Exactly what is dana? How do we cultivate this quality of giving, generosity, liberality and munificence? There are many translations of the word dana. It is the quality of generosity that gives physically and from the heart. Hearts with dana are generous, open-handed, and liberal in terms of willingness to give, share, to be present and to help. All of those qualities take us away from me and my needs, me and my necessities, me and my demands, me and my expectations, me and my essential fixed residence in the middle of the universe. That me and mine position, which demands that we be recognized and noted for our importance, takes over everything. It all gets very tiring.
How does one measure what’s enough? Once again, that measurement is a state of mind. The desire mind never has enough. What you desire doesn’t really matter. Whether it is food, clothing, money or property, it’s never enough. That’s just the nature of desire. Its nature is to always be seeking more or something else. The quality of dana, of generosity cuts through that desire mind. It allows us to come to that place of openness and giving, the heart at ease because it has enough.
There are many ways we can come to that place. We can work on generosity and learn to appreciate what it offers. We can consciously go against the desire mind by generating more generosity in our lives. We focus on turning to giving, relying on it, appreciating and delighting in it. In terms of practice, we cultivate and sustain generosity so that we don’t get pulled back into the desire mind or the mind of jealousy and comparison. It is so satisfying to feel there is enough and take joy and delight in that.
Similarly, when do we ever have enough wisdom? The desire mind also needs more wisdom, more refined insight into anicca, anatta, so “I can finally get rid of my defilements and experience freedom.” There is no end to the desire mind, needing more, getting more or having to have. Ajahn Chah described the mind and heart of tanha, as the mouth that never closes. The desire mind goes around with an open mouth looking to consume and gather things in. You can actually feel that in your mind. It is the feeling of leaning towards things, on the lookout for the next thing to consume, possess and experience. It’s not a restful place at all.
This reflection by Ajahn Pasanno is from the book, A Dhamma Compass.