Meet Dana – not the singer of the band Gaiatrees that I met at a meditation teacher training last year and who will hopefully soon have a mantra singing event at Yogaladen. No, it is the Buddhist practice of giving and strongly related to our “pay as much as you can” concept at Yogaladen. We often get asked why we don´t just sell 10-class-passes or monthly memberships – here is one attempt to explain why it may make sense to meet Dana.
Let me start with money, this concept that occupies a lot of time at my other job in the financial industry. What is its purpose? In effect, it is an attempt to objectively measure the value of something RELATIVE to everything else. This relative value is for everyone to see and makes it easier to do business. What is the result? Our interactions involving money become exactly that, business transactions: I give you this (product) ONLY IF you give me that (amount of money).
As a result, the way we spend our money is a clear reflection of our values. Every time we choose to eat at McDonald´s or the local bakery, we make a clear statement: “I currently value your product more than someone else´s and support your business practices and the way you treat employees, shareholders, farmers to the environment”. We participate in a form of “democracy”: every Euro in the pocket is one vote. By spending money, we cast our votes.
Very much in contrast to business transactions, Dana in buddhism is the practice of giving without expecting something in return. It is strongly related to the ideas of sharing, donating, and the personal quality of generosity. Therefore, Dana is NOT: throwing a coin to a beggar to finally get him to leave you alone, or giving out of fear of disapproval, to gain a good reputation, or to return a favor (repaying debt). So Dana is not payment for goods and services rendered, but given from the heart. Here, we make important statements to ourselves and the world:
(1) we choose to support something we love rather than buy something we (think we) need.
(2) we send a clear message to the universe and ourselves: I have enough!
If we go a bit deeper, then this generosity does not just support the teachers that share their knowledge with us. It is good for ourselves and the community: the act of giving is an opportunity to combine loving intention (the way we “think” we are and should be) with loving action, what we actually do. In the process of true giving, we have the chance to EXPERIENCE:
the law of cause and effect
Everything we do has an impact on everyone around us, and yes, will come back to us. Try it if you want to.
the difference between giving and a payment: a practice to overcome greed and egoism versus always wanting something in return
Giving is a voluntary and conscious act of letting go of our possessions like money, knowledge, and time. We cannot take this stuff with us when we go in the end, so why not experience the impermanence of gifts, the giver, and the recipient. Things do come and go…
Our connection to everyone else
Giving does not differentiate between recipients that fit our preconceived notions or not. It can be a nice experiment to give to another person, who in your view, does not deserve it or who will not pay us back in some form.
At Yogaladen, our approach of pay what you can is based on Dana. It effectively allows everyone to participate in the yoga experience, allowing those students that can afford it to support those that, at the present time, cannot. As circumstances change, this responsibility and support moves within the community. What does not change is the availability of the yoga experience for all those that want to walk down that path, regardless of changing financial conditions.
Pay as much as you can has absolutely nothing to do with getting a good deal. This would just be an attempt to maximize our own benefit at the expense of everyone else. Rather, it is a sharing of responsibilities and support over time, allowing all of us to actually experience freedom from traditional financial boundaries. The Yogaladen is an attempt to bring more of this concept into all of our lives. There is no requirement to radically change our entire lives immediately; rather, we are just incorporating this radically different concept into one part of our lives. As Yogaladen teachers, we give our teachings to the best of our ability – and students offer their support. In the spirit of Dana: “This yoga class came from the heart, so let´s give from the heart”.
Let´s be conscious of how we cast our money votes, and see how much of it ends up on the things we love rather than on those we think we need. And most interestingly, let´s watch what happens when our yoga interactions do not involve traditional business transactions, and see where it takes us?
Hoffentlich bis bald, im Yogaladen, auf einem Konzert von Dana von den Gaiatrees oder sonstwo…