The Practice of Dana
The mutual support of monks and lay practitioners dates back to the time of the Buddha and is called dana, which translates from Sanskrit and Pali as generosity of spirit, giving and receiving from heart to heart. In the spirit of interdependence and care for each other, monks offer teaching and in turn the laity provide physical support for the monks. This is more than just an economic exchange, for generosity is the first and fundamental step on the Buddhist path—it liberates the heart from being centered on the self and assists others in their Buddhist practice. Residents at the Priory live in a traditional monastic way, being celibate and not having other means of livelihood. This way of living allows us to concentrate all our time and energy on Buddhist practice, the fruit of which then in turn is offered to the world. The congregation’s donations provide the “four requisites” of food, lodging, robes, and medicine and enable us to maintain the temple as a place where you can retreat and take refuge.
Ways to Support the Temple
Financial offerings allow us to pay for utilities, maintenance materials, and health care and insurance. Regular gifts are particularly helpful, but we also appreciate the spontaneous and unexpected donation. The spirit of the giver is more important than the size of the gift.
Gifts-in-kind are another way to help the temple. We can usually make use of any item or material you might have that you no longer need—lumber, paving stones, roofing materials, furniture, household products, cleaning and office supplies, postage stamps, batteries, fabric, over-the-counter medications—pretty much anything your average household or office would use. So that nothing is wasted, what we don’t need we sell in our annual yard sale or recycle.
Food offerings are a traditional way to support monks. If you wish to make an offering, you are welcome to call or email to learn our specific needs. Unsolicited donations are also welcome and enable us to keep the spirit of the alms bowl, which is accepting and being grateful for all gifts placed in the bowl, regardless of quantity or quality. Monks of our Order are vegetarian (eggs and dairy products are fine), we do not drink alcohol and we do not use garlic in cooking. Prepared meals or dishes are always welcome, and gift certificates at food stores can be useful.
In a small temple like ours, the maintenance and upkeep of the temple depends in large part upon the volunteer service of its members. We have workdays when we all pitch in together to tackle a major task, but we also have an ongoing need for handy-work, cleaning, grounds care, equipment and tool repair, running errands, etc. We can make good use of most any skill, so feel free to volunteer your time or abilities. “Work” in our tradition is considered active meditation, which is something we can all do, so do not let your seeming lack of skills prevent you from offering your time.
Transfer of Merit
Another way to give is by requesting a “transfer of merit.” The transfer of merit, the spiritual good that arises from practice and training, is an important part of our practice. You are welcome to call with the names of people and of difficult situations needing merit—death, illness, or other misfortune—which we post publicly so that anyone here might share merit. Merit offered to the temple is also appreciated.