Sierra Insight Sangha is fortunate to have the support of several visiting teachers, both lay and monastic. The teachers share the dharma without charge, and in gratitude, we offer donations to both the lay and monastic teachers to receive the spiritual benefits of this timeless tradition.
During the past 2,500 years, support for the monastic life has been provided entirely by lay supporters through daily acts of generosity. In this spirit, support in the form of work, money, foodstuffs, building materials or other help is both appreciated and needed. Your generosity helps the spiritual community to survive and flourish.
Theravāda Buddhism has managed to keep the rich and vital interrelationship between lay and monastic communities set forth by the Buddha intact over the centuries. Theravāda monastics, although renunciants, are not permitted to be recluses. To ensure this, the Buddha required that monastics be totally dependent upon the lay community for their physical support. Monks and nuns cannot handle money and can only eat or drink that which is offered to them. Reciprocally, the monastic community provides an important function for the lay community by caring for their spiritual needs and by providing moral and spiritual teachings and examples. The two communities, each essential to a balanced society, support and enrich one another within this economy of gifts.
For the lay community in the West, it is important to understand how the monks and nuns of the Theravāda Buddhist sangha live from day to day. In Thailand, the monastics are visible each morning, walking through the nearby villages with their alms bowls, receiving offerings of food for their daily meal. The Thai culture is one in which the lay community fully acknowledges the dependence of the monastics on the lay community for physical needs such as food, cloth, and toiletries–all the things we take for granted. The monastics, because of their vows of renunciation, cannot buy these basic items for themselves. Through the help of generous lay people, the monks and nuns in this tradition are able to continue their lives as monastics and spiritual seekers. The relationship that develops through this commitment to mutual support is a rewarding one, and the spiritual friendship between lay and monastic communities is indeed a precious gift.
Note: This article on dana was copied from the Abhayagiri Monastery’s website.