Dear venerable Luang Phaw, I’d like to know the purpose of donations in Buddhism and how many kinds of donations are there?
by Venerable Dhattajeevo Bhikku
First, we have to understand the word “Donation” or Dana. To say easily, donation (Dana) means giving.
The purposes of donation can be divided into 4 categories starting from…
1. Giving for support, for instance the way grown-ups give something to children. This is giving for support.
2. The second one is also giving, but it’s giving for assistance; i.e. whoever who is having a hardship no matter if he is poor or not will be assisted by us. This is called “assistance” means we will assist the people facing hardship by the things we own that might be food or things.
3. This one is also giving but we perform it because we recall the favor others give us via taking care of us, giving us things or knowledge or helping us when we have a hard time. After recalling to their favor, we need to find a way to make them happy or give them a thing that they like or a thing that is useful to them. This is the 3rd giving.
4. Giving for merit. We perform this giving because we know it’s a good thing that will beget merit. In Buddhism, we pay full attention in this 4th giving.
Since giving begets merit and goodness, we have to understand its principle that it doesn’t mean giving anything to anybody, but it must come with wisdom knowing that this giving affects our heart. At least, it decreases our stinginess. This is its primary knowledge.
Even further, we must know that not only the stinginess in our heart will be decreased, but our hearts will also be flooded with merit that can brighten and purify our minds. This is the 4th giving.
Therefore, this 4th giving is counted as the giving of wise people who understand well about merit. So we must also think about its compositions because wise people will not just give anything to anybody, but they also think about its fruits; for example, they know that plants give us products, so before they grow something they have to think about the kinds of plants; for instance, if they want to grow rice, they have to think about the kinds of rice and the field. If the field’s affected by drought of flood, it’s not good. Our plantation must be at the right area.
The third thing we have to think about is the our own wisdom. Without wisdom, we cannot grow our plants well. Also, when we already know that this 4th giving begets merit, we have to think about…
1. The advantage we will get from it and how we can complete this advantage. To complete the advantage, we have to clearly see its result.
2. What is the rice in the previous simile? It’s the things we will give to others and they need to be well selected for the best quality because it has a future effect. Like how good rice requires good fields, donation also requires good things; ……….
3. What is a good field? Well… the ones with purified minds are our field of merit. Who? It’s the monks who observe precepts purely; i.e. the monks who do their best in working on monastic duties. If we cannot find any monk, people who observe precepts purely can also be our field of merit.
4. We ourselves need to be purified; not like being drunk and perform merit. We need to be purified by precepts and Dhamma.
To complete these all compositions, it requires alms, a field of merit, i.e. monks, our own faith, wisdom and purification so that we can see clearly what the future effects from this donation within this life, the next lives and after lives are. If we can clearly see these things before making a donation, we will receive much merit.
How many kinds of donation (Dana) are there? The answer is 3 kinds that can be explained briefly like this.
1. Donation of requisites that is called “Amisa Dana”; for example, food and clothes.
2. Donation of knowledge: the donation of worldly knowledge is called “Wittaya Dana”, the gift of Dhamma is called “Dhamma Dana”.
The next donation is “Abhaya Dana” which means we will not have any vengeance in our minds; whoever who gets to be with us will be safe.
These are donations or Dana in Buddhism which give us merit in this life and next lives.