The Sanskrit and Pail word, dana, is often translated as “generosity” or “sharing,” and is the word from which the English “donation” is derived.
The buddha taught dana as the first of the six paramitas or “perfections,” saying that if we truly understood the power of dana we would never take a meal without sharing it with someone in need.
The buddha and his monks and nuns never charged a fee for their teachings. Since, as he taught, the dharma is priceless, how could one place a price on it? So, the teachings were shared as an act of dana, an act of generosity, and those who receive and hopefully benefit from the teachings and practices offered, help to support the continued teaching opportunities by supporting the teachers – traditionally by offering food, clothing, and medicine to the monks and nuns of the sangha. This was never seen as a ‘fee for service,’ but rather a kind of ‘playing it forward.’ What one gives the teacher is not for what one has received, but to enable the teacher to continue offering teachings to others!
In honor of this ancient practice, poep sa frank jude does not charge a fee for his dharma work, and is gratefully supported by his students and all those with whom he shares the teachings and practices. In the true spirit of dana, there is not even a “suggested donation,” as this would be counter to the intention of the practice of dana. The opportunity of offering dana to the teachers allows us to practice wisdom and compassion, and to consider what we truly can afford. The suggestion is that one not give too much, or more than one can comfortably afford, lest one end up cultivating pride; and neither too little, so that one can truly practice selflessness (the core teaching of the buddha) and destabilize any possible ‘poverty mentality’ one may harbor.
In the end, with the ‘perfection of dana’ (dana-paramita), one comes to see that there is no separation between the one who gives and the one who receives. That in fact, in giving one truly does receive the opportunity to give joyfully, and in receiving, one is also giving the opportunity to practice generosity – the highest spiritual value.