Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The importace of giving Dana in Buddhist Practice

Dana or giving is one of the most important parts in Buddha’s teaching and people are practicing this Dana commonly in all Buddhist countries whether they are understanding of the law of karma or not. And Dana has wider definition. There are various kinds of things that a person can give such as material things, food, shelter, clothing, medicine so on. The person can give not only material things but also can offer the knowledge, skill, and effort that can benefit others. One can give sympathetic ear to troubled person, listen to him with compassion and gives comfort to him.  People can also donate something from their physical body such as blood, even kidney.
So there are many kinds of things that one can give to others. Buddhist have a strong belief that whatever they do will rebound back to them, if we do good things, good result will come to us and if we do bad things, we will probably face bad consequence. In believing so, lay Buddhist practice to have generous behavior in all aspects. Basically practicing generosity is to experience happiness and joyful and also first step to eliminate Loba, greed, Dosa, hatred, and Moha delusion most importantly that your generous attitude release you from the pain of selfishness. The more people have such generous mind, the more they have loving-kindness and compassion to others.

What is Dana
Giving is one of the mean teaching which plays an important role in any religions that every religion practices with different ways and different objects. Buddhist view on giving or generosity is an act to reduce greed, hatred and delusion. These three poisons are an unwholesome mental state which always disturb or hinders for the spiritual progress in Buddhism.
dāna:Giving, liberality; offering, alms. Specifically, giving of any of the four requisites to the monastic order. More generally, the inclination to give, without expecting any form of repayment from the recipient.[1]

Different Buddhist scholars gave different wider connotations on Dana. As Buddhist monks are not supposed to engage any business action or performing for living, lay Buddhists support four requisites to the Buddhist monks in order to practice Dhamma conveniently. By donating those basic necessary four requisites such as food, robe, medicine and shelter, monks are able to give more time on his practice meditation and study without worrying of any basic necessary things. So that supporting of these four items to monks is important in Buddhism which the Buddha allowed it. The most important is whatever we give or offer to someone who really in need of it, we should offer without expecting anything in return. Nowadays people gave something with expecting something in return, expect reward, reputation and even expecting for the positions. The donors should have good intention while they donate something to someone
Giving with goodwill
In doing meritorious deed, the most important thing is that the donor should have right intention or volition in order to produce great merit. So that the donor must have three types of volitions in donor’s heart and mind which are before offering, during offering and after offering. Dana is exactly like growing rice field which need a good rain at begging, in the middle and at the end of raining season in order to produce good rice. So in doing Dana, the three steps of volitions must be present to produce a great merit to givers. According to Abhidhamma the three types of volitions are as follow.
      Three types of volitional charities
a.          Pubba cetana (prior volition)
b.         Munca cetana (prevailing volition)
c.         Apara cetana (past-charity volition)[2]
The first one Pubba cetana mean, the donor should plan and prepare happily before. For instance, before offering food to the monk, at the preparatory stage, the donor should arrange such as going to buy necessary things and cook with happiness and joyful. Right intention or prior volition have to appear in donor’s mind then prepare it happily, it is called pubba cetana.
The second one Munca cetana is that during donation event, the donor should be mindful and happy about what he or she is doing. The most important thing is that donor should not have the attachment of the properties that he or she donated, but renounce completely the items and be glad on it.
The third one Apara cetana means that after finished donation, the donors must not be regret but should be happy whenever he or she recalled the offering.   After accomplishment of meritorious deed, enjoy it, and later whenever recall, happy for the completion of the deeds. When he recall his good deed and should consider as it is important quality to be practiced by every Buddhists. So Dana should be done in appreciation of the great qualities and virtues of the triple gem (Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha).
According to Buddha’s teaching, the most important thing in giving is to offer whatever he or she like without expecting anything in return. If the giver expect something in return from his or her giving, it is not generosity or charity but it is performing an act of bartering. 

In the khuddaka nikaya, the Buddhavamsa lists ten perfections (damaparami) in Theravada tradition and six perfections in Mahayana tradition. The first one out of ten is Danaparami which is an important one among ten perfections. Bodhisattva Sumedha practiced this dana life after life till he attain fully enlighten one. The Buddha when he wanted to cultivate, develop all great qualities, virtues, moral, precepts, started with this dana. So the Buddha practices this dana in three ways.
1 dana parami
2 dana upaparami
3 dana paramita parami
The first one dana parami means that whatever one offer such as food, clothing, shelter, medicine, land, money, and material things are called dana parami that Bodhisattva practice life after life.
The second one is higher than the first one and it is not easy to donate for everyone. dana upaparami which means that one can offer something from his or her physical body. The Buddha as Bodhisattava life offer his eyes, blood, heart or any organs from his body in order to restore of other patients or to support who are suffering.
The third one is the highest one it is called dana paramata parami. The meaning is higher sense and it is not easy to donate for everyone. The person scarified the life to protect or to save for the well beings of others. But the Budhisattva practice this dana in order to save other’s live.
In the Dighajanu sutta of the Anguttara Nikaya, exposed a good friendship which involved fours ways in order to have a good friendship.
Full of faith (saddha) full of virtue (sila), full of charity (caga), full of wisdom (pañña). He acts in accordance with the faith of the faithful, with the virtue of the virtuous, with the charity of the charitable, with the wisdom of the wise. This is called good friendship.[3]
In fact, giving is one of the four ways which gives a good friendship and happiness. The one whatsoever rich or poor, educated or uneducated, high class or low class associate with these four ways Saddha, Sila, Caga, and panna can be called good friendship that maintained last long friendship between both of them. And in Mangala sutta, there are 38 highest blessings in which the fifteen one is about practice generosity and it is said that giving is a source of happiness for both giver and receiver, so be generous in living that is the highest blessing.

 Nyanaponika Thera translated Brahma vihara as the four sublime states mind which we can found at Brahama vihara sutta of Anguttaranikaya. 
Four sublime states of mind have been taught by the Buddha:
·            Love or Loving-kindness (metta)
·            Compassion (karuna)
·            Sympathetic Joy (mudita)
·            Equanimity (upekkha)[4]
These four attitude describe the higher standard of human life and each have loving kindness, compassion, sympathy and equanimity then which leads to peaceful society. We should need to have these minds in order to build harmonious and peaceful society. There is no anger, greed, jealousy, wrath but loving kindness, compassion and sympathy.
One can develop these four sublime states of mind through generosity. By giving or offering with faith to those who are in need of it, one can develop their mind. Because generosity is the way to eliminate defilement of greed, hatred and delusion but promote loving kindness, compassion and empathy. So that basically people should have generous mind in order to develop loving kindness and compassion. One can get the experience of great feeling or true happiness by practical way rather than being theory.
Buddhist scholar Bhikkhu Bodhi wrote in his book regarding to Dana or giving
Like all good deeds, an act of giving will bring us happiness in the future, in the accordance with the kammic law of cause and effect taught by the Buddha. Giving yields benefits in the present life and in live to come whether or not we are aware of this fact, but when volition is accompanied by understanding, we can greatly increase the merits earned by out gifts.[5]
The result of giving may come in the present life or next life but the fact is that when giving is accomplished by right intention or cetana volition, the giver will experience the joyful feeling, loving kindness, compassion and sympathy and also which will increase till liberation of suffering life. And giving to anyone who are in need is beneficial whether the receivers moral or immoral. The donor will earn great merits. Even little giving will earn much merit if the donor donate with goodwill. And such generosity brings one step nearer to achieving of ten-perfection or paramita. If the one gives much of worth material things with the impure mind, then the donor will gain less merits because the giving has done with expecting something return and some reputation.
The Buddha said that there are two kinds of people that are difficult to find in this world, namely a bhikkhu among the mendicants (pravrajita) who is definitely liberated (asamayavimukta), and a man among laity (grhasthavadatavasana) who know how to practice pure dana.[6]
That is the fact that there are plenty of stones or rocks in the mountain but precious stones like jades, ruby and emerald are very difficult to find which exist in few places in the world. As the same way, there are many hundred thousands of Buddhist monks who practice and teach the Dhamma in around the world but we cannot find easily who attained Arhatship or higher state of mind. Therefore the monk who fully liberated from Samsara are rare in this would. Liberated monks are very difficult to find. Likewise there are 7 billions of populations in this world, but few numbers of populations are generous, and give others without expecting anything return. 

On another occasion, the Buddha spoke of five ways of giving badly, and five ways of giving well. The five ways of giving badly are,
       1. A person gives without deference and respect,
       2. Gives without thinking,
       3. Gives not with his own hands,
       4. Gives leftovers from a meal,
       5. Gives holding no views as to the future
       The five ways of giving well are,
       1. A person gives in faith,
       2. with deference and respect,
       3. in time,
       4. with unconstrained heart,
       5. without hurt to self or others.[7]
Give in faith is important to be great quality of merits; otherwise the givers will gain less merits. When giving something to someone, a person should not give as an act of his body alone but with his heart and mind as well. Give in proper way and appropriately is important in Buddhism. These five ways of proper giving and five ways of inappropriate that the givers should be understand before they give to someone.   Basically Buddhist believes that if we give more in the present life with good attention, the result is that we will get happy rebirth with good condition in the next life either human realm or deity realm. In order to be a good condition in the next life, only one way that can help which is to give others with goodwill in the present life. Help poor people, build generous behavior to support for those who are practicing Dhamma or who are trying to promote Buddhism, because we cannot take the properties that belong to us into next life. No matter how much we rich and how many properties we have, but we cannot bring those all belongings into the next life, but we can take our merits or meritorious deed to the next life which will bring good condition and good life.
 For a person giving, merit increases. For one self-restraining, no animosity is amassed. One who is skillful leaves evil behind and from the ending of passion, aversion, delusion is totally unbound.[8]
  Starting from practicing giving, one can grow merits. Trying not to produce hostility can build up the harmonious society. And the one who eliminate the defilement of greed, hatred and delusion, one can attain Nibbana. The Buddha instructed his disciples to give up negative thought and unwholesome acts but to cultivate and develop positive attitude or wholesome acts.
In Samyutta nikaya, a god asked the Buddha concerning with giving then the Buddha explained clearly about the true value of various kinds of gifts.
A deva asked
A giver of what is a giver of strength?
A giver of what is a giver of beauty?
A giver of what is a giver of ease?
A giver of what is a giver of vision?
And who is a giver of everything?
Being asked, please explain this to me.
The Buddha replied
A giver of food is a giver of strength.
A giver of cloths, a giver of beauty.
A giver of a vehicle, a giver of ease.
A giver of a lamp, a giver of vision.
And the one who gives a residence, is the one who is a giver of everything.
But the one who teaches the Dhamma is a giver of the deathless.[9]
We can understand that if we offer food to someone, we will gain the strength as the receiver gets the strength after eating the food. Nowadays, people measure the beauty with clothes. They think and create different designs in order to show the beauty. So if we donate the clothes to someone needy, we will get the result of beauty from the donation of clothes. The lamp can change from darkness into bright. If we give the lamp to someone who is really needy, same result rebound us as good vision. In the same way, Dhamma guide us what is wrong and what is right. And the dhamma shows the path to liberation. So if we teach or offer the Buddha’s Dhamma to someone, this is the greatest gift that shows the right path leading to the liberation from suffering. Dhamma is greatest gift of all of human being. Dhamma gift has a great power to change life. When a person received Dhamma with pure mind, he cannot fail to change. He will experience greater happiness, joy and peace in his heart and mind. These are the reasons why the paragraph said the one who give Dhamma is the giver of deathless. In this context, the gift of Dhamma is the greatest gift of all and which is condition to attain higher state of mind or to attain Nibbana. 

We are on the journey of Samsara, we born, aging and death. But the goal of Buddha’s teaching is to free from suffering of the wheel of rebirth. Dana is a basic way which can train the mind and heart gradually to less suffering to attain higher state of mind. According to Buddha’s teaching, our actions or Karma will determine the realm where we will born in the next life. If we have great merit that will take us to higher realm, but our bad action will take us to low realm. Karmma will produce it appropriate result. Avoiding the bad but practicing the good is the heart of Buddhism.  As dana is one of the three headings in Buddha’s teaching (Dana, Sila, and Bhavana), we can eradicate the defilement which is barrier on the way to Nibbana.  It is exactly the same as we cannot pick up the diamond in front of us if we do not have the hands; likewise we cannot get great merits or good result if we give something without in faith or volition. This is why, giving in faith and with heart is important to gain great merits. It does not matter how small amount we give but it is matter to give with heart full of faith. According to the Buddha’s teaching of Karmic law of cause and effect, we reduce our attachment to the something and it makes gradually weaken craving and giving will lead to happy future births and also giving have done with wholesome volition will help us to develop morality Sila, concentration Samadhi, and wisdom Panna. 

[1] A Glossary of Pali and  Buddhist Terms, Accessed December 17, 2013 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/glossary.html
[2] Janakabhivamsa, Ashin, Abhidhamma in Daily Life: The Principle of Physical  and Mental Process, (International Theravada Missionary University, Yangon 1999), 48.
[3] Narada There, Dighajanu (Vyagghapajja) sutta:Condition of Welfare.   Accessed November 30, 2013 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an08/an08.054.nara.html
[4] Nyanaponika, Thera, The Four Sublime States: Contemplations on Love, Compassion, Sympathetic Joy and Equanimity. Nov 30, 2013 http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nyanaponika/wheel006.html
[5] Bhikkhu Bodhi, Dana: The Practice of Giving, (Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, 1990), 2.
[6] Tadeusz, Skorupski, The Six Perfections, ( Tring UK:The Institute of Buddhist Studies, 2002,
[7] U Hla Maung, Great Gifts and Giving Well: The Buddha’s Teachings for Peace on Earth, (Yangon:Panditarama Yeiktha, 1999),4.
[8] Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Udana: Exclamations, 2012, 117
[9] Thanissaro Bhkikhu, SN1.42: Kindada Sutta: A Giver of What, Accessed June 14, 2010  http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn01/sn01.042.than.html


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