Dāna & the poor

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Vakkali
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Dāna & the poor

Postby Vakkali » Sun Oct 27, 2013 6:00 am

Hey everyone,

Something's been troubling me, and I was hoping that I could get more input to help me figure it out...

People can complain about Christianity & the behavior of certain Christians all they want, but it seems like Christian organizations do a LOT to alleviate poverty and associated problems in poor communities and under-developed countries. The New Testament material that I'm familiar with seems to place a lot of emphasis on elevating impoverished and otherwise oppressed individuals in society...and I have to admit that I've been somewhat disappointed by what seems like a lack of specific injunctions to give, not just to monks, but to poor and homeless people as a means of combating inequality and relieving suffering.

Why is this? Am I not reading the right suttas? Or is giving to the poor considered a natural extension of Buddhist principles of compassion and generosity? I'm aware of Engaged Buddhism, which seems most popular here in North America...but what about Asia? Do Theravada monastics actively encourage efforts to fight poverty, hunger, and other things? Help me out here.

I have to admit that this question (these questions?) is/are partly motivated by accusations that Theravada Buddhism is more or less concerned with personal salvation, and doesn't encourage a high level of active and compassionate social engagement.

I hope some of you can help me with this. The opinions of current or former bhikkhus and bhikkhunis would be especially appreciated!

Hopefully,
Vakkali

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cooran
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Re: Dāna & the poor

Postby cooran » Sun Oct 27, 2013 6:10 am

Hello Vakkali,

This might be a start:

Around the world.....
Theravada Buddhist Community Welfare Organisations
http://www.parami.org/duta/buddhistwelfare.htm

With metta,
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---

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Kim OHara
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Re: Dāna & the poor

Postby Kim OHara » Sun Oct 27, 2013 7:57 am

Hi, Vakkali,
There's a related recent thread here -

:coffee:
Kim

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Dāna & the poor

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun Oct 27, 2013 10:02 am

• • • • (Upasampadā: 24th June, 1979)

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lyndon taylor
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Re: Dāna & the poor

Postby lyndon taylor » Sun Oct 27, 2013 10:24 am

Are you in the UK tea party???? Because in America that's the kind of thing they say when they're railing against the welfare state, food stamps and socialism

In my understanding of Therevada temples, they often function as both homeless shelter and "soup" kitchen for down and out people, the poor buddhists can usually be able to get a meal at the temples, and within reason stay for free on the temple grounds if needed.

Most charities helping the poor will tell you you can't teach a starving person anything unless you feed him first.
Last edited by lyndon taylor on Sun Oct 27, 2013 10:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community, sincerely former monk John

http://trickleupeconomictheory.blogspot.com/

chownah
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Re: Dāna & the poor

Postby chownah » Sun Oct 27, 2013 10:37 am

You don't need the teachings of a Buddha to have the kind of compassion that leads one to help those in need....all it takes is a heart.

chownah

Sanjay PS
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Re: Dāna & the poor

Postby Sanjay PS » Sun Oct 27, 2013 12:02 pm

The Path of Dhamma

The path of Dhamma is no picnic . It is a strenuous march steeply up the hill . If all the comrades desert you , Walk alone ! Walk alone ! with all the Thrill !!

U S.N. Goenka

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Dāna & the poor

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun Oct 27, 2013 8:04 pm

• • • • (Upasampadā: 24th June, 1979)

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greenjuice
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Re: Dāna & the poor

Postby greenjuice » Mon Dec 02, 2013 2:14 pm

I've been taking a look at a book about the literature of the Pudgalavadins, and they had a book called Tridharmasastra (preserved in Chinese as San fa tu lun), which begins with discussing merit (punya/ punna), naming three bases for merit, just as in the Pali Canon- dana, sila and bhavana.

Interestingly, they name three types of giving: dharmadana (gift of the teaching), abhayadana (gift of shelter), and amisadana (gift of things).

I can't find the text of the work itself to see how they define abhayadana (abhaya literally meaning "fearless"), but I know that Jain twelve lay vows include the vow of dana, which they divide into four types, one of them being abhayadana, and they define gift of shelter as protecting others from injury of attack by defending them, and protecting them from injury of elements by providing buildings.

Are there any Canon or Commentary instances concerning this question, explaining it in such manner?

serg_o
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Re: Dāna & the poor

Postby serg_o » Mon Dec 02, 2013 6:16 pm


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greenjuice
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Re: Dāna & the poor

Postby greenjuice » Mon Dec 02, 2013 8:08 pm

One gives shelter by abstaining from killing. Image To take that verse as the only explanation sounds to me like when some people posit what is IMO an abominable view that one should be pacifistic in the face of unjust violence, and to abstain from defending innocent people because of concern not to do violence to their attackers. :?

serg_o
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Re: Dāna & the poor

Postby serg_o » Mon Dec 02, 2013 10:56 pm

Last edited by serg_o on Tue Dec 03, 2013 5:31 am, edited 5 times in total.

SarathW
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Re: Dāna & the poor

Postby SarathW » Mon Dec 02, 2013 10:57 pm

This is how I practice Dana.
I try my best to observe five precepts.
At home I look after my family and my neighbours.
When I am a commuter I look after other commuters.
When at work I look after my employer, fellow employees, customers and suppliers. Etc.
I just try to look after the people around me.

I donate my time, my unwanted belongs to the needy.
I donate to places when I can see their doing a visible service. Eg. Wekipedia, local temple etc.

I generally do not donate to large charities as they will pass on less than 10% to the needy. However I donate to Salvation Army.

By the way Bikkhu Bodhi has started a charity.
I hope they will report to public how much they have pass on to the needy.

http://buddhistglobalrelief.wordpress.c ... khu-bodhi/

Dhamma Dana is the highest gift

:group:
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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James the Giant
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Re: Dāna & the poor

Postby James the Giant » Mon Dec 02, 2013 11:59 pm

Just two weeks ago, I met a devout Buddhist from Bangkok who was honestly worried that if they gave money to an orphanage, they would be reborn as a dog.
This is what they had been told by the local sangha; that giving to charities, the poor and needy, would actually lead to a lower rebirth.
And predictably they were also told in the same aDhamma-talk that they should give give give to the sangha, and they would be reborn in golden celestial realms, with a castle of gold, golden servants, jewelled clothing, etc etc.

In almost every Christian church I have been to, there is some project or collection for the poor or needy. Unfortunately, in the 5 monasteries (western monasteries too!)I have stayed at in the past few years, I have seen no such projects or concern. They gave the excess cans of food to a food-bank, and that is the full extent of their worldy involvement.


As for teaching a man to metaphorically fish, or grow cabbages or whatever, no monastery I have been to does that either.
The people who attend the teachings are middle class white folk from the comfortable suburbs, or cultural Buddhists from Asia. No hungry or helpl, and very few ethnic minorities. Reaching out to them would mean a bhikkhu would have to leave his insulated monastery, burst the bubble off peace and quiet he has manufactured for himself.
These bhikkhus actually are good people, but they just don't give priority to thinking about these things.
Sorry to say, but that's the plain truth as I see it, at the Ajahn Chah branch monasteries I have visited.

EDIT: Apologies for typos, I have a sticky keyboard.
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.

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mikenz66
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Re: Dāna & the poor

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Dec 03, 2013 1:26 am


dagon
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Re: Dāna & the poor

Postby dagon » Tue Dec 03, 2013 2:36 pm


mahat
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Re: Dāna & the poor

Postby mahat » Tue Dec 03, 2013 3:31 pm

Buddhist monks and nuns are not like monks and nuns from other traditions. Buddha knew one of the illnesses of society was the severe lack of merit people had which made them lead horrible lives of deprivation. Someone might give a poor person some charity, a free school or hospital or a home, but the cause of his/her returning to a life of deprivation or hell still did not end since he or she still lacked understanding of the Dhamma.

The Sangha of the Buddha was created with generation of the maximum amount of merit possible. That is why they are called "The Unequalled Field of Merit" The Sangha is generally representative of the community of the people around them and they can come from poor or rich families. Giving funds to them, most families have faith that they will generate the most merit since they are bound by ethical and moral vows which derive from the Dhamma Chakra.

Generally the Sangha always used the funds not only for themselves but the Sangha served as an educational institution for the poor, retirement place for the old, helped with medicine and community service by providing the general population with moral and meditative guidance so they don't return to the cycle of deprivation and hellish states of existence.

That being said, Dana or charity is the 1st of the perfections in Buddhism.

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Mkoll
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Re: Dāna & the poor

Postby Mkoll » Tue Dec 03, 2013 4:25 pm

Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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jungblood
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Re: Dāna & the poor

Postby jungblood » Wed Jan 08, 2014 12:58 am

Hello all,

There are some great points and insights in this thread... One of the things that most attracted me to Buddha's teachings was their acknowledgment that things change with time and even 'fundamentals' like the VInaya should be adapted accordingly in future times so as to enable people to experience the Dhamma in their own context... Today we live in a world of unprecedented wealth - a few hundred years ago it might be argued that some level of poverty was inevitable in the world, but now the continuance of poverty and deprivation can only be attributed to the way we organize our society - there's (way) more than enough money, food and other resources for everyone on the planet to live very comfortably... This is only my own opinion, but in modern times I think the principle of Dana calls on us to address the culture of selfishness and greed that creates inequality and deprivations... In today's world poverty is caused by policy choices, not any lack of resources... As the late (and very great) Nelson Mandela once said: “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.”

:anjali:
'Renunciation' http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... bl036.html
'Trading candy for gold': http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... candy.html

'The more we really know the Dhamma, the more we can let go. Those who know a little can let go of a little; those who know a lot can let go of a lot.' - Ajaan Lee


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