Giving and accepting
The practice of giving and accepting is at the heart of early Buddhist teachings. As part of them, it was spread first through east Asia and later through the whole world. The English term “donation” has old roots, it stems from the Latin “dona”/”donare” which literally means “giving” or “gift”. In some current Slavic languages it sounds and means almost the same – дан / дар [dan / dar]. Even older is the Sanskrit word “Dāna” which has the same root and meaning.
Dāna is related to mercy and compassion, it is one of the 10 pāramitās (translated as precepts, perfections or commandments). Taking refuge in the precepts is part of both the monastic and lay practitioners life and has been since the time of the historic Buddha.
With the very first breath, one begins the never ending process of receiving and returning, of getting and giving – it is decisive for life, true joy and happiness. Practicing Dāna helps us to carefully assess the true priorities. What is really important in my life? What makes it meaningful?
In accord with the Buddhist tradition, many Zen centers today receive voluntary monetary donations from students, followers and supporters, which they define themselves. This is the contemporary practice of Dāna.
At the temple, the practice of “giving and accepting” is at the root of many seemingly trivial rituals, for example during mealtime: We eat what will be served. It is very much the same practice. Everything is a gift and we are grateful.