By Anna Marie Kolodziej
Philanthropy has been a prominent act throughout history, more specifically in the different cultures of the world. In the society today there are different religions and cultures which include traditions of giving; one in particular is called Buddhism. In the Buddhist tradition it is believed that humans are all interconnected in life and that we are continuously receiving generosity from others. So, this leads to the traditional Buddhist view that by developing love and kindness towards one another, this will promote generosity to all human beings (Joseph, 2000).
In order to understand the concept of giving in the Buddhist tradition it first must be described. Buddhism is supported primarily through “Dana”, known as generosity, which is also the universal virtue in Buddhist tradition. Dana is practiced in Buddhism by monks in order to demonstrate instruction and guidance for the community. In order to be generous and open-hearted, Buddhism explains that one must attempt to progress spiritually. This would be done by attempting to achieve the goal of Buddhism which is Enlightenment. Enlightenment is a human state that a person may achieve through being sympathetic towards others and one way of practicing sympathy in the Buddhist tradition is through the act of giving. This act of giving gifts can include anything from simplistic material objects, like shelter or food, to ones that are more valuable, like fearlessness (Joseph, 2000).This demonstrates that giving is important in the Buddhist cultural context because it helps individuals that are struggling within the community to receive gifts of significant need.
Buddhism recognizes that there are different motivations behind giving; they can be more or less self-oriented. This means that a person may want to give selflessly or they may want to gain something in return for their giving acts. It is important in the Buddhist tradition to focus on the mental and emotional state in order to determine what your true motivation is. Once a person is able to examine their motivation they are able to continuously purify themselves until the motivation behind the act is truly selfless. Specifically, this tradition asks its people to not become consumed by external or materialist things. Buddhism focuses on giving away attachment to everything, so you are therefore giving yourself (Joseph, 2000). This again is important in the Buddhist tradition because it helps people focus more on spirituality rather than being consumed within themselves. Some major examples of how the Buddhist community participated in humanitarian acts were through its communities by establishing hospitals, schools and other public institutions.
One of the major Buddhist teachings are reflected on Karma which explains that a person’s choice is due to a complexity of cause-effect processes. Also, a person’s choices can change their destiny and this can lead to changes in the conditions of the world (Joseph, 2000). This demonstrates that through the act of generosity one can create a continuous line of events and may influence the lives of many people for the better. Buddhism demonstrates a culture of giving as a current practice in the Eastern Traditions of the world, therefore by learning more about its tradition it will benefit philanthropy worldwide.
Joseph, P. (2000, December). Traditions of giving in Buddhism. Alliance magazine. Retrieved from http://www.alliancemagazine.org/en/content/traditions-giving-buddhism.