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Dāna: The Practice of Giving

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Give teacher dāna for a recent retreat

Dāna: The Practice of Giving

Dāna (pronounced “daa-nuh”) is the Pāli word for giving. Dāna is the first perfection of the heart (pāramī), and the foundation of Buddhist practice, based in the understanding that giving opens the heart, creates connection to others, and teaches letting go.

According to the Buddha, generosity and sharing of resources is a central pillar of spiritual life, the foundation of wholesome kamma—action that bears fruit in our lives and the lives of others. Dating back to the Buddha and the first monastic practitioners, those who preserve and offer the teachings have always lived in interdependence with the community around them. Buddhist monks and nuns rely completely on the generosity of lay people for support in continuing their teaching and spiritual life.

The practice of dāna has kept the Buddhist tradition alive for more than 2,600 years, throughout which committed supporters give generously to establish networks of monasteries and retreat centers which in turn support millions of teachers and practitioners. The dāna system is an ancient form of gift economy based on open-handedness and trust in community.

At Spirit Rock, we carry on this joyful tradition in the form of inviting donations from the community so that we can continue to offer the Dharma, now and to future generations who will get to explore the path to waking up because of our efforts. Dāna supports Spirit Rock’s teachers, staff, and operations, and is most often the only form of compensation given to teachers for teaching retreats.

Dāna for Retreat Teachers:* When teachers offer a retreat at Spirit Rock, they receive dāna as an expression of gratitude. This dāna comes from the community of practitioners who participated in the retreat. At the end of your retreat you’ll be asked to offer dāna to your teachers. Typically, teachers receive no compensation for teaching at Spirit Rock beyond what practitioners give. Your gifts support teachers to continue their practice and teaching, maintaining the ancient system of interdependence between teachers and community.

* Teachers for on-land and 4+ day online retreats receive dāna. As part of our commitment to equity, beginning January 1, 2022, Spirit Rock will guarantee a minimum amount of dāna to all movement and assistant teachers, and to some core teachers offering Dharma Training Programs, affinity programs, and 1-2 month retreats.

Dāna for Spirit Rock Staff & Operations: Spirit Rock depends on the generosity of our community to continue offering the teachings in an accessible way. Retreat registration fees gather only about half of our budget, and donations are needed to supply the rest, including scholarships, staff, and all other expenses.

Note on changes in “staff dāna”: As of fall 2021, retreat staff are no longer paid through dāna contributions at the end of each retreat. Retreat staff, including cooks and retreat coordinators, are now paid similarly to all other Spirit Rock employees, which increases stability and equity for these valued members of our community. So although staff are no longer directly dependent on your contributions to them, they are still dependent on your Spirit Rock dāna to provide a commitment of year-round salaries and health insurance. Please consider this change as you plan your dāna contributions to Spirit Rock both at retreat and throughout the year.

Ways to Give to Spirit Rock

Any amount you pay above the base rate of the sliding scale registration fee, or any dāna or donation, is tax deductible to the full extent of the law. Please retain your payment information as evidence of your gift. Deep appreciation for your generosity!

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