Teachers listed with the Open Sangha Collective do not charge students fixed amounts but rather accept donations from them. This means that students can contribute what they are able to based on their circumstances. This is dana in action.
Dana, which translates as ‘sharing’ or ‘generosity’ in English, is an important and rich concept across the Buddhist traditions, not least in how it relates to the teaching and learning of the Dharma.
From the time of the Buddha to the present day, monastic sanghas do not charge for access to the teachings. Instead teachings are offered as a gift, as dana, with an open and compassionate heart to those that seek them. In response to this priceless gift, people in turn have supported their teachers, out of generosity, out of dana, and from a place of responsibility and so ensured that their teachers can continue to share the practices and teachings. Traditionally, this would take the form of offering food, clothing or medicine to the monks and nuns.
While this traditional paradigm is still the norm in most heritage Buddhist cultures and communities, it is an aspect of the teachings that has been neglected by some as Buddhism has spread globally in the 20th and 21st centuries. Instead the Buddhadharma is often taught and learnt in something more akin to a capitalistic paradigm. This paradigm creates barriers to the Dharma, limiting who can access it, and alters the nature of the transmission in a potentially problematic way.
In the Open Sangha Collective we are encouraging and supporting teachers to teach within a traditional dana based context to whatever extent they feel moved and able to. For this model to flourish outside of heritage Buddhist cultures though both teachers and students of the Buddhadharma need to train in and trust in each others’ generosity. This acting from generosity then has the potential to form an integral part of our Dharma practice, as teachers and students, and allows us to divest ourselves from modern naratives of separation and take on greater responsibility in our relationships and in our lives.