Translated from Sanskrit, giving is called "dana." In Japanese, "dana" means "fuse," or "with deep appreciation." This term is used when giving money called "fuse" or "ofuse." Therefore, giving generously in the form of monetary donations begins with deep appreciation.
Giving is of utmost importance not only in sharing material things like food, money, items of value, resources, or modern technology, but sharing the immaterial: the spirit of generosity. In the old Japanese tradition, a person who practiced dana was called "Danna sama." "Danna sama" does not mean a man who is lazy and does not do anything but give orders. Rather, the true meaning of "Danna sama" is one who shares and provides generously without any form of conditions, whether through thoughts, feelings, words, or actions. Without generosity, giving is not a true form of sharing. Generosity, therefore, is like a warm blanket that makes giving heartwarming.
However, giving with a heart of generosity is an all embracing selfless action people must practice in their everyday lives. Buddha did not command humankind to do or not to do something. On the contrary, Buddha, instead of commanding humankind, advised his disciples to practice good by doing something positive and meaningful, with warm thoughts and feelings originating from a selfless heart and mind. What people do for one another should be unconditional and should originate from one's own Buddha nature. To "give" without seeking reward, the essence of the bodhisattva's ideal, compels the individual to provide help to remove all forms of suffering. Compassionate giving moves a person's heart at the sight of others' suffering.
Giving one's warm thoughts of caring is likened to a mother's unconditional love for her child, even to the point of self-sacrifice. One's willingness to give without any hesitation comes with great compassion and love to save all people by any and all means.
The true spirit of giving is not only directed towards others, but also towards oneself. This quality is born from the perfect realization of the oneness of life. And it is this quality which raises a human being above the brute. Life, without a spirit of giving, is indeed like a machine without oil.
It is interesting to note that here in Hawaii, the word "aloha," is an expression to convey many things, from "hello," "welcome," to "good bye" and "I love you." What is common in every expression of "aloha" is the inner feeling of an open mind and open heart, to give and receive wholeheartedly, free from prejudice or conditions. Similarly, in the spirit of Buddhism, unconditional giving must come from our open mind and open heart. In any given day, people have a great number of opportunities to put this into practice. An open mind and open heart must be tolerant, understanding, compassionate, and willing to share the dharma. If people share with an open mind and open heart, the "Aloha Spirit" will undoubtedly manifest itself.
To be continued.