Dhanna is a term originating in the East that means ‘generosity of the heart’. It is an inseparable part of spiritual practice: When we give dhanna, we practice generosity and kindness in our lives.
In the West, practicing dhanna confronts us with consumer society’s habits of “getting the best at the lowest cost”. This is a habit that turns the two parties into competitors who struggle with each other: The ‘provider’ wishes to obtain the highest price possible, while the ‘receiver’ wishes to obtain the cheapest price.
Dhanna seeks to create a different relationship between parties, based on partnership and two-way giving. This stems from a spiritual viewpoint in which maintaining an open heart in our relationships is placed above all.
For example, the teacher in a workshop teaches out of a will to share the fruits of his studies with others, and out of a feeling of human partnership and connection. He does not require any fixed price for his giving, and thus practices himself unconditional giving and a trust that he will receive proper financial support for the continuation of his instruction. In this manner he also enables people who cannot afford to pay a full price to participate and learn. The students get the chance to actively practice generosity and kindness, in an area in which we often find it difficult to open our hearts – money.
In our society, when people come to a treatment, course or workshop given in dhanna, they might think: “here’s a chance to get a workshop super cheap!” Knowing the customary costs for studying in consumer society, they face their ingrained penny-pinching habits. Due to lack of deep understanding of dhanna, they might treat it they way they treat tipping a waiter at a restaurant or, as mentioned above, as an opportunity to study ‘for free’. The inner struggle waging within them might be between the will to win the consumptive struggle, and an inner, moral voice asking itself: Is this worthy?
So how can we practice living with our hearts open, without falling back on our habits:
1. Being in full awareness and attention to the forces that work within us while giving dhanna.
2.Remembering that giving dhanna enables continued activity in dhanna. If money doesn’t come in, it won’t be possible to continue with such a pricing method.
3.Understanding the possibility to express esteem towards the teacher/therapist and support what he or she does.
4. Remembering that giving dhanna enables those with fewer financial means to participate with everyone in activities.
5. And finally, so that we’ll know that indeed we are making our heart muscles more flexible, as Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh says – make sure it will hurt. Go a little beyond your boundaries, just as we do when practicing yoga.
Written by: Yoav Aptowizer