In the fundamental teachings of the Dharma, the practice of giving, or dana, in all forms is considered an important pillar of practice. It is the first of the 10 Paramis (heart/mind qualities of an awakened being), and the first of the three pillars of Dharma—giving, ethics and the cultivation of wisdom. Development of a heart of generosity (Pali: caga), from which dana naturally flows, is viewed in the teachings as the ground upon which virtue and wisdom are developed, the path to and the expression of enlightenment. Caring and selfless offering of time, attention, resources, and support is an expression of interdependence and a letting go that leads to happiness. Fundamentally, it is a template for the heart that lets go, frees itself from attachment and thus, dukkha.
Jack Kornfield, my teacher, wrote: “Unfortunately, the fundamental teachings about dana have not been taught very well in our …community. We emphasize mindfulness and metta, but shy away from systematic and regular trainings in the pillar of dana…There has been a lot of confusion… about how to “spiritually” deal with money. This is mixed with the broader culture’s ambivalence toward money, its conflicting avarice, shame and desire. For the health of the Dharma and our community, this…needs to be addressed, we need to teach the pillar of dana well.”
I am taking up his admonition, to emphasize everywhere I can, the singular and central importance of the cultivation of a generous heart and its natural manifestation in giving. We can start with the practice of knowing when our heart is free from clinging and when it is not. Are you game?