Dana – Generosity

Taiso Roshi

Taiso Roshi

Hollow Bones Zen invited the practice of Dana, how is this understood?

Hollow Bones invites us to support the Order and Sangha through the practice of Dāna, one of the six perfections (Paramitas) of the Bodhisattva path.  Paramita can also be understood to connote the practice which brings us across a river of suffering.  Dāna, the first of the perfections, is translated as charity or generosity (pronounced like Donna).  In the perfection of this practice is the realization of no-self through giving without the expectation of merit.   As the Diamond Sutra repeatedly reminds us, because merit is no-merit (fundamentally empty) we merely call this merit. 

How are such gifts used by Hollow Bones?  There are two primary uses of the gifts we receive:  the support of the Hollow Bones Order – our organization and programs, and scholarship support for attendance at sesshins and training offerings.  The annual report offers two charts which provide overview of how funds given are used to support the Hollow Bones programs and organization (see pages 10 & 11 in particular: 2020 Annual Report ).  In 2020 there were 192 donors, who made 598 separate contributions totaling just over $150,000 – 67% of the total income of the Order.   

For our program fees, we use a sliding scale implemented as an honor system.  Participants choose the fee level which fits their personal circumstances, and the fees provide 30% of the cost of the programs.  Seventy percent or almost $94,000 of the cost of Hollow Bones Programs came from donations in 2020. $6630 was used so support scholarships for those who do not find themselves able to fit into the fee structure.  Thus, we strive to make the programs and services of Hollow Bones affordable and available to all, not only those with the means to pay the full costs.  It is the practice of Dāna – the perfection of generosity – which makes this possible.  Hollow Bones only achieves this ideal as a Sangha, a community whose tremendous generosity and commitment to practice is realized in this way.


How does the practice on Dāna serve us as Zen practitioners?  In generosity we begin to realize no-self, one of the foundational dharma gates or marks of existence of the Buddhist path.  As with all practice, we engage this matter as an inquiry, “What is right, fitting, and balanced as an exercise of well-being?” We practice with the understanding of the emptiness of what is sometimes referred to as the three wheels: giver, receiver, and gift.  Thus, we experience and realize all three interpenetrating and interdependent aspects of generosity in this practice.  Of course, there are many kinds of giving such as giving of food, attention, or dharma – not only giving financial means.  And there are many opportunities in our life to practice charity.  Still, for one who finds alignment with the projects and programs of Hollow Bones Zen, supporting these is a wonderful opportunity for the practice of Dāna. 

How do we work to assure that this practice remains true to intention and is honorable?  With this spirit we offer the opportunity.  We ask only for that which is within means, and do not intend to evaluate one’s determination of what is fitting.  We encourage this practice as it actualizes the practice of no-self and benefits the Sangha.  There is no intention to violate our precept of “take only things which is freely given” through the use guilt or ranking those in our community according to their means or gifts that are offered. 

Please join us in the practice of Dāna commensurate with your circumstances and interest in exercising this practice with Hollow Bones.  We are always open to feedback and seek to maintain an approach that is rooted in the practice of the four immeasurables, equanimity, sympathetic joy, compassion and loving kindness.  We want to pay attention to any suggestion that we are straying from integrity in values that promote the health and well-being of our community. 

Delighted in the privilege to practice together,

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