Dana - Generosity


Dana Parami translates as "perfecting generosity. From the Buddha's teachings, in order for the mind to become awakened, the first quality we need to perfect is generosity. 

Buddhist Meditation Teacher, Gina Sharpe, writes:

"The Buddha said that a true spiritual life is not possible without a generous heart. Generosity is the first parami, or quality of an awakened mind. The path begins there because of the joy and opens that arise from the generous heart. ..."

The benefit of practicing generosity for us is that we feel good. Though yoga and meditation practice are not often thought of as acts of generosity, it can be made so by how we align our intentions with our practice. Are we just practicing for our own benefit or do we practice with hopes that we can somehow help the global situation through our practice? The benefit to us of practicing for the sake of others is that we get to feel good in the process and likely will experience more success in our practice. 

The Buddhist meditation teacher Kamala Masters writes:

"Generosity is a medicine for our tendency to hold on to things, to cling to life as it is, because it is developing the opposite, developing our ability to let go ... letting go of the material ... of our need to be right ...."

I really found this helpful this month as some changes occurred that I found upsetting. Sometimes I struggle with wanting some things to be the same and not to change. But of course I know that things will always change. I take comfort in realizing that in my 56 years of living in this human form on this earth that somehow through all the changes inflicted on me from the outside I've made it through OK. There's no reason for me to fear change if I can remember that so far the Right Path has found me always.

Especially when practicing yoga postures, let go of your need to be right. Generously give yourself room to breathe. As much as we practice to accumulate more strength, power, and flexibility in our bodies, practice letting go of all of that too. The practice ends in savasana, relaxation, in part because we can perfect letting go.

Pema Chodron interprets Dana Parami this way:

"Giving is an act of letting go of holding on to yourself."

Each time we practice yoga and meditation, we let go a bit more and more of all the stuff we hold on to. As we grow older, we see more intimately how finite life is and how, as one of my former and formative yoga teachers used to say, we have to let go of habits that are stale, old and no longer useful. Letting go of things we no longer need frees us up to be more fully present for others. This too is an act of generosity.

Gina Sharpe concludes:

"... Pure unhindered delight flows freely when we practice generosity. We experience joy in forming the intention to give, in the actual act of giving, and in recollecting the fact that we've given. I invite you to practice giving joyously this season."

Now that the month and the year are coming to an end, I was able to reflect back happily and recall the ways I was able to give to others in this past month and year. It brought me great joy in seeing again the delight my giving brought out in others. That felt like a gift to me.

It also brought me great joy in realizing that the reason I can give is because I have so much abundance. And, in those moments when I could recognize my own abundance -- rather than my lack -- my own mind felt freer. What a gift that felt like.

I am so grateful to have all the abundance -- both material as well as accumulated knowledge and wisdom -- in my life that allows me to live with a greater sense of freedom. It frees me up to be of greater service.

Buddhist Meditation Teacher, Sharon Salzberg, put it this way:

“... I’d rather translate whatever sense of abundance I do have into more generosity and reaching out to others.”

May you perfect generosity, ...
May you let go of more stuff as an act of generosity, ...
May you hold on to yourself less, ...
May you be experiencing great joy as you reflect on your giving, ...
May your mind be further awakened, ...
for the benefit of all beings everywhere.