A dharma presentation on dana, or “generosity,” was followed by a rich group discussion in our sangha. Sangha attendees explored their beliefs about generosity and the value it holds in their lives.
One man commented, “Sometimes I feel guilty and fear that the recipient of my generosity will think that my intentions aren’t pure.” A few people agreed that they also had difficulty fully opening to generous impulses due to fear of possible negative reactions from the recipient. I suggested that each person try to bring compassion and a caring awareness to the small, contracted sense of self that fears rejection or judgment, while still following through with the originally inspired act of generosity. It’s also important to practice allowing the goodness of your generosity to seep into the your experience—before, during, and after the act of dana.
One very wise young woman pointed out that oftentimes the most generous act she can perform is to do nothing because giving to a capable yet manipulative person enables unhealthy patterns for both parties.
Another gentleman observed that Americans, as a whole, are conditioned to be acquisitive rather than generous. So the question arises, are capitalist societies more materialistic than others? And if so, does the value placed on acquiring material possessions stifle generosity and promote more greed?
Said one attendee, “I feel that my acts of generosity continue to breed more generosity in a pay-it-forward sort of way.” Another gentleman shared that every time he holds back his generosity in his relationships, he is in essence creating a painful sense of separation between himself and the other person.
Several folks communicated their frustration about people they experience as “vampires.” Vampire-types seek their generosity without appreciating it and then expect more, more, and more.
Although there is no clear-cut formula you can follow to help you know when to give, to whom, and how much, it becomes evident to those on a spiritual path that giving from a contracted ego-driven agenda is not helpful. Wisdom must accompany “acts of generosity.” Wisdom aids you in giving mindfully with caring, respectful, and wholesome intention. Wise giving is more likely produce healthy results.
Please share with us your own practices of wholesome “dana.”