I have been reflecting on the idea of generosity in EBT. I recently visited a Monastery in the Thai Forest Tradition and the monk said that one should give without expecting anything in return. This feels right and is what I think happens when we sponsor some research program to eradicated a disease or to fight poverty in developing countries. In this case we clearly see that we can help people less fortunate than us improve their lives, and we do so without really expecting anything in return.
At the same time, the monk I mentioned above also said that people often offer Dana believing that they’ll get the number of winning lottery tickets from monks; or in the hope of a good rebirth. So this seems a bit of a contradiction since you can’t both be disinterested and do something in order to have a good rebirth (or to win the lottery). Also, this quote from the Suttas has been pointed out to me in a different thread:
when they give gifts to the best,
the best merit grows;
the best lifespan, beauty,
fame, reputation, happiness, and strength.
An intelligent person gives to the best,
settled on the best teaching.
When they become a god or human,
they rejoice at reaching the best.
So as far as I understand (please correct me if I am wrong) according to EBT it is smarter and more important to give a donation to the best (i.e. the Sangha) than for example to a program to eradicate polio.
Second, (and related to this point), Dana is not to be considered a disinterested act: it is more like an ‘investment’ to attain fame, beauty, longevity etc.
Am I correct in this understanding of generosity according to EBT?