Siddhattha Gotama (the Buddha) and his followers never charged people money to hear the teachings. They were given out of generosity. Those who received them also gave of their generosity so that Gotama and his followers could survive and continue to teach. Indeed Gotama once said: ‘if you knew what I know about generosity, you’d never let a day go by without practising it’. It was clearly a treasured practice.

To this day, most people who continue to pass on Gotama’s teachings, do so using this ancient tradition. This ensures that no-one will ever miss out on the teachings simply because they don’t have much material wealth.

In Western countries however, this can seem a strange paradigm for giving and receiving. We’re not used to being asked to give according to our sense of generosity. Usually we’re told a price and if we value what’s on offer enough, we pay it. If we don’t, we don’t. In fact for many of us, our mindset for giving and receiving is: how can I pay as little as possible for what I want?

The idea behind dana is totally different. Generosity is in fact part of Buddhist practice. There are no ‘shoulds’ or ‘thou shalts’, just an invitation to engage with it, experiment with it, to notice how it feels, and what impacts it has. 

However when us Westerners engage for the first time in this different way of giving and receiving, we can feel a bit ‘at sea’. Are we talking $3000 for a weekend with Tony Robbins, or are we talking a gold coin on the plate in the Catholic church? How do I decide what to give?

There is no right answer. Whatever you give will be gratefully accepted. However if you're coming up blank when you ask yourself how much to give, here are a few ways to think about it that might help:
  • What do you earn for a day of your time at work?
  • What have you paid in the past for training courses? Was the depth of knowledge and experience required of teachers similar?
  • To what extent have you had insights, gained understanding or other benefits from the teachings?
  • To what extent do you sense your teacher has spent time learning, practising and integrating the teachings to be able to share them?

The process for giving dana is that you simply leave your donation in the ‘dana’ box that will be present at your event. You don’t have to put your name on it, simply put your donation in the box. You can do that at the start of the event, at the end of it, or at any time during the event. However it does mean you need to bring your donation with you! And if you need to leave early, please don’t forget to attend to it. 

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