Dana: Dana (pronounced "daah-na") is a Pali word meaning generosity.
Dating back to the time of the Buddha, there has existed an interdependence between those who offer the teachings and those who receive them. According to the Buddha, generosity, or sharing what we have is one of the central pillars of a spiritual life. In the act of giving, we develop our ability to let go, cultivate a spirit of caring, and acknowledge the inter-connectedness that we all share. It is a basis of wholesome karma. The Buddha created a system to develop this quality of open-handedness, whereby those who share the teachings are dependent on those who receive them. Monks and nuns go on daily alms rounds with a begging bowl, relying on the generosity of lay people for support in continuing their teaching and spiritual life (this is adapted from the Spirit Rock website).
There is also a concept called "dana economy," which means the organization is economically viable by the generosity of the community. Previously we used the phrase "pay what you can". This statement sometimes can trigger feelings of scarcity for people of color, i.e. "I can't afford anything", etc., so dana liberates us from this scarcity consciousness.
In a similar light, an Indigenous way of understanding generosity is connected to the life or wellbeing of others. Traditionally, Indigenous peoples of this land, which Albuquerque is settled upon and surrounds, understood the provision of food, water, clothing, or any other life-centered need as the closest equivalent to a “payment.” This way of generosity also translates as a spiritual gesture through a traditional way of prayer where offerings are given to the Creator, Spirits and Ancestors. This traditional exchange is not centered on what was being given but the action of sharing a life source from one person to another. This life source may translate into national currency of today, as we live in a country that runs off money. Decolonizing this Western and U.S. centered idea of currency or transaction to instead understanding this relationship of generosity as a way that continues to give life to others is focal. As we live in a country that is inherently and violently capitalistic, we unfortunately must sustain by ways of national currency. Decolonizing the dollar is not so much about transaction as it is about supporting and sustaining the lives of others through solidarity. For our community, dana and this Indigenous framework of sustaining life supports our meditation and yoga teachers, organizers, the physical spaces we gather in, and any resources that we need. These are the spiritual frameworks we use to help us grow and thrive as a community.
People of color healing spaces, and health practices and services cannot be taken for granted. We always face various obstacles. Contemplate about what you can contribute to keep the balance of giving and receiving to ensure that Yoga POC Sangha remain of service to its beloved communities.
Our fiscal sponsor is Asian American Association of New Mexico.
The Tricycle Buddhist Magazine has a compilation of articles and resources to better understand dana.