Yes, I need to enforce consistency through all these essays, actually.
Titles are marked with <cite> tags, which are intended for titles in HTML. By default, browsers usually render this as italic, but here on Discourse it doesn’t happen. But it will work in the final thing!
My understanding was that it is a general term for an offering to brahmin in the performance of his duties, whether that be officiating a rite, or acting as teacher or mentor. The closest sense that works in a Buddhist context is, I think, “teacher”, but perhaps there is a better expression? Perhaps “offerings to respected persons” but it is getting clumsy!
Maybe you could look it up again in the sources available to you - is it commentarial? The Vedic sources up to the Satapatha at least are clear in that it’s given for a ritual, or in most cases for a sacrificial service of the priests.
Mylius (1979, in German) wrote a thorough source-based study on daksina and concludes:
dakṣiṇā was a part of available goods in Early Vedic and later Indian times which the priests claimed as wages or fees for their ritual activities and which they sought to constantly expand by a system of regulations.
The most common goods given were cows, gold, robes, horses (also SB 184.108.40.206). A common reward promised is a place in heaven, devaloka (e.g. SB 220.127.116.11), but also success, victory etc.
I don’t know if I have a good suggestion for a translation in the Buddhist context, maybe something like ‘religious donation’ would be closer?
Mylius, K. (1979). Dakṣinā. Altorientalische Forschungen , 6 (JG), 141-180.
@sujato A little update on dakṣiṇā and dakkhiṇa. After investigating both terms more closely my conclusion that it was indeed a ‘religious giving’, even in a more specific sense. Effectively it was the sacrifical fee for the Brahmins, but - and here’s the connection to Buddhism - the purpose is the defining element here: namely the ‘investment’ in the afterlife.
Brahmins were meant to take the daksina to heaven, deliver it to the gods who then grant wishes and secure a good afterlife (but also children, cows, victory). Early Buddhism replaces the devas in this respect, and Buddha and Sangha become themselves the puññakkhetta, the fertile field one can directly invest in. In most cases in the suttas (where a direct result is mentioned) it culminates in a good rebirth either as human or as deva.
So the dakkhina is not in return for teaching services but for just being available for donation, allowing the donor to invest in and secure their future happiness.