In the Spirit of Generosity
Central to the teachings of the Buddha is the theme of non-separateness, or interdependence. Historically, the local community supported the monasteries in which the monks and nuns lived. This support was freely offered in heartfelt recognition of the value given spiritual practice. In return, the monasteries provided the lay people with a place of refuge and a place for community gatherings, and the monks and nuns offered teachings and support in the relief of suffering. The communities and the monasteries lived in a harmonious interdependence for the benefit of all. This system has thrived in Asia to the present because of dana, the generosity of all to each other.
Here in the West, we continue this tradition of dana, even though many meditation teachers are not monks or nuns. Norman and Molly are not monastics, yet have chosen to honour this way of life. As lay teachers, they offer the teachings freely and are dependent on dana as their livelihood, having given up their "day jobs" in 1998 in order to devote themselves fully to sharing the dharma. As lay teachers they have the same living costs and responsibilities of home and family as we all do. Their life outside of formal teaching is given to offering support locally and internationally to individuals, groups and retreat centres, motivated by the desire to bring peace, well-being, and liberation of the heart/mind to all. Their ability to do this relies upon the generosity of those who benefit from the teaching, whether on formal retreats, or meeting with Norman or Molly individually.
The very existence and continuation of the teachings and retreats depend on the generosity of many - the teachers as well as the managers who offer their time, energy and skills in organizing the retreats. Many meditation centres also rely on the tradition of generosity. These opportunities for dana allow the teachings of the Buddha and the meditation practices to flourish, bringing the quality and act of generosity alive as a practice of wise attention and compassion.
When attending a retreat, the fee you pay covers the basic costs of a retreat. The teaching is offered, as it has been since the time of the Buddha, freely. None of your registration fee goes to the support of the teachers leading the retreats, nor to the volunteer managers who give generously of their time and energy. At the end of each retreat, a dana talk is given, in our commitment to the tradition of generosity and mutual support. This is an invitation to participate in the rich tradition of giving support to those who are supporting us, and many others, in our practice. It acknowledges our interconnectedness and interdependence! Your practice of generosity to the teachers and managers enables the teachings to continue and the sangha, the dharma community, to thrive.