What is Dana? The spiritual teachings of the Dharma, considered priceless, are something that should be given without charge. An understanding of the need to support both the precious teachings (dharma) and those who offer them – our meditation teachers (dharmacarya) – has been embedded deep within Buddhist culture for over 2,500 years. This support in the form of monetary donations is called Dana, which translates to "generosity." The Perfection of Generosity – the development of a Generous or Altruistic Heart – is considered to be the first step on the Bodhisattva path, the Path of Awakening.
Unfortunately the true meaning of Dana is poorly understood in the Western world – a world where work is exchanged for a fee, and everything, even religion, has a price. It is not built into our culture to give, and to give freely and generously. "Giving" as a spiritual act, to support our Lamas, monks and teachers, is not a concept that is well understood. Even yoga, once considered a spiritual practice, has become a marketable "business" in the West, and is taught for a price. For our first eight years, the Hermitage operated solely on a donation-only basis. Sadly, it eventually became necessary to charge minimal fees to cover the basic costs of our retreats —food for the retreat and small stipends for a few staff members but these fees do not support retreat teachers. Almost all of our Dharma-teachers depend solely and exclusively on Dana. Whether they can continue to offer retreats depends entirely on the charitable donations they receive from you, the retreat participants.
At the end of the retreat you will have an opportunity to offer Dana to your teacher and, if you wish, to the Hermitage's resident monastics. You may also choose to actively support the Hermitage itself: we are in constant need of funds for general maintenance as well as for future improvements to infrastructure, off-grid transistion, self-sustaining gardens, the Stupa Project, and so much more. Please be generous in your giving.
How much should I give for Dana? This is a frequently asked question that is difficult to answer. In the true spirit of Dana you should give as much as you can possibly afford. When you consider that the teacher receives no wage, no payment other than your basic offering, all in return for the service of helping you, for giving teachings, private counselling and guidance, then you should be motivated, we think, to give very well indeed.
Offering Dana is a personal spiritual "practice" and thus requires a deep look into yourself — what do these teachings really mean to you? How valuable are they? What can you truly afford in expressing your gratitude and support for what your teachers, and places like the Hermitage, offer to you and the world? At the end of the retreat you will be given an empty envelope. Please use this opportunity to show your gratitude. Your donation is private and, if you prefer, anonymous.
Note: If you value these retreats, and if you value the Hermitage, your personal support is paramount. We cannot stress this enough. The Hermitage is a not-for profit establishment belonging to the Dharma Fellowship, a small Western Buddhist society that functions through an elected Board of Directors, entirely focused on making available a place of refuge where people can learn, study, and practice meditation. We hope for the greater betterment of the world in which we live. We need your charity to keep the Hermitage going. It is that simple. We thank you, we thank all our donors, every one of you who practices generosity to support the Hermitage and its vision!