What is Dana
Dana (pronounced "dah-na") is a Pali word meaning generosity. Dating back more than 2,500 years to the time of the Buddha, there has existed an interdependence between those who offer the teachings and those who receive them. The teachings are given freely, since they are considered priceless.
According to the Buddha, generosity - or sharing what we have - is one of the central pillars of a spiritual life. In the act of giving we develop our ability to let go, cultivate a spirit of caring, and acknowledge the interconnectedness that we all share. The Buddha created a system to develop this quality of open-handedness whereby those who share the teachings are dependent on those who receive them. To this day in the East, monks and nuns go on daily alms rounds with a begging bowl, relying on the generosity of lay people for support in continuing their teaching and spiritual life.
As this ancient teaching moves to the West, we hope to keep alive this joyful tradition. At BCIMS, our goal is to maintain reasonable fees for retreats and classes so that everyone in our community may participate in the programs we offer. Registration fees cover venue rental, food, and teacher transportation. None of this money goes directly to the teachers or residential retreat staff. Classes and daylongs are also held on a donation basis.
To allow the teachers and retreat support staff to continue their dharma work, support from students is needed. There will be an opportunity to contribute at the end of each retreat, class and daylong.
The practice of dana is an expression of appreciation for something of great value that has been freely given. Your support allows BCIMS to flourish and others to benefit from the teachings.
May your practice be for the benefit of all.
What do I need to go on Retreat
Not much. Here is a brief list of what you will need:
- Comfortable clothing; layers to adjust to the temperature in the dharma hall. Sometimes a light shawl or blanket is useful. Clothing that doesn’t rustle. Outerwear for walking periods outdoors.
- Something to sit on. Your options are a chair (usually supplied); a zafu (a firm, round, meditation cushion) which is usually set on a firm mat or folded blanket; or a meditation bench, which also is set on a mat or folded blanket. Most bring their own zafu or bench but if you’re just starting a practice you might want to experiment before you invest. At some residential retreats there may be some extra benches and zafus for you to try.
- Unscented personal products (soap, shampoo, body lotion, etc.) out of consideration for persons with allergies.
What don't I need on Retreat
You can leave books, journals, pens, drawing tools, portable audio devices, cell phones, PDAs, Blackberry, etc. at home. You support the inner journey when you minimize your usual outward distractions.
Anything else I should know about Retreats
It helps to know a little retreat etiquette. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Keep Noble Silence: this includes avoiding unnecessary direct eye contact, signals and notes except to the manager and teacher. It’s useful practice to keep your mind to yourself. You’ll find it’s a full-time job.
- As best you can, undo velcro, zippers and noisy snaps, outside the dharma hall.
Be on time: out of respect for the practice, your fellow retreatants and yourself, be settled in your place when the sitting starts and stay until after the sitting has ended.
- Wait until the teacher has left before getting up from the sitting.
- Unless you’re not well, (in which case, you let the teacher know) keep to the schedule: it’s designed to support your inner process.
- Learn the vipassana sneeze and cough: into the inside of your bent elbow, or upper arm - not into the hand.
What is a residential retreat
At a residential retreat, you would stay at a retreat centre for the duration of the retreat. These retreat are usually 7 or 9 days in lenght (or even longer).
A residentiial retreat provides the environment for deepening your practice with sustained practice.