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.
Priests and Disciples may also contribute material, in-kind and financial donations to their local Affiliate Zen Center as well as the Headquarters and Training Center as needed and desired. However, their main contribution to the fiscal stability of the Affiliate is through the development of a stable and sufficient membership, coupled with mindful acceptance of dana from the Sangha. The Affiliate Zen Center’s facility, its operating overhead and program expenses, should be fully funded by its membership where feasible, rather than depend upon contributions from its STO leadership.
Each formal Affiliate Zen Center in the STO network should contribute to the overhead of the Headquarters and Training Center (currently ASZC). The amount is variable, and may be calculated as a percentage of collections (e.g. 5-10%), or a targeted annual goal.
Disposable income of STO Members should instead be allocated to the support of the STO and for their advance training, e.g. in the form of expenses for retreats and practice period, as well as for necessary personal items such as robes and association fees. Each Disciple and Priest should commit supporting the Order with an annual personal pledge of Dana, until and unless they are a full Member deriving a salary from the STO. Disciple and Priest Dana pledges to STO should be based on a reasonable percentage of income or net worth, with approved exceptions for unnecessary hardship (or scholarship) on a case-by-case basis.
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.