Dana and Social Responsibility in a World of Finite Resources

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Dana and Social Responsibility in a World of Finite Resources

Post by rcteutsch » Tue Sep 04, 2018 10:44 pm

Dana, or generosity, is regarded as a foundational practice for Buddhists. The Buddha said that the merit one receives from giving corresponds with the "worthiness" [for a lack of a better term] or spiritual achievement of the recipient. Thus, a gift made to one of the 8 kinds of persons of the Noble Sangha is said to result in far greater merit than the merit resulting from a gift made to a worldling. As Bhikkhu Bodhi has noted, the Buddha also discussed the Wheel-Turning monarch's responsibility to ensure a basic material prosperity for his subjects. One might reasonably extend this responsibility to democratic governments and their citizens. Additionally, the discourse concerning the worshipping of the six directions provides that individuals have some obligation to provide for the material well-being of their children, parents, neighbors-in-need, etc.

How is one to balance these various "demands" on material resources. A gift to the poor means a gift not given to the Sangha, the greatest field of merit. From the perspective of spiritual development, should the prudent Buddhist donate all that he or she can spare to the Sangha to reap the greatest spiritual fruits. On the other hand, this "maximizing" perspective concerned with merit to one's self appears to lead to greater attachment (but what then is the point of "ranking" various gifts). Complicating the matter, in my perspective, is the idea that many monasteries and Buddhist monks, at least in wealthy societies, do not need further offerings, as ample resources go to their benefit, while the same may not be true for the world's most impoverished. Does compassion compel one to give where the need is greatest? In sum, how should a Buddhist allocate one's material giving (putting aside the fact that gifts of Dhamma and sila are even more conducive to spiritual growth)?

With metta,
Robert :namaste:

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Re: Dana and Social Responsibility in a World of Finite Resources

Post by befriend » Tue Sep 04, 2018 10:59 pm

volunteering doesn't require money as long as it doesn't drain your zeal at work or take away from hours at work.
Take care of mindfulness and mindfulness will take care of you.

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Re: Dana and Social Responsibility in a World of Finite Resources

Post by santa100 » Wed Sep 05, 2018 12:25 am

rcteutsch wrote:How is one to balance these various "demands" on material resources. A gift to the poor means a gift not given to the Sangha, the greatest field of merit.
A few points worth noticing, "gift" can be in many many different forms, not just material. In fact, dana in the form of propagating the Buddha Dhamma is considered to be far more superior than material donation. Now in terms of material donation, the mentioned "greatest" field of merit is based on a very huge assumption: that the recipients are truely noble persons or at the very least those who are seriously making a conscious effort to make progress on the Path. Problem is there's no way to know for sure unless there's a hidden camera that monitors the activity of the recipient 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week. Doing that and one will very quickly find out that many of the seemingly "noble" recipients would turn out to act, speak, and think quite ignoble things; and vice versa, those simple plain worldlings might turn out to be very noble in their 3 gateways. So combining those 2 facts above, it'd probably be best to provide help/aid in the most appropriate form (ie. time, labor, knowledge, monetary, morally, etc.) in the most appropriate situation to the most appropriate recipient. Obviously it's easier said than done, but by sticking to a general strategy, there's less chance one'll do it wrong.

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Re: Dana and Social Responsibility in a World of Finite Resources

Post by TRobinson465 » Wed Sep 05, 2018 1:20 am

There is a level of responsibility even with giving dana. Obviously its irresponsible to give to the Sangha at the cost of feeding your children. Its hard to tell, you should give at any oppurtunity you can if you are able to fully practice dana. But also keep in mind what benefits ppl more. A gift to the poor is a fairly trivial gift when you think about it in the grand scheme of things. Give a man a fish feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. But even if you donated your resources to teaching ppl how to feed themselves for a lifetime, that gift is over once that lifetime is over. Gifts that can truly benefit ppl permanently are gifts of the Dhamma. Personally, I think if you happen to have very limited resources you should prioritize giving to the Sangha so they can spread the Dhamma for the benefit of others more easily. As represented in the Buddhas advice in the Candala Sutta

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html

for people who have more resources and a Sangha that is perhaps already supported enough i think they should then turn to other groups for thier dana, but keep in mind what is it that will truly benefit others.
"Do not have blind faith, but also no blind criticism" - the 14th Dalai Lama

"At Varanasi, in the Deer Park at Isipatana, the Blessed One has set in motion the unexcelled Wheel of Dhamma that cannot be stopped by brahmins, devas, Maras, Brahmas or anyone in the cosmos." -Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta

"Go forth, monks, for the good of the many, for the happiness of the many, out of compassion for the world, for the welfare, the good and the happiness of gods and men. Let no two of you go in the same direction." - First Khandhaka, Chapter 11, Vinaya.

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Re: Dana and Social Responsibility in a World of Finite Resources

Post by salayatananirodha » Thu Sep 06, 2018 6:53 am

What ever the meaning of the word 'irresponsible', it's fine to give to the sangha over even your own children, altho you dont really have to make that choice. Ghatikara the non returner gave his roof to kassapa buddha and as a result it did not rain over his house. Don't worry about resources being finite, that's your imagination. Give when asked, even if it's a little. Saving is also buddhist, just dont use your money unwisely and then claim you didnt have it. Be warned, stinginess results in your wealth being destroyed, so give it away, even if its all you have or what little you have, and it is more likely your wealth increases. You do not have to give exclusively to the (ariya) sangha, but the sangha is more worthy of offerings, so any intelligent buddhist gives to them first. Giving can be quite terrifying in this way, quite a leap of faith, but I vouch for the result as being well worth it
16. 'In what has the world originated?' — so said the Yakkha Hemavata, — 'with what is the world intimate? by what is the world afflicted, after having grasped at what?' (167)

17. 'In six the world has originated, O Hemavata,' — so said Bhagavat, — 'with six it is intimate, by six the world is afflicted, after having grasped at six.' (168)

- Hemavatasutta


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