Message Boards Message Boards

Morality and Daily Life

Dāna/Sīla/Bhavana

Toggle
Dāna/Sīla/Bhavana
Answer
8/17/20 9:16 AM
I've seen a lot of discussions on this forum about the deeper end of meditation, especially pañña vis a vis the Path of Purification and the four stages of enlightenment (bhavana), but I haven't seen much discussion or investigation about dāna/sīla or about balance both in practice and in everyday life. In my experience, integration and dāna/sīla are just as important as wisdom (bhavana) in order to integrate the Buddha’s teachings. 

I am putting it to the Dharma Overground community: how important is dāna/sīla on the Path and what practices, techniques, views do you have for integration and working with dāna/sīla/bhavana? How important do you think sīla is for the maturing of insight? Do dāna/sīla practices deserve close attention, and if so, in what ways and how does this affect one’s formal practice and one’s wisdom/compassion in everyday life?The above question(s) has arisen because I’ve been sitting 2-3+ month retreats almost every year for 30 years in the Mahasi tradition, and in consequence, I’ve seen both the difficulty and the importance of how coming back to my everyday life, and the practices I have chosen to do, or failed to do, has had on whether or not the insights integrate.
Author: A Householder’s Vinaya With Home and Saṅgha Retreat Guides. 
Website and blog: householdersvinaya.com.
nama2rupa@gmail.com

RE: Dāna/Sīla/Bhavana
Answer
8/17/20 9:47 AM as a reply to Allan Cooper.
Somehow, you posted two new topics the were identical. I've removed one of them, leaving this one.

- DhO Moderator

RE: Dāna/Sīla/Bhavana
Answer
8/17/20 10:52 AM as a reply to Allan Cooper.
Focusing on Generosity first... It really is amazing that this isn't discussed more, but it's also a very triggering topic.

Many people have been taken advantage of in their life or have a fundamental feeling of poverty and when they are asked to be generous, they feel like they are being played for a sucker and being further taken advantage of. Some people are also so greedy and clever that when they are asked to be generous, they essentially pretend to feel taken advantage of or behave as if they are have a pyschology of poverty/lacking, they will protest, "the dharma should be free!" when in fact they are just being manipulative and greedy. It can be striking how bad this can get with some people. It's very obvious despite how clever people think they are being.

But fundamentally I agree that generousity is an _essential_ aspect of developing wisdom and awakening. Wisdom is a profound appreciation of the interdependence of all beings and forces in our lives and how suffering breeds suffering and wisdom breeds more wisdom through all of these relationships.  There is no way that someone can awaken without a profound contemplation of this interdependence. And good evidence of this understanding is the generous nature of such people. 

Generousity doesn't come easily. It does have to be a training. We need to both learn how to give and also how to not develop a martyr complex. We need to practice giving until it hurts just a little, but no more. Like all things, the middle path between extremes needs to be discovered.

I've found that one of the easiest ways to start in these modern times, is to intentionally purchase something that was either stolen or donated. For example, maybe you have MP3s that you downloaded off the internet and you really appreciate the music. Maybe the band is inspiring or the music has improved your mood many times in your life or maybe the lyrics have led to some profound thoughts. Well, how about buying the album to put a little money in the band's pocket? emoticon  This feeling of paying back will feel good, I guarantee it. And maybe the guys and gals in the band will be able to afford something besides instant ramen noodles.

And it is the start of realizing how this can be an entire way of life. What if you supported people who were going good things in the world with your money? Wow, what a concept! But it really is endlessly fascinating and depressing to really pay attention to how your financial actions create this world we live in. 

And from there, it's a natural extension to being giving of your expertise and presence. This becomes an expression of awakening.

But at the end of the day, humans do very much need to be onguard for the use of shame to manipulate self-serving generousity. This can get really bad in religious institutions. Institutions often forget that the only measure of success is the development of individuals, and they often stray into redefining the measure of success as the success of the institution. This is obviously something that buddhism is not immune from --- so we need to pay attention even within buddhist circles.


Like a smart person, I won't say much about morality/ethics, except to say that it is none other than basic sanity and as such, is endlessly nuanced. Because of all of the nuance, there is an inherent human desire to simplify and solidify it into fetishized actions. Many times people look for actions which abstractly symbolizes Sila, instead of pursuing the basic sanity that naturally produces morality and ethical behavior. The highest sila is doing what is appropriate in the situation and also realizing that perfection is unlikely so staying aware of how the action plays out and adjusting is essential. Again, this is the expression of awakening.


Ultimately, if were going to untangle the confusion of the sense of self that seems to need to be protected, we're going to need to investigate how we try to protect "over here" by not giving and withdrawing  from  "over there"  -- training in generosity helps clarify this confusion. Ultimately, if were going to untangle how we fall into unconscious trances and habitual reaction, we're going to need to investigate how we interact mindlessly and with too much self-interest --- training in contduct helps clarify this confusion. Meditation is improtant for untangling the big knots in our psyche, but in later paths especially, the distinction between on-cushion and off-cushion practice needs to become less distinct and the subtle confusions which only show up in instantaneous relationships need to be seen and resolved. So yeah, dana and sila is important. But again, this is something that needs to be discovered and it is different than institutionalize financing or stale orthopraxy. emoticon  (I'm trying to be a little provokative there, hope no one takes great offense.)


Hope this is responsive to your questions! 

RE: Dāna/Sīla/Bhavana
Answer
8/17/20 5:52 PM as a reply to Allan Cooper.
Allan Cooper:
...
I am putting it to the Dharma Overground community: how important is dāna/sīla on the Path and what practices, techniques, views do you have for integration and working with dāna/sīla/bhavana?
...

My opinion is that you cannot be awakened if dana and sila are not developed to high levels, because they are part of the training explained by the Buddha in the pali canon. If Buddha says they are necessary for awakening, then in my opinion that is equivalent to a definition saying dana and sila are required for awakening. Ie. you can't be awakened without highly developed dana and sila. Some people expect that awakening will give them dana and sila. That's not the way Buddha explained it.

It seems to me that the majority of Buddhists I meet (in the US and on the internet) do not believe it is possible to attain what is described in the pali cannon and have redefined the stages of awakening into something more easily attainable, and this allows them to practice meditation and mindfulness while neglecting dana/sila and other aspects of the training set out by Buddha. 

I prefer to stick with the definitions of the pali canon and not claim attainments that do not match up, but that is my preference.

Personally I feel deficient in dana. I recognize my lack of dana limits my progress and causes me a lot of suffering. I don't have a family or sangha or monastery that I can rely on - I am retired and have to pay the expenses I will have for the rest of my life from my own pocket. I think it might help if I lived in the tropics where I could survive in the jungle without modern technology, that is something I have wanted to do all my life even before I learned about Buddhism. But as it is, I don't expect to become non-attached while keeping my attachments.  I don't think it's possible. (One thing  I see often on discussion forums, "how can I be non attached in this situation ... " relating to a job or a romantic relationship. Buddha left his life as a prince and his wives. He didn't try to keep his attachments. Being non attached means you give up your attachments.)

Part of my motivation to cultivate dana and sila is my belief in karma and reincarnation. Ultimately, I am the prime beneficiary if I can be more virtuous and more generous.

My own purpose for my Buddhist practice is to help me develop spiritual qualities such as compassion, forgiveness, and humility as well as sila and dana rather than awakening. But that is my own preference. It comes from my spiritual beliefs about the afterlife and reincarnation.

For me "integration" means keeping the state of mind I produce with meditation after I get up from a meditation session. As a lay person I think practice in daily life is more important than sitting meditation. I use sitting meditation to help prepare my mind for practice in daily life. Meditation quiets my mind, elevates my mood (which gives me compassion etc), and allows me to be mindful. I try to use that mindfulness during various forms of practice: washing the dishes practice, preparing meals practice, taking a shower practice, going for groceries practice. Cleaning the house practice. etc etc. If you keep the state of mind you have during meditation in daily life, then any insights you have in meditation will be with you in daily life too.

RE: Dāna/Sīla/Bhavana
Answer
8/20/20 7:19 PM as a reply to Allan Cooper.
Allan Cooper:
 I haven't seen much discussion or investigation about dāna/sīla or about balance both in practice and in everyday life. 

There is a kind of hidden obstacle to developing dana/sila (and to other aspects of Buddhist practice) that is uniquely affecting us in modern times. It is the science of "information addiction". We are surrounded by voices on TV, radio, print media, entertainment, computer/video games, and the internet, that are bombarding us with messages, designed using the latest advances in the science of psychology, that stimulate us in a way that creates an addiction and often this addiction is to outrage.

There are sophisticated media and political organizations deliberately fueling public outrage for their own selfish purposes and the average person is no match for the sophisticated psychological techniques they use. You can see the effects on social media and internet discusion forums where outrage spills over into many different areas.

Outrage hinders sila and hijacks dana.

This article (below) discusses the phenomena as it relates to the news media, but it is much more pervasive. If you watch yourself you can see when you are becoming obsessive or outraged. Recognizing how you are involved is the first step in resisting. Reducing time on the internet and reducing time accessing news and entertainment media can help.

https://www.cracked.com/blog/5-ways-to-stay-sane-in-era-non-stop-outrage/
5 Ways To Stay Sane In An Era Of Non-Stop Outrage



This article is related:
https://higginswar.blogspot.com/2017/10/technology-companies-harmful-influence.html
Internet applications are designed to make you use them compulsively because the more the apps are used, the more revenue they generate for the tech companies(Greenwald). But internet apps can reduce your attention span and harm your intellectual capacity.(Hill) Having captured users' attention, internet applications can be used to manipulate public opinion through targeted advertising(Madrigal) and biases in what they show in search results, suggestions, feeds and monetization(Barrett). Compulsive use of apps is causing mental illness, self-harm and suicide(Twenge). Computer games designed to make users play compulsively are also killing people who play until they drop dead. There are an increasing number of injuries and deaths from people using their cell phones compulsively while driving or walking.(Stock et. al.) And tech companies have provided terrorist groups with the use of their compulsion inducing platforms for "'spreading extremist propaganda, raising funds and attracting new recruits'" which has led to the murder of innocent victims.(Carbone) The tech companies are culpable because their apps are designed to make you use them compulsively in order to generate more revenue. The tech companies have blood on their hands.

RE: Dāna/Sīla/Bhavana
Answer
8/23/20 5:31 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
https://www.dharmaoverground.org/c/message_boards/find_message?p_l_id=&messageId=21592580
Jim Smith:

...

Part of my motivation to cultivate dana and sila is my belief in karma and reincarnation. Ultimately, I am the prime beneficiary if I can be more virtuous and more generous.
...

I think it's possible modern people don't seem to get the results described in the Pali Canon because modern people don't have the same belief in karma and rebirth that people did during Buddha's time.

Karma and rebirth provide the basis for cultivating virtue. Lack of belief in karma and rebirth among modern people could lead to failure to cultivate virtue.

This could explain the numerous abuse scandals involving supposedly advanced awakened teachers.

In the Pali Canon, awakening is more than realizing anatta.

Modern people might not be interested in cultivating virtue, but that does not necessarily invalidate what the Pali Canon says about the attainments of people who are interesed in clutivating it.

RE: Dāna/Sīla/Bhavana
Answer
8/23/20 5:50 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
I think it's possible modern people don't seem to get the results described in the Pali Canon because modern people don't have the same belief in karma and rebirth that people did during Buddha's time.

But the Buddha said: don't believe what I say, go find for yourself.

And obviously he didn't believe what his teachers told him, and he trusted his experience.

RE: Dāna/Sīla/Bhavana
Answer
8/24/20 5:41 AM as a reply to Siavash.
Siavash:
I think it's possible modern people don't seem to get the results described in the Pali Canon because modern people don't have the same belief in karma and rebirth that people did during Buddha's time.

But the Buddha said: don't believe what I say, go find for yourself.

And obviously he didn't believe what his teachers told him, and he trusted his experience.

I'm not suggesting modern people are mistaken in their choices, I'm just trying to explain what I see as differences in practices based on differing beliefs.

I think Buddha's advice is good. (see my two following posts) Buddha said to test through experience, but also to consider the experiences of those who are wise to guard against the effects of personal bias. Buddha says someone who is wise will believe in his (Buddha's)  teachings.

People pick and chose which of Buddha's teachings to believe. He taught people to test through experience. And he also taught rebirth and karma. I don't condemn this practice of picking and choosing, I do it myself. 

In modern times we also have in some cases the capability of learning from other people's empirical observations and judging them on their scientific methods. For myself, my experiences and the experiences of other people, including the greatest scientists, are what cause me to believe in reincarnation and karma, and that's why I believe pursuing virtue is more important than realizing anatta for it's own sake (not that they are necessarily independent). 

I don't agree with everything in the Pali Canon.

I don't believe anything because it comes from a teacher. I study teachings that seem to me to be consistent with my experiences. 

During my life I have many times ignored people who told me something was impossible, and I have found the practice to be ... um ... uh ... rewarding.

RE: Dāna/Sīla/Bhavana
Answer
8/24/20 5:18 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim Smith:
...

I think Buddha's advice is good.


https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an03/an03.065.than.html
Kalama Sutta: To the Kalamas
translated from the Pali by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Although this discourse is often cited as the Buddha's carte blanche for following one's own sense of right and wrong, it actually says something much more rigorous than that. Traditions are not to be followed simply because they are traditions. Reports (such as historical accounts or news) are not to be followed simply because the source seems reliable. One's own preferences are not to be followed simply because they seem logical or resonate with one's feelings. Instead, any view or belief must be tested by the results it yields when put into practice; and — to guard against the possibility of any bias or limitations in one's understanding of those results — they must further be checked against the experience of people who are wise. The ability to question and test one's beliefs in an appropriate way is called appropriate attention. The ability to recognize and choose wise people as mentors is called having admirable friends. According to Iti 16-17, these are, respectively, the most important internal and external factors for attaining the goal of the practice. For further thoughts on how to test a belief in practice, see MN 61, MN 95, AN 7.79, and AN 8.53. For thoughts on how to judge whether another person is wise, see MN 110, AN 4.192, and AN 8.54.



 I have heard that on one occasion the Blessed One, on a wandering tour among the Kosalans with a large community of monks, arrived at Kesaputta, a town of the Kalamas ....

RE: Dāna/Sīla/Bhavana
Answer
8/24/20 5:33 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim Smith:

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an03/an03.065.than.html
Kalama Sutta: To the Kalamas
translated from the Pali by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu

...
The ability to recognize and choose wise people as mentors is called having admirable friends. 

Buddha says you should not take advice from people who dont believe in his (Buddha's) teachings.

https://www.dhammatalks.org/books/IntoTheStream/Section0004.html#sigil_toc_id_1
“And what does it mean to have admirable people as friends? There is the case where a lay person, in whatever town or village he may dwell, spends time with householders or householders’ sons, young or old, who are advanced in virtue. He talks with them, engages them in discussions. He emulates consummate conviction in those who are consummate in conviction, consummate virtue in those who are consummate in virtue, consummate generosity in those who are consummate in generosity, and consummate discernment in those who are consummate in discernment. This is called having admirable people as friends….

“And what does it mean to be consummate in conviction? There is the case where a noble disciple has conviction, is convinced of the Tathagata’s Awakening: ‘Indeed, the Blessed One is worthy & rightly self-awakened, consummate in knowledge and conduct, well-gone, an expert with regard to the world, unexcelled as a trainer for those people fit to be tamed, the Teacher of devas & human beings, awakened, blessed.’ This is called being consummate in conviction.

“And what does it mean to be consummate in virtue? There is the case where a noble disciple abstains from taking life, abstains from stealing, abstains from illicit sexual conduct, abstains from lying, abstains from taking intoxicants that cause heedlessness. This is called being consummate in virtue.

“And what does it mean to be consummate in generosity? There is the case of a noble disciple, his awareness cleansed of the stain of miserliness, living at home, freely generous, openhanded, delighting in being magnanimous, responsive to requests, delighting in the distribution of alms. This is called being consummate in generosity.

“And what does it mean to be consummate in discernment? There is the case where a noble disciple is discerning, endowed with discernment of arising and passing away—noble, penetrating, leading to the right ending of stress. This is called being consummate in discernment.”

—AN 8:54

RE: Dāna/Sīla/Bhavana
Answer
8/24/20 2:10 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Buddha says you should not take advice from people who dont believe in his (Buddha's) teachings.


The guy was running a large sangha that had many idiots and crazy people among them. He had to find ways to control them. Look what he himself did! And of course he was arrogant too (This doesn't undermine his teachings).


RE: Dāna/Sīla/Bhavana
Answer
8/24/20 2:43 PM as a reply to Allan Cooper.
While I agree that sila is really important, I have come to the sad realization that giving directly usually hurts relationships (in this society).

You can give your effort, your time. You can give money to organizations that help people. You can help people with little things. You can give money to people.

However, I've found that people carry what you give them like "debt".

If you do a favor to someone, that person will try to "balance" the equation doing a favor to you. We live in a society where people are really proud and can't accept free things. If they can't "balance" the equation, they will feel bad about themselves.

We live in a society of "equals" where we are not really "equal". Some people know more than others. Some people have more than others.

At least for me, the first obstacle for dana is learning to do the opposite. Learning to receive from others, to be grateful for what is given to me (and not feeling bad or in debt).

This is a complex subject because giving and taking (not only money) and keeping a "balance" is the unspoken core of most relationships.
Relationships have problems in time without that balance (in this society).

Another thing that comes to mind is that sometimes, people need to overcome some problems on their own. You can help, but you overcoming the problem instead of them is not the way to go, for them, in the long run.

Most of the things that we can give "free" is affection, time, effort, etc.

We can give other things like money, knowledge, etc, but they require a lot of mastery not to cause problems.
Giving to organizations or indirecly seems to be the way to avoid some of these problems.

Finally, giving some money that we don't need or little time, I'm not sure they count. Giving away the things that we tend to hoard, those that really we are really attached to, those are the one that count.

But again, this is a really complex subject.

My advice to you is the same that you do with meditation, start doing and see how it goes. You'll make mistakes, you'll learn. You won't be sure if you are doing it right or wrong.

RE: Dāna/Sīla/Bhavana
Answer
8/24/20 2:58 PM as a reply to Ernest Michael Olmos.
Good points.

I think the most important things to give (Actually it's not a giving, it's a way of being), are: respect, understanding, and presence. the others come later.

Finally, giving some money that we don't need or little time, I'm not sure they count. Giving away the things that we tend to hoard, those that really we are really attached to, those are the one that count.

There is a verse in Quran that summarizes it:

"You can never reach virtue, unless you give what you love the most".