Dana is an ancient Pali word meaning “giving” or “gift.” Dana is at the heart of the 2,500 year old Buddhist tradition. Going back to the days of the Buddha, he and the monastic community offered the teachings freely to lay people, as a form of dana. In turn the lay community, through their generosity, or dana, ensured that their teachers’ basic needs for food, clothing, shelter and medicine were provided.
When the Buddha would give a public discourse, he usually began with teaching on the importance and the benefits of dana. The act of giving itself is of immeasurable benefit to the giver; it opens up the heart, diminishes for a moment one’s self-absorption and places value on the well-being of others. The simple gesture of offering a flower, an act of service or a kind thought can in fact be a sincere form of practice. The size or value of the gift is of little importance; the key is that the act of giving itself is the natural expression of a connected and loving heart.