The Meaning of Dana ?
Dana is the Pali word for giving. The practice of giving is universally recognized as one of the most basic human virtues, a quality that testifies to the depth of one’s humanity and one’s capacity for self-transcendence. In the teaching of the Buddha, too, the practice of giving claims a place of special eminence, one which singles it out as being in a sense the foundation and seed of spiritual development.
Giving can also be identified with the personal quality of generosity (caga). This angle highlights the practice of giving, not as the outwardly manifest act by which an object is transferred from oneself to others, but as the inward disposition to give, a disposition which is strengthened by outward acts of giving and which in turn makes possible still more demanding acts of self-sacrifice. Generosity is included among the essential attributes of the sappurisa, the good or superior person, along with such other qualities as faith, morality, learning, and wisdom. Viewed as the quality of generosity, giving has a particularly intimate connection to the entire movement of the Buddha’s path. For the goal of the path is the destruction of greed, hate and delusion, and the cultivation of generosity directly debilitates greed and hate, while facilitating that pliancy of mind that allows for the eradication of delusion.
For further reading, go to:
Dana: The Practice of Giving
Selected essays edited by Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi