Musings on generosity

A number of Buddhist-based readings I’ve enjoyed lately have focused on the teaching of dana, the Buddhist practice of generosity. In most–if not all–Buddhist traditions (in my largely uneducated understanding), it’s generally suggested that practitioners focus on fostering generosity before any other aspects of the teachings. This focus is largely lost in much western Buddhism, with meditation being the first focus of a practice.

For years, Margie and I have discussed giving more. Giving more financially, that is, to various non-profits who’s missions we support. We’ve given here and there but never on a consistent basis. During much of this time, I worked in the non-profit sector and figured that my dedication to this work was giving enough. I no longer have this as an excuse. I also–well, we, rather–don’t have as much money as I did when Margie and I were both working and before we had kids.

Through my readings on dana, I’ve come to better understand the true meaning of generosity and all of its forms. While it would be great to be able to give some of our money to important causes, there are many other ways to be generous and share other types of wealth.

Margie and I have been trying to explain to Bennett the definition of rich. More specifically, that one doesn’t need to have a lot of money to be rich. One can be rich with friends, spirit, love, and many other things.

I look at dana in much the same way. Margie and I don’t have a lot of money to give currently. But, we have a freezer full of beef and we love to entertain, sharing our good food with friends and family. We have time to watch friends’ kids. We have sewing, building, gardening, and other skills that we enjoy sharing for a common good.

While we still want to donate to something financially, I’m not feeling so bad about our current inability to do so. It’s lovely to share other parts of ourselves as well.

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3 thoughts on “Musings on generosity

  1. Writing your blog is dana. Setting the example you do is dana. Amanda, you provide me with inspiration and grounding just about every day. Thank you for your generosity.

    Can you share references to some of the readings you have on dana? I have a western understanding of it, which I recognize is limited. Thanks.

    • Thanks, Bob! I really appreciate your thoughtfulness and comments.

      The books that primarily have me thinking about dana are LovingKindness and Living Your Yoga (Judith Lasater). I know there are more out there–perhaps some are on my bookshelf–but these two are my most recent reads.

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