous, to support the teachers, teachings, yourself and others.

If this topic causes stress, confusion or makes you draw a blank, perhaps consider money coaching or the Financial Integrity Program.

We hope the above reflections and guidelines are useful to you. May your dāna practice  thrive for the benefit of all beings!

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Please take a moment to tell us what this Dāna is for.