The Dharma Jewel Is Not for Sale:
Thank You for Supporting DFF
MAKE A DONATION
Please make a donation in support of DFF by clicking on the button below. Thank you!
OFFERING OF PRACTICE & DANA:
Monetary gifts enabling DFF to function are only one way to practice giving. Traditionally, the gift of our practice is the most important. Dana to support the teacher and help the center cover costs is traditional and welcome, but not mandatory. We do not require any financial contribution for admission or participation in our events. The Dharma is not for sale. See the text below for further background on this practice.
OFFER THE GIFT OF SERVICE:
At DFF, the offering of service is a major factor in keeping the center functioning. While monetary support is always necessary to meet expenses, volunteer service is equally important. It enables us to host teachings, classes and other events, and plan large projects capable of benefiting many beings such as supporting the vision of great teachers like His Holiness. This way of giving becomes the focal point for incredible merit. Some ways to offer service might be bringing flowers to place on the altar for teachings. Helping to welcome new people. Posting reviews on our Google page, sharing our events on social media with friends, or posting a flyer in your neighborhood coffee shop.
MORE ON THE PERFECTION OF GENEROSITY AND THE OFFERING OF DANA
Perhaps you are new to Buddhism. You walk into a Dharma center and the first thing you see is a table with a basket of money and a sign saying “Dana, Suggested donation $XX.” You might react as follows: “Maybe they are just being polite by not mentioning the price?” “If I give a lot of money, perhaps I will be listed in the “Gold club” top donor category?” “I just lost my job, will they scowl at me and make me sit in the back if I only give three dollars?”
Many such strange thoughts can enter the mind in a culture that is focused on money like none other. Once one thoroughly understands the Buddhist practice of dana, these types of questions will occur to one’s mind less often. Increasingly, one’s attention will be directed inwardly, examining the motivation and supporting awarenesses with which one makes offerings.
What is dana? Dana is both a Sanskrit and Pali word that is usually translated as “generosity”. In Asia, monastics and lay people evolved a mutually dependent relationship whereby the monastic Sangha beginning with Buddha, offered the supreme gift of the Dharma. In return, the laity, out of deep gratitude and a fervent desire to share the Buddhist teachings and support its dissemination throughout the world, provided for all the needs of the Sangha – food, clothing, shelter, etc.
This system has worked well for thousands of years. However, due to the evolution of the modern economic system and perhaps ever increasing inflation, today we find ourselves challenged when considering how to repay the incredible kindness of our having been recipients of the profound and holy Dharma.
Locked as we often are in our samsaric mindset, interpreting everything through the monetary valuation system which seems to dominate our lives, we tend to prefer a set price when it comes to attending classes, talks, and events. Unwittingly, we end up comparing Dharma activities with attendance at a health spa, the movie theater, or perhaps a cruise package to the Caribbean. We expect the travel agent to give us a price.
When we have this attitude in our mind – equating the Dharma with worldly goods— we lose a precious opportunity to deepen our spiritual practice. Business exchanges of the worldly kind, with fixed price tags, refer to transactions within samsara – our normal confused unhappy existence which grasps for happiness outside of ourselves in objects, people, entertainment of the senses, etc. In turning to Dharma, we have begun to acknowledge that our lives, when dominated by this confusion and craving, are not being utilized in the most meaningful way. We begin to seek a happiness more in accord with reality.
Any thing we buy eventually breaks. Friends and family eventually leave us, at death if not before. Experiences such as a night at the movies, or a cruise, may bring some temporary pleasure, but then they end. And finally, at the moment of our death – which definitel approaches with each passing moment – everything must be left behind except the positive or negative tendencies we have planted in our mindstream.
Dharma, on the other hand, is something which is good in all times. It never deteriorates or loses its ability to benefit us. It is the one vehicle which never breaks down or gets a flat tire. Eventually, a diligent practitioner who follows the Dharma teachings attains liberation and complete enlightenment. Because these supreme states of being are utterly beyond this world, they cannot be reduced to any currency of this world. Therefore, we say that the Dharma is priceless and is not for sale.
If we sincerely wish to attain the state of Enlightenment, Buddha advised us to begin practicing the perfection of generosity (danaparamita), the first of the six far reaching attitudes of a bodhisattva – a being dedicated to attaining omniscience and a perfect form body, motivated by the wish to be of complete service to all beings.
The practice of offering dana is not payment for goods, but a skillful way to actualize the path. We give because we want the Dharma to remain in the world and benefit beings. We realize that when we give it opens our own heart and helps us to lessen the tightfisted grip of the falsely existent “I.” This is the mind which thinks “I am most important, my happiness comes before others. Those other people are less important.” This kind of attitude just makes us miserable in the long run, even if in the short run we may marvel at our bank account.
When we begin to seriously question this attitude, our early attempts to expand our range of giving sometimes can be painful. Just as one’s fingers will experience pain by loosening a fist which has long been clenched, the self-cherishing mind doesn’t relinquish its hold on our mind without a fight. But in time, we realize who our real enemy is – the self-centered mind. Giving simply feels good. Our minds become less anxious and fearful.
Practicing generosity helps develop our compassion. We see how inextricably connected we are with all beings — how our own happiness is the result of such vast kindness. Our bodies, our education, our possessions – everything – was given to us by others.
This then leads to the deep understanding of wisdom. There is no solidly separate “I” in the way that we habitually think. This radical shift in our understanding opens the door to complete freedom – for oneself and all beings. As we give, we can contemplate the emptiness of the circle of the three: agent, object and action – giver, gift, and giving – are all interdependent, and thus empty from their own side. They lack inherent existence.
“Okay, but, but, but” – the self-centered mind always wants its say. “I can’t afford another charity, and besides, they’re raising the price of season passes at the ski resort. I hope you aren’t hinting that I should give up my membership in the bowling club, or that I should forgo the big screen TV I am planning to buy.”
Dharma is not a system of rules forcefully imposed from on high. It is a stainless mirror in which we can view our lives – if we choose. True authentic Dharma is offered freely. If there is ever a suggested donation, it is only that, a suggestion. Dharma centers exist in the world and hence have operating expenses. If the rent and utilities and other basic expenses are met, the center can continue to function and possibly even expand the scope of its altruistic purposes. If not, then eventually the center closes.
While it is true that Dharma centers in the world can’t exist without generous donors, the amount we give is actually less important than the motivation behind our giving. If we give a million dollars with a self-centered attitude, this may help sustain the Dharma center, but the source of our suffering only grows its roots deeper and stronger. When we contemplate the Dharma teachings and the kindness of the teacher, we realize that this is what sustains us and is in alignment with our deepest values – and then quite naturally, we feel moved to give generously, with an altruistic motivation.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama often says, “if you are going to be selfish, be wisely selfish – give to others.” Everything you give, according to the law of karma, will all come back to you multiplied many times.
Monetary gifts are only one way to practice our giving. Traditionally, the gift of our practice is the most important. In other words, we endeavor to follow the sage advice of a qualified teacher to whom we have devoted ourselves to. We can also give our service to the teacher and to the Dharma center.
At DFF, the offering of service is a major factor in keeping the center functioning. While monetary support is always necessary to meet expenses, volunteer service is equally important. It enables us to host teachings, classes and other events, and plan large projects capable of benefiting many beings such as supporting the vision of great teachers like His Holiness. This manner of giving becomes the focal point for incredible merit.
If you wish to become a monthly donor, you may fill out a pledge card and support us with a regular contribution. This enables us to strategically plan for the future operating costs of DFF and potentially take on new projects such as a permanent home for the center, or helping with the retirement costs of our teachers.
You may also wish to consider one-time special gifts, or to bequeath a portion of your estate. In the five powers at the time of death, a teaching which is discussed in the seven point mind training, one is encouraged to make gifts to virtuous objects such as one’s teacher and Dharma centers. This creates incredible merit at the time of death and helps positive karma to ripen, thus increasing the likelihood of a favorable birth and the ability to continue one’s Dharma practice uninterrupted in future lives.
LONG-TERM PLANNED GIVING:
You may also wish to consider one-time special gifts, or to bequeath a portion of your estate. Making gifts to virtuous objects such as one’s teacher and Dharma centers creates incredible merit at the time of death and helps positive karma to ripen, thus increasing the likelihood of a favorable birth and the ability to continue one’s Dharma practice uninterrupted in future lives. Please contact us to explore your options.
Thank you for your support of Dharma Friendship Foundation. May your practice of giving bring you great joy. May it immediately alleviate the suffering of infinite beings in infinite realms. May you and all beings never experience even a moment of poverty in all your future lives. May you and all beings quickly achieve the purified state – the unified mind of infinite compassion and perfect wisdom of Buddhahood.