Dana (giving, generosity) is a definitive element in the Theravada Buddhism of Thailand and Southeast Asia. Monasteries, teaching centers, book publishing, and most other aspects of traditional Theravada are supported by donations rather than fees. Further, the amounts given are seldom "suggested"; it is generally left up to the means and discernment of the giver. For the most part, people in these cultures grew up with such dana as an important value.
Here in the USA, Buddhist centers, groups, monasteries, and teachers are adapting this principle to the different realities of our society. How does generosity function in post-industrial, information cultures? How does dana work when the structures of our housing precludes wandering monastics with alms bowls? How do we care for monastics and others working for Buddha-Dhamma when we don't live right next door able to see their needs on a daily basis? Questions like these challenge the future of Buddhism in America.
Foremost, dana was never primarily about teachers. Nor is it a matter of exchange. Generally, it is given wherever there is genuine need. The Buddha most highly praised giving to Sanghas (rather than individuals such as himself), that is, groups that support training and practice for all sincere seekers. We believe that this is still the most appropriate expression of dana, and that our culture's individualism not be allowed to corrupt it.
In a complex capitalist society, it may appear easiest to use the "free market" mechanisms of its economy. Non-Profit status with the IRS requires incorporation, which in turns requires a corporate structure much different than what the Buddha set up originally. Are such adaptations necessary? The only option? Is fund raising a necessary part of Buddhist life in America? Must we market ourselves? If so, how have AA, Catholic Workers, and other groups survived, even thrived, without grants and the usual fund raising appeals?
Kevala Retreat does not have easy answers to these questions but we are committed to asking them. On one hand, we need a sufficient livelihood to live, practice, and carry on our work. On the other, we wish for this to be free of the profit motive, self-promotion, and related considerations dominant in the American society-economy. Please help us to reflect on these issues and find a healthy Middle Way that decreases suffering rather than adding to it.
We welcome your support -- in whatever forms you are most happy to offer -- for our work and community.
We will not charge for our services.
We will make moderate requests for support from time to time.
We will be honest in such requests and never pressure potential donors.
We will practice generosity to the best of our ability.
We will share the wonderful resources of Kevala Retreat with everyone using them in the spirit of Dhamma practice.
Santikaro & Jo Marie
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