Happy New Year!


The Urban Dharma Newsletter... January 6, 2004


In This Issue: Dana - Generosity

1. Giving ('Dana')
2. In Praise of Dana (Giving)
3. Dana - The Practice of Generosity
4. Heartland raises money for service projects
...by Janet Lipner
5. Dana in Early Buddhism ...
by U Ko Lay and U Tin Lwin Yangon
6. Temple/Center/Website- of the Week:
The Barre Center for Buddhist Studies
7. Book/CD/Movie Review: Dana : Giving and Getting in Pali Buddhism


The Urbandharma.org Stats for 2003

2003 UrbanDharma.org: 110,000 vistors - 380,000 page views - 1,700,000 hits

1. Giving ('Dana')


Giving More, Wanting Less

From the Buddhist perspective, the cause of our suffering is craving or tanha. Such craving has its root in ignorance and greed. We want to get more, have more, possess more, thinking that it will bring us happiness. What we already have we want to hang on to as if it is something that we can have forever. Buddhism teaches the opposite of this. If we want to be without suffering we must destroy craving. Instead of becoming obsessed with having and hanging on to things, therefore, it is better to practice giving or dana. This is a virtue that is found at the heart of all schools of Buddhism. In Mahayana Buddhism it is the first of the the six perfections on the Bodhisattva Path.

Good Fortune

Giving can take many forms. The most obvious form of giving is material things but we can also give less tangible things such as our time, energy and thoughts. Indeed, as humans we are very fortunate in that our opportunities for giving are limitless. Those of us with families find that giving is an inevitable part of daily life. Similarly at work, we are involved in giving our service to others in many different ways. We can give to a whole gamut of charities. And we can even contribute to the overall good of society through the payment of taxes! Sometimes - in very extreme circumstances - people are even prepared to give up their own lives for the sake of others.

One special form of giving in Buddhism, however, is the giving of the dharma or truth/teaching. In the Dhammapada it says: 'the Gift of the Dharma excels all other gifts'. To share the teachings of Buddhism, therefore, is seen as very special, exceeding other kinds of gifts. This is because by explaining the teachings of Buddhism you are giving someone the opportunity to liberate themselves from the world of suffering and to reach nirvana.


The benefits of giving are seen in its karmic effects. Giving leads to being reborn in happy states and material wealth. Alternatively, lack of giving leads to unhappy states and poverty. The early scriptures state that giving to virtuous people is more meritorious than giving to non-virtuous people: 'By giving a gift to the immoral ordinary person, the offering may be expected to repay a hundredfold. By giving a gift to a virtuous ordinary person, the offering may be expected to repay a hundred thousandfold' (The Dakkhinavibhanga Sutta). The Buddha goes on to say: 'in no way does a gift to a person individually ever have greater fruit than an offering made to the Sangha'.


A key factor in giving is motivation. Unfortunately, giving can often have a degree of selfishness within it. Sometimes, when we give, hidden somewhere within us is the notion that we will benefit from it in some way. This could be the thought of the good merit that we will earn or we will be liked or appreciated. The purest giving, however, has no such motivation behind it, only the thought of how the recipient will benefit.

The exquisite paradox in Buddhism is that the more we give - and the more we give without seeking something in return - the more wealthy (in the broadest sense of the word) we will become. By giving we destroy those acquisitive impulses that ultimately lead to further suffering.

2. In Praise of Dana (Giving)


From Nagarjuna's Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom (Dharmamitra Translation)

Question: What benefits does dana bestow that the bodhisattva abiding in the prajnaparamita therefore fully perfects it?

Response: Dana brings all manner of benefits. Dana serves as a treasury which constantly follows along with a person. Dana destroys suffering and bestows bliss upon people. Dana is a good guide which shows the way to the heavens. Dana is a storehouse of goodness for it draws in good people. ({Chinese Textual Note:} Giving draws in good people as a result of one's setting up causes and conditions {i.e. karmic affinities} with them. Hence the text reads "draws in.")

Dana constitutes [a source of] peace and security. When one reaches the end of one's life one's mind is without fear. Dana is a mark of loving kindness. It is able to rescue everyone. Dana is able to gather together blisses and is able to rout the invaders of suffering. Dana is a great general which is able to defeat the enemy of miserliness.

Dana is a marvelous fruit which is loved by gods and men. Dana is a path of purity travelled by the worthies and aryas. Dana is the entryway for the accumulation of goodness and meritorious qualities. Dana is a condition for the accomplishment of works and for the gathering together of a multitude. Dana is the seed of the treasured fruit of good actions. Dana is the mark of the good person endowed with meritorious karma.

Dana destroys poverty and cuts one off from the three wretched destinies. Dana is able to preserve and protect the fruit of blessings and bliss. Dana is the primary condition for the realization of nirvana. It is the essential dharma for entry into the multitude of good people. It is the vast repository of good repute and praiseful commendation. It provides the quality of being free of difficulties in the midst of the multitudes. It is the cavernous mansion of the mind's freedom from regret. It is the origin of good dharmas and of one's cultivation of the Way. It is the dense forest of every manner of delight and bliss. It is the field of blessings for the reaping of wealth, nobility and peaceful security. It is the bridge across to the realization of the Way and entry into nirvana. It is traversed by the aryas, the great masters, and those possessed of wisdom. It is that which everyone else, those of minor virtue and lesser intelligence, should emulate.

3. Dana - The Practice of Generosity


Often we are asked various questions about "Dana". We hope this brief explanation (written by Kamala Masters and Steve Armstrong) will begin to open your awareness more fully around this integral part of the path of practice.

Dana is the practice of developing the qualities of generosity, kindness, and letting go. We develop these qualities because they make fertile ground for liberating wisdom to grow deep in our hearts.

Often our practice of generosity and kindness comes from our routine habitual tendencies, because it is the custom, through a feeling of guilt, or simply because it's the 'nice' thing to do. Taking the opportunity to make 'dana' a practice of awareness, brings it out of the realm of unconscious habit, and into the realm of wise attention. In this awareness practice of generosity, we begin to see how our lives can be elevated when we bring a conscious awareness around opportunities to be generous, to be kind, and to let go.

Because dana is a 'practice', with awareness and honesty we allow ourselves to experience how liberating and happiness-producing it feels to let go, and where it is painful because it is challenging to let go. We call dana a practice, and that implies that we are doing just that... practicing letting go. Which also implies that it is not easy to do sometimes.

When we practice generosity, many supportive qualities of mind are being developed that lead us to ever-deepening happiness and freedom. We are cultivating loving kindness because we are caring for the welfare of others. We are cultivating compassion because we want to alleviate any suffering. We are cultivating the understanding of interconnectedness because we realize that we depend on the generosity and kindness of others, and they also depend upon ours. Most of all, we are cultivating non-attachment, the ability to let go, which is essential to understanding and experiencing freedom from suffering.

We must understand dana in terms of 'practice'. Dana is not a tip, nor is it in exchange for receiving the Teachings of the Buddha. It is a way in which we can express gratitude and practice our kindness, generosity and letting go with awareness.

Dana is one of the Three Pillars of the Dharma. The other two are the cultivation of harmonious living (Sila), and the development of wisdom (Panna). During the time of the Buddha, and up to this time in Asian countries, the teachings begin with the cultivation of generosity, the first pillar of the dharma. But when the Teachings of the Buddha came to the West, the teaching of wisdom came first, without much emphasis on the two other foundational pillars (harmonious living and generosity). However, now many of us are beginning to see the importance of sharing the practice of dana and sila, otherwise those pillars will be a weak in our Western culture. It is important for all Three Pillars of the Dharma to support the continuation of the Teachings of the Buddha in the West in a strong and balanced way.

4. Heartland raises money for service projects ...by Janet Lipner


If I am not for myself, who will be?

If I am only for myself, what am I?

If not now, when?

—The Talmud

Our first dana of the new year went to the Seva Foundation to be used to perform cataract surgery on a Tibetan nomad. This type of blindness causes more than half of the world's blindness. Besides surgical procedures, Seva is a group that handles blindness prevention, and promotes healing by training the local inhabitants. Many of the recipients are in Asian countries, such as India, Tibet, Nepal, & Cambodia. There are also Native American and Mayan projects to assist in diabetes control and reclaiming sacred sites. We appreciate Seva's respect for the spirit and culture of various communities and that it seeks long-term solutions to help people to become self reliant. Their advertising uses Buddhist motifs but does not mention Buddhism.

Our next two collections went to CARE for Kosovo refugee emergency efforts. In the largest refugee movement since World War II, CARE is helping the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Macedonia, and Albania by receiving new arrivals, establishing their placement in tents, managing food and non-food distribution, providing medical services, and tracing children and families to reunite them. In Yugoslavia alone, they have distributed 237 metric tons of food and 400,000 eggs.

More locally, Heartland Sangha gave two tables to the Lake Street Church, Evanston, who recently hosted Visakha again. Richard Brandon played a major role in acquiring them at a fair price and saving us hefty delivery charges by delivering them himself.

At each meeting, we also collect non-perishable foodstuffs, such as canned goods, and some household necessities for a Cambodian family in Chicago. Asayo does the delivery each month and reports that they are very glad to receive them.

We are practicing the paramita dana in these many varied ways. I am glad that we are willing and able to share.

5. Dana in Early Buddhism ... Edited and Translated by U Ko Lay and U Tin Lwin Yangon, Myanmar


(19) Offering made to one or two separate, individual persons is Puggalika-dana; Offering made to the whole Order of Bhikkhus, the Sangha, is Sanghika-dana. Sangha means group, assemblage or community; here, the whole community of the Ariya disciples of the Buddha is meant. In making an offering intended for the Sangha, the donor must have in his mind not the individual Ariya disciples that constitute the Order, but the community of the Ariya disciples as a whole. Then only, his offerings will be of the Sanghika type.

Dakkhinavibhanga Sutta (of Majjhima Nikaya Pali Canon) gives an enumeration of 14 kinds of gifts to individuals, Puggalika dana, and 7 kinds of gifts to the Sangha, Sanghika dana. It is useful to know them.

14 kinds of gifts to individuals

* (1) Offering made to a Buddha,

* (2) Offering made to a Pacceka-Buddha, a non-teaching Buddha,

* (3) Offering made to an Arahat or to one who has attained the Arahattaphala stage,

* (4) Offering made to one who is striving to realise Arahattaphala or one who has attained the Arahattamagga stage,

* (5) Offering made to an Anagami or to one who has attained the Anagamiphala stage,

* (6) Offering made to one who is striving to realise Anagamiphala or one who has attained the Anagamimagga stage,

* (7) Offering made to Sakadagami or to one who has attained the Sakadagamiphala stage,

* (8) Offering made to one who is striving to realise Sakadagamiphala or one who has attained Sakadagamimagga stage,

* (9) Offering made to a Sotapanna or to one who has attained the Sotapatti stage,

* (10) Offering made to one who is striving to realise Sotapattiphala or one who has attained Sotapattimagga stage,

* (11) Offering made to recluses (outside the Teachings of the Buddha or when the Teaching is not extant) who are accomplished in Jhana or Supernormal Power attainments,

* (12) Offerings made to an ordinary lay person who is possessed of morality,

* (13) Offerings made to an ordinary lay person who is devoid of morality, and

* (14) Offering made to an animal.

Of these 14 kinds of offering made to individuals, giving one full meal to an animal will bring wholesome results of long life, good looks, physical well-being, strength, and intelligence for one hundred lives. Then in an ascending order, giving one full meal to a lay person of poor morality will bring these wholesome results for one thousand lives; to a lay person of good morality at a time when Buddha's teachings are not extant and he has no opportunity to take refuge in the Triple Gem, for a hundred thousand lives; to recluses and ascetics accompli shed in Jhana attainments, for ten billion lives; to lay men and novitiates (during a period when the teaching. of Buddha are extant) who take refuge in the Triple Gem , and up to the Noble person who has attained the Sotapattimagga. for an innumerable period (asankhyeyya) of lives; and to persons of higher attainment up to the Buddha, for countless periods of lives. (According to the Commentary, even one who only takes refuge in the Triple Gem may be considered as a person who is practising for realisation of Sotapattiphala).

There is no mention of bhikkhus of loose morality in the above list of 14 kinds of recipients of offerings made to individuals. The Buddha's enumeration of offering made to a person devoid of morality concerns only the period when the Buddha's Teaching is not extant. For these reasons, there is a tendency to consider that offerings made to bhikkhus of impure morality while the Buddha's teachings are still extant are blameworthy. But one should remember that any one who has become a Buddhist at the very least takes refuge in the Triple Gem; and the Commentary says that whoever takes refuge in the Triple Gem is a person who is practising for realisation of Sotapatti phala. Furthermore when an offering made to an ordinary lay person devoid of morality (while the Teaching of Buddha is not extant) could be of much benefit, there is no doubt that offerings made to an ordinary lay person devoid of morality while the Teaching of the Buddha is still extant could be beneficial too.

Again, in the Milinda-Panha Text,, Nagasena Thera explains that an immoral bhikkhu is superior to an immoral lay person in ten respects such as reverence shown to the Buddha, reverence shown to the Dhamma, reverence shown to the Sangha etc. Thus, according to the Milinda Panha, an immoral bhikkhu is superior to an immoral lay person; and since he is listed by the Commentary as one who is practising for realisation of Sotapattiphala, one should not say that it is blameworthy and fruitless to make an offering to a bhikkhu devoid of morality.

There is yet another point of view in connection with this matter. At a time when there is no Teaching of the Buddha, immoral bhikkhus cannot cause any harm to the Teaching; but when the Teaching is in existence, they can bring harm to it. For that reason, no offering should be made to bhikkhus devoid of morality during the period when there is the Buddha's Teaching. But that view is shown by the Buddha to be untenable.

At the conclusion of the discourse on seven kinds of offerings to the Sangha, Sanghika-dana (see below), the Buddha explains to Ananda:

"Ananda, in times to come, there will appear vile bhikkhus, devoid of morality, who are bhikkhus only in name, who will wear their robes round their necks. With the intention of giving to the Sangha, offerings will be made to these immoral bhikkhus. Even when offered in this manner, a Sanghika-dana, an offering meant for the whole Sangha, I declare, will bring innumerable, inestimable benefits."

There is still another point to take into consideration. Of the Four Purities of Generosity (Dakkhina Visuddhi), the first Purity is: Even if the donee is of impure morality, when the donor is moral, the offering is pure by reason of purity of the donor. For these reasons also, one should not say that an immoral bhikkhu is not a donee, and that no benefit will accrue by making an offering to him.

It should be well noted, therefore, it is blameworthy only when we make an offering with bad intentions of approving and encouraging an immoral bhikkhu in his evil practices; without taking into considerations his habits, if one makes the offering with a pure mind, thinking only 'one should give if some one comes for a donation', it is quite blameless.

Seven kinds of gifts to the Sangha, Sanghika-dana

* (1) Offering made to the community of both bhikkhus and bhikkhunis led by the Buddha, while the Buddha. is still living.

* (2) Offering made to the community of both bhikkhus and bhikkhunis after Parinibbana of the Buddha;

* (3) Offering made to the community of bhikkhus only;

* (4) Offering made to the community of bhikkhunis only;

* (5) Offering made (with the whole Sangha in mind.) to a. group of bhikkhus and bhikkhunis as nominated by the Order, such an offering is made when the donor could not afford to give offerings to all the bhikkhus. and bhikkhunis; the donor approaches the Order and requests it to nominate a certain number (he could afford to give) of bhikkhus and bhikkhunis to receive his offerings. The Sangha nominates the required number of bhikkhus and bhikkhunis and the donor makes his offerings to that group of bhikkhus and bhikkhunis (with the whole Sangha in mind);

* (8) Offering made to a group of Bhikkhus only (with the whole Sangha in mind) after requesting the Sangha to nominate the number he could afford to give; and

* (7) Offering made (with the whole of Sangha in mind) to a group of Bhikkhunis only after requesting the Sangha to nominate (he number he could afford to give.

Of these seven kinds of Sanghika-dana, it may be asked if it is possible to make an offering of the first kind, namely, an offering made to the community of both bhikkhus and bhikkhunis led by the Buddha, after the Parinibbana of the Buddha. The answer is 'Yes, it is possible' and the offer should be made in this manner: after placing a statue of the Buddha containing relics in front of the community of both bhikkhus and bhikkhunis who have gathered for the ceremony, the offering should be made, saying, 'I make this offering to the community of both bhikkhus and bhikkhunis led by the Buddha'.

Having done an offering of the first kind, the question arises as to what happens to the objects of offering intended for the Buddha. Just as the property of the father customarily goes to the son, so too should the offerings intended for the Buddha go to the bhikkhu who does devotional duties to the Buddha or to the community of bhikkhus. Especially, if the objects offered include such materials as oil, ghee, etc. they should be utilized in offering of lights by oil lamps to the Buddha; pieces of cloth included in the offering should be made into banners and streamers to be offered in worship.

During the Buddha's lifetime, people were generally not disposed to form attachment to or concerning them selves with, individual personalities; they had their mind bent on the Order of bhikkhus as a whole, and thus were able to make much offering of the noble Sanghika-dana kind. Consequently, the needs of the members of the Order were mostly met by the distributions made by the Order; they had little need to rely on lay man and lay woman donors and therefore had little attachment to them as 'the donors of my monastery, the donors of my robes etc.' Thus, the bhikkhu could be free of bonds of attachments.

6. The Barre Center for Buddhist Studies


The Barre Center for Buddhist Studies is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to bringing together teachers, students, scholars and practitioners who are committed to exploring Buddhist thought and practice as a living tradition, faithful to its origins and lineage, yet adaptable and alive in the current world. The center’s purpose is to encourage the integration of study and practice, and to investigate the relationship between scholarly understanding and meditative insight. It encourages engagement with the tradition in a spirit of genuine inquiry.

The study center offers a variety of opportunities for research and study, including courses, workshops, conferences, retreats and independent programs. The BCBS program is rooted in the classical tradition of the earliest teachings and practices, but its mission calls for the exploration of all schools of Buddhism and for dialogue with other religious and scientific traditions.

The study center in Barre offers a variety of programs from two resident scholars and a wide range of visiting faculty. A rich diversity of topics are covered for those interested in the Buddhist tradition and meditation practice. Programs range from one-day and weekend offerings, to five or seven days; some are as long as two weeks. Special programs include:

The Nalanda Program offers a model for the serious academic study of Buddhism, such as one might undertake at a college or graduate school. Six to eight hours of daily classroom time is balanced by morning and evening meditation sessions, as well as informal time for discussion, reading or walking in the countryside. Credit may be available from your college or university.

The Bhavana Program offers a new model for combining the benefits of meditation with insight into the teachings of the Buddhist tradition. Most of the day is spent in silent meditation, much like a classical vipassana retreat, but each day also includes a morning study period focusing on texts carefully chosen to complement and inform the on-going practice of meditation.

The Buddhist Psychology Program investigates in depth the early Buddhist science of mind growing out of its profound contemplative practices, and explores the growing interface between Buddhist thought and modern psychology. Through an affiliation with the Institute of Meditation and Psychotherapy, CE credits are available for most mental health and other professionals.

The Independent Study Program is for experienced students who may be looking for a quiet place to investigate the Buddhist tradition on their own through the integration of study and practice. We welcome scholars to come and experience the benefits of a contemplative environment for their work, and we invite meditators to explore the benefits of the academic inquiry into the Buddhist tradition.

7. Dana : Giving and Getting in Pali Buddhism ...Ellison Banks Findly. Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass, 2003, xvi, 432 p., $25. ISBN 81-208-1956-x.


Contents: Foreword/Alex Wayman. Preface. Introduction. 1. Buddhist donation: a religious response to a changing world. 2. Redefining relationships: the new donor. 3. Resources to requisites: gifts to the gone forth. 4. Giving gifts. 5. Receiving gifts. 6. Making, using, and transferring merit. 7. Renunciation and property. 8. Monastic strategies for encouraging Dana: curbing misbehavior and generating goodwill. 9. The renunciant as facilitator: the case of Ananda. Final thoughts. Bibliography. Index.

"This book argues that donation (dana) is one of the central practices in early Buddhism for, without it, Buddhism would not have survived and flourished in the many centuries of its development and expansion. Early Buddhist donation draws on older Vedic beliefs and practices, especially those involving funeral ceremonies and the ritual transfiguration of the ancestors (pitrs). Buddhist relationship between donors and renunciants developed quickly into a complex web that involves material life and the views about how to attend to it. Questions of how to properly acquire and use wealth, how to properly give and receive individual and communal gifts, how to think about using and transferring merit, and what constitutes proper food, robes, lodging, and medicine are central to the "dana contract".

"The dana system reflects the changing dynamics of life in Northern India as wealth and leisure time increase, and as newly powerful groups of people look around for alternative religious affiliation. Buddhist dana’s great success is due to the early and continuing use of accommodation with other faiths as a foundational value, thus allowing the tradition to adapt to changing circumstances."


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