Dana, Generosity of Spirit


Here is my little chanting machine which I acquired at a ‘give away’ in the monastery some time back. Quite often Buddhist items such as this as well as rosaries, amulets with scriptures in them, Dharma books and the like are brought back from the East by monks and lay trainees to be distributed to the monks and lay devotees here. They will generally come from a Temple. It is the Buddhist way of keeping up Dharma connections through the exchange of gifts and there is the circulation of merit aspect too.

My chanting box has Free gift not for sale printed on the back. The Dharma cannot be priced, it’s priceless. Thus in the East it is usual for Buddhist books to be distribute free of charge, similarly these chanting boxes would always be given away. There is a Buddhist word that describes this way of giving with no expectation of anything in return. The word is Dana, generosity of spirit.

There is much misunderstanding in the West around the making of offerings in the spirit of Dana. We tend to judge the worth of something by it’s price. If it is free, it follows that it has no worth. So we have a cultural difficulty around understanding the true worth of the Dharma, because it is offered with no charge. On the subject of Dana you might want to read The Economy of Gifts by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. It is written from the Theravada perspective, however I feel it is the best piece on Dana to be found on the Internet.

Sujatin posted recently on a chanting box which you can buy. Better than not having one at all I guess. I’ve found having the Amida Budda chant going on beside me while I work a very helpful tool.

Oh, congratulations to Sujatin for being nominated in the Blogisattva Awards this year for Best Achievement with Use of Quotations in a Blog.

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2 thoughts on “Dana, Generosity of Spirit”

  1. That makes me think of the buddha machine which is a little plastic box with a series of loops hardwired into it. It’s made by a artists’ duo who live in China and part of its whole charm is the level of environmental imperfection built into it. You do have to pay for it though!

  2. My girlfriend and I found these exact same chanting machines on a small rack at the entrance to an Asian foods market. Can you provide a translation of the text on the front and back?

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