Generosity in EBT: differences and similarities with how we understand it in the West

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?


You might want to check out AN 7.52 where the Buddha explains various intentions for giving, from lower to the loftiest, and the results that follow.

If I remember correctly, it’s best to donate to what makes you most inspired and joyful. However, having the Sangha as the place that makes you most inspired and joyful will produce the most return in good kamma, because the Sangha is the most potent field of merit available.

The Buddha also said that we shouldn’t give only to the Sangha, but to other people / causes as well.

Going by AN 7.52, the first and then the last two intentions for giving are respectively:

“Sāriputta, take the case of a someone who gives a gift as an investment, their mind tied to it, expecting to keep it, thinking ‘I’ll enjoy this in my next life’ [7th best]

‘When giving this gift my mind becomes clear, and I become happy and joyful.’ [2nd best]

‘This is an adornment and requisite for the mind’ [best]

All these motivations yield good results, but the higher your motivation for giving is, the better the result is :slight_smile:


Just to note, though it follows a slightly different line of interest to the one here, a number of potentially relevant references were given in this thread: Giving & making the mind pleasant


Such a memorably startling juxtaposition of words! An extra that may be of some particular use.


Correct !

Correct !

Dana will give those. But if some one wish worldly things while giving a dana, he will accumulate both wholesome and unwholesome kammas.
Dana is a tactic to eradicate kilesas and attain the needs until some one reaches nibbana.

The Blessed One has said in a sutta (unfortunately I don’t remember the name) that if some one don’t give dana still he can attain nibbana but with lower support on the way.

Nevertheless, though giving is not counted directly among the factors of the path, its contribution to progress along the road to liberation should not be overlooked or underestimated. Dana: The Practice of Giving