Friday, January 14, 2011
The three aspects of Generosity or Dana
Dana is a Pali word which means generosity or altruism. It is divided in three parts which are: the gift of material nature, gift of fearlessness and gift of Dharma knowledge. The first one is providing material help in the way of food, clothing and shelter. We can apply this to all sentient beings, human and animals. The second one is the gift of fearlessness. In Buddhism, fearlessness is giving hope to others, giving mental and moral assistance when people need it. It can be something as simple as holding somebody’s hand when they need it. Lastly is the gift of Dharma, which is promoting adherence to the Five Precepts, the Four Noble Truths and imparting knowledge so as to eschew ignorance and bring happiness to others.
Buddha laid emphasis on Dharmadana thus: Sabba danam dhammadanam jinati, meaning that “The gift of Dharma excels all other gifts.” This is because the Buddha saw the harm the world was exposed to by widespread ignorance which made him declare that giving knowledge to people was the highest Dana one can conceive of. Dana enjoys pride of place in the doctrine of the tenfold righteous rule enunciated by the Buddha which was appreciated by many and practiced in many other religious teachings. A human quality worthy of appreciation, Dana offers an opportunity for wise use of one’s earned wealth. While being devoid of craving, anger and delusion, if one follows the regimen mentioned above, it will lead one to accrue meritorious and wholesome results, and thus bring happiness to all. The value of altruism is not appreciated by many because of inborn self-centeredness which lead them towards unwholesomeness. Selfishness is the vilest characteristic that draws people towards evil.