Everyone is encouraged to practice generosity by making regular Dana donations.
Giving, in Buddhism, is practiced as the first of the Six Perfections (Skt. Paramita), in English, Generosity or Charity (Skt. Dana). Thus, it is called Dana Paramita. The perfection of all the other Paramitas — Precepts (Shila), Endurance (Virya), Patience (Kshanti), Contemplation (Dhyana), and Wisdom (Prajna), flows from the perfection of Generosity. The Three Minds cultivated in Zen (J. Sanshin) are Magnanimous, Nurturing, and Joyful. All three depend upon generosity to oneself as well as others, and to existence itself.
The Buddhist principle of accepting Dana derives from the “business model” of the original Order in India. The followers of Buddha practiced spiritual poverty, and what is sometimes called mendicancy, or begging, an unfortunate term that connotes a condition of dependency. But Buddhism’s Dana, or charitable giving, stands180-degrees in opposition to its connotation in Western society. When the monks went on their daily rounds (J. takahatsu), they were offering charity to the villagers, in that they allowed them a way to support Buddhism. Most householders cannot devote full-time to the practice of Buddhism as does a monk or nun, so the only way that many can participate is through the giving of alms, material or financial.
It is the same for the Matsuoka lineage today, but the context of lay-practice, and the societal culture, are very different. All Priests and Disciples, as formal Members of the Silent thunder Order (STO), accept Dana, as charity to the donor, as well as to the STO. We are not dependent upon Dana for our living, but we accept it on behalf of Buddhism.
For a Member of the STO, the main form that one’s personal practice of Dana takes, is in observing the eighth Grave Precept, Be giving — Do not spare the Dharma assets. This means offering the gift of the Dharma to Sangha members, as well as to the public. This is to be implemented through, for example, the dedication of time to formal training under a sanctioned teacher (J. Sensei); the acceptance of responsibility for participating in the regular schedule of the Affiliate Zen Center; offering assistance to seniors in their efforts; and engaging in practice teaching and public speaking, under tutelage of Seniors.
DANA TO AFFILIATE
Practice Leaders (PLs), Priests and Disciples of STO are encouraged to contribute material, in-kind and financial donations to their local Affiliate. However, a PL’s main contribution to the fiscal stability of their Affiliate is making Zen practice available in the form of regular scheduled meditation, as well as dharma study and sangha functions as needed. This leadership supports the development of a stable and sufficient membership to fund the operation. The PL also encourages mindful embrace of the practice of generosity (dana) on the part of the Affiliate Sangha Members. (Affiliate PLs are not expected to fund operations from personal funds, except on an emergency and reimbursable basis.)
DANA TO TRAINING CENTER
PLs are also encouraged to lend support to STO’S Headquarters and Training Center (currently ASZC), and to encourage their Sangha to consider becoming Supporting Members of STO by visiting the web site https://aszc-sto.givingfuel.com/supporting-membership-sto.
PLs are urged to help their Members understand that ASZC, its operating overhead and program expenses, should be partially funded by Affiliate Members to the degree feasible, rather than depend upon contributions from Atlanta-based membership alone. This incudes fees and dana when attending retreats and other training events, but additional regular support is also encouraged.
A suggested approach to Affiliates sharing support of ASZC is to determine a fair share of proceeds. The amount may be calculated as a percentage of monthly or quarterly collections, or a targeted annual goal. Some STO Affiliates follow a franchise model of 1/3 of collections to local overhead, 1/3 to Affiliate account, 1/3 to STO payroll account.
DANA TO STO
Disciples and Priests are qualified to join STO as voting members: Associate and Full, respectively. They are encouraged to join after receiving their Disciple (Zaike Tokudo) ceremony and to provide an annual fee (membership dues) to the Bill Pay fund to help cover expenses of administering STO and its programs.
Additionally, STO Members are encouraged to personally pledge Dana to the Payroll fund, until and unless they derive income from STO. Dana pledges to STO may be based on a reasonable percentage of income or net worth, with hardship or scholarship exceptions.
STO Members receiving dana from Affiliates (e.g. as guest retreat leader), the public, or other organizations for Zen-related appearances are encouraged to deposit it in the STO Payroll fund, requesting full or partial reimbursement as needed. STO will then issue a payment in that amount.
STO Members, PLs and their Affiliate Members, are encouraged to apply any disposable income to advanced training, such as expenses for retreats and formal practice periods, as well as to necessary personal items such as robes and association fees. Spiritual materialism: excess or unnecessary consumption in the pursuit of Zen practice; is not encouraged.
Disciples and Priests at large, on inactive status and/or unaffiliated with an STO Zen Center, will work out their practice of Dana and Practice Path Prerequisites on a case-by-case basis with their Senior teacher. At a minimum, they should commit to a Dana pledge to support the ongoing activities of the STO, based on the reasonable standards outlined above, to remain in good standing (exceptions as approved).
Eventually, through practice-enlightenment, one’s everyday actions can become the actualization of Generosity 24x7.