Dāna – Pure Giving

Dāna – giving, generosity, charity – is a core teaching in Buddhism; but it’s a teaching that everyone, Buddhist or not, can benefit from. I’ve been listening to Venerable Yuttadhammo’s dāna teachings this week. There’s lots to say on dāna, but in essence, three things need to be considered when performing generous deeds:

What is our motive for giving?
What is it that we intend to give?
Is the recipient of our gift worthy of our charity?

Why do we give? Some of us give in order to get returns, while others give with the hopes of being seen. This is ego and selfishness, which is not dāna. Right and wrong forms of dāna come into play when we act. Good, enlightened, pure charity is always a noble deed and a form of good karma. Yes, the reciprocity effect is always present, but this can’t be our motive for dāna. We should take an honest look at our reasons for giving.

Money is not the only vehicle of dāna. We can give money, of course, but we can also give knowledge and teaching, compassionate words, and food; we can care for the sick or elderly; we can release others from fear or suffering. We can offer the dhamma to an inquiring mind. Planting a tree is dāna.

The third concern is one that can throw good intentioned people for a loop. Bhante gave a good example of why we should consider worthiness. If you were to give money to a person with a drug, gambling, or alcohol addiction, would the money be used for good? The odds are that the money would help force that person deeper into addiction. Part of the responsibility of dāna is to ensure as much as possible that our charitable acts have beneficial outcomes and don’t harm others.

For certain, pure dāna benefits the mind of the giver, increases spiritual wealth, and offers the opportunity of being reborn in happy states. It also relieves us of the affliction of attachment – we learn to let go. Letting go leads us toward the path to nibbana.


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